What do you do when government sequestration gets you down? For me, the answer was simple. Head to Bonnaroo! Due to government cuts at my day job, my entire agency required all of its employees to take a week of unpaid leave this year. Rather than lay around on my couch and sulk about my reduced paycheck, I decided I would rather take the bull by the horns and try to spread a bit of democracy to the masses and what better masses are there than 80,000 wild and crazy Bonnaroo attendees?
Helen Hunt Saves the Day
My adventure began three days before the festival when an RV pulled up in front of my townhouse in my quiet DC suburb. I loaded my gear into my bunk and off we went. Our RV had already been christened Helen Hunt, as those already on board had spent the afternoon dodging tornadoes in upper Maryland on their way down. Probably not the vehicle you want to be in with twisters all around, but she got us all the way to Manchester without a hitch. Having never been in an RV, I did not know what to expect. What I got was a lot of togetherness with my three travel companions and I think all of us are closer as a result!
How much voter registration action is there in a non-election year? A lot more than you think! However, this year also saw the start of an exciting new campaign we called #SoundOff. The concept behind it is simple – make a sign, take a picture, tweet it at your Congressional Representative. It is easier than writing a letter and you get the instant gratification of seeing it delivered. During the four day festival, over 900 people came by our booth to be photographed with messages to Congress. Popular themes of concern over the weekend included marriage equality, second amendment rights, animal rights and educational funding. Among the artists, fracking, bullying and same-sex marriage all emerged as hot-button issues.
Throughout the coming months, we will continue this campaign at festivals around the country. Now we are a lot more than just “that voter registration group.” We are a one stop shop for having your voice heard! Check out some of the photos here.
The Music Never Ends
First and foremost, if you have not seen Paul McCartney live, you really should get on that! Due to sheer exhaustion, I only made it through half of his set, but what I saw really blew me away! His set is an avalanche of hits – from his days with the Beatles, Wings and later solo endeavors. The highlight of the set for me was “Blackbird.” Pretty much anything by the Beatles will get me, but this was so simple and beautiful, it had the entire crowd singing along.
I will be the first to admit that I am an early to bed type of person. However, even when you hit the sack, the music keeps on playing. Friday night I was lulled to sleep by Pretty Lights. I also woke up to Pretty Lights as their set lasted until dawn. It is definitely difficult being the type of person who does not want to miss anything and knowing that you have options from around ten in the morning until around four or five the following morning!
Other musical highlights from the weekend included David Byrne and St. Vincent singing “Road to Nowhere,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ ubiquitous “Thrift Shop,” and crowd pleaser, “Home,” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.
The Royale Treatment
Working for a music non-profit, you sometimes get the chance to interact with musicians. This can be a double-edged sword. Occasionally you will meet someone that you previously thought was amazing and then they do not give you the time of day. On the other hand, sometimes you meet an artist that simply blows you away with their down-to-earth attitude and their genuine interest in helping people. I had the later experience when Alanna Royale visited our booth.
Prior to seeing them on the schedule, I had not heard of the band. According to their website, the band is made up of 7 members, 6 beards, 3 horns, and 1 lady (yes, there is a beard missing from the photo). They are a local group from Nashville. I pulled their name off a long list of bands and invited them to participate in our new campaign. The entire band showed up on Thursday and brought a contagious vibe to the booth that energized everyone. Alanna spoke out on marriage equality and shot a short video explaining why it is everyone’s responsibility to stand up for what they feel is right. She also took time to talk to the volunteers at the booth and basically left everyone in good spirits. Later, on Friday, when the band performed, we took turns checking out the set and she definitely earned some new fans!
Other visitors to the booth included Naia Kete, Stop Light Observations, Matrimony, LiL iFFy and HeadCount’s cofounder, Marc Brownstein, of Conspirator and The Disco Biscuits.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
In my normal life, I cannot really say I have ever bumped into music legend, John Oates, eating a pulled pork sandwich, while walking to the shower. However, I sure did this weekend! That is the kind of bizarre situation that occurs at Bonnaroo. Strange things happen that are not really that strange in a certain context. Being stuck in a giant field with 80,000 of your closest friends, weirder things can happen. Seeing Reggie Watts get escorted out of the pit because he is not on the pre-approved list of R Kelly – that happened! Seeing Michael Winslow reenact Jimi Hendrix’s guitar-shredding version of the Star Spangled Banner with only his mouth – simply mind blowing! Whether hitting the big acts, checking out the smaller stages, or simply walking around, you never know what you will find at the Roo. Hopefully I will see everyone again next year, but until then, remember this very important lesson I learned the hard way this weekend: Never eat a gyro from a food vendor after 1:00am. Nothing good can come of it. Absolutely nothing…