8 Things Bonnaroo Taught Me About Vibing

Image of Mushroom Shaped Water Station

This post is inspired by my friend over at Bended Brains.

On the final afternoon of the summer’s greatest music festival, Bonnaroo, I sat in the comedy tent with several of my closest friends and discussed the past several days among ourselves.

We wondered: what does Bonnaroo even mean? To us, it just sounded like some random meaningless string of characters.

According to one of the guys sitting in front of us, it is actually a Cajun word meaning “a really good time”. What a fitting word to describe the experience I had during those four days!

What is it that makes ‘roo such a good time?

Of course there is the fantastic lineup of live musicians of all genres, tons of psychedelic art, and delicious foods. These are a big part of it for sure.

But what transforms a good time into a really good time is the people, and the vibes these people create.

Being very much into live music, I have been to my fair share of shows in the past. Particularly at electronic music shows, people tend to be considerably friendlier than they are at your average party or bar.

There is a whole rave culture that supports this behavior. In fact, the motto for ravers is PLUR, short for Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect.

Despite going to my share of rave-type events, I’ve never witnessed the level of camaraderie that Bonnaroo provided.

For four days, a new community of 80,000 Bonnaroovians is formed in a huge piece of farmland in Manchester, Tennessee, a town with a population of only 10,000 individuals year round.

Other than the fact that everyone is in the same place for those four days, people there have very little in common. It would be hard to find a more diverse group with regards to interests and backgrounds.

But together, these people created a great community based on a foundation of strongly positive vibes. It seemed to me as though there were a “festival persona”, or a set of personality and other traits that nearly everyone took on during the weekend.


8 Elements Of The Festival Persona

I truly feel that if people adopted more elements of this persona, not only would their life improve but they would make the world a far more livable place to be.

1. Show Up To Have A Good Time.

There is so much going on at Bonnaroo that you would be hard-pressed to not enjoy yourself. The whole point of being there is to enjoy it.

Leave the concerns of the outside world behind, and don’t let them distract you from the amazing experience you should be having.

While Bonnaroo is likely far more stimulating than your average day to day existence (it sure is for me, at least), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to enjoy yourself regularly.

Life is one very, very big festival. If you aren’t trying to enjoy yourself, then, well, something is wrong with you.

Don’t take that too personally 🙂

2. Have An Abundance Mindset.

The fact of the matter is, there is more than enough to go around.

Of everything.

Instead of worrying about how little of something you have, be grateful for the massive amounts of it that you have. A small degree of delusion may be beneficial here, but don’t go overboard.

For example, if you are stuck on a deserted island, thank the universe for providing you with so many interesting people in your life. It sounds ridiculous, but just go with it. You’ll be much happier this way.

The best way of manifesting this mindset is through sharing.

Whenever you have anything, share it with others.

Your subconscious mind will look at you sharing and say, “If I have enough gum/beer/shade/etc. to share with others, I must have an abundance of it!”

I can hardly begin to describe how much better the Bonnaroo environment was because people believed in abundance and shared it.

I don’t know what I would have done if it weren’t for kind people allowing me to use their hand sanitizer after a late night port-a-potty experience.

People would gladly offer water to anyone who seemed in need. This sort of behavior gets payed forward, and a culture of giving is created.

3. Don’t Be Upset That You Can’t See Everything.

For me, this is surely the toughest thing on this list.

There would be different bands playing at the same time on different stages, as well as a million other things to do. It would have been impossible to do everything. It would be impossible to do everything even if you go to ten or twenty Bonnaroos. There is just that much going on.

And naturally, that meant making some tough decisions.

Do I go with my friends to get a good spot for the Red Hot Chili Peppers early, or do I stay for the entirety of Dispatch’s set?

In this case, I stayed, since it was the best show I’ve ever seen. But the tradeoff was that I was a million feet away from the stage for RHCP.

There are so many awesome things in the world.

Natural beauty, crazy architecture, exotic foods, fun activities, and so on, are limitless. A thousand lifetimes would be necessary to experience even a tiny fraction of them.

It is important that we come to terms with this. We must simply try our best to do what we want to do, knowing full well that there is so much more.

This is in fact a beautiful thing, because it means there is always something new to try. If the world were more limited, we would get bored of it quickly and have little reason to do anything.

4. Be Willing To Try Something New.

Bonnaroo simply would not have been as enjoyable had I decided to see only bands that I knew beforehand.

I would have never been exposed to the unique ethnic stylings of AfroCubism, or the great melodies of Little Dragon had I merely stuck with what I was familiar with.

There are all sorts of cool, random things going on at once during Bonnaroo. It was great to be able to take a few minutes break from the music and watch bikini-clad women doing really wild tricks with hula-hoops.

I never even realized that was a “thing”, but as someone who enjoys liquid dance, I found it very intriguing to watch.

Yes, of course that’s what it was…

Ahem. Well, you guessed it, this applies to the real world outside Bonnaroo as well.

Listen to new music. Check out different forms of art. Eat something off the menu that isn’t “the usual”.

Expand your horizons, man (read that in a stereotypical hippy voice).

5. Assume Rapport With Others.

This is just so important. The good vibes that come from Bonnaroo primarily happen because of this.

Even though most of the people had little in common, we all shared the fact that we were there in the same place for a weekend.

That’s enough. Everyone was unbelievably friendly, as though you were already friends with whomever it was you were talking to even though you’ve never seen them before and will probably never see them again.

Growing up on the mean streets of Rock-a-hood, New Jersey, and then spending four years at Rutgers has made me a far more wary person in my social interactions.

Where I’m from, there is a very high probability that if you fall asleep in public outdoors, you will get robbed, or at the very least drawn on.

Also, people are jerks to each other in general in the northeast.

So I was totally unprepared for the massive amounts of trust that the average Bonnaroovian had for everyone else there.

Having never met me, people would leave their backpacks on the ground next to me and then wander off into a crowd. Or strangers would just walk up and start conversations with me like it was nothing.

And of course, it IS nothing. We should be just as friendly all the time. I’m not going to start leaving my bag with strangers here, but you get my point.

6. Be Helpful To Those Around You.

This kind of goes with having an abundance mindset as I said before.

Especially during the first two days, I had no idea where I was going. It was incredibly useful to be able to ask people around me where The Other Tent was, or where the closest water filling station was. Or perhaps to use someones sunscreen if I forgot it. Many people brought super soakers or those mist-fans to help others cool down.

Whatever it was, someone was always available to help. That’s just the way people were at ‘roo.

We should always be this helpful! When someone looks lost, stop and help direct them.

Or help them change their flat tire, or give the homeless guy a couple bucks for a meal.

All these simple acts make the world awesome, and they are the foundation for what makes human brotherhood possible.

7. Be Positive.

Bonnaroo wasn’t “easy”.

As much fun as it was, it was beastly hot during the day (although not as bad this year as it had been in the past), chilly at night, dirty everywhere, and sleeping in was impossible.

I would be on my feet all day, which gets extremely tiring, extremely quickly (although my experience with Dance Marathon made this easier for me).

That being said, Bonnaroovians had an incredibly positive energy that was infectious and critically important.

I can’t tell you how many strangers I got high fives from that weekend.

I can’t say you how many people would tell me “Happy Bonnaroo!”

I can’t tell you how many random people invited me back to their tents, or to come with them to the next set, or whatever.

It was simply impossible to complain about the negative aspects of the experience with so much positive energy going around.

The challenges hardly even existed in my mind, because they were so overwhelmed by the positives.

Everyone had a smile on their face. Everyone was having a good time.

And there is no reason that we shouldn’t take this positive attitude with us into the real world.

Complaining simply gets you nowhere.

8. Be Able To Go With The Flow.

Sure, I came into the weekend with a plan. I knew exactly who I wanted to see and when.

And it is very useful to have this plan…as a guideline.

The plan allowed me to prioritize certain things I wanted to see, but if I stuck to it strictly, I would have missed out on so much more.

You can’t always count on things to go exactly how you want. As much as I wanted to go see GZA, I felt too tired to go, so I went back to my camp site.

But then, for whatever reason, my friends and I decided to go back into Centeroo at 3:30 AM to go see A Wet Hot American Summer in the cinema tent.

And it was awesome, and totally worth it.

While being able to plan things out is a great life skill, rigidly sticking with these plans can be massively detrimental.

We must be able to live in the moment and act spontaneously or even impulsively.

The most awesome things happen spontaneously, and it is tragic to miss out.

Of course a plan can be a great guide, but never be afraid to completely scrap it and just go with the flow.

photo by: Philgarlic

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  1. You make an excellent point here:

    “There are so many awesome things in the world. Natural beauty, crazy architecture, exotic foods, fun activities, and so on, are limitless. A thousand lifetimes would be necessary to experience even a tiny fraction of them. It is important that we come to terms with this. We must simply try our best to do what we want to do, knowing full well that there is so much more.”

    I imagine some of the decisions of what to do can be made easier with your Mission Statement exercise?

  2. Mikey D says:

    Yes, the mission statement exercise would help a person to prioritize what life experiences they want to have.

  3. I’ve never been to Bonnaroo, but I read a couple of very positive review articles about it in the last 2 days, so I hope I will get a chance to check it out one. One of the reasons why I like to go to event is the PLUR philosophy though as electronic music is becoming more mainstream people start to forget its origins.

    • Mikey D says:

      For what it’s worth, Bonnaroo definitely seems to embody that philosophy, but the majority of the music is not electronic. There’s a fairly eclectic mix.


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