Between the days of June 13th and June 16th, nearly 80,000 people descended upon a 650-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee. The 19th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts festival was officially underway. This year marked the festival’s highest attendance in years, after only receiving roughly half of its attendees back in 2016.
Creating a festival for tens of thousands of people to enjoy is not an easy feat. However, Bonnaroo executed their vision for a musical utopial. From a musical standpoint, the lineup boasted a diverse set of acts. One could go from enjoying the smooth croonings of neo-soul artist Solange to the tripped out sounds of Liquid Stranger within what seemed to be only a few steps.
Unlike some festivals, Bonnaroo distinguishes itself as a full force musical experience. Bonaroo’s curators stack each day to the brim with musical acts and performances to prevent any mid-day lulls. Every waking hour is filled with music and activities of all sorts. Even campers create DJ sets within their makeshift homes and provided pre- (and post) festival entertainment for fellow campers.
In my opinion, the most memorable performances at Bonaroo 2019 were Solange, ZHU and Post Malone.
Solange Knowles delivered a moving and powerful set that left most in tears. She performed songs from both her latest album When I Get Home and the critically acclaimed 2016 album, Seat At The Table. Though the aesthetics of her performance skewed on the minimal, Solange’s message was bold and straight to the point. She was unapologetically a woman of color and sang for those who share her plight.
The once anonymous ZHU delivered a set that was transcendent of time and space. Thousands of festival goers moved their bodies in tandem with the rhythm while bright lights served as the visual representation for his music.
Post Malone, who introduced himself to the crowd as “Austin Richard Post” enamored thousands of people on Saturday night. He delivered a high-energy set with his biggest hits like “Congratulations” and “Sunflower” as the stage was doused in literal flames.
Being on the farm during the day is a visiual utipia, but when night comes the grounds transform into an “inverted daytime”. The night sky would embraced hues of deep purple and blue, trees lit up with magenta and teal lights. White and orange balloons swayed in the sky mimicking both the moon and sun.
It’s easy to see why so many look forward to the festival every year and travel from all across the country to attend. For many, it’s a chance to break free from the responsibility of everyday life. The worries and stress of daily life fade into the background as excitement and a good time come into the forefront.
At Bonnaroo, you can be anybody you want to be while doing whatever your heart desires. Drinking beer and eating Daddy Dogs at 9 AM in the morning isn’t “irresponsible” in fact, it’s embraced and encouraged. Where else can you possibly go dancing until the sun literally comes up?
Every single aspect inside that festival ground was planned solely with the attendee in mind, with a little something for everyone. For those who did not want to partake in the recreational drinking, there was Soberoo. An organization that helps former alcoholics and recovering addicts stay clean during the festival.
During the day families could bring their little ones to enjoy the giant Ferris wheel that stood overlooking the festival grounds, check out various vendors and splash around the fountain to keep cool. In honor of pride month, Bonnaroo held its first ever pride parade on Saturday evening. There also seemed to be an underlying message of promoting mental health and sexual health.
Several booths were set up across the festival grounds that encouraged those who walked by to grab a free condom or share their issues in a judgment-free zone.
From the roster of never-ending acts to the support of unique race, gender and sexual orientation, It’s easy to see why people were lined up already looking to purchase their tickets for 2020. To put it simply, Bonnaroo was flawlessly executed and a hell of a good time.
Photos by John Adams for Bullet Music
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