Four days, dozens of bands, 700 acres, 80,0000 people. Since its 2002 inception, Bonnaroo often has been described as a music marathon. But that descriptor doesn't begin to capture the festival's overwhelming demand on the senses.
Imagine a weekend camping with your friends and how grungy you might feel afterwards. Now imagine four days camping with tens of thousands of strangers, many of whom are (stereotypically) jam-band fans whose ideas of personal hygiene (again, stereotypically) are not regarded as the most stringent even in the most ideal circumstances. Yech. Sure, there are on-site showers and porta-potties, though some Bonnaroo fans say those facilities, politely put, aren't the most commodious.
It's enough to make the average music fan, accustomed to air-conditioning and hot water, stay home -- were it not for the music. And that alone, with acts ranging from Radiohead, Beck, Sonic Youth and My Morning Jacket to Steve Earle, Shooter Jennings and Bettye LaVette, is enough to entice people to pay $169.50 or more for a ticket to hang out in the summer heat of the rural Tennessee hills.
Note that there's not one jam band among those high-profile acts. It's been Bonnaroo's philosophy to present a range of genres, and this year they're branching out even further than previous years. But jam bands are still well-represented on the bill by moe., Blues Traveler and Phil Lesh & Friends, among others. For your funny bone, comedians including Lewis Black (known principally for his curmudgeonly rants on The Daily Show) will perform. Local favorites the Avett Brothers will play on one of the smaller café stages. The food vendors are typically those found at your standard county fair (albeit with a hippie flair), but a lot of people do their own barbecuing of hamburgers and hotdogs.
For pure people watching, Bonnaroo can't be beat. Put 80,000 vacationing hippies (and other people) on a cow pasture with relatively little surveillance, and you'll see all sorts of human activities. You'll smell them too.
Check out Bonnaroo on the Web: www.bonnaroo.com/2006.