No, you can’t cancel Bonnaroo. You can stop the festival but you can’t stop the movement. Bonnaroo is not just a music festival. Bonnaroo is a celebration of peace and positivity. Bonnaroo is an idea that cannot be destroyed. It’s not Live Nation, AC Entertainment, or even the bands and artists that play. The people are what makes Bonnaroo, Bonnaroo. If you know, you know. The impact of the farm runs deep, well beyond the four days we spend together each year.
It sounds cliché, but Bonnaroo is life changing. There is something magical that happens after your first Roo. Suddenly Bonnaroo consumes all of your thoughts. You start counting down the days until the next Roo as soon as you leave The Farm. You find yourself constantly bringing up Bonnaroo in conversation with friends who’ve never been or strangers at a bar. You buy tickets months before the lineup even comes out. You find it hard to resist yelling Bonaroooo to someone walking down the street rocking a Roo t-shirt, even if you’ve never met them. There’s an unexplainable connection that binds us all together. It is always there even when we can’t physically be at Bonnaroo.
This year was going to be the year, after not one but two cancelations, a global pandemic, civil unrest, and a crashing economy. Looking forward to Bonnaroo was what helped us push through it all. It was the light at the end of a long dark tunnel. Septemberoo was moments away from happening, and like everyone, I was ready to go. My crew was ready. This year we planned on flying to the farm. After years of 17 hour car rides and 10 hour lines, we decided to reward ourselves with a glamping experience. It was going to be a celebration for the history books. But if there is one thing 2020 has taught us, it is that life doesn’t always give us what we want.
Hearing the news of the cancellation was a punch I never saw coming. It just didn’t make sense. Two whole years, we waited—two whole years. We were supposed to fly out Thursday morning. So luckily we did not yet set forth on our pilgrimage when the news broke as so many of our fellow bonnaroovians did. My heart ached for those that traveled so far.
At first, it didn’t seem real, but as time went on and Facebook groups and Reddit exploded with heartbreak, reality began sinking in. But then something extraordinary happened. Our sorrows turned to optimism as my crew frantically began searching for alternatives. As I scrolled through Reddit threads and the Loophole to Reality Facebook page, I quickly realized that we were not the minority. Every last one of us accepted the unthinkable and turned water into wine. You can cancel the event, but you can’t cancel Bonnaroo.
As we looked for ways to fill the emptiness inside, we came across Elements Music Festival. Only two hours away in the deep woods of Pennsylvania. Diplo, Griz, Clozee, and Ganja White Night graced the top of the lineup. With nothing else left to lose, our crew decided to take the plunge.
If you were to tell me on August 30th that a week later, I would be waking up in my retired worn down festival tent in the middle of bumblefuck Pennsylvania, I would have thought you were crazy. But there I was, in the thick of it all.
Despite the backlash of what some called Fyre Fest 2.0, Elements was exactly what I needed. Of course, the horror stories were real, and everything that went wrong was exactly what Bonnaroo avoided. But, that feeling only a festival can provide outpowered it all. It felt so damn good to wake up at a music festival after almost three years without one.
Underneath it, all Elements was a vibe. The people were amazing, the artists gave it their all, and the stage production was top notch! As I walked through the festival grounds, I noticed more and more bonnaroovians radiating positivity throughout Elements. From our friends at The Radiate Positivity Project passing out stickers to bonnaroovians still rocking the bandanna and our unused wrist bands, Elements began to feel like home. We would embrace one another with a hug, share stories, and think of what could have been all while making the most of it. It was then I realized Bonnaroo is not a place, but it’s a way of life. It’s a community that reaches every corner of the festival world.
We may not have had the Bonnaroo we expected, but we pushed through. Some of us took off to Elements, Ezoo, or North Coast Fest. One thousand bonnaroovians gathered at Short Moutain Distillery while some helped create The Other Fest. Some took the opportunity to keep driving south until they hit a beach or road tripped to the west coast. Some went camping, rented out Air BNB’s, or explored Nashville. The festival was canceled, but the people still came. The people found a way to spread that Bonnaroo positivity. You can take away the stages, the artists, and even the farm, but no, you can’t cancel Bonnaroo.