Bonnaroo draws crowd of 80,000

By Collin Minnis (The Post: Ohio University)

ATHENS, Ohio-For five years now, music fans, party-goers and college students celebrating the end of another school year have converged on a farm in Manchester, Tenn., for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

“I’ve been counting down the days to Bonnaroo all year,” said Patrick McFadden, a junior at Ohio University majoring in organizational communication. “I’ve worked hard, and now that I’m here, I’m going to party as hard as I can, meet as many people as I can and see as many shows that I can.”

The elated buzz of the 80,000 festival-goers floated through the atmosphere alongside the constant barrage of euphonious melodies from about 150 bands at the sold-out festival.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Radiohead, Beck, Common, Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Folds and Buddy Guy were just a few of the major players in the music game that provided tunes for the horde of festival patrons. One band, Gran Bell Fisher, which formed two weeks prior to the festival, had not fully appreciated the fact that they were actually playing at the festival Rolling Stone Magazine called in July 2004, “one of the fifty moments that changed rock ‘n’ roll history.”

“Hey man, I just realized, we’re at Bonnaroo!” lead singer and rhythm guitarist Gran Bell said before flashing an animated smile at the three members of the Josh Krajcik Band, which is from Wooster, Ohio. Lead guitarist Josh Krajcik, bassist Mitch Pinkston and percussionist Corey Gillem joined Bell for his current tour. The foursome played a lively set of blues-influenced jam rock. Gillem, from Circleville, Ohio, said this moment is a sort of “big break” for the band.

“Being here and playing amongst the likes of Tom Petty and Radiohead is surreal,” Gillem said, adding that he was thrilled to be at the festival. “The crowd and the atmosphere are absolutely amazing. There’s nothing quite like it. We’ve traveled all throughout the country and have played a slew of shows, but none of them compare to this.”

Reggae, blues, soul, idealistic funk, jam rock, bluegrass and electronically experimental music could all be heard by merely strolling along the city-like park. If listeners wanted to take a break from the continuous flow of music, there was a plethora of other activities, including a silent disco, cinema, arcade, discotheque and art exhibits.

The festival ended too soon for many, despite the fact that most of the listeners had spent four days in the blistering heat, and by the end the site was muddied, trashed and rancid. As Tom Petty sang on Friday night, “There’s Something in the Air” at Bonnaroo.

Matt Hall, a senior at OU majoring in health and service administration, said it’s the feeling of importance that keeps the people coming back.

“There’s thousands of people there, all with different values and goals in life, but together for one reason: to celebrate and enjoy our time together,” he said. “Some might not see the importance in such a gathering, but every year that we go, and every year that we return, we are making history, and to me that is important.”

However, not everything at Bonnaroo was positive. There were two deaths and 76 arrests at Bonnaroo this year. One festival-goer, Joshua Overall, 21, was killed when he fell from a chain-linked fence onto a freeway and was hit by performer Ricky Scaggs’ tour bus, while a second man, 25-year-old contractor Hillario Suarez, died after he was thrown from a moving pick-up truck.