Tuesday, July 03, 2007
I just got back from Bonnaroo a couple of days ago. I wish I had the time to write about everything that I experienced there, but unfortunately I don't have enough time for that. As I mentioned in my previous post, it was the first time I had ever been to any type of major concert, so it was an absolutely mind blowing experience for me to start it off by going to one of the largest festivals in North America. There were 80,000 fans who bought tickets, along with 6,000 staff, and close to 10,000 vendors.
I didn't get a chance to see half the bands that I wanted to see. I worked till 6pm each day so I missed out on a lot of great performances during the day, and I had to shower after work, even though I wanted to skip straight to the music, because we were filthier and stinkier than anyone else there, and my stench was revolting even to myself. Regardless of this I still had the time of my life and regret absolutely nothing. I managed to see Tool, which was a major achievement for me. I've been following them since they released their first demo and were virtually unheard of. I got to check out the White Stripes, The Police, and the Black Angels also.
I worked for Clean Vibes, which had the monumental task of cleaning up during and after the festival. Even though the work turned out to be much harder than I ever could have anticipated, it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Clean Vibes took such great care of the employees and the people that volunteered to help clean up that I felt as if I should have been paying them.
The advantages of working with Clean Vibes, rather than being a regular festival attendee, were numerous. They hired a catering company which prepared three fantastic meals a day. We had 24/7 access to the catering tent which was stocked with ice, water, juices, ice cream, desserts, and various other goodies. I realized how fortunate we were to have such a luxury after I witnessed at least 50 people waiting in line to buy bags of ice for $5 a pop. We were also able to bypass the sea of people which were entering the venue and being searched. Security usually didn't even bother to search us, and if they did they conveniently overlooked the alcohol and weed that we had on us. During the cleanup the two other people I went with and myself groundscored a few cool items, including 4 glass bowls (one which was brand new, packed with weed, with a bag of weed sitting beside it), 3 one hitters, a half ounce of opium, 5 blocks of hash, shoes, clothing, camping equipment, $35 in cash, over $20 in change, an insane amount of beer, and various other items.
We had a few staff parties after the festival was over. I didn't think the official staff party would be very big considering the fact that I couldn't see where everyone was camped out at, and it didn't look like there was many people left. Turns out I was wrong. Rhiannon (my lady friend who accompanied me to the festival) and I could hear the party kicking in Centaroo from over a half of a mile away. They had unlimited free beer, a live band and fireworks. As soon as I arrived at the party and sat down to take everything in I had 4 bowls passed to me. The staff of Clean Vibes also had their own party each night. On the last night of cleanup we all went to a Mexican restaurant to eat. Anna, the owner of the company, paid for all our meals and one margarita for each of us. She also walked around and gave each of us a plastic cup and a shot of 1800, after which we all raised our cups in the air and toasted.
The work was very hard. I've worked at least 20 different jobs, including the military and several factories. Aside from the Army, cleaning up after Bonnaroo was the hardest job I've ever done. The heat was very intense and dry. The temperature hovered around 95 degrees every day were were there. The area was also in a drought and it hadn't rained there for two months, which caused massive amounts of dust to be stirred up by the 80,000 people and vehicles traveling about. I smelled like a dumpster was caked in dirt, sweat, and god only knows what else each and every day. I believe that we ended up cleaning up over 500 tons of trash. During the festival we rode around on 4-wheelers and hauled off the trash and recycling bags that were in the barrels located in the two locations that we were assigned to, and that was by far the easiest phase of the cleanup operation. I was blown away by the amount of trash littered across over 500 acres of farmland the day after the festival. I've read messages mentioning the amount of trash left at the festival on various message boards, and the majority of the people haven't the slightest clue as to to the effort that goes into cleaning up after Bonnaroo.
Clean Vibes has a no trace policy, which for us meant that every tiny little scrap of paper and cigaratte butt had to be picked up. After the festival we first gathered the thousands of bags of trash which were left at the campground and venue areas, and then performed line sweeps of each area as well. The group I worked with had the task of cleaning alongside Bushy Branch road, which was the road leading into the main gate. The majority of the time we were knee deep in a ditch with high grass, bugs, and the intense heat beating down on us. There was trash every few inches and bending down to pick up every can, bottle, cigarette butt, pieces of paper, and everything else you can imagine, took quite the toll on my back. We spent a lot of time crawling around on our hands and knees in the highly littered areas also.
After we finished cleaning Bushy Branch Rd, which took us two full days, they disbanded the groups and formed line sweeping crews. The line sweeps were the worst part of the job. We would line up and walk/crawl through the various campgrounds and fields throughout Bonnaroo. There were a slew of things which made the job even more difficult, including the aforementioned heat, dust, bugs, as well as shit buckets, ripped bags, rotting maggot infested food, condoms, thousands of tent steaks (which we had to dig up), billions of cigarette butts, and co-workers who were unable to walk/crawl in a straight line. Fortunately I had the pleasure of working alongside some of the most unique, intelligent, and highly motivated individuals that I have ever met, and together we were able to overcome all the challenges that we encountered, and had a fantastic time in the process.
My words are still not enough to describe the full experience of cleaning up after Bonnaroo, but hopefully they will give you an idea. Needless to say it was absolutely filthy, even if it was cleaner than the previous years. It also made me realize just how wasteful, lazy, and careless people are with the waste that they produce. I'm not the type of person that usually bitches about anything, but if you're reading this and you happen to be one of those people who throws their cigarette butts on the ground or anything else for that matter... please pick up your shit! I'm a smoker myself, and it doesn't take that much effort to knock the cherry off your cigarette and throw it in a trashcan, ashtray, or even in your pocket. If you attend festivals or concerts pick up a piece of trash on your way out, or even grab a bag and fill it up. If everyone did so it would make things much easier on the people who bust their ass to clean up such events. To those of you who do and make an attempt to recycle.. thank you. You truly are making a difference and helping to make the only home we have a better place to live.
This post is getting rather long, so I'm going to cut it short. The pictures that I used in this post were not taken by me. Whenever I get the pictures that I personally took developed, I'll post them on here also. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments about Bonnaroo that you have here. I'll begin posting albums again shortly....