Sweaty bodies hover against each other, separated by each others’ backpacks. Everybody chatters amongst friends and strangers, remarking on the bands they’ve seen so far and playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to pass the time. The crowd erupts in cheers at 11 p.m. The Red Hot Chili Peppers stroll onto the stage, grabbing their instruments. They instantly begin playing “Can’t Stop,” and everyone around me is swaying and singing along. “What’s up, Bonnaroo!” yells lead singer Anthony Kiedis. The crowd cheers in response. It’s the most energetic Saturday night I've ever seen.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is a four day event dedicated to gathering people from across the country to listen to their favorite bands on an old farm in Manchester, Tennessee. My roommate, Sabrina, and I packed up my Volkswagen Beetle with our fresh camping gear and tons of snacks, then started the eight hour drive.
I saw a lesser-known country artist the same day I saw The Weeknd, and I saw rock and EDM acts perform back-to-back. It surprised me just how many bands you could see in a single day — Sabrina and I walked from set to set, stopping at the ones that sounded interesting; we would leave early to catch other acts, either those we originally planned on seeing or something new.
One of the best shows we saw was Rainbow Kitten Surprise — known for their singles “Devil Like Me” and “Cocaine Jesus,” and frequent performers at Cat’s Cradle. We stood at the front, watching lead singer Sam Melo dance around the stage from the sheer excitement of playing at Bonnaroo — a festival he had gone to years before as a fan. The energy at the show was unbelievably upbeat, even as the sun beat down in full force. The next day, Sabrina and I saw Melo again – 10 feet away from us at the Flatbush Zombies set, enjoying himself just like everyone else.
My favorite show, however, was U2. I’ve been a fan of the classic rock band since I was a freshman in high school, and I consider them to be my favorite band of all time. This was their first American music festival, and their second festival to date. It was a part of their 30th anniversary Joshua Tree tour, where they played the famous album cover to cover (as well as some of their other hits). The second I heard the first few guitar strums of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” I started bawling my eyes out. It isn’t every day that you see your favorite band live, especially a band that tours less and less as members age.