Insider’s look at Bonnaroo

I suppose riggers are akin to DPW. The surly men and women who make shit happen.  What’s a rigger? Well…the people who make shit happen. Building and tearing down sets and structures, hanging lights, mics…like I said. DPW.  They get there first and they leave last, building a city or a stage from nothing only to take it all back down.

I’ve been dragged through the muck as a stagehand and I’ve lapped up the luxuries as a touring tech—nothing beats climbing the steel with the boys. We race to the top of the wire-rope ladder to drop in our ropes. We pull up the motor chains hand-over-hand, sweat pouring, muscles taut, until every motor that hoists the lights, sound, and video is ready to fly.   

This art is pure. Bullshit has no place here.   

The camaraderie is akin to that among pilots or soldiers, only scuzzier. Riggers literally depend on each other for survival every day. Success means you climb down, smoke a cigarette, and count up your cash. Failure means you fall to your death, or worse, you drop something and kill somebody below. I’ve heard people say they want to learn to rig for the money or glory, but that is absurd. There is only one reason to become a high-steel rigger—because you love it.   – Bonnaroo 2011: For All My Riggaz

There’s a lot of burner/Bonnaroo overlap but I’ve never been interested. Sounds like all the worst parts of Burning Man smashed up together. Several excerpts of his writing, with a few changes, could describe BRC.

The front gates open wide. Hordes of white kids pour into Centeroo like chariot-riding Aryans descending the Himalayas. Restless seas of unpigmented faces turning pink, the melanin-deficient massive, the Collective Caucasian Unconscious with one bleary third eye peering over the barricades. With few exceptions, the only people of color at Bonnaroo are either onstage or working backstage. Out in the crowd, the scene is whiter than Idaho. Diversity is a matter of bandanas and sandal brands.   

People still refer to Bonnaroo as a hippie-fest, but that’s not true at all. The early years hosted the life-long nomads who followed the Dead or Spread, with a sprinkling of Rainbow Family heads, but those cats are long gone. Today the ‘Roo is a wash of generic, middle-class, post-hipster college kids.   

Trucker hats and bikini tops. Gauged earrings and 80s shades. Chicks with fresh tattoos that probably cost more than your car, and enough drugs to fry a suburban bodhisattva for life. As unique as snowflakes that all look the same.

Top hats and furkinis. Gauged earrings and googles. Chicks with ATS-ruffly pants and enough drugs to…

…we move on, throwing our senses into the endless barrage of ass and titties. Goddamn, so many blank expressions, fine asses, and jiggling titties. No wonder kids set themselves up to need abortions for the fun of it.

 Daylight comes and goes. Widespread Panic {at BM, whatever DJ is plugged into the speakers} plays a three hour song.

Just stay away from Roots Society – or the entire Esplanade over the weekend, yeah?

Interesting site overall. I’m going from Ian to Rozz to Wendy O…I’m also enjoying JoeBot’s other articles:

I was immediately struck by two notions: 1) that ecstatic communalism is a primal desire in the hearts of most young people, and 2) that ecstatic communalism can be sold for incredible amounts of money.

 I’m amazed at how much a person is willing to pay to spend their weekend in a WalMart-furnished Third World shantytown, getting seared by the hot sun. Is this how you’re going to save the world from soul-crushing corporate aesthetics, bourgeoisie mediocrity, political corruption, and ecological collapse? By buying pre-tattered gear, eating drugs, and creating Middle Tennessee’s {Gerlach’s} most prolonged traffic jam? Now that’s a revolution!

 – How Bonnaroo Killed My Rock N Roll Fantasy

Lest you think he and I are TOO cynical and cranky, the end of that article:

I was honored to meet the occasional free spirits, the adventurers and couples in love, to see those random moments of friendship and kindness that keep me hoping that the nobility of the human spirit may be powerful enough to withstand the sharp blades of the cookie cutter. Perhaps some part of the soul survives the spiritual death of becoming another cog in the machine. It survives in kisses and jubilant toasts, it survives in a sincere sense of family shared by strangers lost in America.

In Why I Quit Touring with the Black-Eyed Peas he shares my dismay at the hypersexualization of kids,

It was a weird scene—these tarted up Australian girls on fire with precocious puberty, singing about their “lovely lady lumps” while parents stared ahead with TV eyes. Perhaps my horror is an indication of archaic attitudes toward sexual artifice. After all, I come from the last Western generation for whom pornography was a mysterious and coveted commodity. Maybe I’m just not hip to the future.

This generation is growing up fast—one casual click away from hardcore butt-pumping. Perhaps for them, Fergie’s high-priced humps are just innocuous objects of fascination. Still, it doesn’t take a total square to interpret “I wonder if I take you home/ Would you still be in love, baby… in love, baby…” as a foreboding sing-a-long for single mothers.

One more on Bonnaroo, again with similarities to TTITD, From Harmless Hippie Fest to Corporate Scam.

 

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