Bonnaroo 2018 – Day 4: Saturday, the Big Time.

Bonnaroo is already half way over and you still have some of the best bands in the line up to see! Saturday has snuck up on you and it’s time to get a quick shower before it gets too hot and head into Centeroo to catch some of the early acts. That’s how I always imagined it in my head while preparing for Bonnaroo each year, but my Saturdays rarrly ever worked out as planned.

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Our Saturday schedule initially looked something like this: Knox Fortune at 3:00 PM, Billie Eilish at 3:45, Nile Rogers & Chic at 6:45, Tobi Lou at 7:45, Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals at 8:45, The Glitch Mob at 9:30, Bon Iver at 10PM, Eminem at 11PM, STS9 at 1 AM, Brockhampton at 1:30AM and Kaskade at 2AM.

What actually happened was a lot tamer in comparison to our original plans. My girlfriend and I managed to catch parts of Knox Fortune and Billie Eilish as we explored Centeroo, but didn’t have any solid commitments until Nile Rogers at 6:45. Needless to say, we had a lot of time to prepare for the Chic!

Niles and the band put on an amazing show packed full of classic hits that everyone in the audience knew by heart. That was the pattern that stood out to me most that year; there were so many performances where I could feel the audience’s apprehension before the set be washed away by a deluge of familiar tunes. Sheryl Crow was the same way! A lot of people didn’t know what to expect and ended up getting a lesson in songwriting history from them both. Check out part of Niles’ set below.

After Niles, my girlfriend and I went our separate ways for a bit. I ended up at Tobi Lou long enough to catch a few songs. I was really impressed on the ride down to Tennessee by his laid back cadence and video game-inspired beats. Tobi reminded me just how much of a pleasure the Who tent is every year I go to Bonnaroo. It may sound like a joke at first, but I’ve had some of the best experiences of the festival at the smallest tent. Don’t underestimate a performance based on the crowd.

As a preface to the fanboy drivel you’re about to read, Anderson Paak’s inclusion in the lineup was one of my main reasons for attending, that and my wonderful girlfriend of course. Keep that in mind when I say that Anderson Paak and the Free Nationals blew the roof off of the biggest damn stage at Bonnaroo. I’ve seen Elton John perform on What stage, I’ve seen Jack White, I’ve seen Lionel Ritchie, and none of them showed the kind of energy and enthusiasm and showmanship that Anderson put into his Bonnaroo debut. Also, keep in mind that the What stage is big in every way that the Who stage is small. It is huge, so the fact that they used up all of the space, both physical and sonically, available to them was truly awesome.

With my mind sufficiently blown, I was lead by the hand to a Glitch Mob show for the umpteenth time to find myself pleasantly amused. It is true that once you see an electronic dance music show, you’ve seen them all, but at the same time, if it’s a good EDM show, that’s not that bad! Sadly, I’m an old fart and my girlfriend and I retired back to camp after TGM, despite really wanting to see Bon Iver. I promised myself that I would leave the tent to catch their second set, but I deep down I knew that my night was over at that point.

And then…

Eminem was a tasteless douche.

Remember when I said that the What stage was very, very large? Do you also remember when I said that Pod 3 was really close to the Arch and, therefore, the What stage? So, despite an early nightcap, my girlfriend and I were able to enjoy the muffled sounds of Eminem’s fading career from the comfort of our minivan. Silver linings.

All kidding aside, I did hear the gunshot sounds that were part of Eminem’s set and I can say that they were very convincing. For a split second, I thought I was a very lucky man for deciding not to go to the show. That’s not something that anyone should have to think when going to a festival and Eminem and his crew should have had more foresight to know that putting realistic gun sound effects into a live performance in the United States during 2018 was a bad idea.

Talking about controversy, 2018 was also the year that Brockhampton backed out of tour dates in response to allegations of sexual assault and misconduct towards one of their members, so that was out of the picture. I didn’t know anything about the rap boy band at that point but the news soured my already cautious opinion of them. I can say that their music is definitely worth looking into now that I’ve delved a little deeper, but it was a pretty bad first impression.

All in all, I wished I had seen STS9, more of Knox Fortune, and Bon Iver, but I was glad to see Paak, Rogers, and Lou and get extra sleep before Sunday.

Every Bonnaroo, I go in with a list of must-see sets and a general plan for how things will line up. Of course, nothing ever goes exactly to plan. Instead of our normal list of tips, I thought I could spend this time going over some of my plans for how to improve Bonnaroo 2019 for myself and my companions. Maybe that will help you get in the right mindset for preparing your own adventure. This summer I want to:

  • Do More In The Morning: Bonnaroo may be known for the late night partying, but it also has a bumping morning scene, whether you’re into comedy, yoga, running, or social justice issues. I want to take advantage of my mornings better, rather than rushing to grab a shower and sitting at camp until noon.
  • Do More Outside of Centeroo: Last year, I had a lot of fun at the House of Yes Barn in Pod 3, but other than that, I didn’t do much exploring outside of Centeroo. Apparently, Chance the Rapper was spotted riding around a golfcart last year and I want to embody that kind of energy as much as possible. My goal is to explore each pod’s barn at least once and explore as many extra curricular activities as I can muster.
  • Try More Food: This one is going to be very hard for me, given I am now dairy, gluten and FODMAP free, but I hope that I can try more food this summer than my last four Bonnaroos. I ususally stick to burgers and fries, since they’re easy and hard to screw up, but there are also plenty of diet conscious people in attendence, so I should push out of my boundaries a bit more and explore what my limited options are.
  • Meet More People: Last year was my first time attending Bonnaroo with a companion and it was glorious. To my surprise, we actually had a fair amount of time apart as well, which gave us both time to meet other people and do some of our own exploring of the festival grounds. My only hope is that I can use more of that time meeting new people. By now, most of my Bonnaroo friends are well established, even though we add and lose a few to the crew each year. I need to make more of an effort to reach out to strangers and strike up a conversation.

Next week, I’ll cover what happened on Sunday and provide some tips on how to transition back into civilian life. If you’d be interested in reading more about my experiences traveling and visiting music festivals, feel free to shoot me a comment to let me know.

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