by Joshua Robinson, ATL
It is odd attending a festival that you’ve heard about for years, seeing line ups every year and knowing that you won’t be going there anytime soon. I think for a lot of young Black boys like me that is the reality every time we see festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo release their latest line ups. These types of festivals are what runs the music industry in the summer, yet unless you have a have bank or know a generous person who does, you probably haven’t experienced one. Up until this spring, I thought the summer would be another repeat of the previous ones. That was until my Music Industry professor, Steve Jones, sent me an externship application for Bonnaroo. After learning that I was one of 4 students selected for the externship, I realized that I was finally going to experience Bonnaroo, one of the biggest music festivals in the United States.
But ya boi was doing a lot more than just attending Bonnaroo. Somehow I found myself with this awesome events and décor company called Suite Treatments, who is a big reason why Bonnaroo looks so good. Arriving on May 29, 11 days before the Roovians would arrive, I met the team and had no idea what we were going to be doing for nearly two weeks.
The next morning, my curiosity was cured as I learned that we had a lot of important shit to get done, as quickly and tastefully as possible. We all worked like dogs for those days leading up to the festival by moving an insane amount of furniture, doing a lot of beautiful ceiling treatments, hanging drapes, and decorating dressing rooms. On the off-chance that you think that this all sounds incredibly easy, just know that you have no idea how difficult and frustrating all of that can be. Under the leadership of Jacqueline Barsotti, we got that shit done though, allowing us to enjoy the Friday and Saturday nights of Roo.
At the beginning of May, I attended Broccoli City Festival, my first music festival, as a janky journalist. While I was lost as hell there, I was even more lost at Bonnaroo. So when it came time for me to finally experience what all the excitement was about, I will admit that I was caught off guard. With 8 stages with names much too similar for my liking (Which, What, That, This) and the newly populated Centeroo that had been pretty empty while we were setting up, it took me a while to get a grip.
On Friday, the first person I saw was DRAM, and that guy just keeps getting better. I had originally seen him in 2015 for Fool’s Gold Day Off in Atlanta, but he has progressed a lot more from just getting down to “Cha Cha” with 500 other people. His performance is also where I realized that I had amazing access behind stages, on stages, and in front of the crowd, albeit varying from stage to stage. Honestly, his set was the best that I saw Friday, not to shade U2 though; it just meant more to me as a 19-year-old from the South. The rest of the day kind is kind of blurred for me until it was time for U2, when my “access” was revoked by a giant “FUCK YOU” from the safety personnel at the main stage.
My first day was decent, but it honestly got better each day. Bonnaroo became a party for me as I got to see plenty of great artists for the first time.
I didn’t work the second half of Saturday and the first half of Sunday, so I got to check out Dj Mel, Belly, Chance the Rapper, Tory Lanez, Amine, and Flatbush Zombies. A standout for me was obviously Chance, but he truly wasn’t my favorite set that I had experienced at Bonnaroo. With that said, there were plenty of times during his set that literally gave me chills, like when he performed “Same Drugs,” “Favorite Song,” and his “Ultralight Beam” verse. In the end, it was just too much Coloring Book for me. While I did not get to see Travis Scott or The Weeknd Sunday night, my Bonnaroo experience was still pretty amazing for my first time.
Not only did I see great performances with amazing access, but I got to do it without spending a penny on the expensive Bonnaroo tickets. The vibe was amazing the entire four days of the festival. “Radiate Positivity” is one of the Bonnaroovian codes, and it is justly observed. The guests at the festival were some of the friendliest people that I have met in my life, and it was reassuring to be around such a large group of people that were the right type of rowdy, more “THIS IS FUCKING AWESOME!”-rowdy than “IF ONE MORE PERSON BUMPS INTO ME, I’MMA SWING”-rowdy. And here are some words of encouragement if you’re the latter type of rowdy at any music show or festival: Get yo ass on with that; life is too short.
So there you have it. I have officially been to my first 2 festivals this year, and while at one I just used my access to get good pictures, the other I was an official (in the lightest sense of the word) member of the media. AND I WENT FOR FREE! Special thanks to Jacqueline Barsotti and Suite Treatments again for such a vital experience; it will not be forgotten.
Now, for all my youngins who want to find a way to experience these things that were not really meant for us, there are ways to finesse your way into festivals like Bonnaroo. Volunteer. It is the simplest way to get in for free, and you do not even have to be there as long as I was. Whenever someone sends you an opportunity, really consider it because you never know when you can start doing the things that you have always dreamed of. And even if you have not attended Bonnaroo before, consider radiating positivity wherever you go. After finally being able to attend one of the biggest music festivals in America for free at 19 years old, that is truthfully what has stuck with me the most.
eyez on atlanta:
It’s crazy when things come back full circle. The first artist to ever be interviewed by TRR ATL is back, still on his grind as Brizzy Edwards. With more than two years having passed, we chop it up one street down from where the original interview was filmed. Through all the events, miscommunication, arguments, growth, and pain that comes with growth, both of us are still Southside, and the interview shows that. Interviewing Brizzy opened my eyes to a side of the come up that is often overshadowed and underplayed, but instead of turning sour, he is still doing what he loves until he reaps the benefits from the hard work that he’s been laying all across Clayton County and New Jersey. Brizzy Edwards is the underdog, and that’s not stopping him one bit.