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Tents To See In Tennessee:
The 2007 Bonnaroo Festival: The Stop Smiling Review

The Stop Smiling Review

POLICE BRUTALITY: Live at Bonnaroo

Photographer: JEFF KRAVITZ


Monday, June 25, 2007

By Nicholas Schreiber

It was a sticky Saturday afternoon at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, and Wayne Coyne, the Flaming Lips frontman, was running around the backstage village like a tour guide, pointing out all its sideshow perks: the batting cage, the massage parlor, the canopy of Christmas lights, the hammocks and the large wooden bridge that crossed only woodchips. Just a few hours remained until his midnight descent onstage from a gigantic, glowing spaceship. Looking at his watch, Coyne finally ducked under the press tent, sat down and attempted to describe what separates Bonnaroo from the regular gig, and other destination festivals across the globe.

“There are all these elements that make it this bizarre quest,” he said. “Your life at Bonnaroo becomes this grand adventure. Hopefully we’re all having an intense, pleasant — but not always pleasant — experience. We’re going to remember it, for better or worse.”


A few days earlier on Thursday morning, this adventure began in decidedly forgettable fashion. With nearly 90,000 fans expected to flock to a farm 60 miles east of Nashville, police began escorting lines of traffic to a small country road. The road’s name, Altamont, brought to mind another gathering of long-hairs, though this one hopefully wouldn’t end in violence and death. For most Bonnaroo ticket holders, this redirection meant little more than the beginning of a five-hour bout with automobile paralysis. The 12 miles separating the cars and the camping grounds being counted down by inches, not minutes. As concertgoers became impatient, ancient VW vans and hybrid coupes alike began cheating ahead of the sluggish procession in the name of that old hippie adage: Peace, love and illegal lane usage. Many of those who did stay honest had to feel like Enron investors, but they escaped their boredom by tossing Frisbees and footballs on the side of the road. The bizarre adventure had begun.


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