Photo courtesy of Bonnaroo.
Photo courtesy of Bonnaroo.

The Bonnaroo Diaries – 2012 – Day 0 By Steve Pipps

Your wallet feels roughly $450 lighter than it did a few months ago. $300 (plus fees of course) for the ticket to the best four days of your summer and at least $150 for everything else you needed:

Body wipes
Lots of water
Lots of liquor (If you’re of age… of course)
Bojangles 20 piece chicken/10 biscuits (on ice all weekend, don’t get food poisoning)
Drugs (Advil, duh)
Car phone charger

You’ve got your sleeping bags and everything else already packed up and you’re almost to Manchester, the small Tennessee town you’ve definitely never heard of. Bonnaroo is finally here and you’re a) gearing up b) revisiting or c) living vicariously through my 2012 adventure because you couldn’t make it this year. Whatever the reason, you love Bonnaroo and want a taste of it. Well here you are Day 0 of a four-day adventure. (Check back for day-by-day updates to the diary.)

The feeling of excitement that has been simmering for the past few months is finally boiling over as the GPS says you’re roughly three miles away. The car begins to slow until it… stops.

At the back of the longest line of traffic you have ever seen.

Well not ever, but right now it feels like it. That bubbling anticipation now is bursting because you’re sitting motionless behind countless other Bonnaroovians.

No worries, you’ve got your Bonnaroo playlist loaded on your iPod and you start blasting tunes. Begin with some Childish Gambino. Jump to Danny Brown, Yelawolf, Kendrick Lamar before you switch to RHCP and Radiohead. And that’s not even close to all of the artists you’re going to discover while you’re there.

The music helps pass the time and the line is moving surprisingly quickly as it’s Wednesday and Bonnaroo plans for this type of shit. The festival doesn’t start until tomorrow, but you wanted to get prime camping spots and you heard this was the best way to do it.

The car loops around different smooth curves, off the highway and past other cars doing the same thing you are. Some people give slight nods as they smirk and blow a cloud of smoke out the window. Getting started early.

After only 2 hours or so you pull up to a gate with 8 entrances and are shuffled around to the next open entrance. The process runs as smoothly as an assembly line. The festival has told you specifically not to put your wristbands on until you get to the gate where they do it for you; the wristband is your lifeblood while inside. Without it you can’t get into Centeroo, which is, of course, where all of the festival happens.

Here is where things can get a little nerve wracking if you have any of those aforementioned drugs in tow. You’re told there will be car checks at the gate and hopefully you’ve done your best to keep any illicit substances well hidden from view.

My friend and I were not bringing in anything besides a few bottles of booze for the occasion, but still preferred our car not be searched, which luckily was the case. I’m not sure how many cars were searched, but all we were required to do was pop our trunk while a C’Roo member looked topically at the contents. Maybe a more suspect car is subjected to more scrutiny, but after a quick peek we were in and guided along a spaghetti-esque dirt road that weaved throughout the 700-acre farm.

Along that road we saw Centeroo and all the open campsites that were so close to it. The C’Roo members kept guiding us deeper in. We turned down a skinny road lined with tall looming trees that went on for about a quarter of a mile until it opened into another gigantic field that was all but empty. Our faces dropped as we were shuffled to the back where we parked and set up camp.

Whatever that bullshit about arriving early gets you a good campsite was, it turned out to be false in 2012. Although it makes perfect sense, when you pack a truck you don’t start at the front, you start at the back. Oh well, it didn’t make or break our time at the fest at all.


Cars are packed tightly together and in between the rows, you set up shop. Our tent was small, but it did the job. We weren’t planning on spending too much time in it.

When we were all settled, the clock struck ten and we poured ourselves a victory drink as we slammed a biscuit and chicken leg. I’m not kidding, that Bojangles chicken was the best choice we ever made. Every morning we had good food and people across the campsite were envious of the southern decadence that is Bojangles.

For the next few hours we walked around the grounds, our feet light with the anticipation of Thursday. Centeroo was closed until the next morning at noon so we returned to our campsite and made friends with our neighbors, a rowdy group of hooligans that would be our entertainment when outside of Centeroo for the next four days.

That night we slept well after the travels, but there’s no need to set an alarm when the sun will heat your tent to a paltry 90 degrees by 7am. At least Day 1 is there to greet you. (Continue to part one HERE)


(Diary to be continued in day-by-day diary/tips format)

Steve Pipps is a Chicago-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to Step On magazine. He enjoys writing for both the screen and TV. Follow him on Twitter or check out his website. Steve wrote recently on The Films of Spike Jonze: ranked, as well as reviews of Almost Famous and High Fidelity.