The 4th annual Bonnaroo Festival took place this weekend, drawing more than 80,000 music fans to Manchester, TN. Attendance numbers were down from last year’s all-time high. One fan didn’t make it home, but the cause of his death appears to be a non-related health condition.
Aside from this tragedy, Bonnaroo was also listed as a cause in the Phish break-up earlier this year. Festivals like Bonnaroo and MerleFest present fans of jam-bands and their bluegrass and folk brethren a kind of one-stop shopping – all of your favorites in one location at one low price.
So, what does this mean for traditional summer jam-band touring? Will single weekend events eclipse the traveling caravans that started out following the Grateful Dead and moved on to other tours (including defunct Phish and defunctish Leftover Salmon and the still road-worthy String Cheese Incident and Gov’t Mule) after the death of Jerry Garcia? Is the aging fan-base looking for an event that offers a lot in a small amount of time (so that bosses and families aren’t tested) or are the bands losing steam? And, can a jam-band event really be created like lightening in a bottle unlike the organic growth surrounding the Dead Head movement? Bonnaroo tried to offer both sides of the coin with the Zooma Tour, which was cancelled due to low ticket sales. I’ve got my dancing bears bandana and I’m ready to go!