Music City? Try Musical State

I had some pretty amazing travel assignments that were thrown my way in the month of June—Colombia, California, Jamaica and beyond—and I utilized a word my internal dictionary doesn’t recognize: “no.” It was hard, don’t get me wrong; I absolutely hate turning down any work, as I always fear the editor won’t call on me again, but I really needed a break. One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that you can’t do everything—though I often try my hardest—and Colombia, California and Jamaica all still will be there in the future (unless, say, an apocalyptic meteor strikes in which case I may regret my decision).

flowerFor now, I need to be stationary. I need to see my husband and my dog, need to buy a house, need to spend time with my parents and my grandad and sister, need to log some hours out by the pool and work on my new business and also fine-tune my golf and tennis games. As I said recently on Facebook, my May was positively crazy: California, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Kentucky, Alabama. June is for music fests, family time, engagement parties, baby showers and enjoying the heck out of a Tennessee summer. So far, I’m well on my way.

Kristin and GregThe only problem with Tennessee in June is that there is way too much going on for one person feasibly to juggle. This past week alone saw the CMT Awards in Nashville—an event I was supposed to work until CMT revoked my green room access (sad! I was thisclose to my dream of meeting Taylor)—CMA Music Fest beginning the next day, Bonnaroo in Manchester and Riverbend in Chattanooga. Why the state insists on having all the coolest events fall on the same days is beyond me! Though a little insider birdie tells me they’re aiming to change the dates of the CMAs and Bonnaroo next year so more people can attend both. One can only hope.

Country Music Fest, Nashville, TennesseeSVV and I headed into Nashville on Thursday for the opening night of Music Fest. Luckily, we had bought our tickets during pre-sale months ago—just $40 a piece; how’s that for a concert steal?—as many of my friends couldn’t get tickets. We met my cousin John, our pal Jenny and several of their friends at Broadway Brewhouse for happy hour, then headed over the bridge to LP Field to see the show.

Country Music Fest, Nashville, TennesseeWe had general admission tickets, so we climbed to the very top of the stadium for killer views. In my opinion, we had the best seats in the house. Agree?

Country Music Fest, Nashville, TennesseeNot to mention, we’ve had the most gorgeous skies this past week. SVV says it’s due to the fires in New Mexico; I like to attribute it to the South’s summer magic. Either way, you can’t beat this sunset (note: no filters applied):

Country Music Fest, Nashville, TennesseeThe concert was amazing. Miranda Lambert kicked things off, before Pistol Annies joined her onstage. I had seen them play at a country event called All for the Hall back in the spring and love the sassy trio. Next up was Jason Aldean, followed by Lady Antebellum, Lauren Alain, Zac Brown Band and Brad Paisley. Brad was the one I was most excited about seeing, but he didn’t take the stage until midnight. We still were able to hear a good deal of his set from the pedestrian bridge as we walked the miles back to our car.

Country Music Fest, Nashville, TennesseeThen, it was time to put country music aside and let Bonnaroo take over the following morning. Originally, I was only going for the last day, but my new friend Erin was in town and had a spare ticket so I went along as her tour guide.

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeFunny enough, I only met Erin for the first time two weeks ago, but feel as if I’ve known her forever. I had started following her on Twitter and reading her witty blog when I moved back to the South in December, but while I was meeting with the travel director at the Southern Living headquarters in Birmingham the week before last, she just happened to walk through the hall. He introduced the two of us, and she asked me what I was doing for lunch. The rest was history, and I have a feeling Erin is going to be one of those people I cross paths with again and again over the coming years. I couldn’t adore her more; on top of being a Southern beauty and fellow SEC alum and journalist, we have very similar personalities and interests. Thankfully for me, Birmingham is only two-and-a-half hours down the road!

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeIf you haven’t been to Bonnaroo before, you should probably add it to your life list. It’s not merely a space for people to convene and recreate the days of Woodstock (heavy drugs included); if you are like me (and by that I mean a total prude who has never broken a law in her life), I guarantee you will still have fun. How can you not be swept away by this crowd?

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeI guess I should heed my own advice, as I refuse to go to Burning Man for the aforementioned reasons, but everything about Bonnaroo is an experience from the people to the art to the music itself.

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeOh, and the food surprisingly is pretty tasty, too. I had two Crif dogs over the course of the weekend, plus a banana and Nutella crepe. Yum!

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeErin and I headed to the dusty campgrounds and met up with a few of her other friends in time for the Avett Brothers. As we were trying to locate the media tent, we found ourselves backstage at the main performance venue, What Stage, where we could see Scott and Seth so clearly it’s as if they were singing just for us.

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeWe headed to Ludacris next, which might have been one of my favorite shows of the day, at This Tent to locate my sister. Who knew I was a closet Luda fan?! It was a throwback to my high school days and a reminder of all the late nights spent “cruising” from one Sonic to another. (Hey, when you live in a small rural town, you have to find your fun where you can!)

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeWe caught a bit of Foster the People and stuck around to see the main act for the night, Radiohead, even talking our way up into the bleachers after Erin befriended one of the “Safety Roamers” Austin, a freshmen football player at ETSU who “ma’am-ed” me (when did I get so old?!). Their set was incredible, and in my many Bonnaroos, I have never seen a sea of people so dense. It was several football fields of concert-goers standing shoulder to shoulder, and the energy was palpable.

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeBut even though we were sleeping in comfy beds back at my parents’ house, we still got a brief taste—complete with Natty Lights—of the camping scene as we headed deep into the throngs of tents that lined the perimeter of the festival grounds to hang out with our hometown boy Shane and his very adorable and charming pals from Yale. All I can say is I don’t know how anyone finds their tent at the end of a (likely inebriated) long night—or gets any sleep for that matter!

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeSVV and I had planned to go yesterday for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but instead played golf, then went to Bell Buckle to do a bit of antiquing, before coming home and crashing for three hours. I then slept for 10 hours that night, so I must have needed the rest! Particularly as Sunday was going to be another long night; the two of us and my parents had volunteered to serve beer for the chamber of commerce. As Erin said, “the family who serves beer together stays together!” Only Mom and Dad never made it, as someone forgot to read the fine print and missed their deadline for picking up badges. Tsk tsk. So SVV and I served alone—well, with the help of a half a dozen other locals.

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeSunday was gray and gloomy, a nice respite from the heat for festival-goers, no doubt. Before our shift, we met up with my sister and company for Ben Folds, who I just adore.

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeThen, onto Bon Iver, who is quite the performer and had a massive crowd. Now, if only I could figure out how to pronounce his name.

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeBut next came my absolute favorite act of the entire weekend: the Civil Wars. I’ve wanted to see them perform live for ages, as Barton Hollow, is on regular rotation on my iTunes, and their live set didn’t disappoint. I love their bare-bones acoustic act paired with their fantastic sense of humor. It’s their last show until the fall, too, as Joy is set to give birth any day now (though you can’t tell as she’s still tiny!). Even cooler is that she shared her last Bonnaroo experience: Just two years ago, she came as a spectator and camped in her car!

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeThey were the only group whose act I watched it its entirety. Not only did they perform all their own stuff, but also two killer covers, Portishead and Michael Jackson.

Civil Wars cover of “Billie Jean,” Bonnaroo 2012 from Camels & Chocolate on Vimeo.

Then, it was onto fun. in time to see We Are Young before our shift began. For four hours, we poured beer at the main stage with this view of Phish:

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeI mean really, you call this work? It rained on and off, but that only enhanced the fun. You’d think that serving beer on the final night of a massive four-day festival would be annoying, encountering so many stupidly drunk people, but this was not at all the case. Everyone couldn’t have been nicer; so many of them thanked us profusely for being there, and nearly everyone left a tip (which goes to the organization, not us, I should add). We had many, many repeat customers, who the supervisors of our tent Ron and Diane said had been coming all weekend long. I didn’t want the night to end. But it did, eventually, to a spectacular fireworks display.

Bonnaroo, Manchester, Tennessee

Bonnaroo, Manchester, Tennessee

Bonnaroo, Manchester, TennesseeIt’s probably a good thing this weekend is over, as I need some sleep, but you better believe I’m doing it all over—every last bit of it—come 2013.

Bonnaroo, Manchester, Tennessee

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Comments ( 45 )

  1. Now this is the perfect summer weekend! Who was your favorite that preformed?

  2. I’ve been to countless festivals and shows in my life… but never Bonnaroo! It’s definitely on my list!

    (When I’m not pregnant, that is. I can’t think of a place more miserable for a pregnant gal than Bonnaroo!)

    • I saw a girl last night who was at least eight months pregnant and was trying to figure out what on Earth she was thinking! I’m with you: nowhere more miserable if you’re with child!

  3. So glad you had an awesome time!! I have only been once and would love to go again, but the hubby is not into it…

  4. I’ve never been much of a country music fan, but I loved the CMA fest the one time I got to attend (I was luck and was in a box!). I think Bonnaroo is an expired dream for me. I really hoped to cover it as a reporter, but it never happened. Now I just don’t think I’m interested in doing the whole camping bit. Plus, I don’t do well with crowds!

    I’m so envious you’ve gotten to hang with Erin! I’ve been following her on Twitter forever! (ok, for several years)

    • Erin is the best! I seriously cannot get enough of her. And I think you should still figure out a way to cover Bonnaroo for your new employer somehow…it’s way more fun than you’d think (spoken by a fellow girl who shies from the camping bit). Or you could come as a spectator and stay at our house where showers and beds are many =)

  5. Wow, you’ve had an amazing couple of weeks! I definitely want to go to Bonnaroo sometime, but every year it seems like something comes up that makes it an inconvenient time for me to go. They always have such a great lineup – I would’ve loved to have seen Bon Iver and the Civil Wars! Although I don’t know how I would handle the whole camping situation. I’m not really a fan of camping.

  6. Looks like an amazing weekend! About half my favorite artists performed at CMA Fest and I’ve always wanted to go to Bonnaroo. I definitely think you were correct in saying “no” and staying in TN for the month :)

  7. Looooove these pics! What a sunset. And you and your sis look super stylish. :)

    • Ha! You’re too sweet. Those are our throwaway-clothes-that-can-be-trashed-at-the-campground outfits, ha!

  8. Ahhh I WILL make it one of these days! One of my coworkers went at the last minute. Next time I will volunteer there! Sounds like a good deal.

    • I’m not sure if you can volunteer unless you already know a vendor. We just were able to do it being locals. But who knows, you might be able to find your way in. Regardless, I agree: You need to come!

  9. I need a nap just reading this post! That is a lot to pack into very few days!

  10. nothing beats American Soil! Glad to see you’re having a blast back at home πŸ˜‰

  11. As a musician and music lover, I really need to make it to Tennessee some day! Though not sure about Bonnaroo…my husband and some friends drove there from Austin a few years ago and did it, and they said it was pretty insane. I didn’t think I could handle it. But who knows. And geez, woman–I can’t believe how much traveling you did in May! I would need a break, too. Enjoy staying put for a bit!

    • All I have to say to that is if you can stand living in Austin during March of each year, you can *easily* handle Bonnaroo. Just stay with me in lieu of camping, and you’ll survive just fine =)

  12. there are a million things i love about this post; mostly that every sentence brought some of my own memories flooding back. i once worked for the red hot chili peppers (and a whole bunch of other bands) when they performed in knoxville years ago. anthony kiedis talked to me. i was nineteen and therefore turned into a gigantic puddle on the floor. and i love the stadium pics – especially the panoramic. absolutely beautiful. glad you decided to spend a little quality time in TN for the month of june.

    • I love everything about Tennessee (and the South in general) in summertime, including the humidity and the crazy things it does to my hair (hence the need to keep the mane in braids 99% of the time). Awesome about the Peppers! Still wish I hadn’t slept through their set =)

  13. Can’t believe I missed it! My first miss in years…

  14. 1) There are few things hotter than a 120k rig. (Granted, that’s waaaaay more than 120k The Civil Wars were standing under, but it’s that old-school PAR can feel.)

    2) Green light is sexy, especially when paired with blue or purple. I wish people weren’t so afraid of it.

    3) The husband and I worked the in-out of a Brad Paisley once. Watched the last several songs of his set from the stage stairs, and he passed us on his way off. Don’t remember much from the show except how grossed out I was by his song about checking a girl for bugs and someone peed on some of the fixtures under the stage.

    4) Love love love me some Ben Folds. Saw him once, lit him once, both times he made me squirmy with delight. I’m crossing everything I’ve got that he comes back to our space when he and the newly re-formed Five tour their next album.

    5) Normally going to concerts tend to annoy me, as I spend all night critiquing the show, but I think I’d like to go to Bonnaroo. Looks like a life experience.

    • You are more than awesome when geeking out about stage setup. The fuck is a 120k rig?

      Also, can I have one?

      • Sorry, I got excited and forgot my don’t-use-industry-terms-in-public-it’s-rude rule. (I blame the green light.)

        A 120k rig is the quintessential 80’s rock and roll lighting rig. They consist mainly of two sets of truss, one hung behind the band and one just in front of the band, and packed full of PAR cans. (Those silver round fixtures The Civil Wars used.) Traditionally, 60 lights per truss lamped with 1k lamps = 120k. It’s a very simple light rig that relies on a more aggressive busking style referred to as Flash ‘n Trash, where modern day movers can give shows a smoother look. I love the look of them because there’s something very unabashed and shameless about the 120k rig that hearkens back to the day of zebra spandex and giant hair.

        And I suggest you hang one in your dining room. Wait for a dinner party, then blast that baby up while screaming, “HELLO DINNER GUESTS! ARE YOU READY FOR THE MAIN COURSE?!” No one will be able to forget it.

  15. Just FYI, Bon Iver is pronounced “Bonnie-Vehr”. A lot of people got confused during the Grammys with how to pronounce it too-

    • That’s how I was saying it! And then some people I was with (ahem, MOM) glared at me and said, “I really want to see Bahn Eye-vehr perform,” which I took as a passive-aggressive hint that I was saying it wrong! πŸ˜‰

  16. Civil Wars! I’ve only recently heard them, and can’t get enough. I can imagine they were amazing live!

    • Aaaaaaaamazing. Scott and I have been listening to their Billie Jean cover on repeat. Here’s the full video version of it:

  17. The dress that you’re wearing in the photo where your hair is braided is so super cute! Where is it from?

    And I agree with the above commenter, you guts look great! I fear I’d be quite unfortunate looking at a festival like this.

    • Thank you!! The first dress I’m wearing (with braids) is Free People from a couple years ago. The second one (pink, also wearing braids) is Gap from last summer. We were VERY sweaty. So not wearing makeup and having my hair pulled back off my face was key to keeping from looking like a hot mess =)

  18. Bonnaroo is absolutely on my bucket list! I’ve wanted to go since I first heard about years ago although I do have to admit that all the drugs and whatnot kind of freaks me out a little bit. Although the people watching would probably be top notch!

  19. This looks like my kind of festival! Love it. And those sunset skies whilst watching the concert must have been stunning!

  20. This looks like my kind of festival! Love it. And those sunset skies whilst watching the concert must have been stunning!

  21. i never thought before that Bonnaroo is in Tennessee
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