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Published: 2009/06/11

From the Bonnaroo Beacon: Pieces of Eight

The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival debuted in 2002. Over the intervening years, some of what takes place in the days leading up to the festival has become familiar, almost rote. About a month ago, this entire site was a verdant field (well, actually a soggy, verdant field, as there was quite a stretch of precipitationbut lets not broach that subject right now). However, like clockwork, the regulars returned and began construction of what you see today (these efforts will continue throughout the weekend, with festivalgoers encouraged to participate in a variety of ways, such as adding to the Pods or contributing to the Bungaloo community art project). Assembly of the What Stage started last week, while work on the Which Stage commenced just a few days ago. Nonetheless, while some of the broader elements remain consistent, much of Bonnaroos majesty lies in the little things, the nuances, that vary with each installment of the festival.
Crossing the site on Wednesday certainly had a familiar ring to those who had been here before. Still, things were quieter, not due to a dearth of enthusiasm but rather as a result of one significant change that might not register right away but which certainly will enhance the experience for most in attendance. The drone of generators is absent, as now that the Bonnaroo team has purchased the site, they have been able to beef up the infrastructure, adding electricity and doing away with the need for that insistent hum. Another element that also initially may go unnoticed is the construction of new wells that will help support this years greening efforts, which include a push away from bottled water.
Other changes are a bit more conspicuous. A few dozen graffiti artists circled the grounds and ran amok, tagging the walls with a range of colors and displays. Over in the pods, new installations are currently in motion, directed by a number of Tennessee-based artists. On Wednesday afternoon, over in Pod 5, Sarah Shebaro and her team were draping old VHS and audio tapes around a wall of netting to shape the Disco Shelter. Pod 6 saw an analog message board underway, with vivid textiles fashioned into symbols and words. In Pod 4, the Birdhouse, Joan Monaco utilized fresh bamboo to create a structure that Katie Ries has envisioned to house a platoon of sewing machines ready to craft a banner of clothing scraps (head on over and make a contribution!).
A Wednesday stroll also revealed some endeavors that even may be unfamiliar to Bonnaroo stalwarts. Did you realize that on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the Sonic Stage is handed over to a semi-spontaneous circus troupe? Late Wednesday afternoon saw the Lady Circus in elevated motion, working out what may yet follow.
Of course, while speaking of stages, let us not forget theres music in the offing as well (oh yes and comedy and film too). Taking in the exploits of the Lady Circus was Annabel Lukins, Mistress of the Sonic Stage. Lukins is particularly proud of the roster she has assembled this year, but is especially hyped up about the baby grand piano that she has secured for Allen Toussaints solo performance on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, the festival line-up continues to expand, as in case you havent checked your inbox lately, Jimmy Buffett is set to join Ilo and the Coral Reefer Allstars on Saturday from 12:00 – 1:00 at the Which Stage. And yes theres much, much more (dont even get Annabel started on Phish)
What can be said with all confidence is that the eighth year of Bonnaroo is an auspicious one for seasoned veterans and callow rooks alike. Opportunities abound for individuals to seek out festival gold however they define it, since there are so many exhilarating and enticing pieces of Eight.

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