Monday, July 27, 2009

Bonnaroo versus FloydFest, part one

This weekend I went to Floydfest, a music & arts festival in Floyd, VA. I had a lot of fun! It's the second major festival I've been to, the other being Bonnaroo. Here are things I liked better in one and the other.

4 Things that made Bonnaroo better

1. Number of acts. Bonnaroo had about twice the established (nationally touring) music acts that FloydFest. There's always, always something to your tastes playing at Bonnaroo - if you don't like the jam band that's playing, you can go see electronica, or hip-hop, or country, or indie rock. At FloydFest, there's a much narrower point of view. If you don't like the bluegrass on the main stage, you can go see... something that also has a fiddle/banjo/whatever.

2. Less family-friendly. FloydFest is a family event. Bonnaroo is not. This give Bonnaroo a distinct edge as a twentysomething, and that's as far as I'm going.

3. Less sanctimonious. It's great that Floydfest has a social focus, it really is. And this is partially me being a bad feminist. But damnit, I go to music festivals to relax. I don't go to get guilted about mountain coal.

4. Size. The 90,000 people at Bonnaroo give it a certain propulsion and energy that the 12,000 at Floydfest can't match.

4 things that made FloydFest better

1. Better organized. It was easy to get in and out of FloydFest, and the staff helped us there at every turn. At Bonnaroo, it took eight hours to get in in addition to the seven hours of driving. FloydFest took two hours tops. This contributed to the relaxing atmosphere of the weekend.

2. Physical context. There is no where more beautiful than Southwest Virginia. I live here, and I still kept looking around, going "wow".

Additionally, the sightlines and acoustics were better at FloydFest.

3. Social conscience. Yeah, I bitched about it above, but FloydFest is a lot more socially responsible than Bonnaroo. Bonnaroo, as I said, is a festival for 20somethings - which often means wasteful and frivolous. FloydFest puts a constant emphasis on respect for the earth and for all creatures.

4. Size. The 12,000 people at FloydFest put a lot less pressure on "get here, get there, get this spot." You can sit and see the stage and relax.

All in all, I have to say that while I enjoyed FloydFest a lot, I had a lot more fun at Bonnaroo. I was better prepared physically and mentally for Bonnaroo; we bought the tickets to that festival in January and had been hyping ourselves since, whereas I didn't even buy FloydFest tickets until the week of. I was also in better shape for Bonnaroo - I had a tough time walking up some of the hills in Floyd. Additionally, Floyd came at kind of a bad time for us - we didn't get to go with friends, and it's an externally stressful time for me and my partner for a few reasons.

One thing that I noticed while at FloydFest was the abundance of artists who were not white able-bodied men - it seemed that there were a lot more female artists and artists of color than at Bonnaroo. I'm going to do a break down of that later this afternoon.


  1. good post- I've never heard of Floyd Fest before. It sounds a bit like Green Man Festival in Northern Minnesota. Their whole theme is being eco conscious, but they have more alternative rock type music

  2. I feel like a lot of people go to Floydfest just to be with other socially-conscious people in a beautiful spot and chill out. It's clearly a music fest, but I think the band name recognition is beside the point for a lot of folks -- it was for me when I went last year, but I knew I loved the genre and the setting. I didn't make it to Bonnaroo (I really want to someday!) but I can definitely see where the size in comparison to Floydfest creates both the more hyped and party-like atmosphere, as well as contributing to how much/little Floyd can provide bands people have heard of.

    I didn't find Floydfest all that preach-y on the whole, actually -- certain booths and acts maybe, but nothing that detracted from the whole. They could have ramped it up this year though, or I could be more immune to strangers lecturing me on how to be a better liberal. (Every other downtown corner in DC has charity-muggers on it yelling lines like "Do you care about children?" and walking with you for a block if they sense weakness. Yes I do like children in fact, but I also plan my charitable giving and do not like ambushed guilt when I just want to get on my train.)

    It'd be fun to meet up at Floydfest some year, if you plan to return! I can't commit to next year, since it'll be within a month from when our wedding bells will be chiming, but it could happen.


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