Raising the Bonnaroof
Festival attracts variety, fervent fans
By Joseph Van Harken
(CNN) -- Patchouli, dreadlocks and cut-offs: This was Bonnaroo.
The Dead, the Flaming Lips and Sound Tribe Sector 9: This was Bonnaroo, too.
The second installment of the weekend-long music festival took over a farm in Manchester, Tennessee, last weekend, and music and subcultures melted into a pot of creative bubbling energy.
The show, put together by Superfly Productions -- who also handle some of the programming at the New Orleans Jazz Festival -- attracted more than 80,000 people.
"The amazing thing is we used no traditional advertising," said Jonathan Mayers, one of four Superfly co-owners.
"It really comes from the actual bands and the fact that there's this grass-roots following that's been there for a long time, primarily started ...by the Grateful Dead. The ability to push music through word of mouth has been one of the main tenets of this particular scene," added Rick Farman, another Superfly co-owner.
But Bonnaroo goes beyond the jam-band scene. At this year's festival, there were DJs, country and bluegrass bands, hip-hop, and straight-up rock 'n' roll.
"The variety here is key," said Steve Taggart, a 27-year-old national sales manager from Charlotte, North Carolina. He missed last year's inaugural Bonnaroo, but heard the buzz about it and said there was no way he would miss this year. "I would never have heard of a guy like Robert Randolph, now I'm a fan."
The artists tend to agree. Mike Gordon, bassist for Phish, said he was walking along late Friday night when he heard some interesting sounds flowing from the tent where Sound Tribe Sector 9 was jamming. He liked it so much that he went backstage, introduced himself and played the encore set with them.
A real Sim City
The small farm, located between Nashville and Chattanooga, became a miniature city complete with running water, ATMs, a movie theater, restaurant row, shopping district, a high-speed Internet tent, and a city center aptly called "Centeroo."
The stages, which were given clever names such as "Which Stage," "This Tent," "The Other Tent" and "That Tent," converged at Centeroo -- except for "What Stage," the main stage of the festival. The names led to Abbott-and-Costello-like questions -- "What's What Stage?" -- before patrons figured out the naming conventions.
The parking lots outside were also creatively labeled: There was a "MacGyver" section and Grateful Dead-inspired "Shakedown Street." Campers swapped jewelry, hand-made clothing, glassware, and natural foods.
"It's always an amazing time when over 80,000 kids get together," Atlanta resident Nicole Thompson said, taking in a panoramic view from atop her RV. "We've been raising the Bonnaroof all weekend long."