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My Bonnaroo 2011 checklist: Must-see bands, must-eat foods and other can't-miss experiences


I am fairly certain no person in history had thought to spend precious vacation time on a farm in the middle of Tennessee ... in a tent ... in June. That is, until a nutty, but devoted production team created the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, now the biggest U.S. music and arts event this side of the Mississippi.

This year, 80,000 people, myself included, will endure long drives, heat, mud and uncomfortable toilet situations just to Bonnaroo (it's also a verb). To make the most of my time this weekend, I have 5 must-do’s in mind.

1. The obvious: I will see bands not likely to play Tampa Bay.
Headliner Arcade Fire, above, has never played Tampa. Eminem hasn’t played Tampa in 10 years and Buffalo Springfield could be dead soon. (Just kidding, Neil. Please know we love you.) My Morning Jacket, Florence and the Machine, Black Joe Lewis, Robyn, The Black Keys, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Cold War Kids and Mumford and Sons are also among my must-see's. Lastly, the bill has a highlight in Dr. John and the Original Meters performing Desitively Bonnaroo, the 1974 album from which the festival takes its name.

2. I will make one major musical discovery.
With all the above being said about the big Bonnaroo acts, one of the best things about the festival is the chance to discover new artists. Last year, we caught dream pop act Warpaint on a small stage with a crowd of 100 or so, and the Los Angeles ladies dazzled. In 2009, the Frenchmen of Phoenix played to a modest, but enthusiastic crowd, months before the infectious 1901 became the choice for Cadillac commercials and episodes of Entourage.

3. I will sample Centeroo activities
In the middle of the festival’s sprawling 700 acres, you'll find "Centeroo," a food, shopping and entertainment village bustling around the clock. Here you can learn to plant your own Shiitake logs, take a yoga class, join a hand drumming session or get a complimentary shampooing courtesy of Garnier Fructis. Woot woo! The Silent Disco is the late-night, headphones-only dance party (no sound is emitted aloud), though the silent zombie-like dancing looks more like a scene out of Shaun of the Dead. And finally, the artist "meet and greets," which happen a few times daily, are another must-do. In 2009, we met Raphael Saadiq of Tony Toni Tone and of um, Raphael Saadiq, who happily signed our T-shirt, “It feels great,” per our instructions.

4. I will taste the varying flavors of Bonnaroo.
If I told you the festival has its own Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor (“Bonnaroo Buzz”), would it conjure up non-conformist soy malt ice cream topped with crunchy granola and Cannabis Indica? Seriously, though, we've heard it's legit and plenty tasty. I will report back. Bonnaroo also has a pretty respectable brewer's garden, full of bocks, pilsners and pale ales from microbreweries across the country. I discovered Magic Hat #9 here, now a personal favorite.

5. I will be green to the best of my abilities.
I confess. I am not camping this year. I will be using lots of electricity and running water from the comforts of a hotel. But when onsite, I promise to do my part to dispose of waste properly like the good festival folks have worked so hard to encourage. Bonnaroo has been called “Woodstock with better recycling." And here’s why: During the 2010 festival, 60 percent of all waste by volume (something in the ballpark of 400 tons) was diverted from landfills.

-- Carole Liparoto, tbt*. Look for Carole's coverage of Bonnaroo 2011 here on Soundcheck this weekend. Photo: AP.

[Last modified: Monday, May 23, 2011 11:30am]


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