Colors of Bonnaroo: a Music and Arts Festival

As another year closes, many bloggers are creating their Best of 2007 lists. My top choice in color this year isn’t a specific hue, palette, or pattern. The most vibrant example of a color community I experienced in 2007 was the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

by muzikspy

The photo above is of The Flaming Lips’ midnight-performance on Saturday of Bonnaroo, where super-heroes passed out piercing, red lazer-pointers to nearly 10,000 eager fans. The crowd was sea of bizarre costumes, balloons, bodies, and sweeping alien-blue lights, all crossed and marked by thousands of brilliant red lines. On stage, the equipment was painted bright orange, with outlines of yellow. A gang of fuzzy, red suit Santas cheered on the right, while on the left a group of green-headed aliens kicked and danced from the bottom of their white, feminine stockings to the top of their short, purple skirts.

Insane Amounts of Celebration

Although Bonnaroo has gotten too crowded, too publicized, too expensive, and unfortunately branded as a drug playground, the festival still beckons some of America’s youngest artists to celebrate the power of music.

by joshunter

Nestled in the Tennessee hills, Bonnaroo doesn’t give artists a chance to present their work, especially now that RV campers are excluded from the regular campers, as much as it gathers artists to remind them that there are thousands of like-minded individuals scattered all over the greater midwest, and even the world.

The effect is bittersweet. Large festivals, like Bonnaroo, create huge waste issues and make a giant sized carbon-footprint from all the motor-vehicle traffic. But, they also establish a community of almost 100,000, who, in someways, must bind together to make the experience work.

Welcome to the Show


If gypsies made sweet, black-magic love to characters from The Yellow Submarine, and then left their offspring to survive playing on street corners, the outcome would surely resembled the above. This is the scene that greeted guests just passed the giant, orange Bonnaroo arch.

Welcome Festival

This rag-tag band is a perfect example how color was integrated into the festival; not a main focus, but a byproduct of musicians and other creative minds working together. Color is everywhere.

It’s All About the Music (Almost)

Music was, of course, the main focus of Bonnaroo. Sight and sound are excellent lovers. From the time The Black Angels played on Thursday night, until Widespread Panic closed on Sunday, the presence of color was used to effectively co-exist with sound.


The dark tunes of The Black Angels were highlighted by deep reds, purple, hot pink, and long shadows. The aspect of lighting in sound is extremely important. The effect of color in music cannot be overlooked.

Black Angels

The reds and purples of that night set an ominous tone to coincide with the dark, tribal, Texan-rock and anti-war songs. The feeling was occasionally lifted when hundreds of neon green, yellow, and orange glow-sticks were sent rocketing from somewhere within the crowd like slow falling fireworks.

Colors of the Lovers

The majority of color was not on stage, but out among the people. Body paints, patch-work sun-skirts, the green reflection of elder trees, the growing cloud of burnt dirt, all these sights surrounded visitors, but the overwhelming color was skin.

The filth didn’t stop most people, and was publicly accepted. Being dirty is something guests simply accept or struggle with for the entire week. Most embraced their uncleanliness. The hues of skin on skin were among the most exciting examples of color present.

Bare chests, legs, and even full nudes coupled with the growing dust being kicked up, made the dominate shade of the festival a ripe blend of tired skin. Everywhere pink bodies, overly tanned from 14 hours of sun soaked music, crusted with days worth of dust and dirt, swarmed from tent to tent.

Sometimes the best colors are on each other.


Express Yourself

Some artists couldn’t help but create while attending the festival. This splash of blue on orange was particularly inspiring. A bit of city in the country hills. The complimenting shades of blue are tied together with a strand of purple, making the contrast against the orange background more obvious. Those unfamiliar with graffiti as an artistic medium should note the use of black shadows that frame the lettering. Some of the most interesting perspectives are sometimes on back alley walls.


Next Year?

As far as music festivals go, I was far more impressed with the Pitchfork Music Festival, than Bonnaroo this year. But, having been to several festivals in 2007, none brought out a more diverse spectrum of color than Bonnaroo. Lollapolooza, for example, tries too hard to configure a color setting that defines the entire event, making it difficult to get a good variety of color.

This year, the best display of color at a festival, I found, were the freezing nights and sweltering days of Manchester, Tennessee, overrun by youthful, artistic celebration. Well worth the exposure to be surrounded by such amazing beauty.

Title by joshunter.

Author: aaroncolter

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