Review | Photos | Day 1 | Bonnaroo | Tennessee

Words & Images By: L. Paul Mann

Day 1 :: Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival :: 6.13.13 :: Great Stage Park :: Manchester, TN

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It seemed as though the gods embedded in mother nature across the country were aligned against many of those trying to reach the festival on the day before it began. The Denver airport hub was cloaked in smoke from massive wildfires burning in the state. Severe weather also delayed flights in much of the Eastern portion of the country also. But for some that was only the beginning of the delays.

A big rig crashed on the main highway heading into the festival grounds about nine pm slowing traffic. Then about 1am a another speeding big rig plowed into the slowing traffic and overturned as another nine vehicle smashed head on into it. The fiery crash sent two Bonnaroo bound souls into the ages in a fiery explosion. Hundreds of motorists mostly Bonnaroo bound campers sat and stood stunned on the standstill freeway watching the surreal scene unfold. Dozens of emergency vehicles lit the night sky in neon and red hues. No less than three rescue helicopters ferried injured drivers from the wreck. Finally after several hours trapped on the freeway, police ordered the trapped vehicles to do a u turn and head a mile the wrong way back to the last exit on the freeway. It was a very long day for many of us trying to get to Bonnaroo.

Crowd at Bonnaroo

The first day of Bonnaroo opened with gusty winds and the threat of thunderstorms, but it turned out to be a pleasant day by Tennessee summer standards. In the early years of the festival, opening day was a more relaxed less attended sort of throw away day for music. Mostly up and coming Indy bands would play to small crowds while most festival goers were still setting up camp. The two main stages and half the festival vendors don't even open the first day of the event, making it look like a much more compact festival then it really is. But, since the festival has allowed entry into the campgrounds the day before, (This practice started several years ago), opening day had become a full fledged music event. Although new Indy bands still dominate the line up, there now seems to be many more surprise established acts.

Opening day for a bonnaroo novice is a good way to get a feel for how the festival works before the floodgates open on the second day with not less than 11 stages of music to choose from as well as comedy acts and a full fledged movie theater. This year opening day saw large crowds early in the day for some of the most popular Indy bands. But by 11 pm, the crowds had thinned drastically and some of the biggest surprises of the day were yet to occur. Just after 11 pm, the Polyphonic Spree played a complete rendition of the Rocky Horror Picture show live in the cinema tent. The massive band pulled of the garish 80's classic perfectly delighting the small crowd who brought the cinema to full capacity.

At 1 a.m. the hit duo Capital Cities played a full live set with a smoking band in the tiny Tap Lounge stage, delighting a large crowd craning to get a view of the tiny stage. ALO closed out opening night with a set that began shortly after 1am. By 245 they had added a bongo player, smoking harp player from San Francisco, Nicky and Marty Bluhm, and finally Santa Barbra's native son made an appearance. By the time Johnson took the stage just before 3am, only a few thousand hardy music fans remained. The last time Johnson headlined the main stage at Bonnaroo a crowd estimated at 75,00 people gathered to see him. There are plenty of perks for late night revelers at Bonnaroo and opening day brought some great surprises for the insomniacs in the crowd. Are there really three more days to go? I guess we all better get a couple of hours of sleep.

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[Published on: 6/14/13]

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