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Published: 2011/06/09

From The Bonnaroo Beacon: Bonnaroo (Feel The Magic)

Here is the front page story from Thursday’s Bonnaroo Beacon, the official festival newspaper

The title of the new festival theme song, “Bonnaroo (Feel The Magic)” may be ever-so-slightly tongue in cheek but the sentiment undeniably holds true as the festival returns to its 700 acre site for year ten.

Back in 2002 the festival sold out well in advance, mostly via word of mouth (and web), as anticipation ran high regarding just what would take place out on the farm. As Superfly Presents’ Paul Peck recalls, “The energy of that first year was different than anything I had experienced. I was coming from New Orleans where there’s always a different energy but this was something even beyond that. It was just a total release and a true collaboration of staff, fans and artists. That still holds true today. When artists show up, this is their Game 7.”

With the NBA and NHL final series each locked at two games apiece, it appears that game 7s may well be looming for both of those sports next week, while Bonnaroo’s starts today.

AC Entertainment’s Ashley Capps laughs, “So much has changed since 2002 that it’s almost impossible to compare now and then. In 2002 we were teaching ourselves how to do this. Each year has been an incremental learning process. It’s been an amazing journey.”

On Wednesday afternoon, as the gates opened a few hours earlier than expected, many of 2011’s festivalgoers were whooping it up, sharing their enthusiasm and release after their own amazing journeys.

A look at the license plates on those cars that were part of the initial swell onto the site, reflected the geographic diversity of attendees (and quite likely the musical diversity as well). One stretch saw plates in succession from New York, Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts and then finally Tennessee. Passengers shared accounts of having traveled 14 hours from New York, 12 from Michigan, 20 from Boston.

And what has brought them here? The very same spirit of adventure and passion for a collaborative musical experience that motivated the original Bonnaroo attendees in 2002. In looking back, Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz recalls asking that first year, “Who are all these people and how did they find out about this?”

It may be easier to find out about Bonnaroo in 2011 (success breeds that) but it’s fair to say that there’s no laurel-resting on the part of the event. This year’s line-up offers a nod to year one, with returning veterans such as Widespread Panic, the String Cheese Incident and Del McCoury Band. Meanwhile, such performers as Enimem and Lil Wayne will debut this year, while the original Meters will reunite to back Dr. John for a reading of their 1974 album, Desitively Bonnaroo.

What else is new this year? Well there is that enormous water slide over in Centeroo, which given the weather has seemingly materialized just in the nick of time. And speaking of time, that is the answer provided by head of visual design Russ Bennett when asked to name 2011’s major site development.

At first Beacon staffers interpreted this as a reference to the various names and likenesses of artists that appear on the walls of the fest. However, a second glance around the grounds on Wednesday revealed a new installation reminiscent of a cuckoo clock. Stay tuned as we all may yet hear it chime.

And on the subject of chiming, festivalgoers will have plenty of opportunities to chime in with the Bonnaroo national anthem this weekend. “Bonnaroo (Feel The Magic)” was recorded by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band and the two groups likely will perform it on Friday night when they take the stage together at the Other Tent. However folks who miss that set (and you miss it at your peril as it’s a marvelous pairing) will no doubt be singing the tune by Sunday as a video of the song, complete with a bouncing ball highlighting the lyrics will appear on the video screens alongside the What Stage on a few occasions.

Bonnaroo, Bonnaroo, Bonnaroo
Feel The magic in the air, Bonnaroo
Bonnaroo, Bonnaroo, Bonnaroo
Feel the magic everywhere Bonnaroo
You can feel the magic in the air
They’re havin’ a good time
Counting down the miles before we cross
That state line to lose these blues
Bonnaroo me and you Tennessee Bonnaroo

Sure it’s simple. Still it’s evocative of a festival that was an unknown back in 2002 and has since established its own identity, as a unique event that elicits a special energy and brings out the best from both sides of the stage.

Game on.

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