Updated: Sep 22, 2021
At 18-years old, I never could've imagined the impact one festival would have on my future. In 2017 I attended Bonnaroo for the first time solo. As an inexperienced festival-goer, the thought of attending a major festival such as Bonnaroo alone was daunting. However, when faced with the options of going without my friends or not at all, the answer was obvious. Besides, I wasn’t completely alone as I rode up with my older sister and her friend.
Bonnaroo 2017 would not only be my first festival I would attend alone, but would also be my first experience camping and my first festival that would last more than one day. What can I say? Go big or stay home, I never do things half-way.
Oddly enough although Bonnaroo isn't an EDM-focused festival, it was where my love for EDM truly took off. There were 4 unforeseeable, completely random events that happened over the course of the festival where I had learned 4 important lessons that would change the way I look at festivals, myself, and life in general.
Lesson #1: Getting lost can lead you exactly where you need to go.
Sometimes, having no destination can lead you to the place you’re meant to be. When you’re alone at a festival and have no plans for the rest of the night, the options are limitless. On the second night of Bonnaroo, I was walking alone through an empty portion of the festival, blissfully unaware that my life was about to change for the best. Although I could see lights around, it was dark enough that I didn’t notice a small group of people walking towards me until they were directly in front of me. As I passed them, I had somehow recognized the one other person that I knew out of the 65,000 people in attendance, in the middle of the night in an empty field. Whether it was fate or a coincidence, I had always believed that things happen for a reason, and this moment solidified that. I spent the next 2 days with with my new friends, experiencing various EDM sets that had not been on my radar beforehand such as: Claude Vonstroke, Major Lazer, San Holo, Rezz, and Big Gigantic. Although I wasn’t an official member of their group, I’m thankful for them accepting me as a friend and showing me a different side to Bonnaroo.
You’re never truly “lost” at a festival. If you just keep walking, eventually you will find yourself in a place or with a person that can change your life. Just go with it. Trust me.
Lesson #2: Have a conversation with the person in the crowd dressed like a bush.
If you’ve ever been to a festival, you know that you can find some absolute characters. One of the coolest parts about any festival are the people your may run into. To this day, my favorite interaction with a true character of a person was with Dave, or “Dave the Bush,” as I’ve dubbed him.
On the third day of the festival, our group was sitting at main stage in the middle of the crowd. In one of the groups next to us was a man dressed in an actual bush costume. He looked like he had run into the trees and attached every leaf and stick he could find to a bodysuit. At first, I thought nothing of it, until he began jumping up and scaring people as they walked by him. He did this over and over again, never failing to scare his poor, oblivious victims. After a while I somehow got into a conversation with him where he introduced himself as “Dave.” Our conversation wasn't particularly long or interesting, but what made this interaction so important to me was how after only 3 days, I had become confident and comfortable enough to talk to a stranger who was not particularly inviting. I mean, bushes aren’t supposed to talk. So, talk to people, especially the ones in costumes. You never know who you might meet.
Lesson #3: If you tweet at Louis the Child about their surprise RV camping party and they tweet back, go to the party.
It’s amazing what a little bit of confidence can do when presented with an opportunity. Sunday afternoon during an early DJ set, Louis the Child made a guest appearance on stage and announced a party they were hosting in RV camping. Having been presented with a golden opportunity for a once in a lifetime experience without any other information, I boldly tweeted at them asking for more details. More surprising than them actually having an RV party was that they shockingly responded twice to my tweets. I was elated! Now, I’m very, very sad to say that I didn’t end up going as my ride was leaving that night, meaning that I had to leave as well. I now know, however, that when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presents itself, you cannot hesitate to take it. So, take those golden opportunities when you see them and when an artist is doing a surprise campground party, GO!
Lesson #4: Don’t just be at a festival, be a part of it.
When at a festival, go with the flow. When I was at Bonnaroo, specifically Friday night after seeing Glass Animals, there was a moment where I no longer felt like just a festival goer but more so a member of the festival community. I was able to finally let go of insecurities and fear of missing out. Letting go of a schedule and other people’s expectations of what a festival should be, led me to actually experiencing the festival as my own and not just as an event. Being alone gave me freedom, but I never felt lonely.
Next time you’re at a festival, try spending the day by yourself. See the acts you want to see. Do random activities. Wander around you may stumble upon something such as an experience you never could've imagined.
Bonnaroo 2017 was the craziest, whirlwind of an experience I've ever had. It has shaped my love for the festival scene. Although I missed out on some amazing opportunities, I have learned that even missed opportunities can be cherished memories for the future. My experience wasn’t perfect but the memories and experiences I've gained have been priceless. Since then, I have gravitated towards mostly EDM festivals but will always think of Bonnaroo as the festival that led me towards EDM, and to where I am now. I will be going to Bonnaroo for the third time this year and although I won’t be alone this time, I’m excited to share these experiences with my close friends and make their first year at Bonnaroo as memorable as mine was.