I think we’re all pretty clear at this point on the fact that I’m obsessed with festivals. So it should come as no surprise that when my girl Kristin invited me back to Tennessee for my second Bonnaroo, I said yes in a bass beat.
Much of the experience was the same: we gorgeous nearby home again, I danced my face off again, I kicked off the weekend on the ferris wheel again, and I made a very thorough tour of the festival’s food trucks again.
But one major factor was different: I brought my mama!
Not just my mom — her fiancé too. (Don’t worry — there’s a full post on how to rock a festival with your parent coming up soon.) Between those two cuties and Kristin’s always enormous rotating cast of characters and houseguests, there was no shortage of people to celebrate my second ‘Roo with.
As is now tradition, we skipped the “warm up” of Bonnaroo Thursday to save our strength (and get some much-needed work time) in anticipation of the weekend. If I were camping, I would totally arrive that day to get all set up and ready to go, but since we were getting the ultimate VIP Casa Luna experience, it wasn’t necessary.
We kicked things off Friday by rushing to the Solar Stage just in time for Kristin’s friends The Wailing Loons. As we rushed through the festival to get to their set on time, I couldn’t help but think how great it was to be back on The Farm! And what a place to get the party started — Planet Roo is one of my favorite aspects of Bonnaroo, and I was excited to show my mom the amazing sustainability, social change, and civic outreach projects that blossom there.
After briefly losing my mom and joking that she was already off registering Roo-ers to vote, we were off to the Bacardi Oasis for fake palm trees, delicious coconut drinks, and a meetup with my fabulous friend .
We also took a spin on the ferris wheel before the weekend lines got too long, which is my favorite way to get aerial views of the festival and camp grounds. However, one of my few complaints about Bonnaroo is that all the little extras like water slides, the ferris wheel, etc. cost extra — at other festivals I’ve been to, you basically never have to pull out your wallet unless you’re buying food or drinks.
Not only was The Bacardi Oasis the perfect place to cool down, there was also a great DJ and most importantly — it made for the perfect blogger photoshoot! As much as I love catching my favorite artists at Bonnaroo, it’s key to have unscheduled time when you’re not running from set to set so you can explore the fun non-stage areas like these.
One major improvement over my 2015 Bonnaroo experience? They started selling hard liquor! There was still plenty for the beer and wine lovers though, like the Broo-ers Tent and the Dark Horse Rosé Lounge, capitalizing on the nation-wide .
Eventually, it was time to get down to music-listening business. I caught the very end of The Strumbellas, which was fabulous and made me wish I’d caught more, heard the final songs from Cold War Kids, who, um, didn’t make me regret missing their full set, rocked out to Kaleo, who surprised me with how much I loved them, and Tove Lo, who disappointed me in how much I didn’t — she was kind of my biggest disappointment of the weekend, sadly.
And then we were off to the mainstage for U2! While I wouldn’t consider myself an enormous U2 fan, I simply couldn’t miss the band’s first US festival headlining set. It didn’t disappoint.
While most of our crew headed home at that point, I couldn’t stand to miss out on Major Lazer! I was totally prepared to stay by myself, but luckily Amanda and her friend Brian were also onboard. I had a pretty epically hilarious conversation with my mom and Miller about this plan.
Me: “Mom, want to come back and pick me up at 2:30am? It will be just like college summers all over again!”
My mom: (Joking, I hope?) “Definitely not. Find a random tent to sleep in.”
Miller: “Oh I can give you a ride home. I’ll still be here.”
Well okay then, rockstar grown ups! Major Lazer was, no surprise, one of my favorite sets of the weekend and worth the forty-five minute mission we had upon getting lost in the parking lot on the way out. (Even the most comfortable festival shoes don’t feel good after twelve hours of dancing, my friends.)
All too soon it was Saturday! I skipped the Roo Run — the 5K through the campgrounds that I loved so much my first Roo — in order to sleep in after being up late for Major Lazer, which I was a little sad about — but I think it was all for the best considering I was still nursing a major muscle pull from Orlando. (I have a condition where someone says “rest is the best cure” and I hear “sign up for your first ever triathlon.”)
But I was feeling zero regrets by the time we all arrived for another beautiful day at Bonnaroo!
After strolling around a bit and exploring the grounds some more with my mom and Miller, we met up with Amanda and Brian again for my most-anticipated set of the weekend.
And dang, did he deliver! Michael Kiwanuka killed it with a soulful, no-frills set. Tegan and Sara also played a light and fun daytime performance that I had fun bopping around to.
Next we were over to the main stage for our nightly camp out for the headliners. This time we were treated to Chance the Rapper, who brought the energy up to the highest peak I saw all weekend, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, who laid on the nostalgia strong.
After two nights of crawling into bed in the wee hours, I was ready for a more relaxed Sunday. And did we ever find it! Sunday morning, Kristin and I said goodbye to my mom and Miller, who were off to Asheville, and skipped yoga in favor of a new experience for both of us — a spin in the Comedy and Cinema tent for yet-to-be-released film Ingrid Goes West.
We laughed and eye-rolled our way through the movie just as the director intended, and then stuck around for a Q+A with the cast. Y’all, you’ve got to see this move when it comes out — especially if you work in the field of influencer marketing! Aubrey Plaza was, well, about as awkward as her character in my all-time favorite show Parks and Recreation.
While we had a great experience there, we learned the Comedy and Cinema tent is kind of a bizarre thing — regardless of what time the show you want to see is, you need to get in line first thing in the morning for tickets, then come back later for the show. It was chaotic and confusing and luckily we happened to be there when people were just lining up or we would have missed the whole darn thing! So if you want to see a movie or a comedy show at Bonnaroo — plan accordingly.
Post-movie, Kristin brought me to Cam, an artist I wasn’t previously familiar with but am now totally hooked on. It was great to see a country artist, one of the few — if only? — on the lineup this year.
While listening to Cam, we dined on one last glorious Bonnaroo lunch. I love the food at ‘Roo, and this year discovered a new obsession — Humpty’s Dumplings, all the way from Philadelphia. I don’t want to say the broccoli cheddar dumplings changed my life, but I also don’t want to deny the fact that I’ll never be the same after eating them.
Looking for something a little more local? Make your way to the gator nugget tent, my friends! Or, ya know, just like, have some southern BBQ of the non-scaly kind.
Finally, we were back to the mainstage for our evening routine of spreading out a blanket and enjoying the day’s headliners. I was pretty disappointed by Milky Chance, one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend, who seemed more invested in performing a technically perfect set than a passion-filled one.
Lorde had the best show manager (is that a thing?) of the entire weekend — I loved the way they blocked her set and projected it onto the screens! It was like watching a live music video. The night wrapped with a wild set from The Weeknd, who along with Chance has some of the best energy of, uh, the weekend. Dang, it felt good to dance down!
I always love going to a festival a second time — I feel far less pressure to photograph and run around and record, and a lot more freedom to just enjoy and experience. While I’ve yet to make it to major competing music festivals like Lollapalooza or Coachella, Bonnnaroo has a vibe that is far more hippie dippy than the ones those project.
If you’re looking for a festival that doesn’t feel like a fashion show, a wide variety of musical genres in one weekend, and an event that has big beating heart and soul and a social conscience, Bonaroo might just be the summer music festival you need to add to your bucket list.
Stay tuned for my tips on how to bring your parents to Bonnaroo — or any festival!
I received a media pass to attend Bonnaroo. All other expenses were my own. All non-selfie shots that I’m in are likely courtesy of the talented !