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Bonnaroo Kills Again

June 13, 2005

The 4th annual Bonnaroo Festival took place this weekend, drawing more than 80,000 music fans to Manchester, TN. Attendance numbers were down from last year's all-time high. One fan didn't make it home, but the cause of his death appears to be a non-related health condition.

Aside from this tragedy, Bonnaroo was also listed as a cause in the Phish break-up earlier this year. Festivals like Bonnaroo and MerleFest present fans of jam-bands and their bluegrass and folk brethren a kind of one-stop shopping - all of your favorites in one location at one low price.

So, what does this mean for traditional summer jam-band touring? Will single weekend events eclipse the traveling caravans that started out following the Grateful Dead and moved on to other tours (including defunct Phish and defunctish Leftover Salmon and the still road-worthy String Cheese Incident and Gov't Mule) after the death of Jerry Garcia? Is the aging fan-base looking for an event that offers a lot in a small amount of time (so that bosses and families aren't tested) or are the bands losing steam? And, can a jam-band event really be created like lightening in a bottle unlike the organic growth surrounding the Dead Head movement? Bonnaroo tried to offer both sides of the coin with the Zooma Tour, which was cancelled due to low ticket sales. I've got my dancing bears bandana and I'm ready to go!

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at June 13, 2005 4:31 PM


Comments

What the megafestivals have to offer the performers is a large audience in one place- a decent performer playing one set at Bonnaroo or MerleFest can sell enough CDs in one stop to make (or break) a season.

The promoters that recognize this are cashing in by creating these niche festivals on a cooperative timeline. If artists are guaranteed a large, sympathetic crowd, they are more likely to work with the promoters as partners, scheduling their own tours and radio/TV appearances to plug the festivals as well as their music. Thus lesser-known talents benefit as well, and the festivals are guaranteed a long line of prospective talent eager to play their events.

The intimacy of smaller gigs can be retained in some
part by workshops and campsite jams. Art Menius of MerleFest has said the best music at his festival is ALWAYS offstage, and I agree.

By creating this unique festival circuit, people like Art Menius of MerleFest and Ashley Capps of Bonnaroo have done music fans a tremendous service, by providing vital sustenance to many artists who would otherwise just stay home.

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at June 13, 2005 6:04 PM

I head to 4 or 5 Jam Band Based festivals each summer. I have allready been to one this year called Strange-Creek 48 hours of continues music with Max Creek and Strangefolk as headliners. Jim is right on how the best music is usally found offsatge, drum circles, roaming entertainers, and in the case of Strange-Creek after hours cabins with bands playing throughout the night.

I certainly can't see how these helped in the fall of Phish. I had seen Phish all the way from their begining in smaller clubs in Vermont and Rhode Island. I just think there time was due. If they kept it up they just would of turned into another Gratful Dead. Puting out mediocre albums and mediocre shows knowing everything would allways sell out just by their name.
This is just my humble opinion and I know my spelling is atrocious.

Posted by: Scott Powell at June 14, 2005 1:09 PM

I thought Ms. VerWiebe's posting titled, "Bonnaroo Kills Again" was titled in very poor taste. The choice of title makes light of the fact that a fan died while at the festival and "didn't make it home." While Ms. VerWiebe is obviously very well informed when it comes to jam-band festivals and their part in the demise of touring, she might take a little more care with her comparisons.

Posted by: Christy Ackman at June 14, 2005 9:48 PM

Ms. Ackman-- I think you are probably correct. I was trying to push the envelope and it may have seemed disrespectful to the young man who died and his family. I did not mean the article or the headline to be hurtful. It is concerning that Bonnaroo has had three fatalities in two years. Last year, they blamed drug use, although I'm sure the high heat could have been a factor as well. Purhaps I should have seperated the stories. I apologize if I offended anyone and will try to be more sensitive in the future. Ann

Posted by: Ann VerWiebe at June 15, 2005 11:11 AM

Any large gathering like Bonnaroo would be extremely fortunate to escape fatalities. How many cities of 90,000 go through several days with no deaths? We are, in fact, mortal, so death comes to us all. The odds of a death at Bonnaroo next year increase with the size of the audience.

Large festivals don't "kill" - they simply gather large numbers, thus increasing the chances that the perfectly normal will occur.

Check your local obits - your chances are much better at Bonnaroo than in any city of comparable size.

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at June 15, 2005 12:35 PM

BONNAROO IS A GREAT CARNIVAL WITH SIDESHOWS AROUND EVERY TURN. AWESOME VIBE FROM FANS. THE PROMOTERS ARE TRUE VISIONARIES. WE LOVED SELLING OUR OUTSIDER/FOLK ART AT CENTEROO. A GREAT SAMPLING OF ALL KINDS OF ART AND MUSIC. THE PROBLEM FOR TREY IS HE JUST DON'T HOLD UP IN THE MIX. THE FANS MADE PHISH WHO THEY WERE. TREY IS ALL HYPE AND FOLKS ARE SEEING THROUGH IT ALL. TRY CATCHING THAT FALLING STAR. PHUCK TREY AND THE PHISH HE RODE IN ON. I SAW THE LIGHT WHEN THE WORD PLAYED ON. PETER ROWAN'S CRUCIAL REGGAE ON AN ON. REAL FOLKS. REAL MUSIC. JUST ONE CHIEFS VIEWS. FREE LEONARD. AIM FOR HIGHER GROUND.

Posted by: BIG CHIEF at July 3, 2005 4:42 PM

little cheesy tonight

Posted by: Melissa at July 14, 2005 11:48 PM

i
take it back
with the hesitation blues

Posted by: Melissa Mischke at July 15, 2005 12:05 AM

I think your more likely to die in a house fire than at a music
festival in Tennessee.God Bless the family that lost their son this
year.We are all gonna die some day, and we hope it will be doing
something we love,like he did... listening to music.Thanks to the
folks who went to the trouble to put on a music event this BIG.
My life was changed watching OTIS REDDING at Monterey Pop
Festival singing "I'VE BEEN LOVIN YOU TO LONG". Thanks OTIS
and anybody who makes makes music not using a click track..

Posted by: Christopher Harris at August 2, 2005 1:53 AM

Do we have any figures on the numbers of births that take place at such festivals? As with exits from the stage of life, I`m sure few of us would actually plan to have a child on the gig field, but maybe FolkAlley.Com listeners know better. Wasn`t it frequent in the 60`s, does it still occur now?

I`m curious

Posted by: Suzy Davies at August 25, 2005 5:33 PM

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