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Entrance to Bonnaroo Music Festival

Bonnaroo 2011: A Camper’s Psychedelic Dream

written by: on June 24, 2011

One of the best American festivals of the summer gets better when Pop ‘stache infiltrates the Manchester, Tenn., farm that is Bonnaroo. Writers Aaron Pylinski and Kris Bass kept diaries from the sun-drenched, rock ‘n’ roll trenches while photographer Andy Keil stole the souls of those who ended up in front of his camera.


There is a moment of thought and the idea that something big was about to happen; the road trip to Bonnaroo from Chicago had the complete feeling of an exodus. There were large groups of car-bound festival goers rolling from every cardinal direction to make it to the “holy land.” Being bound to the highway for nearly nine hours, it was easy to pick out the people headed to ‘Roo; cars stuffed to the roof with coolers, blankets and beer. At this moment in time there are no more inhibitions. Enough cock teasing. Camp, drink and rock. The heat, the beautiful people and the music make for one hell of an occasion. —Aaron Pylinski

We leave around midday and it can’t come soon enough. All the everyday bullshit and stress is stretched as long as possible before we finally slam the trunk and hit the gas. Heading south is a trip in its own right—going to magical Manchester, Tenn., for what’s bound to be the experience of a lifetime is something else entirely.

As the road meanders, anticipation mounts like Christmas morning. Stories, swigs and songs are exchanged as the sun begins to set. We drive until we hit Nashville, where we grab some food and watch the characters pass. We arrive at our hotel a short time later and my night ends with puffing, swigging and storytelling. This is a fucking fantastic start. —Kris Bass


Thursday dawns and we take turns in the shower, in an effort to stay as clean as possible for as long as possible before we’re consumed by the dirt.

When we get to Manchester we’re greeted by a hot sun and scorching energy. It’s 9 a.m. and everyone is ready to go ballistic. We stop by the press check-in for our media credentials and I sell my extra ticket to two kids from Maine who skateboarded/hitchhiked all the way down with only a hundred bucks between them. Good call.

Hitchikers from Maine - Bonnaroo

Getting into Bonnaroo is akin to driving through Manhattan behind a parade. Luckily the line is shorter this year because we know the backroads. Thanks to Commander Kill, we slip through in under 40 minutes.

We score a great campsite not too far from Centeroo at the corner of 8th and 3rd. Our crew consists of a couple from Chicago, some girls from Philly and two Germans from Ohio. The vibes are strong. We unpack, pop the tents, crack open some beers and settle into what will come to be known as the Pop ‘stache Swamp.

As the sun sinks, Band of Skulls hit the stage at That Tent like a tidal wave, jamming ferociously before breaking into two heavy new cuts. The hits from their debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, get the crowd roaring, but it’s the new material that mesmerizes. On record the band seems very polished, but live they’re much dirtier and far more aggressive, conjuring Black Sabbath. They leave the crowd shaken and craving more.

Russell Marsden lead singer of Band of SkullsMatt Hayward drummer for Band of Skulls

Still in a daze, we wander the grounds without an agenda. A circle of mounted police officers block our path, and sitting in the middle is a kid tripping balls on LSD. We stand and watch as he calls himself “God” and starts naming the horses “Fred” and “Jackson.” He demands to pet them and barks philosophical inquiries to the hangers-on. After the kid claims that “everything is a paradox” for the 27th time, we move on.

I take a brief respite at the tents before heading to the late night set from Beats Antique. They’re a strange mix of electronic world music with a gypsy vibe. They have the crowd hypnotized, trading instruments between tracks and rocking some seriously groovy percussion. I stumble away refreshed after a few tracks. Day one is in the books, and the real party starts bright and early tomorrow. —Kris Bass