WBOC Intern Emilie Compares Music Festivals: Bonnaroo vs. Firefly
Every winter, music lovers stalk the websites and social media of festivals to see where their favorite artists are going in the summer. Now festival season is in full force. I went to my first Bonnaroo a week ago, and I just unpacked my bags after heading to The Woodlands for the fifth time since Firefly’s start in 2012.
The two festivals are compared often. They have similar attendance, cost and lineups, but they offer very different experiences.
Bonnaroo Music Festival
Bonnaroo is held on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn., where shade, water, size and tradition stick out as defining qualities of the 16-year-old festival.
The dry heat is completely draining. Some stages are under tents, but it’s really hard to stand in the middle of a crowd to see the music during the day. People would chase the shade. There are a few trees in the venue, called Centeroo, and every inch of the shade casted would be completely filled with festival-goers.
With constant reminders to pace ourselves and beat the heat, a giant mushroom fountain, waterslide, and over 500 sources of drinkable water on the farm, organizers were well prepared to make sure everyone had a cool, great time.
People are friendly at every festival, but at Bonnaroo, the sense of community and traditions like High-Five-Friday and “The Code,” which includes unwritten rules like ‘radiate positivity’ and ‘respect the farm’, are valued and well followed.
As long as you’re having fun and being kind to others, anything goes at that place.
Besides the size, the most impressive part of Bonnaroo for me is their bathrooms. If you’ve ever been to a music festival, or any large outdoor concert, you should be familiar with the dreaded porta-potties and all of the horror that comes with them. I’ve never seen a more beautiful sight! This year, the farm added huge bathrooms with flushable toilets, which were well kept and never had a huge line that is usually expected at festivals of this size.
Shows at Bonnaroo can go until 6-7 a.m., so once the gates open for the weekend the party really never stops.
The seasoned festival is all about the experience. It’s quirky and offers plenty of fun, a variety of food, activities, and charging stations, surprisingly good service and Internet access, and always a great lineup.
Firefly Music Festival
As my first festival, Firefly is very dear to me. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing my favorite musician, Jack White, grin in surprise at the noise the crowd in little Delaware made.
Firefly is held on only 105-acres with about the same attendance as Bonnaroo, but they do a decent job at having enough space in the venue. My only complaint is the lines that form for the bathrooms and vendors can get a bit crazy.
But it’s smaller size makes it easier to go in and out of the festival, where at Bonnaroo I had about a 30-minute walk from my campsite to Centeroo. So once you enter the festival grounds at Bonnaroo, you’re there for the rest of the night.
The heat at The Woodlands isn’t as intense as it is in Tennessee, and being in a forest there’s plenty of shade. The water stations are very spread out, and lines are so long at times. It was easier to buy bottled water from the vendors.
Crowds at Firefly are generally younger, and I will say the shows are more fun in my experience. Everyone is
crowd surfing and for reasons unknown, it’s easier to get up close.
As a vegetarian, I find the food at Firefly to be lacking, especially after seeing the variety at Bonnaroo. This year, Firefly had a great quinoa and black bean burger, but they ran out in the middle of the day Sunday. I heard other vendors were running out of certain items as well.
I never have much luck there with service and Internet, but I will say, this year, service was a lot better.
I think Firefly still has some kinks to work out, but by the time it’s in its 16th year like Bonnaroo, I’m sure they’ll have the festival perfected. It really helps that they don’t have to battle that Tennessee heat as well.
You can’t go wrong with either festival – both offer unforgettable experiences. It just comes down to your attitude and which lineup suits you better each year.