The ABCs of Bonnaroo

Article by: Laura Mason & Emily Ward|@everfest

Wed June 06, 2018 | 12:30 PM

With Bonnaroo upon us, it seems like no better time to count all the things we adore The Farm and everything within. Below, the ABCs of Bonnaroo.

The Arch

Hero Bonnaroo Marco Sanchez

Photo by: Marco Sanchez

Passing through the Bonnaroo Arch is a momentous occasion, and means different things to different people. Some are coming to Bonnaroo to escape the grind of daily life, others seek to reunite with their Farm Fam. Some are there to see the musical performances of a lifetime, others come to rage for an entire weekend. Whatever the reason you’ve come to Bonnaroo, it all begins once your mind, body, and soul has passed through the Arch.

Bonnaroovian Code

A natural outgrowth of those incredible Bonnaroo vibes, the Bonnarovian code is an official manifesto of the unofficial rules that have governed the festival since Day One. Developed as a way to put into words what attendees have long known, the code reminds attendees to respect each other, “prepare thyself,” “play as a team,” and most of all, “radiate positivity.”


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Photo by: Adrian Spinelli

As you might guess, “ Centeroo ” is the center of Bonnaroo. The festival’s “nucleus,” if you will. Everything that’s not the campground is Centeroo. Open 24 hours a day, Centeroo is one part gathering point, info center, chill zone, and home to the “Which Stage,” “WHO Stage,” “What Stage,” “This Tent” and “That Tent,” “The Other” Stage, Solar Stage, Cinema tent, Comedy tent, the festival’s eight plazas, and literally dozens of vendors, food options, cool-down zones… it alllll happens here.

"Desitively Bonnaroo," by Dr. John

The album by rhythm and blues legend Dr. John is where the festival got its moniker. It’s Cajun slang for "a really good time," and organizers have said: “We chose this name for its literal meaning, and also to honor the rich Louisiana music tradition that inspired our desire to provide many styles of quality live music for appreciative fans.”


A festival Bonnaroo’s size (70,000+) probably wouldn’t have made it work so many years without some sort of sustainability plan. At the fest, there are myriad ways to get involved and learn how to change the world in the process, ranging from: Planet Roo (encompassing the Solar Stage, BonnaROOTS Community Dinners, the Learning Garden, and The Academy); the Clean Vibes Trading Post (where your bottles and cans become currency used to purchase festival gear, camping essentials, t-shirts, etc.); Refill Revolution (a program promoting reusable drinking containers); an area hosting visiting nonprofits; and the festival’s assiduously labeled trash/recycling/composting bins throughout for maximizing waste diversion. To hold itself accountable, Bonnaroo releases a comprehensive Sustainability Report each year. Plus, $1 from every ticket sold goes towards the fest’s overall sustainability work.


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Photo by: Brittany NO FOMO

Known informally as “the Mushroom,” the iconic Bonnaroo fountain is a meeting spot, a place to cool off from the dust and the heat, it’s a place to play with friends and people you’ve never met, it’s an oasis.

"The Garage"

Bonnaroo 2016 Adam Macchia For Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 2

All weekend long, cozy on up to that big brown barn in Plaza 2 for cold brewskis, hot coffee, snacks, and primo chillage with Walter Productions and their “Garage.” Farm favorites and the creators behind Kalliope, Walter Productions built everyone’s favorite iconic oversized (yet street legal!) Volkswagen beetle art car “Big Red.” New to the Bonnaroo scene in 2017, “The Garage” gives Big Red a landing spot to pump fresh beats all day, all night.


Bonnaroo 2016 Adrian Spinelli   01
Photo by: Adrian Spinelli

Craving meat? You’ve come to the right place. Bacon Land is the spot to fuel up on everyone’s favorite fried snack, whether you’re getting a BLT, bacon grilled cheese and bacon egg sandwiches, or an entire Bacon Flight of high quality strips from farms around the country.

Bonnaroo 2016 Tom Tomkinson  For Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 7

And if you see a massive, smoke-belching, metal figure in the shape of a pig towering in the distance with crowds all around it, that’s Henri The Pig, “the fire-breathing ambassador of Hamageddon and romping good times.” The belly of this 4,000 pound, 22-foot-long swine smokes meat by day, and shoots huge flames out of his front and back ends by night. Per Bonnaroo’s website: “He’s got a mind and body like a steel trap, an affinity for grilled cheese with bacon and (of course) he’s into metal.”


Bonnaroo 2017 Brittany Hallberg 1
Photo by: Brittany NO FOMO

Back in the not-so-distant past, jam band communities relied heavily on word-of-mouth, message boards and tape-sharing to keep up with tour dates, info and live set recordings. Known for a particularly strong grassroots culture, jam banders were the first to launch “ InfoRoo ,” a message board community dedicated to all things ‘Roo. Up and running since 2004, the site has become “the premiere source of Bonnaroo info on the web,” with highly reputable, helpful, and trusted info shared by newbs and veterans alike.

Jam Bands

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Photo by: Marco Sanchez

Bonnaroo started out as a proving ground and treasure trove for jam bands and their freewheeling fans. Partly influenced by major festivals such as Glastonbury and similar American incarnations Coachella and Lollapalooza, the organizers of the first Bonnaroo wanted to fuse that scale with the warmth and grassroots enthusiasm of jam band circuit bands like Phish and the Dave Matthews Band. Its lineups have diversified in recent years, but the festival still pays tribute to its roots, most famously during its annual SuperJam, which sees star musicians from many genres get together on stage one night of the festival to jam on original, cover and improvisational tunes.


Another wildly popular piece from Walter Productions, Kalliope started as an art car, morphed into an art-car stage hybrid, then massively upgraded for Burning Man into a beast of a stage, now a three story mobile dance party machine fully equipped with 70,000 watts of high fidelity audio, dynamic lasers, flame effects and a sea of multi-colored LEDs.

Little Cinema

Brooklyn-based performance arts collective and party purveyors House of Yes specialize in all things weird, wacky and fun; it's a perfect fit for Bonnaroo. As producers of memorable, immersive 'Roo experiences through the years, the troupe returns in 2018 with brand-new campground barn “Circus of Yes,” where you'll find Little Cinema. Located in the heart of the campgrounds in Plaza 3, head to immersive Little Cinema experiences like David Bowie’s Labyrinth paired with a live circus orchestra or the hour-long, audio-visual, multi-sensory experience “Secret Show,” guaranteed to blow your mind. Don't forget the discotheque dance ragers, saucy circus shows, a “Best Worst Talent Show,” and of course, the sparkle parties.

Manchester, Tennessee

Bonnaroo 2016 Tom Tomkinson  For Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 7

Located in Coffee County, Tennessee, and the sole home of Bonnaroo since its humble 2002 beginnings, Manchester gathers more than 70,000 festies in town each June. Just an hour outside Nashville, the 700-acre chunk of Manchester land known as “Great Stage Park” (affectionately known by Roovians as “The Farm”) was officially purchased by Bonnaroo owners in 2007.


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Photo by: Brittany NO FOMO

Known as the Bonnaroo Beacon, this daily on-site newspaper is available at the Relix booth in Centeroo and at several points around the festival grounds. Pick it up to keep on top of daily schedules, artist interviews and updates from around the festival!

Opry (as in The Grand Ole Opry)

Tennessee’s uber legendary stage show known as the Grand Ole Opry is what almost single-handedly put country music on the map. Throughout its 92-year history, it has rarely traveled beyond its home in Music City (otherwise known as Nashville), save for visits to prestigious venues such as New York City’s Carnegie Hall, Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center and, as of 2018, Bonnaroo! The two-hour show on Sunday night will feature Opry members Bobby Bare, Del McCoury Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Riders In The Sky as well as Brothers Osborne, LANCO, Lucie Silvas, and more. This is festival history in the making!


Bonnaroo 2016 Tom Tomkinson  For Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 7

A normal camping scenario Bonnaroo is not. Sure there’s grass and dirt, no trees, showers… but this is the only festie camping situation where you’ll find seven plazas packed with karaoke, late night parties, disco scenes and beyond. Plazas are special vantage spots on the Farm to seek essential resources like medical, safety and general info along with food, art and other fun stuff like “The Love Shack,” “Circus of Yes,” “Little Cinema,” “The Ville + Grove,”Happy Roo Day" with Cage the Elephant in Plaza 7, “The Well” and Tonalism by dublab.

Questlove + D'Angelo SuperJam

Go behind the scenes with three-time SuperJam headliner Questlove as he takes us along for the ride – from the airport all the way to the the moment D'Angelo popped on stage for his first American performance in twelve years (at the time). Joined by Pino Palladino, Jesse Johnson, Kendra Foster, Eric Leeds and various members of his band The Roots, Questlove and friends delivered a funky set, made all the more epic by D'Angelo on the keys for Prince's "My Summertime Thang."


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Photo by: Brittany NO FOMO

It’s Saturday morning at 8 am. That Bassnectar/STS9/Kaskade/etc late night set finished a long while back, and you’re taking your sweet time getting back to the tent. Sun’s nearly up and you’re thisclose to draggin’ those weary hooves back to camp for the night-ish day… But wait… in this Saturday 8 am moment, you have two choices. You could go back and sleep… or… you could join the lovely fools running the Sixth Annual First RooRun , a daunting 5K ( aka 3.017-mile ...) footrace to kick off the back half of the weekend at 9 am on Saturday morning. See you at the finish line?


At Bonnaroo, glorious magical moments go down in the SuperJams : loosely drawn sets featuring musical giants whose careers span decades and genres, uniting for performances that reach beyond those who witness the magic in person and into cultural lore. An annual homage to the festival’s jam-band roots, past guests include Billy Idol, Skrillex, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Ben Harper, R.Kelly, Bela Fleck, Questlove and D’Angelo. According to Bonnaroo organizers, “The group that gathers on stage creates a one-night-only experience in which the band gets no second chance to do it right. Only the best in the business can live up to the mantle.” SuperJams are one of the most anticipated events for Roovians every year. From humble, heady beginnings in 2002 to today, the Jam’s had 16 years to bring the heat. Star-powered lineups come and go, but insane collabs like these only happen here.

The Well

This is where Bonnaroovians go to feed their bodies and their minds with wellness activities galore. Head to the barn in Plaza 6 and its immediate surrounding area to check out healthy food options, yoga by YogaRoo, meditation, ecstatic dance sessions, the Roo Run afterparty, chill listening parties, exercise meetups, and more!

Unique Stage Names


Bonnaroo is a veritable cornucopia of multi-sensory stimulations, experiential activities everywhere, more craft vendors and food trucks than you can shake a rainstick at, and a puzzingly simple stage naming system. Fans of demonstrative adjectives will love planning sets to around to between the What Stage, Which Stage, Who Stage, That Tent, That Tent, The Other Stage, The Solar Stage, and more.

Venue, "The Farm"

Bonnaroo’s venue, The Farm, has been the festival’s hallowed home since 2002. It comprises hundreds of lush acres of glorious Tennessee nature – the ideal landscape to forget about your cares and worries and embrace Bonnaroo’s inimitable vibe. Within The Farm’s confines (if you could call them as such), musical stages, theme camps, activity areas, attractions, vendor markets, and chill zones abound. Check out Bonnaroo’s map to get the lay of the land.

Women's Camp

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Photo by: Brittany NO FOMO

SheROO, Bonnaroo’s Women’s Camp and safe space for women and non-binary identifying Bonnaroovians, is now in its second year. In 2018 it’s hosted by MOTHERSHIP, the same folks who run the annual women’s festival and retreat in Coachella, California. With MOTHERSHIP's expertise and leadership, SheROO will be full of positive activities, speakers and offerings uniquely tailored to all women-identifying Bonnaroovians; this opportunity couldn't come at a better time, as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to gain traction across the country. Camp fees are $50; a portion will go to benefit the Tegan & Sara Foundation, as well as back to the activities and experiences in the camping area. Check out this year’s program here.


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Photo by: Brittany NO FOMO

Perhaps the biggest thing Bonnaroo’s known for is creating a top-to-bottom experience. There’s detail and attention put into everything in order to bring people together and make it the best time for all, and that’s what endears the fest to scores of attendees each year. Once you experience Bonnaroo for the first time, you’ll wonder how you went so long without it in your life. Think about it: There are people who’ve been going to Bonnaroo for all 16 years of its existence!


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Photo by: Brittany NO FOMO

One of the ways Bonnaroo has thrived all these years is by placing its attendees – Bonnaroovians – at the heart of everything. And because each time the festival brings together different faces, names, musical stars, vendors, activities, attractions, etc. to form its annual family, each year is different. To remember each unique Bonnaroo, the fest puts out an annual Yearbook, which is a “a big ol’ family portrait” comprised of funny, poignant photos shot at a fixed location on festival grounds. Check out the 2017 Yearbook here, and make it your mission to get into the Yearbook this time around!


Bonnaroo 2017 Brittany Hallberg 1
Photo by: Brittany NO FOMO

It's not just the Spicy Pie. We've long known there's just that something special about the whole Bonnaroo package, full of zesty vibes. Burlesque shows, spending all day amongst the brilliant performers at Circus of Yes, sliding face-first down on Splash-a-Roo, spending all day in the silent disco, playing in The Fountain...all are part of that special Bonnaroo zest.