Putting the Pieces Together, One Week before the Storm

Even More 'Roo, Please! Wedding Rings, Yoga Mats and Rock 'n' Roll

Even More 'Roo, Please!

Feature Story

by Kevin Crowe

"That's a tollbooth cluster,â” says Carey Archer, the chief operating officer at AC Entertainment. â“You see I-24 right there? What they'll do is, there is actually an exit that comes right off I-24, and the cars filter in. And we scan their tickets. Then there's hundreds of parking people directing traffic.â”

Nearly 700 acres of farmland, located in Manchester, Tenn., stretches out along a narrow country road. There isn't much to see, not yet at least. â“It's kind of incredible,â” Archer goes on, staring across the massive farm. â“You wouldn't believe the amount of planning that goes into it. Where are we parking first? What routes are they going to take? How's the timing going to work so everyone's parked and don't interfere with one another as it all comes together?â”

It's all about the timing, and everything has its place. To keep things running smoothly, these final few days are of the utmost importance, because each piece needs to fall into the right spot at just the right time before the festival opens its gates to those lucky enough to hold a ticket. This coming weekend, when the cars will be waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the 'Roo will look completely different, with hundreds of parking attendants directing traffic as they attempt to control a small city whose citizens are in a madcap race to get to the same place at the same time.

Today, however, it's nothing doing, just a slow summer day all around, as far as the eye can see. A few cars speed down Bushy Branch Road, cutting directly through Bonnaroo proper. Farther inside, towards center stage, things tend to get busier, and the pristine vistas turn into construction yard without warning.

â“Everything that you see outside of this wallâ"this green wallâ"is camping,â” Archer says, pointing toward the heart of the farm. â“There's about 400 acres of campground. All the way around, and across Bushy Branch Road.â”

Inside the green wall, they're working tirelessly to make the farm come to life, building stages and pitching tents and laying boardwalks. Just like they've done every year since 2002.

There's a skeleton of the main stage, with workers gathered around, all of them dwarfed by this behemoth. Today, they'll raise the roof, a painstakingly slow ordeal. Inch by inch, the roof will rise for an unbearably long hour.

The 'Roo has already begun to show itself. It's organic, coming to life through a strange-yet-beautiful kind of mitosis. Nothing unexpected happens; everything is planned. On the outside gate, written in large, black letters, a sign reads, No Work . Everything has already begun to fall into place.

Large plastic mushrooms are lying on the ground, waiting to be made into a fountain. A few artists busy themselves with a sculpture project. Their work will continue well into the festival. Each day, it'll be closer to completion as concertgoers make the long trek towards center stage.

There's a trailer behind the main stage with haystacks stacked all around. It doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary, but Archer says that it has served as a recording studio. And in years past, many unexpected collaborations have taken place within its walls. It's all recorded and catalogued. But none of it has been released.

Right now, there is no music, save the eerily rhythmic ping of construction crews doing their jobs.

When the gates finally open and the crowds begin to move in like a giant game of Tetris, it's a beautiful sight to see. â“It's the best feeling in the world,â” Archer continues. â“When you're sitting on the main stage, or you're cruising around through the campgrounds, and all the music is going on. It's extremely gratifying.

â“Over 80,000, including guests. That doesn't include staff, all the security guards, parking people and medical peopleâ. It's a city. You set up a city. Eighty-thousand is not a bad size for a city.â”

Columns

All content © 2007 Metropulse .