Bonnaroo weekend 2010: A survival guide to popping your 'Roo cherry

Know your surroundings

  • Get a flag or something distinctive to fly from your tent, RV or other form of campsite. This festival is effing huge. I got lost more than once amidst the thousands of campsites within tent city. If you don’t believe me, try wondering around at 3 a.m. after ingesting a significant amount of substances through a labyrinth of tens of thousands of tents that look just like yours. A word of wisdom when choosing a marker: do not use a Phish flag. You will get lost following all the other myriad of freak flags and starve to death before you ever reach your makeshift home.

  • [image-1]Spiders in Tennessee are huge, can jump with NBA skills and are completely fearless. After arriving to the campsite, I gracefully navigated the easy guide to setting up my $20 Wal-Mart tent. Inside, I made myself a little sanctuary, a $19 air mattress and plush $10 sleeping bag. I assembled a makeshift dressing area, even had incense to neutralize the potentially potent smoke wafting from inside. Unfortunately, when I headed out into the festival to catch Passion Pit, Chairlift and White Rabbit, I left my tent zipper open about two-inches. This is the greatest mistake I have made to date. A monsoon ensued during my time in the festival, and every spider in the Tennessee woods -- and a shrew -- took refuge in my warm little sanctuary. Coming “home” to 1o fist-sized jumping spiders in my tent after trudging through the masses, rain and mud -- not awesome. I spent my first night of Bonnaroo sleeping in my car. When I woke up that morning, the rest of the spiders had reluctantly exited my tent and a little woodland creature was nestled in my bright pink sleeping bag, his head on my pillow. In closing: keep it zipped up or else.

Roo Gear

  • Rain boots are very important. Even if it doesn’t rain, buy some rain boots to bring along anyway. Being born and raised in the Sunshine State, I thought some flip-flops and a pair of Keds would suffice ('roo-veterans can insert laughter here). While Passion Pit took the stage that first night, the rain started to pour down into the bowl-shaped festival with a fury. [image-2] On this first night, the roads turned from hard packed clay to foot-deep mud. The mud situation really didn’t change much by the end of the festival; it just gathered more interesting items like condoms, drunken bathroom leavings and vomit from bad hallucinogens. I still have scars on my feet from my poor choice in footwear last year. Please -- buy a pair of rubbers.

  • Plastic Baggies are your friend. Last year, I was working as press for WMNF at the festival and had the entirety of my portable reporting kit with me. I did not buy plastic baggies and the first night's downpour almost ruined everything. Buy several sizes and keep extra ones with you for clothes, food, etc.

  • If plastic baggies are your friend, wet wipes are your lover. Unless you are willing to fork out $10 for a hot shower, which will only accomplish cleanliness until you step out of the group shower stall into the mud. Bring wet wipes, lots of them. I didn’t shower the entire festival, partly because I didn’t have $10 bucks and partly because I wanted to see how crusty I could get and still function. I took several wet wipe baths everyday; it isn’t a hot shower but you feel a little fresher. You will especially love that plastic cylinder of Wet Ones when entering into the communal porta potties. Just imagine day three, thousands of bowels filled with festival food, the steamy heat and you in a tiny plastic box of death. Like I said, wet wipes are your lover.

  • Bring a backpack. Between granola, water bottles, wet wipes, electronics and whatever else, it is better to have it there than to trek back over a mile to go into your tent to find it.

Finally, I recommend taking naps. Sleeping for more than two or three hours isn’t really an option. The sun comes out early and the temperature in that tiny tent rises quickly. Find some shade in mid-afternoon, lay on the grass in front of one of the smaller stages, and take a snooze. That way you'll be ready for the 1-3 a.m. or 3-6 a.m. sets.

Take it all in and enjoy. Bonnaroo is a rare experience that will leave you hungry to go again next year. May the force be with you my little roogins.

In less than 72 hours, a sweaty valley nestled between Nashville and Chattanooga will swarm with 80,000-plus stoners, hippies, jocks and crusty jam band babies. Some of you, including my 'roo coverage partner, Andrew Silverstein, are what I call “roogins.” Virgins to Bonnaroo that are eager to experience every sound and probably a few mind-altering substances in the process. Last year, I arrived in Manchester, Tenn. to the 700-acre farm excited but completely unaware of what to expect in the four days ahead. I learned most of my Bonnaroo lessons the hard way last year when I was but a mere roogin. For those of you who are roogins, this list will be a gentle hand to hold in the dark before your cherry pops and makes a bloody mess. It would be wise to take heed, young grasshoppers. [All photos by Jerrad McLeod.]


  • Don’t bother bringing anything in glass into the festival. They will chuck that $150 bottle of whatever without a moments thought. I spoke with a girl on the campgrounds whose RV crew tried to smuggle in hundreds of glass “tobacco” pieces and alcohol. They had to wait through the four hours of traffic all over again after the roo-police confiscated everything.
  • If you go grocery shopping, don’t buy too much food — you won’t eat it. My Bonnaroo compatriot and I spent more than $100 on groceries. I still have some of those items in my cupboard now. Spend your money on bottled water, granola and snacks, but in all honesty, you'll probably end up buing most of your meals. The selection inside the festival is pretty good and fairly priced. In the campgrounds, there are tons of little homegrown setups. Bloody Mary stands, pancakes, sausages, grilled cheese, etc. The tent city selections are cheap eats, too. I got two Bloody Marys and three pancakes for $6.
  • Alcohol purchases are, of course, up to you, but beyond Bloody Marys at 7 a.m., after three hours of sleep, when the sun hits the valley and it goes from 60 degrees to 100 in a seeming matter of moments, you'll find that it's just too damn hot to drink. I bought a 12-pack of Steel Reserve and some boxed wine, none of which were consumed while I was there. Besides kids, there are plenty of other substances available if you are looking to impair your judgment.
  • Drink water — it is hot as Hades out there and people will be dropping like flies. Buy one of those giant packages of bottled water and take three or four with you when you head out each day.
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