June 12-15 • Manchester, TN
June 6-14 • 21st Century Waterfront, Chattanooga, TN
MANCHESTER, Tenn. — Each of the four days that make up the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which concluded Sunday night, has its own vibe and feeling.
Every year, Wednesday night into Thursday is moving-in and familiarization day. Newbies especially spend most of the day getting the lay of the land and trying to figure out which is the What Stage and which is the Which Stage. Other stages are called This, That and The Other. They also are trying to find their bearings so they can find their camp, which is situated among 79,999 other camps.
The music does get started that evening, but on a somewhat smaller scale.
Friday is the first full day of music and people tend to blow it out, going hard all day, which they regret on Saturday, which is also a really big day. On Saturday at Bonnaroo, veterans know to schedule a long nap, shower and good meal so they have enough energy to enjoy the numerous shows that start after midnight and often don't quit until sunrise.
Which tends to make Sundays at Bonnaroo a little more "chill."
Sunday, the fields in front of all of the stages were littered with people napping, staring gaped-mouthed at something off in the distance or listening to the sounds of bands like Lucero, who were laying down a much mellower sound on the Which Stage than Skrillex was producing at 2:30 a.m. a few hours earlier.
Now in the books, Bonnaroo 2014 was by most accounts one of the better ones. Despite large amounts of rain in the days leading up to opening day, it remained dry throughout with temperatures at night chilly enough to force campers into long sleeves and blankets. And, save for some sunburns, hangovers and sleep deprivation, most of the campers went home fairly healthy.
"I think it truly has been one of the very best ones," says Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment, co-producers of the festival. "Everything just went right."
Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves had a similar perspective.
"I think we were just lucky," Graves said. "We always worry major accidents and we didn't have those. We had about the same number of citations and arrests as last year."
Both Capps and Graves say the fact that the festival is now in its 13th year has helped.
"Every year we try to make improvements to make the experience better for the fans," Capps said.
Among those changes are finding new VIP opportunities.
The festival's Roll Like a Rock Star program, for example, offers a private space on a customized tour bus, three gourmet meals and access to anywhere throughout the grounds. It is offered to small groups at a cost of $30,000.
"Some people love it," Capps said. "It has sold out every year. Tent camping is still our main thing, It is what we are known for because of the spirit it creates, but not everyone can camp. We want to offer a way for lots of people to enjoy Bonnaroo."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...