Bonnaroo and I have been indulging a warped, sadomasochistic relationship since the festival’s first year. For days I prep and pamper her, get her ready for the big show, and what thanks do I get? She snaps at me on a whim, feeds me sickening meals, and leaves me to die of pneumonia in a moldy communal tent. Still, I love her backstage, night after night, taking all that she has to give.
It might be shameful that I proceeded to abuse her in public. Back in 2007, I published “How Bonnaroo Killed My Rock n Roll Fantasy” in the Knoxville Voice (another paper which has sadly gone the way of the fish wrapper.) I was set to do a big write up again in 2008, but my touring schedule didn’t allow for my attendance. Perhaps that was the Hand of God protecting her from my venomous tongue.
Last year, she finally lashed out at me. Maybe she’d had enough of my shit. Maybe I’d had enough of hers, too. Either way, she kicked my ass.
What happened was, after working for days in the hot sun, getting fucked by production’s budget cuts and choking down the slop served in Plebian Catering, I needed to unwind.
There is this bridge out on the country roads of Manchester, TN, a little ways from the Bonnaroo site. Like many young bucks before me, I leapt from the concrete wall over the catwalk and plunged into the river 40 feet below. I splashed and hooted and paddled to shore.
I discovered a rope swing under the bridge. I pulled it up to the highest bank. Having jumped the bridge, I thought, What could be the harm in a 15 foot swing on a rope?
I have one rule when it comes to dare-devil activities: Try anything once, after you’ve seen someone else do it first. Well, it turns out that the second part is the most important.
My feet gently grazed the rocks on the edge of the shore. But I found plenty more about 6 inches beneath the surface of the river. As the pain shot into my guts from my knee and feet—making me want to puke and cry simultaneously, but unable to do either—I thought to myself, That wasn’t very graceful.
Not very smart, either, but so it goes with anything fun. Not that hobbling up that muddy embankment on the battered purple soles of my feet was a blast. Examining the cuts and abrasions and the blood pouring from a hole in my knee, my rigger buddies put it to me straight.
“You’re shit’s all fucked up, man.”
Should I go home?
“Don’t be such a pussy! Just walk it off.”
That seemed reasonable. So I walked it off all night, pounding drinks—and whatever—from one end of the festival site to the other. Mile after limping mile, I just walked it off.
I woke up in my car the next morning, late for work, and as I stood up to piss out the door, it was clear that I wouldn’t be walking anymore.
Laying on my couch with an elevated leg, I missed Nine Inch Nails’ last show in America—or so it is said. As I licked my wounds, acts like Rodrigo y Gabriela and Band of Horses took the stage for rosey-faced dolls and camel-backed jocks seeing the light. I could have seen The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Mars Volta, or Erika Badu, but I had my swollen toe X-rayed instead.
Sometimes you act like you’re 19, then wake up feeling 40.
Of course, by Monday I was good to go. Prancing across the empty stage, I climbed the steel all afternoon—one of my favorite things in the world—but even that had lost its luster somehow. I blamed it on the 3-day old casserole, but it was probably jealousy. Bonnaroo had loved her lovers, and forgotten all about me.
Fucking Bonnaroo. Maybe I deserved it for mocking her all those years. It would be hypocritical to ignore the fact that I have lavished in the milk of her teet. I thought that, since she was 100,000 times bigger than me, it was justified self-defense. Well, apparently she knows how to defend herself pretty well, too.
I’m sorry, baby. Be good to me this year, and I promise—we’ve all heard this one before—I’ll never hurt you again.
[The fruits of these domestic squabbles—“An Open Letter to Ashley Capps” and “How Bonnaroo Killed My Rock n Roll Fantasy”—are posted below.]