Avoid a Music Festival Meltdown: Survival Tips from a Festival Veteran
Chris Alexander, aka Bonnaroo Chris, is a music festival veteran and dedicated Bonnaroovian. In 2007 Chris attended his first Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and never looked back. He started his blog, Bonnaroo Chris, shortly thereafter, chronicling his adventures on the farm and providing an online resource to his fellow festival goers. We sat down with Chris for an exclusive interview to discuss packing, camping, cooking and all things Bonnaroo.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself, how you came to fall in love with Bonnaroo and what your inspiration was for creating your website.
When I’m not Bonnarooing, I live in South Florida, surrounded by the salty sea air and flip flops. I do marketing communications for the international disaster relief charity ShelterBox and am an avid rock climber and adventure course junkie.
Way back in 2005, I convinced nine other Florida friends to attend the VooDoo Music Festival on Halloween weekend in New Orleans. Sadly, Hurricane Katrina smashed the city and surrounding areas. A version of the concert still took place, but we all canceled. When I saw the 2007 Bonnaroo lineup, (The Police, Tool, Widespread Panic, etc.), I once again tried to convince the same friends. Only one said yes. He and I were completely under prepared the first year but we still had the most positive and unforgettable experience. The online resources back then were scarce, just Inforoo and Poorvin. I started keeping a blog about my experiences and it just evolved from there.
How many years have you attended Bonnaroo?
2016 will be my ninth visit to Bonnaroo. It may sound like a lot, but I’ve been honored to meet many Bonnaroo royalty (folks who’ve attended every festival since 2002). That’s a lot. It’s an amazing space of music, art, food and people…a lot of people from all over the country and the world. I’ve met folks from Canada, Israel, Germany, Egypt, Australia, England and South Africa.
Why is Bonnaroo your favorite music festival?
I love other festivals but Bonnaroo is my priority and it absorbs a lot of my passion and time. The camaraderie at Bonnaroo is universally positive and uplifting. There might be the occasional theft or overzealous fan, but I find myself wishing people in the real world were as polite as Bonnaroovians.
As a Bonnaroo veteran, you must also be a camping expert. Can you share your top five Bonnaroo camping tips?
I love camping! Bonnaroo can be a tough place – hot, humid and dusty. Or worse, MUD.
- Pack your gear in tubs or bins that can keep out water or dust.
- Bring your own shade. Run tarps over your tents. Use free-standing tent poles to get airflow between the two. Makes a huge difference.
- Brings boots. Just in case.
- Go solar. If you’re concerned about power, there is rarely a lack of sunshine.
- Meet your neighbors. They’re just as excited to be there as you. Go say hi. Now that you are friends, you can keep an eye on each other’s stuff.
What are five (camping) items you’d never hit the farm without?
- A comfortable chair. I like the zero gravity kind, perfect for napping.
- Rope, bungees and duct tape. ‘Nuff said.
- A headlamp makes for hands-free sight at night. Invaluable if you need to use a Porta-Potty.
- Solar shower. You don’t have to leave it out too long to get hot but I prefer morning showers when the water is cold.
- Dry ice. Keeps your food fresh and drinks cold all weekend. Plus, it doesn’t melt like wet ice, so your cooler doesn’t turn into a soupy mess.
What has your experience been like using dry ice?
I love using dry ice! I always use it for a specific purpose and it works great every time. Penguin has retail locations all across the country, including several right outside of Manchester, Tennessee. To find a retailer near you or along your Bonnaroo route, check out this store locator: https://dryiceideas.com/penguinbrand.
Please share any tips you have for using dry ice at Bonnaroo.
I use a [borrowed] large marine cooler and put three 5-pound bricks on the bottom, wrapped in a towel. Then, fill the cooler with as many bags of regular ice as possible. We keep it shaded (but not in the tent where it’s hot) and wrapped in blankets. If you buy it early on Thursday, it will last through the majority of the weekend.
Please reference the chart below for a breakdown of recommended dry ice amounts to get you through your festival weekend. For a standard 25-quart cooler, 10 pounds will last up to 24 hours. Avoid placing the cooler in direct sunlight and keep it insulated during the day to extend the life of the dry ice. Remember, dry ice sublimates upon contact with air, so opening the cooler frequently may cause the dry ice to sublimate faster.
*Listed dry ice weights are estimated starting points only
Avoid direct contact with skin by using gloves, tongs or a towel when handling dry ice. Wrap the dry ice in a towel and use a hammer to break it into smaller pieces.
How do you pack a cooler with dry ice?
Separate frozen and refrigerated food and drinks into two coolers. For the refrigerated cooler, place the dry ice at the bottom and your items on top with a sufficient layer of insulation in-between. For keeping food frozen, place your items at the bottom of your cooler with the dry ice on top and a layer of insulation in-between. (Here’s a trick: To help keep food frozen for longer, put half the dry ice at the bottom of the cooler and half at the top of the cooler with your items and insulation in-between). For more safety and handling tips, check out this Safe Uses and Handling Guide.
What are the best food items to bring to survive the weekend?
Coffee, fresh fruit, cheese and I usually go with either bagels or granola for breakfast. Trail mix and fruit/nut bars are handy to eat between sets. Sandwiches are a handy and customizable lunch option. I eat dinner in Centeroo as the selection is delicious and not terribly expensive. Plus, trekking back to the campsite for meals a couple times can be brutal.
Do you have any Bonnaroo-appropriate recipes you’d like to share?
Bonnaroo Chris’ Veggie Lasagna
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
- 3 garlic cloves (or minced from a jar)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 yellow, red or green peppers, chopped
- 1 tsp. minced, fresh thyme
- 1 container of sliced mushrooms, roughly chop
- 1 package of mozzarella cheese (or dairy free cheese “daiya” cheddar)
- 6 small green zucchinis, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 6 small yellow squash, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 3 large carrots, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 6-12 large basil leaves
- Spicy? Add red pepper flakes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a big bowl, mix tomato sauce, garlic, onion, peppers, thyme, mushrooms, salt and pepper and 1/2 package of cheese together. Set aside.
- Spray shallow baking dish with Pam or rub with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Spread a light layer of the tomato mixture in the baking dish. Layer each of the vegetables with a tomato layer in-between. If using basil leaves, add them in the middle somewhere. Top with 1/2 of remaining cheese. Layer tomatoes and spread remaining cheese. Cover with tin foil. Cheese may stick to tin foil, so wrap lightly.
- Bake for 40 minutes to an hour. It’s usually done or really close to done as soon as I smell it cooking. Let it cool before putting it in the fridge overnight. Once cooled, cut into portion sizes and put in Tupperware containers.
- They can be reheated on a flat top or camp burner and I’ve also enjoyed it right out of the cooler. Sometimes it’s just too hot to cook.
What are your tips for beating the heat at Bonnaroo?
Drink a lot of water. Pace yourself, especially during the hottest parts of the day. I wear a big, floppy hat and long sleeved (wicking) shirts to avoid the sun. I use a backpack chair, which is a bit heavy, but it works well as a chair. I simply find a shady spot to sit and listen. Frozen macchiatos are an annual tradition. Go for a dip in the fountain to refresh!
Please share any other tips you have for surviving (and having a blast) at Bonnaroo.
Pick some of the acts or events that you can’t miss but leave time open to explore. I got caught in a jazz parade one night and unexpectedly ended up dancing my way through Centeroo. Last year, the Bonnaroo Cheerleading Squad rushed in, lifted me up in the air and cheered, then ran off. Be sure to find me and get one of my custom stickers. I’ll be at the ShelterBox tent in Planet Roo every morning. I’ve met so many diverse and interesting people over the years and they are some of the nicest people on the planet. That’s really what keeps me coming back. Good vibes.