The Buzz

Bonnaroo's rappers and shakers

Categories: Live Performance, Music

Alabama ShakesAlabama Shakes did justice to the Thursday night opening slot. (Associated Press)

CBC arts journalist and music fest veteran Laura Thompson is at the 2012 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Follow her reports about the goings-on down in Manchester, Tenn.

"Do you have any drugs?"


"Are you SURE you don't have any drugs?"


With this casual but well-intentioned security scan, we were released into the wilds that is Bonnarroo.

Our convoy rolled into a vast, empty field where other vehicles had already started to park in neat, organized rows. Within the hour we'd raised three tents, a sunshade, set up chairs, organized our food, and quickly met a handful of random, friendly neighbors from all over (Nebraska! Pennsylvania! Uruguay!).

We were suddenly at the centre of a sprawling, colourful ocean of tents. Literally, a pop-up city. We celebrated the imminent time of our lives with shots of Dr. McGillicuddy's root beer liqueur.

The stages are all on "Centeroo", another expansive, grassy area, this one populated by food vendors, beer stands, misting stations, and thousands upon thousands of people soaking it all in. The venues are brilliantly labeled "What Stage", "Which Stage", "This Tent", "That Tent", and "The Other Tent". Conversations go something like this:

Kendrick LamarKendrick Lamar's lyrics were profane but catchy. (Dave Martin/Associated Press)

"Let's go to This Tent!"

"How about This Tent after The Other Tent?"

"Not Which Stage? OK, The Other Tent then."

Endless entertainment.

Time for some tunes!

Kendrick Lamar is an emerging rapper from Compton, Calif., that I previously knew nothing about. He handily drew an impressive crowd of mostly 20-something free spirits with music on their minds and vodka in their CamelBaks.

I found myself singing along to a profane but catchy chorus I would never repeat again and certainly can't recount here. Everyone was sold. Even me! Then, Lamar unadvisedly proclaimed "I'm the best rapper alive!" The trance was broken and we moved on.

This Tent was packed for Alabama Shakes. Lots of buzz around this Athens, Alabama, band. Even Starbucks picked up on it, as you may notice the Shakes' new LP for sale there. Soul-rock singer Brittany Howard stole the show with her big stage presence and powerhouse vocals. It ended with an exciting, impromptu jam session with the Soul Rebels Brass Band.

To get back to camp: turn right at the sweat lodge, left at the Hello Kitty! helium balloon, head toward the "round bush", and we're just behind the white Tahoe adjacent to the duct-taped pinwheels.


The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival runs June 7-10.

BonnarooTo get back to the campsite, look for the white Tahoe. (Laura Thompson)

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