Saturday morning, I got up way too early, as usual. I drove over to Starbucks, got gas, stopped at CVS to pick up the razor I had forgotten to bring (got forbid one be hairy at a hippie-overrun music festival), fruit, and duct tape. The girl at CVS told me she was from Manchester, and that this was the best-organized event to date. I almost fell over. I brought Stephanie back breakfast, and set to work duct-taping my vehicle. A big piece of plastic under the front of the engine had broken off and was hanging down. I taped the shit out of it and we were off.
We got to Bonnaroo at 10:30, well before the shows started. We had no trouble getting into day parking, as all the campers had finally settled. I wish I could adequately represent what the camping looked like: huge open fields full of tents, as far as one could see. It was pretty awesome. And a complete mess. People were walking down the road to bathe in the dirty creek. The whole place already smelled like garbage. We, however, were clean.
I strapped on the Camelbak and we waded through the sea of contraband to the entrance. We spend some time wandering around Centeroo and figuring out where all the stages were, as they all had immensely useless names such as What Stage, Which State, That Tent, This Tent, etc. We checked out the food, and I was thrilled: there were a few full-on vegetarian booths, and even a vegan one. It figured with the audience, but sometimes I’m surprised. I bought a pretzel and we went to grab spots close to the stage in That Tent for Kings of Leon, the original reason I wanted to go to the festival in the first place.
The show was so great. I loved it. We were up close enough to see everything, and they rocked hard in that Tennessee way. They had crazy hillbilly hair and the tightest jeans ever seen on human beings. During the show, which was under a big tent, it started pouring outside, and everybody cheered and ran out into the rain.
After the show, we wandered around and saw some other bands. Gomez was awesome live. There was a huge crowd listening on the lawn. We saw most of that show, then I went to hear Rachael Yamagata in a little tent hidden in the back. I fell in love. She’ll be here in Minneapolis this month in a tiny little room at the Quest, and I will be there.
We saw Del McCoury and My Morning Jacket, and spent some time laying in the sun listening to whatever band was nearby. I ate a hummus wrap and immediately felt sick because of the heat. It was better to not eat at all, and drink water whenever necessary, but not too much, as we had a very good reason: avoiding the port-a-potties again. Word was getting around about how bad they were already, and there was no way I’d go willingly. So we devised a carefully-executed technique we termed ‘controlled dehydration’: drink enough to stay conscious, but not enough to have to pee. And it worked!
As it got later, we decided to head out before the Grateful Dead. The idea of hanging around for that was just depressing. So we got back to the car easily, just as it got really dark and the wind picked up. Tents were billowing, and garbage was flying everywhere. Within ten minutes of leaving, the downpour began. We were so glad to not be at the festival for that.
It took us too long to get to the hotel in the rain. I showered the sweat and fifteen layers of sunscreen off me. The sunscreen seemed to be doing no good at all. The news on TV said that two people had already died at Bonnaroo due to multiple drugs and heat and dehydration. We drove back up to Nashville for dinner, as Stephanie was insistent about eating at Wildhorse again. I worried about getting in due to the CMA festivities, but figured we’d find something else if the club was closed.
We found the exact same parking spot as the day before, and cheered. As I started off down the street and looked back over my shoulder, and noticed something I didn’t want to see: the front tire was flat. I had one of those split-second gaps in reasoning that really makes me question how I think sometimes: I thought, ‘Eh, leave it for later.’ I almost walked away. But then I snapped back to reality, and I was pissed.
We were parked on a downward slope, so I pulled up the parking brake hard, ripped all the tools out of the trunk, and set to work. See, I’ve changed flats on this car so many times that I could qualify for the Saab racing pit crew. Not that that makes me any calmer about it when it happens; in fact, each time it gets worse.
I was parked close enough to the curb that getting the tire iron in to loosen the nuts was highly inconvenient. It took forever to crank up the jack. At least they didn’t use a torque wrench the last time around, so I didn’t have to jump on it to loosen them. As usual, I got the nuts out and then couldn’t get the tire off the hub. It likes to rust in place. I jacked it up further, yanked on it some more, then planted my ass on the curb, put my feet on the tire and kicked it over and over, cursing loudly the whole time.
At that moment, I heard women talking behind me. A couple of ladies had meandered up the hill and taken up a spot on the ledge behind us as my audience. They were lamenting to themselves, then to us, the fact that no men were coming by to help. They tried to flag one down, but he rushed off with a painfully lame excuse. And part of me was pissed that nobody offered to help, especially in a place like the south. On the other hand, I’d probably have refused it unless I couldn’t have done it myself.
So I continued kicking and yanking and swearing (a little more quietly, considering the southern belles nearby), and they expounded on their theory about why no men were there to help. They said it was to do with the fact that they were all off at war dying. Therefore, nobody to help me change my tire.
I finally got the tire off, then put it all put back together, tossed everything as hard as I could into the trunk, and we headed off to dinner. Me with completely black hands.
As expected, Wildhorse turned us away. They were having a CMA party with the stars of NBC daytime TV. Yeah, we seriously regretted missing that. We headed to a restaurant nearby and I had… caesar salad and diet Coke, after scrubbing my hands in the bathroom for 10 minutes straight. We drove back to the hotel at a much slower speed on the infamous red donut tire, but you know. At least we were alive. All the men, they were dead.