Footprints on the moon: the Bonnaroo universe

A&E trekked down to Manchester, Tenn., to one of the world’s largest music festivals, Bonnaroo.

Festival-goers sit on the edges of the crowd to listen to Caveman's afternoon set on the first day of Bonnaroo Thursday. The festival experience isn't all rainbows, though.

Bridget Bennett

Festival-goers sit on the edges of the crowd to listen to Caveman's afternoon set on the first day of Bonnaroo Thursday. The festival experience isn't all rainbows, though.

Joe Kellen

Music festivals that provide a campground are utopian in theory. The plots of land become oases of music-lovers, goofy behavior and plenty of brazen substance abuse.

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, located at Great Stage Park in Manchester, Tenn., has 650 acres of land for camping, music, food, vendors, comedy and educational classes — the variety seems infinite when walking through the vast fields of grass and dust.

With over 90,000 festivalgoers focused on little else than having the time of their lives, Bonnaroo is a place where the surreal comes to thrive.

People will bark at you, chant choruses of “BONEROO!” and cosplay as floppy-eared bunnies that love to party down. A&E compiled a short, sweet list of scenarios indicative of the Bonnaroo experience, as well as music festivals in general.

1) It’s 3 a.m., and your calves are burning from standing all day. All you want is pizza. In a state of delirium, you walk over to the endless line of food vendors, and you shell out $6 for an enormous slice of pineapple with jalapenos. As you turn around from the counter to take a bite, you’re stopped in your tracks by a man holding a mace.

His face is covered in red and blue stars and a gleaming silver half-mask; he’s gyrating to the beat of club music while staring directly into your eyes. The only response you can muster is, “This is really weird!” His response is to vigorously nod and dance into the night.

2) It’s the first night of the festival, and you’re in the first big pit. You’re invading the personal space of countless others in the mob. Everyone around you is smiling and dancing. Suddenly, you find yourself with a stranger as a partner. No words exchanged, you sway together for an hour. The set ends, and you go your separate ways.

3) It’s Saturday afternoon. A particularly great set from your favorite artist just ended, and you’re walking across the festival to another show. On the way, you high-five nearly 100 people.

4) It’s 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, and you are a true zombie. You are holding your body hostage by keeping it awake and sticking through the last show of the night, and, miraculously, your feet only gain strength as you weakly bob your head to the beat.

On your walk back to the campsite, a volunteer at the festival smiles at you and offers you a ride back to your tent on his golf cart. You two discuss the weirdness of it all and how, despite your exhaustion, you’re having the time of your life.

5) It’s the final show of the festival. Elton John is playing “Rocket Man.” As the pivotal moment of the song reaches its crescendo, organizers release a gigantic Buzz Lightyear balloon into the night sky along with countless Chinese lanterns. Lasers illuminate Lightyear’s body as the entire crowd cheers wildly in recognition of truly going “to infinity … and beyond.”