CL on the Road: Music, yoga and sleep deprivation at Bonnaroo 2013

A look back at this year's fest.

Thursday, 10:30ish, Father John Misty. Dig it. He sings songs about L.A. and I miss L.A. so we are a match. However, problems with security not knowing yet where to send photographers leave me in the back, unable to get much in the way of good shots.

Thursday, 11:30 p.m., Alt-J. Mmm…so good. Great shots. If you don't know Alt-J, look them up. Their music is different but awesome. I manage to escape into the VIP area to watch the rest of the show, thereby leaving my friends behind. This will become a common theme throughout the festival and a small source of contention, but I'm hard-pressed to give up a great spot to go stand amid the masses. Thank you to Creative Loafing for the photo pass, 'cause I abhor crowds.

  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Alt-J

Friday, 10:30 a.m. I don't even know how but we manage to pull ourselves together and head to group yoga. It's basic but I've never done yoga with this many people. It alleviates everything, especially my moody aggravation about trying to navigate through through all these people with a heavy backpack full of expensive gear; for a little while, anyway.

  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography

Friday, noon, Bernhoft. He plays by himself. He beats on his guitar and records loops on top of loops on top of loops, and completes his musical stylings with soulful vocals. Why don't more people know about this guy? To boot, he's gracious and humble - bowing to the crowd and smiling so genuinely I want to be his friend.

  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Bernhoft

Friday, 1 p.m. We opt to "shower" in the mushroom fountain. It's freezing. I'm in a sports bra and un-matching bikini bottoms and I don't even care. I actually bring shampoo. I feel like a new woman afterwards.

Friday, 2 p.m. Drying off, laying around in the grass just watching the circus walk by, I am finally feeling a little at peace and decide to stop rushing around like a maniac and just enjoy the moment. I subsequently enjoy the moment for far too long and miss a few shows I'd intended on checking out. I'm sure this is a common plight of the Bonnaroobian experience. I can't miss Of Monsters and Men, though.

Friday, 3:30 p.m., Of Monsters and Men. I'm once again appreciating the press pass, especially knowing my RV mates are jammed up somewhere in the crowd barely able to see the stage through the sea of people that has gathered. The show is great and singer-guitarist Nanna Bryndis is adorably Bjork-like, and not just because she (and the group) are Icelandic. Speaking of Bjork, I've just been informed that she's not allowing photographers at all. I think i might cry. Also, I never received an email telling me I'd be permitted to shoot Paul McCartney. No big deal I think, until I get out into the crowd.

Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, Of Monsters and Men
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, Of Monsters and Men

Friday, 9 p.m., Paul McCartney. Holy shit - I can't even believe how many people are here. Doesn't help matters that there's really no one else decent playing. But wowzers - this is astounding. A sea of bodies and I'm stuck in the middle of it trying hard to get a shot from way out here. It's an amazing show chock-full of Beatles tunes and McCartney's relaxed banter, but I'm miserable crammed between all these people and my back hurts. I leave early. My RV mates tell me later that people were describing it as arguably the best performance ever in the history of Bonnaroo. Yes, I know, I suck.

Sir Paul McCartney, on screen at Bonnaroo
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Sir Paul McCartney, on screen at Bonnaroo

Friday, 1:30 a.m., Pretty Lights. ...and boy are they ever. (Video below.) My only basis of comparison as far as light shows go is one I saw by Daft Punk at Ultra in Miami many years ago. But that doesn't compare. He plays until sunrise and we linger. Eventually, I'm sitting cross-legged in the grass with my head down between my legs, sleeping and freezing and waiting on my co-pilot, who insists we have to stay for sunrise to make the experience complete. I'm done. I just want sleep. More than anything in the world.

Saturday, 10 a.m. Group yoga redux. I have no idea how I made it on 2 hours of sleep but I know the yoga will make me feel better. It does. I follow it up with meditation echoed by the sounds of golf carts and bands in the distance. It's a little hard to focus but I am determined to balance elevating my consciousness here with the 'lowering of consciousness' that happened last night.

Saturday, 1-6 p.m. I'm not sure where the day went. I think I spaced it.

Jack Johnson, Bonnaroo
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Jack Johnson, Bonnaroo
Saturday, 7 p.m., Bjork. I'm not star struck. Ever. But Bjork is a magical unicorn from my language planet. I'm exhausted and for the first time in my life, embarrassingly enough, I tear up when she takes the stage. She speaks a language that only Bjork fans understand. I look around and spot my fellow 'Bjorkians' in the crowd, eyes glazed over and dreamy the way 12-year-old girls look when they see Justin Bieber. Known for her bizarre costumes, she does not fail to out-do herself. I wasn't allowed to shoot it so check out Danny Clinch's shots here.

Saturday, 9:30 p.m. Popular Americana-pop band Mumford & Sons has to cancel their set last minute (read more about the why here), so Jack Johnson quickly steps in to fill the gap. I was fortunate enough to see him play a short intimate set in the media tent the day before and thinking his set is going to be calm and somewhat uneventful, I bail early, only catch him on the big screen backstage later playing a long and amazing set to a dazzled crowd. In fact, he made up a song about Bonnaroo, describing his last-minute invite to be a headliner, and the crowd swoons.

Saturday, midnight, Billy Idol. It's obvious he lives in L.A. He's unashamedly aging but still rocking. So loud in fact that it jars my entire chest cavity. Great show but I'm thankful I have earplugs for the pit.

Billy Idol
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Billy Idol

Saturday, 2:30 a.m., Silent Disco. The most novel and yet cleverest idea ever. Unfortunately the music is a bit Gen Pop for my taste and my backpack feels like it weighs 40,000 lbs now that I've been carting it around all day. Nonetheless, I munch a vegan treat while hanging around with the intention of dancing the rest of the night away, only to change my mind and walk back to the RV to enjoy the ride to neverland with my co-pilot. The walk is nothing, even with my 40,000-pound bag. In fact, I feel like I could keep walking for miles. I forgot how cool the universe is. The blankets are breathing and my body feels like sparkles are shifting through every cell. I lay there for a long time just wiggling my toes because it feels fabulous. In fact, everything feels spectacular and I decide that despite the fact that I haven't partaken in such festivities in well over a decade, I should now make fungus a part of my everyday diet so I can feel like this forever.

Macklemore, Bonnaroo
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Macklemore, Bonnaroo
Sunday, 9:30 a.m. Not surprisingly, the lack of seratonin hits me like a truck upon waking up and I change my mind about the previous evening's plan to become a ritual psychedelics user. Instead I decide to spend Sunday sober and working. Don't make it to yoga and opt to do it at the campsite instead, throwing my mat down amid a pile of discarded cigarettes and beer cans. It's humid as hell and I seriously begin to wonder if I can make it through the day without passing out. That said, Macklemore, Edward Sharpe, and David Byrne are ahead, which fuels me to push on. As we walk to 'center Roo,' it's obvious that people are beyond spent, many having reached the point of exhaustion where they just didn't give a shit anymore about how they looked. The crowd is markedly less hostile than the last couple days and a collective feeling of relief and exhilaration for the culmination of the insanity seems to have settled over 'Roo Land.

Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Okay, first off, I can't help but like the "Thrift Shop" track. Live, the rapping half of the duo, Macklemore, addresses the snappy dressers in the crowd, eventually making his way over to a guy wearing a full-length fur coat. He instructs the crowd to "surf" the coat up to him and he subsequently wears it on stage despite the extreme heat. The collective feeling of this whole festival makes sense to me now. As he breaks into a speech about distinguishing racism across the globe followed by the song "Same Love," I actually get a little choked up for the second time this fest. Maybe it's the lack of sleep but I swear I look around at the masses of people and even the stage crew, normally stoic and ambivalent to everything, appears moved. I feel like we're all riding the same wave. It helps that David Byrne is now standing just off the side of the stage watching, and no one seems to notice but me and a couple stage guys hamming it up with him for photos.

Macklemore, Bonnaroo
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Macklemore, Bonnaroo

Edward Sharpe
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Edward Sharpe
Sunday, 5:30 p.m., Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Ed Sharpe is totally on acid and I swear to god he looks straight at me while I'm shooting and holds the gaze so long I actually become uncomfortable and have to look away. He is incredible. I knew I liked this band but now that I've seen the dude in all his crunchy hippie glory, I'm completely hooked. At one point, someone gives him a flower and he holds it up and exclaims, "It's real!" in the most genuine way, as if he's never seen a flower before in his life. He is completely in the present moment and I have to say, it's incredible to witness.

The National, Bonnaroo
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • The National, Bonnaroo
Sunday, 6:30 p.m., The National. I don't know a lot about them, having been turned onto their music by a friend on the way to Tennessee. The singer, Matt Berninger, is drinking some unidentified concoction and he is noticeably uncomfortable on stage, leading me to believe the concoction is likely alcoholic. Not surprising given the moody nature of the lyrics. They're damn good, nonetheless.

Sunday, 7:30 p.m., David Byrne and St. Vincent. The man in white. The other highlight of the weekend. I escape into VIP after shooting and dance around like an idiot to "Home" and "Like Humans Do." He breaks into the "Same as it ever was" gestures during one song and seeing it puts me on a high that rocks me through the rest of the night. I love him. That is all.

David Byrne, Bonnaroo
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • David Byrne, Bonnaroo

St. Vincent, Bonnaroo
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • St. Vincent, Bonnaroo

Sunday, 9 p.m., Tom Petty. I get an email giving me permission to shoot Tom Petty. The Florida native rocker's set is epic; absolutely epic, and I find myself wishing I were out in the crowd with my new friends experiencing the collective epic-ness as I watch the rest of it from a flat screen in the guest lounge. He plays for about three hours and every minute is amazing. Everyone backstage is singing along. The man spans genres. You've gotta give it to him.

Tom Petty, Bonnaroo
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Tom Petty, Bonnaroo

Tom Petty, Bonnaroo
  • Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
  • Tom Petty, Bonnaroo

Sunday, later. All in all, this has been quite a stellar day despite the fact that my brain is operating on a two-second delay from sleep deprivation. There's an after party in the guest lounge with free Tito's Vodka and pulled pork sammiches. I'm going to try to sneak my co-pilot in.

…There's something about festivals. It's kind of like going to war (at least if you're working), but there's a group togetherness that's hard to put into words. It's an experience, one to last a lifetime, and I finally understand why people keep coming back year after year.

And finally, I sleep. Goodnight Bonnaroo. Thanks for the memories...

click to enlarge Alt-J - Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography
Shanna Gillette/Sasha Rae Photography

Photographer Shanna Gillette was called upon to take some shots at this year's Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee after the freelancer scheduled to document the fest for CL-Tampa had to bow out unexpectedly. The following is a photo log of her adventures. Follow Shanna as she snakes her way across the country and read her transmissions from the road on her blog or website. —Leilani Polk

click to enlarge CL on the Road: Music, yoga and sleep deprivation at Bonnaroo 2013 - Bonnaroo Instagram
Bonnaroo Instagram
CL on the Road: Music, yoga and sleep deprivation at Bonnaroo 2013
  • Bonnaroo Instagram

Wednesday, 12:28 a.m.. In line. High fives from the car window. A message spray-painted on the wall leading into the grounds reads "Radiate Positivity" in 10-foot-high letters. After quite the debacle getting in, we are preparing to park. We've been driving since 1 p.m., from the panhandle. I'm tired, stressed, feeling my age, but the vibe here is insanely upbeat, a bit like a circus. I like it already. Welcome to my first Bonnaroo.

Thursday, 4:47 a.m. How the fuck did it get to be 4:47 already? The sun is coming up. I'm in an RV filled with pot smoke, listening to 97X-style rock. This weekend will be a lesson in 'going with the flow.' I don't think I'm going to get much sleep... They're making burgers now.

Thursday, 2 p.m.-ish. Day one and I'm already sleep negative. I'm in another RV with four dudes. It looks like a Budweiser can cyclone made a deposit here. Definitely need to pace myself if I want to make it through the weekend.

Evening falls and we head in for our first taste of music, and here is where my brain and subsequently, my journal entries become a bit scattered. I'll fill in the gaps to the best of my recollection and improvise the rest. Enjoy...

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