The Bonnaroo logo. (Photo: Staff)

Trying to analyze and understand everything you witness at Bonnaroo is a fool’s errand, but there is plenty to discover if you’re willing to not put in the work.

Yeah, that’s right. Don’t work at it. Let me explain.

A schedule of artists you need to see is fine, but to plan your festival to death is, as I’ve learned, an unwritten sin. The best advice I’ve been given here (other than how to correctly urinate into a Gatorade bottle) is that you have to “let Bonnaroo happen to you” (as cliché as that may sound). This is true even if you’re “working” the festival. Observation is fine, but some immersion is necessary for a taste of the full experience. If the guy in an Easter bunny costume carrying a basket of chocolate marijuana eggs is one end of the experience, I’d like to think I’m meeting him halfway. 

I look back at my Thursday article and laugh at the things I thought I knew. How naïve I was to think I could actually plan my way through Bonnaroo. Unfortunately, it took me almost two full days to unlearn this since my last visit in 2014.

That moment came on Friday afternoon when I saw a young man reach for the sky and scream, “Life is beautiful!” before doing a series of slow-motion cartwheels in a field. Singer-songwriter Brett Dennen was singing his song “Blessed.”  The chorus is “Blessed is this life; I’m going to celebrate being alive.” As the entire crowd sang and danced, something touched my cold soul in a surprising way.

I bought two doses of high-potency acid from a biker and proceeded to melt into a sea of glow sticks. Just kidding. I didn’t do that. But I DID buy a beer and enjoyed the hell out of J. Cole’s headlining set. I’ve always been impressed by the way hip-hop artists can hold a crowd of thousands in the palm of their hand with nothing more than rhymes and master crowd control. Cole surprised the crowd by bringing out up-and-coming artist Chance the Rapper for a song.

“No Problem” has been stuck in my head all day. You have been warned.

I’ll do a full recap of “artist finds” at the end of the festival. I’m technically only halfway through, and things are beginning to heat up with Saturday shows such as Chris Stapleton, Haim and Beach Fossils. Later, I’ll see Pearl Jam for the first time and, possibly, a late-night Miguel set so I can practice my sexually explicit dance moves on myself before I thrust them on others. 

My plan (the only definite items on my list today) is to catch a short film on comedy improv’s figurehead Del Close and, later, see a live podcast recording of “Improv 4 Humans” with improv guru and Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder Matt Besser. Listen to a sample podcast below.

Sunday is a marquee moment for me as I get to see what will be my first and possibly last Grateful Dead concert. Dead and Company (featuring John Mayer) is the closest iteration we have to what the Grateful Dead used to be. Read about John Mayer’s presence here.

I think you either enjoy the Dead’s style of music-long jams, extended sets and surprises-or you just haven’t tried hard enough. To me, there is no musical experience that can compare to the full immersion of a Grateful Dead concert. At least, that has been my experience with bootlegs for years.

I expect the dissenters will be at the Third Eye Blind concert on the other end of the festival.

Watch Dead and Co. perform “Tennessee Jed” below.

The final day brings acts such as Jason Isbell, Death Cab for Cutie, Ween, Kurt Vile, Father John Misty, Sara Watkins and Sam Bush. Sunday has my favorite lineup by far.

Random thoughts:

  • It’s amazing how much a cold shower can elevate your mood. Thanks to the folks at Camp Nutbutter for the tip.
  • Mounted police are patrolling the campsites, and they don’t allow you to feed apples to the horses. Sorry about that.
  • I paid $12 for a bowl of beans and rice during the LCD Soundsystem show. I would also do it again.
  • Shamir is nice. You should listen to his music.
  • Nooga.com editors still won’t let me talk about the port-a-potties.
  • A lot of people are spending money on stupid purchases: toe rings, wool blankets with tiger prints, inflatable glow devices, fairy costumes and festive hats. Is it marijuana’s fault?
  • A Canadian couple at my camp decided to up and leave early. They promised it wasn’t because of the yipping noises I make while I sleep. I didn’t believe them.
  • Waxahatchee made me cry. An incredible band and message. 
  • If you Snapchat yourself with a sad face and the word “Hermitude,” people won’t understand the reference to the band and will instead think you are lonely.
  • Urine stinks when warm.
  • I also stink. 

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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