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The Groove - My first night at Bonnaroo
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The Bonnaroo lineup for the 2020 music and arts festival dropped Tuesday. This means a walk down memory lane.

My column began as a list of all of my favorite experiences from an event that has embedded itself into my heart and soul, becoming a unique taste of freedom, love and contentment I look forward to each year. However, I wouldn’t be able to give justice to each of those moments in 500 words, so I’ll focus on my first year since it was the most eye-opening. 

I’ve been attending Bonnaroo since I was 16. I’ve missed one or two years over that time span. My first year, I was introduced to a true diehard fan of the jam band Phish. He could also be referred to as a “Phish Head.” My love of jam bands began with him. The three-set Phish experience in 2019 touched my heart as I recalled the delightful memories taking me back to that first year.

I don’t recall how the delightful red-haired young man with dreadlocks ended up camping with us the first day, nor do I remember his name, but the joy of his spirit has still stuck with me 12 years later. He followed Phish with a backpack full of peanut butter, jelly and bread. I envied his freedom, sense of adventure and inner peace.

As MGMT performed an earth-shattering show, I looked at his bright face and couldn’t help but laugh from joy as we danced, twirled and jumped through the magical illumination and brilliance delivered by the first true lightshow I’d ever experienced. 

The first time I entered The Farm, I felt a slight hesitation due to sensory overload. The vibrant scene in front of my eyes was like nothing I’d ever experienced. The uncertainty disappeared as I got out of the car. I was awestruck and full of astonishment and excitement.

My eyes had to be the size of sunflowers and equally as bright. While journeying to our campsite, everyone I passed had smiles beaming from their faces, and the echoes of “Bonnarooo” were being howled back and forth, as though the shouts were a form of secret language each person on the farm shared, and it was understood to represent a feeling of pure bliss. 

Once camp was reached, I sat impatiently and was ready to run and soar through the crowd. Banners and flags waved in the sky, and a large Phish flag was the X marking the spot to help find camp through the waves of tents and canopies spreading for miles. I energetically begged to go exploring as the sun began to setm, and a light purple engulfed the sky. 

We began our journey down the road to Centeroo, and all darkness became light. Everything and everyone glowed and sparkled. Inside of Centeroo, stages radiated laser beams and streams of lights and colors. As we stepped into the gate containing the explosions of sound and light, I realized this night was going to change my life, and oh, how it did. 

Standard reporter Atlanta Northcutt can be reached at 473-2191.