Bonnaroo is back. Finally.
After a two-year hiatus, a small city of fesitvalgoers arrived Thursday to Manchester, Tennessee, for Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival — AKA a psychedelic summer camp jam-packed with four nights of nonstop performances, food and campground shenanigans.
A team of Tennessean reporters set up camp Thursday at Great Stage Park (known lovingly to Bonnaroo faithful as “The Farm). Follow along for real-time updates on scorching hot weather, crowds, festival fashion, tunes and everything in-between.
All stages open on day two, with rapper J. Cole set to headline the What Stage. Follow along below.
Maggie Rose, Claud and Tai Verde kick off music as crowds (gradually) return
3 pm: After the storm-informed evacuation, Centeroo didn’t reopen for music until 1:45. That led to fairly sparse crowds waiting for afternoon performers like Maggie Rose, But the Nashville-based artist’s set remained a soulful celebration.
“We’ve been waiting three years for this moment,” Rose said, before firing up the slinky R&B number “For Your Consideration” from last year’s “A Seat at the Table.”
At the This Tent, indie-pop singer-songwriter Claud was making their Bonnaroo debut, and though the audience was modest, it was dense with diehards. One of them even handed the 23-year-old a greeting card.
But enough about Claud Mintz— the non-binary artist was more curious about theiraudience, and just how tough their living situation was like this weekend (take note, other ‘Roo performers). They were surprised to hear that some of the crowd was staying on the grounds for five straight days. Claud wondered aloud if they should try sleeping in a tent for the first time, and the crowd, no doubt informed by their heatwave experience this week, was split between “Do it!” and even louder cries of “Don’t do it!”
One highlight came when Mintz appeared to call an audible, putting their guitar down to play the peppy pop-punker “That’s Mr. B**** to you.”
Right after those sets, rising artist Tai Verdes – who still had a day job and was sleeping on a friend’s couch back in 2020 – was the first performer to play Bonnaroo’s biggest stage – “What – in three years.
Verdes may be new to playing stages of this big, but his inviting pop songs and infectious energy more than covers for it. As he began, he expressed that bringing up the crowd’s energy was more of a priority than his opening song, and was certainly speaking this sunburned audience’s language with the singalong “Feeling This Bad Never Felt This Great.”
*drumroll, please* Centeroo reopens
1:45 pm: Campground heartbeat Centeroo reopened mid-afternoon Friday in time for fans to claim a spot before music takes off in earnest.
Nashville singer-songwriter kicks off Michaela Anne the Which stage at 2:15 pm, while blues band Southern Avenue was set to perform inside That Tent in the 1 pm hour.
The storm passes
12:45 pm: Rain and severe wind pummeled Bonnaroo grounds as many campers tucked into cars and RVs for a shelter-in-place order that temporarily closed main music hub Centeroo a few hours earlier.
Campers furiously secured tents as debris whipped across fields on the festival grounds.
The storm produced small amounts of rain and a hefty amount of wind. Although lightning was predicted to be an issue, it never materialized.
By early afternoon, Bonnaroo organizers notified festivalgoers that the storm had passed but Centeroo remained temporarily closed.
On a good note, temperatures dropped Friday to 75 degrees, roughly 20 degrees cooler than Thursday’s high;
Shelter in place
11:20 am: Festival organizers asked Bonnaroo attendees to shelter-in-place in anticipation of a severe thunderstorm nearing The Farm. Concert-goers were asked to evacuate “Centeroo” — home to event main stages — and wait out the storm in each’s campsite vehicle.
As the storm approached and severe winds rolled through the grounds, organizers instructed festivalgoers via social media to temporarily break down pop-up tents until weather subsided.
The National Weather Service issued a statement Friday morning suggesting those in Manchester to “consider seeking shelter inside a building.” Organizers temporarily closed campground entrance tollbooths during the storm as a precautionary measure.
The bad news: Rain on the forecast; the good news: Slightly cooler weather
10:26 am: Bonnaroovians battled intense heat to start the week and now face showers and thunderstorms Friday.
A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for much of Middle Tennessee, including Coffee County and Manchester. The watch is in effect until 2 pm
Earlier Friday, the National Weather Service in Nashville said there’s at least a 40 to 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms in the area late Friday morning into the early afternoon.
Friday temperatures are expected to reach 93 with a low of 69 degrees.
Fans that can withstand the heat and rain will be rewarded with Saturday and Sunday highs of 85 with lows between the mid 50s to 60 degrees. Read more here.
Read on for highlights from opening day of Bonnaroo 2022.
‘This isn’t working’: Reduced entrances leading to long waits, fans report
11 pm: Last week, Bonnaroo announced it would be removing one of two longstanding entrances to the “Centeroo” concert area from the campgrounds. On Thursday, all attendees had to come through the festival’s famous arch to enter Centeroo.
Judging by dozens of accounts online, the results have not been ideal. Attendees on Twitter are reporting long waits and densely packed lines.
“Tell me in what world this is safe, @Bonnaroo,” tweeted user @Bonnaroojosh, who included a video of the crowd at the arch after sundown. “This isn’t working.”
The ongoing heatwave is amplifying attendees’ safety concerns: “These lines are scary,” wrote longtime Bonnaroo fan account @TheBonnarooster.
“During the day – there’s no shade, people are STRUGGLING in this heat, with no quick access to water.”
Popular music fest analyst the Festive Owl also weighed in: “Sometimes you just have to admit when a decision is the wrong one. ‘Roo should do that tonight.”
2:45 pm: Live music returned to “Centeroo” — Bonnaroo’s general concert area — for the first time in three years on Thursday. The act with the honor of jumpstarting these stages was Parrotfish, an alternative rock act hailing from Tampa, but currently based in Nashville.
It was only right that the quartet offered something for everybody under the shade of the redesigned “Who” stage: sticky-sweet melodies, snappy grooves, rapped verses and clever riffs.
You could still make out their tunes a stone’s throw away at This Tent, where Calder Allen said he was playing his first-ever out-of-state show. The 19-year-old grandson of singer-songwriter and visual artist Terry Allen reportedly started playing guitar during the pandemic, and released his debut album just last week.
A larger and livelier crowd greeted Atlanta rapper Kenny Mason, who kicked his lively performance off with the booming “Stick,” a collaborative cut that also features Bonnaroo ’22 headliner J. Cole. After taking the crowd’s temperature — figuratively speaking — the 27-year-old said what we were all thinking, more or less.
“It’s hot as f***, bruh.”
And Bonnaroo, of course, has only begun cooking. Artists will keep making noise on opening night until 4 am Friday morning.
‘Good vibes only’ as fans return
2:30 pm: As adults processed past Allie Holland, taking turns for a quick cool-off under Bonnaroo’s mushroom fountain, the 9-year-old stayed reveling in the spectacle of it all.
She held her arms over her head, smiled and waved to her uncle as he looked on from a short distance away. Her blonde pigtails, adorned with blue and purple extensions, bobbled beside her head.
“Good vibes only,” her shirt read. How could it be anything other? This is her first ‘Roo.
While Holland ran in and out of the fountain, the heat was the furthest thing from her mind.
“I’m just excited to spend time with my family, and see the Chicks play,” she said bouncing on her toes.
More on fans returning to The Farm:Bonnaroo reopens for 20th festival after two-year break
1:20 pm: Bonnaroo from the comfort of your couch? It’s a thing.
ICYMI: Hulu livestreams this year’s event, kicking off today at 3 pm CST. Confirmed artists slated for the online broadcast include J. Cole, Billy Strings, Herbie Hancock, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and Machine Gun Kelly, among others.
Since you’re probably reading this story from home, here’s how you can tune into Bonnaroo without standing in a sweat-drenched field.
It’s hot, hot, hot
12:50 pm: Campers can expect a blazing return to The Farm today as forecasters anticipate temperatures reaching 92 degrees in the early afternoon. At publication time, the heat index in Manchester reached 100 degrees, according to weather.com.
A heat advisory remains in place for music of Middle Tennessee, according to the National Weather Service. Extreme temperatures plan to hold through Friday.
Earlier this week, Bonnaroo organizers shared to social media a reminder for campers to wear layers of sunscreen and stay hydrated via multiple on-site cooling areas.