By Zobo © 2002
Was this all just a crazy dream? I never thought that in a matter of three days, I would be able to see ALL of my favorite touring bands and hang out with almost all of my music-freak friends, who live all over the world. Not only did I never think it could happen, I never thought it would happen so smoothly!
I arrived at our hotel in Manchester, Tennessee on Thursday and it seemed like it was a ghost town. We heard awful traffic reports coming from the other direction, but it took us just over two hours to get there from Atlanta. Being the first three to arrive, there wasn’t much to do so we anxiously awaited the arrival of the “hotel crew” which was comprised of nine rooms at the Country Inns and Suites. Night fell upon us, and as more and more people were showing up at the hotel, we had a nice small party going on. The one smart cell in my brain told me to make it an early night (2:00 AM) because of all the madness that lied in the days ahead. Good thing I listened to that cell.
By friday morning and all of the hotel crew had arrived. It was time to get organized to head over to the festival. Instead of taking the Interstate there, my friend Chris said he knew of a back road that would get us there quicker. Chris was very wrong! A half-mile on the back road, the traffic was horrendous. The group decision was to park at the Food Lion and made the four mile hike in the 90 degree weather to Bonnaroo. This was the only bad part of the entire weekend. We arrived at the festival just in time for Soulive and instantly they made me forget about the awful walk we had just made. The first thing I noticed about the Bonnaroo Festival was how respectful everybody was of each other. This rarely happens when there are 75,000 people in one place, but the vibe remained exactly the same the entire weekend. After Soulive, we checked out Gov’t Mule. I am not the biggest fan of the Mule, but they did impress me with a couple songs.
The Mule set ended and we made our way over to the main stage to see Widespread Panic. Being from the South, I should totally dig these guys like the rest of my friends do, but they don’t really do it for me. After one set of Panic, I was ready for a little break so I headed to my friend’s campground and relaxed with some B’s for a while. This was exactly what I needed after spending the entire day in the sun and heat. After chilling for a while, we decided to get prepared for the Keller Williams Incident which was Keller Williams with String Cheese Incident as his backup band. Being a huge Keller and Cheese freak, I anxiously awaited the start of the Midnight show. We secured a great spot that was instantly packed. Because I 'm a little guy, I decided to move back a bit with this guy Kevin who I had met a couple of times, but never really hung out with. This turned out to be a great decision because Kevin is as big as a goofball as I am and we had an amazing time partying together. Keller and Cheese rocked the house down playing mostly Keller original songs with a few Cheese songs thrown in the mix. This show grooved all the way until 4:30 AM.
Because we parked and had to walk four miles to the festival and we didn’t have a ride back to our hotel, so we figured we would be walking all the way back. Just outside of the gate, we saw a big white van with TRANSPORT written on it's side. This was like some force from above had sent this van to give us a ride back to the hotel because I might have died if I had to walk. We made it safely back to the hotel and called it at night at 7 AM.
Funniest story of the night – in my completely altered state of mind at about 2:30 AM, I go up to use the Port-a-John and I see some guy wearing a hat that says Tennessee Volunteers so I decided that I had to talk to him about college football because I love it so much. The conversation went something like this:
Zobo: Hey man, you guys are going to have a really great football team this year.
Guy in hat: What are you talking about dude?
Zobo: You’re wearing a Tennessee Volunteers hat so I was commenting on your team.
Guy in hat: No, my hat says Volunteer because I am a volunteer at this festival.
Zobo: Don’t mind me or pay attention to anything I say tonight!!!!
Awoke around noon and was ready for what Day Two of Bonnaroo was going to bring to us. We drove to the festival this time and there was no traffic at all. We got there in less than fifteen minutes, right in time to see Robert Randolph and the Family Band. If you have never seen these guys before, DO NOT miss them the next time they are around. It was an excellent mixture of funk and gospel. I could have done without the preaching, but the music was just fantastic. We decided to head over to the main stage, and I run into Holly who I had met in Japan and she was with my friend Chris who lives in Atlanta. I told them where we would be camped out at the main stage and they made their way over there with us so it added more people to our fun party crew. We waited an hour until String Cheese Incident started playing again, so while we waited, I just hung out and met the people who are around us. I talk to this one interesting character who calls himself the Mayor. He said he gets all dressed up for moe. shows and people call him the Mayor. Out of nowhere, he pulls out a nametag that says “Ezeriah P Funk – I Met the Mayor” and asks me if I want it. My response: “Does a one-legged duck swim in a circle?”
I wanted the nametag and of course, I will now forever wear it when I am out partying at shows. Eventually, the Cheese come on and put on a great show. They didn’t play too many of their heavy-hitters, but I almost lost it when they played Black Clouds > Kashmir > Black Clouds. Seeing my favorite touring band with about 60 people I know from all over the world while wearing an “Ezeriah P Funk” name tag was the most perfect way to spend a late Saturday afternoon! After String Cheese, it was Widespread Panic’s turn to play. Although, I had low expectations, I was completely blown away by the first set. There are about eight songs by Panic that I really dig and they just so happened to play almost all of those songs! And it was so awesome to be around most of the people who I love to see music with.
Panic ended about 12:30 AM and next on the list of shows to see was moe. Being a pretty big moe. fan, I was fired up for their set. While I walked over there, I saw some Japanese people and I wanted to say hello. I walked up to them and say “Sumimassen” (excuse me) and they immediately turned to me and screamed out, “ZOBO!!!!!!!” It ends up that they were friends of my buddy Yuki Sekiya and I had met them in San Francisco for New Years and String Cheese. I had seen Phish in Japan with McGrupp and Señor a couple of years ago and I always get really excited to see Japanese people at shows in America. I talked with them for a while and they needed to go find their friends so we went on our separate ways.
I met up with all of my friends at moe. and they were rocking until about 5:30 AM. This night was especially fun because our entire crew decided to throw down hard and we were all in very goofy states of mind. Highlights of the moe. show were seeing Happy Hour Hero and Rebubula. Rebubula ranks up there as one of my favorite jamband songs of all time and hearing it at 5:00 AM was perfect. At some point in the night, I saw the Mayor walking around and grabbed his attention to show him my nametag. He just smiled, shook my hand and went on his merry way. I have a feeling that he was feeling as good as I was that night. The show ended and we drove back to the hotel and finally crashed out at 7:45 AM after eating some excellent breakfast at the Country Inn.
Funniest story of the night – moe. was playing a song called Seat of My Pants and my friend Mike got my attention and told me to look at our friend Jarad. I turned around and Jarad was dancing in his boxers with his shorts wrapped around his ankles. I informed Jarad that his pants had fallen down and he acted all surprised and pulled them up. It wasn’t until the next day that I found out they were playing a joke on me.
I awake on Sunday and feel like I have been smoking crack rocks all weekend because my body wants to shut down on me. I know that there is only one more day of this madness so I figure I can survive. I decided my main goal of the day is to spend time with Sabrina and Brian from Sacramento because I hadn’t seen too much of them over the weekend. My friend Chad called me while I'm driving to the festival, and told me that Sabrina and Brian are with our crew so I am so psyched to get there. I was checking out the Phil Lesh & Friends set when I got a call from Raf telling me that the Superjam is about to start and that all of my favorite musicians are up there.
I bee-lined it over there right in time for the start of Superjam and I see Nershi, Kang, Travis, Kyle (all from String Cheese), and Bela Fleck, Stanton Moore, Edgar Meyer, Robert Randolph, and about four other musicians up there ready to throw down. This jam session was one of the musical highlights of the weekend for me because I have always wondered what would happen if all of the people I enjoy listening to shared the stage at the same time. It was everything I thought it could be and more. All of these people are so talented and their jamming was just ridiculous.
After the Superjam, we make the trek over to see Trey Anastasio who was playing with his nine-piece band. I had seen Trey a couple of times with this band. I have never been blown away by them until the first set of this show! Even more beautiful was that I was hanging out with Sabrina and Brian and felt like I had achieved my main goal of the day. Sabrina and Brian are two of my favorite people to see at shows because they are as sarcastic as I am, and we never ever have any serious conversations. And Sabrina is probably the most gullible person I have ever met and I love to screw around with people who will believe anything I say. We spent the entire second set of the show cracking up and I don’t even really know what was said.
After the Trey show ended, I separated from Sabrina and Brian and walked around the campgrounds with some of the Atlanta crew. We found our friend’s campsite and chilled out there until the traffic somewhat died down exiting the venue and we finally got back at the hotel around 7 AM. I ate some breakfast, crashed out around 8:45 AM only to be awoken less than two hours later by a phone call telling me that my ride home was ready to leave. It was rough waking up, but I survived the first Bonnaroo and was going to make it home in one piece.
Mark 'Zobo' Zoblotsky is a funny guy and Japhan from Atlanta, GA.