This article was originally published on June 19th, 2010, as “Bonnaroo 2010: My Experiences and a Survival Guide for Future Patrons” by former UPC editor Thomas B. Cullen. We decided to bring it back as a relevant preview to this years Bonnaroo festival. Enjoy!

It’s been almost one week since I got back from this little place called Manchester, TN, where for the first time I realized that there really is a Candyland. Except the sweets in this Candyland come in the form of sound waves.

After staying home until late to watch Chicago win the Stanley Cup (woohoo!), my group departed from Champaign, IL at around 11PM Wednesday night. We drove through the night and arrived about five miles outside of Bonnaroo at around 8AM. We were in for a treat as we were forced to wait in traffic for over 10 hours in the scorching Tennessee summer heat just to get through the gates. Upon arrival we parked, set up our camp site and then immediately hit up the shows.

DISCLAIMER: Bonnaroo IS NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED. There is way too much music for anybody’s own good, and that means you won’t be sleeping if you want to catch all of your favorite acts. There is no sleeping in. You will wake up in a sweat at around 9AM and be forced to start your day as your tent will heat up like a microwave. This was my first music festival experience with camping and I found that it was way easier to stay up all night and then nap at around 7AM until whenever the heat woke me up. From there I would prepare for my day: eat, drink a lot of water (seriously), pack my camelbak and then hit the shows as soon as they started. If you need to count a few more Z’s, hit up one of the tented stages and nap in the shade. The loud music will not be a problem if you are that tired.

It is crucial that you are taking care of yourself throughout the day. Drink water around the clock, eat well and take vitamins. The last thing you need is to get sick, especially since you will probably have traveled a long distance and paid a lot of money for your ticket. I came to Manchester over-equipped with around 12 bottles of vodka which I ended up drinking absolutely none of (that is, until I got shithoused at The Dave Matthews Band show Sunday night). But in all sincerity, you probably won’t have an appetite for drinking due to the high temperatures.

But that’s OK, because Bonnaroo has something else to offer you that ever-so-desired state of delirium: drugs. Within half an hour of my arrival, I was offered any drug you can think of by multiple sources. It is not uncommon to see people walking around with shirts reading “I Need Coke,” or “2 Doses.” My personal favorite was “Offer Me Drugs.” For those of you who like to boogy, you won’t have a problem getting a buzz here (NOTE: UPC does not condone the use of illegal substances). Nobody can stop you from doing drugs, but please make sure to be responsible and take proper precautions when doing so.

Aside from what you should and should not consume, and what you should consume if you consume, it is valuable to have knowledge as to how you should dress yourself for these days. If it is as hot as it was this year, wear minimal clothing. I bought a pair of blue swim trunks from Wal-Mart for $8 which I ended up using from Thursday night until I got home Monday night. Best investment I have ever made. You will get wet. You will want to get wet. If you are a dude, wear swim trunks and bring a shirt in your backpack (you’ll probably have your shirt off). The shirt will come in handy when the sun starts to burn your skin. And speaking of sun burning skin, obviously bring sunscreen. I suggest SPF 50.

There will be a lot of bands that you have never heard of that you absolutely should take the time to check out. Maunder around and see what’s going on. Next to the music, the best part about your three days here will be all of the spontaneous occurrences. For example, during my escapades I ran into Harry Perry as he was wandering around playing for campers. I even bought his album, Video Commander, which was mastered by Grammy award winning chief mastering engineer Ted Jensen (I’ll have a seperate post for this later so you guys can check him out). I must stress that you see as many electronic acts as possible, even if you are not particularly a fan. The Silent Disco stage is always poppin, and DJs spin from midnight until sunrise at The Lunar Stage. Be prepared to dance and fistpump.

With all of this said, below is a list of essential items you may forget to bring to Bonnaroo that can make the experience that much better. has their own list, but I’ve added a few things they missed. I’ve also included “Crowd Pleasers,” another list of items you should bring if you wanna get the party poppin.


Contrary to popular belief, people actually take care of themselves here. Waking up soaked in sweat after a day and night of raging to awesome tunes sucks. You will want to brush your gunk ass smelling mouth out and there are plenty of water stations where you can do that near your campsite. Bring along that bag of shampoo and body wash too and rinse your body off. This is key to revitalizing you for another day of madness.


Food is expensive inside. Duh. Bring a grill and a cooler if possible. Ice can be purchased within the gates so you can refill your cooler to keep your food fresh once a day. Bring something easy to make such as cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Fruits are also extra clutch for these rigorous days as they are packed with essential vitamins and are scrumptious at the same time. Granola bars also go hard in the paint.


-Lazer Pointers-

That’s right. Lazers with a “Z.” People enjoy lights when they are on drugs. Bring a couple of different colored lazer pointers and flash them around before shows, or during them for that matter.


Before every show people are always getting hyped up. Don’t be extra annoying with your whistle, but use it to “raise the roof.” Whistle a rhythm and get a clap-along going. After Timo Maas finished spinning his set at this Bonnaroo, a kid with a whistle got the crowd going again and actually lured Timo out from backstage to spin a few more songs. Let people know you didn’t come to Bonnaroo to fuck around. You came to party.

-Glow Sticks-

Like I said, people enjoy lights when they are on drugs. Bust these bad boys out at night and distribute them to your fellow concert peers. Bring a lot of them.

-Spray Bottle-

Needless to say, it gets hot as balls in Manchester. Every show I went to, somebody was spraying water around to keep people cool. Not only is this useful for you back at the campsite, but people at shows will love you. A squirt gun is fun too.

-Beach Balls & Balloons-

Beach balls can be a bit pricey, but balloons are cheap and they come in bulk! Buy a couple bags of 100 balloons or more and pass them around at shows. Once these guys get into the crowd, everybody gets going. It makes the crowd look sick for the performers and they are fun to keep you entertained before shows begin.