Tuesday, December 20, 2005


The best concert festival in the country just had to wait to get started until after I moved out of town.

I lived in Manchester, TN for 2 years. Those of you who live there know what I'm talking about when I say there's not a lot to look at there. It's not a bad little town. It's just that it's a little town. So small, in fact, that I was usually able to go down the main drag to get groceries and DVDs from the Movie Gallery on rollerblades. Not only was the traffic sparse, but I'd usually get across town and back without so much as breaking a sweat.

Then, somewhere between 1999 and 2000, there were whispers of a concert festival. It would be held in a field outside of town. Most of the locals were skeptical, but then we started seeing posters up all around town with the line-up. The card read like a Who's Who list of classic rock superstars. For just a few (VERY few) of the town's residents, buying tickets suddenly became a real option.

Back then it was called Itchycoo. I'm not sure who's in charge of coming up with these names, but I'm pretty sure they're chemically enhanced. Itchycoo Park is still there (such as it is...a huge open field) and Bonnaroo still takes place there. I don't know what drew me to buy a ticket the most: the unusual name or the list of performers. Either way, the town slowly but surely began to hype this festival as the next Woodstock. TV and print were strangely silent, but internet hype was ablaze, and strange colorful billboards cropped up on the interstate. Given the idyllic settings and the band roster, I figured it might be a worthwhile trip. And the first day of the concert, as I sat outside my house ticketless listening to Sammy Hagar rock out from literally just a few miles away, I knew I had to be part of this.
I purchased a one day pass to see Firefall, Blood Sweat & Tears, America, Kris Kristofferson, Davy Jones of the Monkees, Starship, and Heart.

The festival was a HUGE embarrassing failure. To be fair, most of the acts were good. That is, most of the acts that actually SHOWED UP were good. Watching David Clayton Thomas of Blood Sweat & Tears was probably worth the admission alone. Firefall's set was good. Davy Jones didn't show up along with several of the other acts. Itchycoo had a local Nashville Christian metal band, Sturm, as a filler, but they were met with a less than warm reception by the classic rock fans that were there.

Not that there were many of them there either. The field that they had roped off was big enough to contain a crowd of Woodstock proportions, but there was a crowd of only a couple hundred. To put it in perspective, I bought my ticket late, and was able to watch every show by walking directly up to the stage and leaning on it with no hassle. There was nobody to get in my way.

To make a long story short, projected revenues were not met, bands did not show, every bit of security personnel they had walked off and went home due to the fact that the promoters had no money to pay them with. The festival, as a whole, was a huge dismal embarrassing failure.

But sometime after I left, some concert organizers got smart. The festival relaunched and was renamed. They focused a little less on classic rock and reunion bands and went the "jam band" route. Surprise! It worked! Last year's Bonnaroo was named the best festival of the year by Billboard magazine. The line-up last year consisted of Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews Band, Trey Anastasio, Jack Johnson, The Black Crowes, The Allman Brothers, Alison Krauss, Modest Mouse, Bob Weir and Ratdog, Herbie Hancock, Gov't Mule, Bela Fleck, Mars Volta, John Prine, Jurassic 5, Earl Scruggs, Joss Stone, Kings of Leon, De La Soul, O.A.R., Ozomatli, Drive By Truckers, and many many others.

Things are looking good for this year's festival as well. The following news comes from the Bonnaroo website: "The fifth annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is confirmed to take place June 16 - 18, 2005. The three-day camping and music festival will once again be held on the same beautiful, 700-acre farm in Manchester, TN, 60 miles southeast of Nashville." They're scaling back the capacity this year, though, so when tickets come up for sale, make sure to hurry up and get yours.

Stay tuned to Musical Ramblings for more Bonnaroo updates as they become available! I was there for the first one, and hope to be there for the next one!


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At 7:58 PM, Blogger Tami said...

Thanks for posting this! I was there that year to specifically see Davy Jones and was quite disappointed when he didn't show up. Now that the 2011 Bonaroo line-up is out, I was trying to remember the year that flubbed.


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