I never made it to the morning yoga sessions, but I stayed out late enough to catch Lil Wayne.
To be honest, though, I didn't even know there was yoga.
The News Sentinel changed things up a bit last year by tapping me, a crime beat reporter, to deliver fish-out-of-water dispatches from the 10th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.
I mean, I'm no music critic, but I'd been to plenty concerts. I have as healthy an addiction to iTunes as the next guy.
But to actually be set loose with a press pass at what's become among the most popular four days of freakiness on the summer festival circuit was, well, kinda overwhelming.
I showed up 10 years into a sold-out party still going strong. A decade's worth of incredible appearances — James Brown, Radiohead, a Police reunion — already were memorialized in graffiti along the walls that flank the main stages.
I was lucky to get my bearings amid the This, That and the Other tents, and find somewhere to plug in my laptop backstage.
Not that I'll ever convince anyone how rough I had it: An incredibly eclectic mix of 150 artists and other distractions spread over some 15 hours of performances each day. Rubbing elbows with rock stars in a Middle Tennessee cow pasture. Surveying the popularity of body paint versus bikini tops among festivalgoers.
It's obvious now why News Sentinel entertainment writer Wayne Bledsoe and photographer Saul Young got burnt out on covering this gig after only the first nine years.
And both of them, apparently, are still catching their breath. So they're sending me, along with KNS photographer Adam Brimer and visuals editor Jigsha Desai, back to capture another year of the weird and wonderful, Thursday, June 7 through Sunday, June 10.
In hindsight, I'm sure I barely caught a glimpse of the breadth that is Bonnaroo my first time around.
Although I did see plenty of random, memorable stuff. Like comedian Lewis Black's pasty white legs. For whatever reason I guess I didn't expect such a serious man to ever wear cargo shorts.
Then again, there's something to be said for the heat. It topped 90 degrees every day of the 2011 festival, with barely a passing drizzle of rain.
I remember how the sodded grounds gave way to drifting clouds of dust, kicked up as the crowds shuffled from one show to the next.
It also made sunglasses and bandanas a popular pair of accessories among the 80,000 or so attendees — like roving bands of Wild West bandits, but with sandals and tie-dye shirts. And a lot positivity.
That was the other big, memorable thing. The dust, the delirium from the heat, the constant buzz of helicopters ferrying artists in and out, the wafting pot smoke. It gave the whole thing a vaguely "Apocalypse Now" vibe. Albeit less apocalyptic and much more life-affirming.
Because despite the weather, people tended to take it all in stride (or just take off another piece of clothing.) Either way, they were happy to be there.
Speaking of grass, organizers are promising a much greener, lusher Bonnaroo this year with a fresh layer of Bermuda sod planted throughout the 700-acre site. They've planted 110 indigenous trees as well, although they're not likely to offer much added shade yet as they're only saplings. (Try not to hug them too hard, guys.) Other than the latest horticulture, 2012 also offers the return of Radiohead to Coffee County, along with fellow headliners Phish, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, recent Grammy winner Bon Iver, Ludacris and a 50th anniversary reunion of the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson included.
There's also '70s shock-rocker Alice Cooper, who, hopefully, can set up his elaborate stage show faster than Kayne West could in 2008. (Hint: Don't bring a full-size spaceship, Alice.) And in keeping with Bonnaroo's talent for assembling a takes-all-kinds spectrum of music, there's the recently announced addition of Kenny Rogers. As in, the card-gamblin' stratospheric superstar himself — an island in the stream of country music.
Scattered between those polars of awesome are all kinds of other stuff, much of which I missed my first year.
Such as the 24-hour, air-conditioned Cinema Tent. Or the Comedy Theatre, with appearances by Aziz Ansari and Steven Wright. Or sign up for an all-day workshop in break dancing, or musical instrument building or gardening.
Plus, of course, the Morning Wellness program's daily yoga sessions, which ramp up just a few hours after they close the all-night, headphones-only Silent Disco.
Jigsha, Adam and I will try our best to capture a bit of all of it with online updates and features each day about random celebrity sightings, memorable set lists and dehydrated college kids trying to break dance.
So make sure to keep up with us, especially if you can't make it to Manchester yourself.
Otherwise, see you at yoga.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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