Autostraddle Remembers Bonnaroo 2011: Photo Diary

So, music! Bands and the songs they sing. Sarah Palmface and I went to Bonnaroo 2011, just like we said we would! Let’s talk about it! Lots of pictures! C’mon!

Groups of popular people you respect and know in abstract ways got up in front of other people you don’t know and did the things they’re best known for doing. It was just what you thought it would be. Sounded great! Looked even better because damn, there they were.

unknown musical group relaxing in the press yard, just chillin', being famous, the ushe, nbd

Here’s a picture of Mumford & Sons performing on the Which Stage as seen from the safety of the media compound. [NOTE: It was way crowded on the other side of that fence — like wall to wall human bodies. More crowded than usual. And I was still really into preserving my life / feet after nearly being trampled at Sleigh Bells Thursday night, so.]

Anyone can tell you about the sets, I guess. And this makes talking to you about going to Bonnaroo very, very much like dancing about architecture. You already know that.

But see, I want you to go. I genuinely think you’d love it. Because while a festival is a festival is a festival, you’re not camping for four days at Lolla and Electric Picnic isn’t booking Ben Sollee and Loretta Lynn. (Related: I still wanna go to Electric Picnic) Bonnaroo is special! Everything is special but Bonnaroo is special.

You have to promise you’ll go next year.

I’m probably biased, given that I grew up swimming in this humidity under those trees, but let’s pretend my affinity is about something else. The lineup, for example. That’s a familiar place to start. The variety at Bonnaroo is just silly: Lil Wayne, Mumford & Sons, Buffalo Springfield, Primus and Grace Potter? They have literally thought of a band for every member of your family, right up to your grandparents.

Not only does this draw fans from all over the genre spectrum, but it also serves to blow your freakin’ mind when you stop to think about ALL THE MUSIC IN THE WORLD. Tinariwen was there! What the fuck. The world is full of SO MUCH music. Music is weird, right? It’s everywhere and it’s inextricably tied to cultures and has such a rich history and an uncharted future and JUST WHOA. This world of music is crazy, you guys! And there it was – four days’ worth of it.


When you’re hunting down the Samosa Man booth under the blazing midday sun, it’s easy to forget that you’re on a farm with 80,000 other people because good grief where is the samosa booth seriously are we even going the right way? But then it occurs to you out of nowhere: THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE HERE. You can’t even wrap your head around 80,000 people. That’s like, a whole city. Then you think about how all 80,000 of them made the conscious decision to leave behind their families, friends and fully-functioning air-conditioners to spend five days hiking around a 700 acre farm covered in their own filth.

I mean, humans have been constructing ways to stay cooler, cleaner, dryer and more comfortable for thousands of years, and here we are purposely giving all of that up in the name of — what? Music? I don’t think so. We could see those bands anywhere. The novelty of lineup diversity? Tofu tacos? Nature? Drugs?

No, no, no and no (ok maybe).

No of course not! It’s the shared experience! It’s the fact that I can say ‘Bushy Branch’ and your heart swells a little because you’ve been there. It’s borrowing your neighbor’s mallet, being chased down for a quarter mile because you dropped your shirt, walking back to your truck to get tampons for a girl you’ll never see again. It’s sleeping in the dirt because you’re tired, not pitiful; wearing next to nothing because of the weather, not fashion; giving some guy your leftover fries because you can’t eat them, not because he can’t afford them.

We need this reminder that we’re still here — under all these hair products and hoodies and bachelor’s degrees and disappointments and victories, we can still find ourselves in each other. Like, we still have it in us, and they still have it in them — the ability to really appreciate and respect the living hell out of each other, in case you’d forgotten. And it’s easy to forget, truthfully.

So that’s what Bonnaroo is to me. It’s maybe something different for you. You should go next year and find out.


Next: More Photos, Favorites and Feelings
Including “Things We Did Right”

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Laneia is the Director of Operations and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here.

Laneia has written 930 articles for us.


  1. I love Bonnaroo so much. I have missed it ever since the first (and to date only time) I went. I got effed out of tickets on Craigslist last year. But alas, when it’s not meant to be….life happens.
    I got off work last Wednesday and I just had to laugh at all the people on the interstate that I could tell were headed to Manchester.

    Laneia, did you live or grow up in TN? I live in good ole Murfreesboro.

  2. I can’t help but stare at everyone’s crowd pictures, it’s like I think I might possibly be in them. And with 80,000 people, what are the odds? Also: the parachuters before Arcade Fire were mind blowing.

  3. Music is HUGE and yes, any kind will find its heart BUT f *the pictures and definitely f* the sound systems (no offense). The most worth while experience and the only one with enough potency to keep all 79,998 people going, PERIOD. Each other. Each person I spoke to: open and generous, forthcoming with all. At points I though my skin would catch fire, and then someone spray me with water. I thought I was lost forever is a sea of mammals and I found friends. Well worth the near death experience – Bonnaroo 2012… see you crazy kids

  4. I just finished posting the 5-10 Bonnaroo pictures I managed to take–I mean, who has time for pictures with all the singing and dancing and musicing? I also drafted my own little version of “Things I Learned and Feelings I Felt: Bonnaroo 2011” If only I could figure out a way to share it with you all…

  5. Now I really, really, really regret not buying those damn Roskilde tickets… I didn’t think I’d get a job BUT I DID, which is good anyways, I guess. I’ll take her out for dinner and give her that book she wanted.

  6. So I really want to go now, but my biggest question is are there children there?? Because there is no way I could tell my son I am going to go camp out at a music festival for 4 days and him be ok with not going… Plus he is one of those awesome kids that would go for the music and remember it forever… But I’d feel odd if he was one of like 5 kids there!

    • There are so many more kids there than I expected. People had strollers, Savannah. WTF. There is also a whole kids’ tent with activities and crafts and such so they won’t get bored! Bring ‘im.

    • There were way more kids than last year, and Bonus! Kids under 6 are free! They even have a little kids area where they can make drums and become little hippies. And there’s a special family camping area for people with kids, so you kind of avoid the whole all night party that the rest of the campground becomes. I’ve never brought my kids though, I’m thinking maybe next year?

  7. bonnaroo was magical. This was my fifth year going and every year gets better. Arcade Fire blew me away! worth every penny and dime spent. BONNAROOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. bonnaroo was magical. This was my fifth year going and every year gets better. Arcade Fire blew me away! worth every penny and dime spent. BONNAROOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Savannah… there are kids that attend with parents. they have a special family only camp section so you don’t have to be next to all of the crazy drugged up hippies when you attend! def. bring your son, it’s a life changing experience.

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