Flashback to 1999:

Arkansas’ favorite son was still in the White House, many of us were enjoying the tail end of one of the greatest economic booms in American history, boy bands were infesting the airwaves, and I was in the middle of one of NYC’s infamous Sunday night hip-hop parties at the Tunnel Nightclub.  There I stood head nodding to music provided by Funkmaster Flex in oversized Karl Kani jeans with an Avirex t-shirt.  Surely light on the melanin tone most Tunnel patrons on Sunday night had in droves, but I was in my comfort zone nonetheless.  In many ways, I was the quintessential New York hip-hop kid who not only listened to the music but embraced the culture.

Eleven years later I embark on my first trip to the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.  Clearly I have stepped out of my aforementioned comfort zone and have entered an alternate universe in time and space.  The boy I once was that was partying in 1999 would certainly have a few things to say to the man I am today who can only wish to party like it was 1999.  That boy was naïve and unpredictable but fun to be around.  This man is controlled and deliberate in his actions, borderline over analytical.

And now he’s going where?  To listen to what?  I just felt a ripple in the time continuum of my life.

But one thing I have learned as I continue on my path through the trials and tribulations of adulthood; life is all about personal growth.  You’re either growing or you’re dying and if you’re maintaining – you’re dying.  I think back as a young child riding in the car with my father.  His radio dial was permanently fixed on the classic rock station.  Rock N Roll from the 60’s and 70’s.  Great music, no doubt, but it was if my father was stuck in time.  Possibly trying to capture a piece of his childhood when times were simpler.  Or maybe the music was just that much better.  That wasn’t for me to decide, it was his choice and his ear drums.

Me: Dad, why don’t you listen to Nirvana?

My Father: Because they will never be as good as Led Zeppelin.

Me: Oh.

And something strange happened.  As I inched closer towards my twenty-tenth birthday over the last few years I realized that my radio dial was permanently fixed on 90s East Coast hip-hop.  If a new hip-hop act with realistically strong redeeming qualities came to the forefront, I would easily dismiss the act.  Clearly they could never be as great as Biggie or Wu-Tang in my eyes, right?  Gasp.  To reference another Prince song, maybe I’m just like my father.  It was time to change.

I immediately immersed myself in music of all genres.  Forced myself to expand my musical tastes.  Became a fan of artists I never thought I would listen to before.  Read different music publications such as this very Zine.  Bonnaroo, if not a culmination of this major shift, is at least a chance to continue shifting.  Sure, I will have the safety net of two staples of my more formidable years, Jay-Z and Nas, but I will have no choice but to step out of my comfort zone.  Heck, I’ve never even camped before for more than a night.  What the heck is this camelback device?  This truly is an experience I am equal parts excited and anxious to enter.  There’s no turning back now and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bonnaroo will give me the opportunity to see a new personal favorite, the Black Keys.  It will give me the chance to see what all the fuss is about for acts such as Phoenix and The National (I’m pretty sure I already know, I just need live confirmation!).  It will allow me to see acts such as Dawes; that may be at the early stages of a wonderful career ahead of them.  It will put me in the position to tell people for the rest of my life that I have seen Stevie Wonder perform live.  It will allow me to turn the dial to my father’s radio and sit back and listen to the amazing guitar sounds of Jeff Beck.  And it will be a chance to see Jay-Z for probably the 15th time (*yawn* sorry Hov if I don’t get too excited for you this time but we’ve had a good run together).  But most importantly, it will give me a chance to be a part of a music community for four full days.  Because let’s face it, it’s the fans who make these festivals.  Their energy, their passion, their pure love of the music.

Hence, I will start my trip Monday night as I drive with two-thirds of my traveling party to the Philadelphia area to meet up with the other third.  From there I will go pick up a rental RV in Maryland and drive the remaining 12 hours to Manchester.  I suppose my story really isn’t music different from thousands of others who will be partaking in Bonnaroo both in the way we will be arriving to the festival and the reason we decided to go – to grow, to experience, to party 2010 style.

*I will be updating the sights and sounds of Bonnaroo via twitter at*

-Chris Dino