Each day of Bonnaroo has its own distinct vibe. Thursday is like Christmas in July, Friday is usually once everything starts to get into the swing of things. Saturday’s vibe is one of excitement paired with unease at the fact that the festival is almost over.
Bonnaroo 2019 wasn’t any different. My girlfriend, my brother, and I started the day at Lil Simz’s show. While she had a lot of people dancing (myself included), I do wish the sound engineers had made her a little louder. It’s strange how an act like Brockhampton can fill the entire festival grounds, but a 1 PM set for a lesser-known artist gets shafted in terms of volume, despite having almost no other musical acts to compete against.
My memory is a little hazy, but for one reason or another, we ended up missing Bishop Briggs, despite having looked forward to seeing her for a while. Sometimes shit happens.
We managed to return to Centeroo to catch Quin XCII, before shuffling over to see Kacey Musgraves while heading towards John Prine’s set. After hearing a particularly romantic duet, we took a chance to “see” ODESZA while making our way to the restrooms.
Our next destination was Post Malone and we were an hour early, so instead of waiting through the ODESZA set, I introduced my girlfriend to the Silent Disco for an AC Slater set (for one reason or another, she didn’t get to experience it her first time on the farm). After dancing our faces off, we took a break by resting on a wooden bench and watched Tokimonsta’s set at The Other. Some of the best Bonnaroo moments involve standing at one amazing set and being able to turn your head to hear another amazing show going on across the Farm.
We met up with my brothers to see Post Malone. Although I understand that he is very popular amongst the youngsters, I was completely taken aback by how full the What Stage field was. To provide some context, Centeroo is broken up into two major sections: the What Stage and everything else. So when I say that Post Malone’s crowd filled the entire field with what often felt like standing room only you understand the kind of square footage we were dealing with. I’ve seen plenty of rock superstars play the What Stage and never saw a field of people that large. Now, they weren’t all jamming to the tunes as hard as closing acts from previous years rocked the same stage, but the numbers don’t lie; Posties’ got something that keeps the kids coming back.
To top off the night, we ended up seeing The Lonely Island’s first music festival concert ten years after I had first heard of their music by way of viral Youtube videos. What commenced was essentially an abridged reenactment of their most popular Youtube videos with famous celebrities replaced with puppets. Also, Chris Parnell was there. I had fun and I was glad to see more comedic acts at Bonnaroo this year, but I was also wondering how the act would evolve over time or whether they would slowly run out of viral memes from a decade ago.
Although 2019 was definitely Sleeparoo (however, this time I have an excuse), my girlfriend and I decided to try and stay up late on Saturday to ensure that we caught some late-night sets and, maybe, we would catch Kalliope around 3 AM. That all fell apart after The Lonely Island’s set ended around 1:30 AM. Although we had promised some of our friends that we would be raging long into the night, we both crashed hard. Needless to say, we did not make it to Kalliope (during their normal hours) at any point during the festival.
Top 5 Less Obvious Places to Visit at Bonnaroo After You’ve Seen the Big Stuff
- The House of Yes: Although pod-specific stages and barns are a fairly new introduction (they must have popped up during my break between 2016 and 2018) to the farm, the House of Yes (Pod 3’s Venue) is a treat worth visiting even if you aren’t camped close. They’re a performance act from Brooklyn, New York and they’re a trip. Feel free to check out my review of their show last year.
- The Woods: There are often several wooded areas at Bonnaroo where festival goers can set up hammocks and take a nap. They’re worth visiting at least once to enjoy a more laid back vibe or take a nap. You can’t also be partying hard.
- Outside the Grounds: There are some opportunities to leave the grounds and explore other vendors and booths set up outside. Maybe it’s because they don’t pay vendor fees (I don’t actually know), but they tend to sell cheaper wares if you can deal with the occasional religious nutjob shouting at festival kids for living their best lives.
- Pod 10 / The Boonies: Although the campground you end up in is a crapshoot, Live Nation seems to understand how much it sucks to land in one of the farther camp sites, like Pod 10. Back in my day, we used to have to walk 45 minutes to Centeroo to listen to music, but nowdays, Pod 10 tends to be where secret sets pop up or other spontaneous debauchery occurs. Sometimes there are perks to being out in the boonies. For everyone lucky enough, you can just visit when the cool stuff is happening and go back to your closer Pod afterwards.
- Monteagle: I’m a filthy yankee through and through, but one of my favorite parts of going to Bonnaroo is spending some time in a nearby town called Monteagle, TN. I’m not going to spoil any of our best spots, but you’d be doing yourself a favor by visiting this small town on your trip in or out of the festival. Don’t forget to pick up some hot sauce on your way home.
Stay tuned next week when I cover the last day of the festival, my first time ever seeing Phish, and some closing thoughts on Bonnaroo 2019 before delving into our trip home.