Weighing expense, convenience against life-changing experience


One ticket to Bonnaroo = $249.50 plus applicable fees.  Four tanks of gas = $196.28.  Five days worth of snacks = $97. 54. Four straight days of music in the company of your best friends = priceless?

MasterCard cannot tell you the answer to this question and neither can I. What I can tell you is attending Bonnaroo or any other large music festival is a big commitment and should be given a great deal of thought. As a college student, it would be most unfortunate to spend $500 on four days and feel anything less than transformed afterwards.

Although I admit I have not personally attended the festival, I have spent several summers heavily weighing my options only to end up staying home while my friends went and had what they could only describe as "the best four days of my life."

This year, I find myself in the same position regarding Bonnaroo; poor and jobless, yet intrigued and enticed. I reckon a fair few of you feel the same way. For your consideration as well as my own, I will articulate my thoughts on attending Bonnaroo this summer.

The Bonnaroo experience begins with a road trip to Manchester, Tenn. In the early morning hours on June 9, you and your friends will cram all your gear into whichever available car is the best combination of comfort and efficiency. The drive will test your relationship with everyone in the car, but you will all bond over how expensive gas is. Justifying your contribution to the carbon footprint of Bonnaroo will be difficult as well. While Bonnaroo makes a respectable effort to be sustainable, they are still far from being so. The seemingly endless traffic at the entrance to the festival grounds will help you forget the sad truth.

Once you've found your campsite, it will be time to discover what you left at home and who your neighbors are. With a few exceptions, you should be able to purchase anything you forgot at the general store or from numerous vendors within the grounds. As far as your neighbors go, I wouldn't be too worried. I've heard Bonnaroo described as a place where "everyone is the nicest person in the world," so go ahead and focus your concern on setting up the tent correctly. After the tent is up, raise your flag that will identify your campsite and pray the weather stays nice through Sunday.

Then, of course, there are the music acts. This is where personal taste comes into play. If you aren't interested in seeing at least a third of the bands, then there's little reason to go. Personally, I think summer has a good lineup. The headliners aren't anything too exciting, but they will undoubtedly attract a lot of attention. Such acts include Eminem, Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, My Morning Jacket, Lil' Wayne, The Strokes, Iron and Wine, Girl Talk and Primus.

Arguably more exciting are the non-headlining acts. I usually test the overall quality of a music festival by the strength these "middle range" bands. If I choose to go, I will definitely make time for The Decemberists, Mumford & Sons, Florence + the Machine, Gogol Bordello, Ratatat, Matt & Kim, Atmosphere and Old Crow Medicine Show, just to name a few. To see the full lineup, go to bonnaroo.com/artists.

In the end, your satisfaction has to outweigh the financial, physical and mental costs of the experience. It will most likely not be worthwhile for someone who simply likes music because there is a lot more to the festival than just watching bands play on a stage. If you like long drives and large crowds, however, and have the ability to take things as they come, then best of luck coming up with $500.

— Pannekoek is a senior from Chesterton, Ind., majoring in English writing. features@thedepauw.com