Bonnaroo Hayes: Night time is the right time to Bonnaroo

The audience for Lil Wayne at 2 a.m. on Saturday, June 11, 2011 at the Which Stage at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

Photo by Jigsha Desai // Buy this photo

The audience for Lil Wayne at 2 a.m. on Saturday, June 11, 2011 at the Which Stage at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

Crime reporter Hayes Hickman is covering Bonnaroo 2011 for the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Crime reporter Hayes Hickman is covering Bonnaroo 2011 for the Knoxville News Sentinel.

MANCHESTER, Tenn. - Bonnaroo after dark is like leaving the biggest, coolest party in college and going to an even cooler, word-of-mouth party.

After two full days of documenting the festival, KNS photographer Adam Brimer, visuals editor Jigsha Desai and I decided to return to the grounds post-deadlines, to take in the other side of its personality Friday night.

We arrived fashionably late after midnight. And as long as the day had felt, the party's momentum had only grown while we were away.

With the humidity all but burned off, the crowd was freed from the heat to come alive like the neon that suddenly seemed to accentuate everything.

Clothing was still as sparse as it had been under the midday sun, if even more so in the dark, while the smell of pot smoke became more pungent and more common.

I followed an echoing bass line across the park to That Tent and found the Black Angels.

For all the diversity that Bonnaroo gets so much praise for, it was good to hear honest-to-God rock, played as loud as we could stand, with snarling hypnotic reverb.

I soaked up as much of the show as I could, while I could. Lil Wayne was starting soon.

Walking back the way I had come, I was barely in sight of the Which Stage again before I reached a crowd of thousands that seemed to have suddenly materialized for the show.

Rapper Wayne bounded onto the stage at 1:32 a.m., exploding with swagger, profanity and brilliance.

It was as if he had been lying in wait, conserving all his energy somewhere in the shade until now. And the crowd cheered as if they had been waiting for him just as long.

Jigsha, Adam and I lasted a respectable while longer, but nothing to brag about. The Friday performance schedule ran until 4:30 a.m.

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