Bonnaroo and the Long-Awaited Return of Live Music

Tina Aron, Co-Opinion Editor

After more than a year of virtually no live events, the return of the famous Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival lineup is desperately awaited. On March 31, the festival announced that concerts are scheduled to run from September 2-5. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the festival, held in Manchester, Tennessee, which makes its return all the more special. The return of the festival is obviously met with logistical questions regarding the pandemic, especially as this is one of the biggest events that is set to return post-COVID-19. 

Some of the questions that immediately come to my head include, are masks required? Is it limited capacity? Will there be social distancing? 

These questions, while legitimate, will likely come up often as the world adjusts to a new normal. The slow progression of vaccinations in the United States leaves us in a strange limbo where some people feel safe while others are still taking many precautions. It is unfortunate that something as simple as a concert must come with a heightened anxiety, but it is an anxiety that our society has dealt with for over a year now.  

While Bonnaroo is set for the end of summer 2021, the pandemic’s effects will most likely linger. Festival officials, according to the Bonnaroo website, “intend to abide by relevant recommendations to ensure a safe and enjoyable festival,” but it does not outline any details. It will be interesting to see if providing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination is required for entry to the festival, as this would probably be the safest route for a festival to take regarding safety precautions. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently issued an executive order that bans businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, as the order states that “vaccination passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy.” Some GOP Tennessee legislators are also vocal about prohibiting proof of vaccination, but nothing is finalized.  

With Bonnaroo scheduled for the end of the summer, it is set to (hopefully) mark the end of the pandemic, and the lineup does not disappoint. The headliners cover a variety of music genres, from rap and R&B artists Megan Thee Stallion and Tyler, the Creator to a more indie and alternative mix of Tame Impala and Lana Del Ray. The Foo Fighters are making an appearance as well, as they always seem to do at every music festival. 

This lineup is next to perfect, as these headliners not only cover a variety of music tastes but will also work to represent the crowd that will be present: Gen Zers fresh out of their first summer post-pandemic. Megan Thee Stallion gained a ton of traction during quarantine, which can be attributed to the entertainment provided by TikTok when everyone was stuck inside. Megan radiates her unapologetic nature and confidence through her music, two traits that Gen Z will surely channel after a year of a pandemic finally ends.  

Not only do the headliners absolutely deliver, but the supporting acts do as well. Some artists to note are Phoebe Bridgers (who was nominated for four Grammys this year), Glass Animals, Omar Apollo, Leon Bridges and so many more. The range of music genres will appeal to any crowd, as I am sure they expect a mix of live-music lovers who have been deprived for a long time.

While we all knew eventually that concerts and live events would return, Bonnaroo’s announcement means much more than it has ever before. Especially for college students, the lack of breaks and social activities has taken a massive toll on our mental well-being. This announcement of the festival’s return, as well as those that follow it, is the optimism and hope that everyone needs right now as the end of the pandemic is in sight.