Every year the list of Summer festivals gets longer and longer, with promoters scrambling to take advantage of an exploding market for live music experiences. Quality is not always guaranteed, however, as costs can run high and corner-cutting by organizers can make even the most promising festival experience a half-assed nightmare of disappointment.
Bonnaroo, however, is an entirely different story. With an ongoing emphasis on making the festival experience the best it can be, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival heads into its 2014 incarnation making great strides of improvement not by embracing large-scale corporate sponsorship and escalating security (as we've seen with Coachella), but by focusing on contributions to the local economy, going solar and maintaining the highest importance of the most vital element of all: FUN.
We've compiled six reasons why Bonnaroo tops all the other North American festivals out there, with ample support for each. Don't agree? Then chances are you've missed out thus far on roughly 150 acts making each year's Tennessee music marathon an unforgettably awesome experience, topped by Elton John, Jack White and Kanye West. Don't make the mistake of ignorant bliss – get your ass out to 'Roo!
When you arrive at Bonnaroo, you'll notice a palpable sense of excitement thick in the air. Even before the real party begins, before anyone gets chemically bonkers, the spirit of adventure is prevalent as tens of thousands of 'Roo campers set up their tents and get acquainted with their surroundings. It's an electrifying sense of welcome, of security in isolation and commitment to whatever may come over the next four days of music and mischief among so many like-minded adventurers.
Atmosphere is everything at a festival. Comparatively, other festivals choke out any sense of organic fun with schticky corporate-branded promotions at every turn and a downright intimidating police presence. When set against the freedom of the Bonnaroo experience, Coachella's Heinekin-soaked double-weekend carbon-copy explosion in the desert looks like a strobe light party at Target – with broken air conditioning & the TSA for security. While Coachella promoters celebrate overflowing demand by promising exact-replica weekends back to back (putting zero effort into making each a unique experience), Bonnaroo simply keeps working to improve its single-weekend domination by fine-tuning an already fantastic formula, and emphasizing fun and awareness over third-party promotional overdrive.
Bonnaroo is far less expensive than most other large-scale festivals nationwide, according data collected by Seatgeek. Bonnaroo offers a far better deal than the CMA Music Festival, which took place in Nashville earlier this month. The average price for a 4-Day CMA pass was $532.34, more than twice the average price of a Bonnaroo wristband. Furthermore, Bonnaroo tickets are also cheaper than passes to the 2013 Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, which is a full day shorter and features many of the same acts ($288.80 for a 3-day pass).
The Lollapalooza and Firefly festivals, which are also 3-day events, are also more expensive tickets than Bonnaroo, averaging around $382.55 and $288.10, respectively. For those looking for more bang for their buck, Bonnaroo is likely the most promising option for music fans looking to save on tickets.
Whether it's topless girls wearing body paint instead of bikinis, bro-dudes escaping the frat atmosphere, health-conscious hippies serving up alternatives to the standard festival food or just the tens of thousands of music lovers ecstatic to be at an amazing festival in the middle of nowhere, it's really the people that make Bonnaroo so special. Positive attitudes are infectious. Generosity is abundant. Free hugs are everywhere (and not just from sweaty, hairy dudes).
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