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).
For 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.
The 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.
SVV 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.
Not 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):
The 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.
Then, 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.
Funny 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!
If 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?
I 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.
Erin 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.
We 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!)
We 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.
But 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!
SVV 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.
But 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!
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:
I 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.