“We are all connected here tonight. Don’t let anyone tell you this feeling isn’t real, because we all know it is.” These words were spoken by Childish Gambino on Friday night of the Bonnaroo Music Festival, and I couldn’t think of a better phrase to sum up my first experience. Anyone lucky enough to find themselves at the farm this year would agree. Bonnaroo isn’t only a four-day music experience, but a chance to disconnect from the outside world and submerge yourself into a community of love, acceptance and happiness and that is exactly what I did.

Bonnaroo is located on a 650-acre farm [It’s seriously HUGE] in Tennessee. It features six main stages, with many more tents for smaller performances. This year, headliners included Childish Gambino, Post Malone, Phish and The Lumineers. Although music festival ticket prices can be intimidating, I knew I couldn’t pass up a lineup like this one. 

The first day, I was determined to see many small bands like Peach Pit, Caroline Rose, and Magic City Hippies. I had been playing them on repeat during the weeks leading up to the festival. I figured their crowds would be more intimate since their music was less known. I was incredibly wrong. Unlike what I expected, every band at Bonnaroo came with an energetic, passionate crowd. I assumed people attended the festival for the headliners or certain bands they knew and ignored the smaller ones. I had been so accustomed to opening bands at concerts never receiving the same energy as their headliners. However, at Bonnaroo, people made an effort to learn the music of every band they planned on seeing. Not only was I surprised, but the artists were too. Many performers were happily shocked with a crowd that sang every line of every song.

Friday evening,  Childish Gambino took the stage. I’ve seen Childish in concert before, so I knew I was in for another amazing performance. I was even lucky enough to secure a spot only a few rows back from the pit, so I had an amazing view. When he finally came on I felt myself in awe of the atmosphere. I truly felt connected with the crowd around me. Childish Gambino’s energy was unlike anything I had seen before. I could feel the passion he was putting into the show, putting every single bit of himself into each song. 

Childish Gambino’s Bonnaroo performance outdid the time I had seen him before by tenfold. Just as I was questioning if everyone else was experiencing the same level of pure joy as me, he said it was time to rate the crowd [he does this at every show] and gifted us with an unmatchable score of, “unreal.” The crowd was awestruck by his energy and he said the feeling was mutual. I feel confident in saying I’ve seen one of the best shows Childish has ever put on, all thanks to Bonnaroo.

I assumed my weekend had peaked at the Childish Gambino set. Once again, I was wrong. Post Malone’s set was the following night and I was blown away. In fact, it’s difficult for me to explain just how amazing his show was. I had another amazing view of the stage and I was surrounded by three of my favorite people in the entire world. Post Malone gave it his all, he truly sang his heart out and the four of us chanted back every line of every song. During his set I had the realization that I was flooded with nothing other than pure joy. The image of me and my friends [with huge grins across our faces] watching one of the best shows I’ve ever seen will be happily tucked away in my memories for the rest of my days, and I am so thankful.

Bonnaroo offered up so many experiences I thought I would never have. When checking out a booth owned by Good Dye Young [a hair dye company] I was lucky enough to meet THE Hayley Williams [lead singer of Paramore and founder of Good Dye Young]. I would’ve never guessed I’d be meeting such a lifelong idol of mine at Bonnaroo, but all of my other expectations were exceeded, were they not? Aside from meeting such an amazing person, I had to get my hair done up with their temporary color products. For those of you who love fun hair, but don’t love permanent, I highly recommend Good Dye Young’s poser paste! 

Sitting here reminiscing about my Bonnaroo experience already has me counting the days until I can get back to the farm. I was incredibly moved by the atmosphere at Bonnaroo, I had never felt so safe and accepted among so many strangers. It felt good, really good, to be in such a state of happiness. Even when I accidentally missed a set by a favorite band of mine, Hippo Campus, I found myself brushing it off much faster than I thought. Although I didn’t get to see them live, nothing is ever really that bad when you’re at the farm. If you find yourself unsure of making the leap to attend Bonnaroo next year, I urge you to just do it. You’ll find yourself immersed in a haven of love, friendship, and best of all, music.

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