I Went To Bonnaroo with My Mom (and Had the Time of My Life)
Bonnaroo had been a long time coming when my mother and I rolled up to our parking spot at the music festival. I had been talking about going for years, ever since my slightly disappointing experience at GovBall left me craving a bigger (but less big-city) festival experience. This year my mom announced as a special surprise that she got me two two-day passes. I could have taken a friend with me, but I chose to go with her instead. This choice was made for both personal and practical reasons. Mostly, I didn’t think I could find a friend willing to make the long (and expensive!) trek from the northeast down to Nashville; but also, my mom and I have a longstanding tradition of attending concerts together.
The concert I most clearly remember attending with her was the Arctic Monkeys at Madison Square Garden, just months after their album AM was released. The concert meant a lot to me because AM was, and is debatably still, my favorite album of all time. It was inevitable that I would geek out (and maybe even cry a little) at the concert, and there’s no one I’d rather do that in front of than my mother. I’ve never once had to hide myself from her. My mother is the person who I can be my freest, most-imperfect self with, making her a perfect concert companion.
Nevertheless, when I stared at the balloons and giant disco ball in the distance, signaling the entrance to Bonnaroo, I started to feel very self-conscious. When we’re on our own, I have no problem hanging out with my mom as friends, but as much as I hate to admit it, other people’s opinions give me pause. Not everyone gets the super-close mother-daughter relationship we have, and I was afraid they’d think I needed babysitting or didn’t have any friends my age to go with me. So as we approached the gate, I retreated emotionally, as if refusing to hold her hand would distinguish me as a grown-ass adult I wanted people to think I was.
Because I’d waited so long for this ultimate festival experience, I was determined to do Bonnaroo “right.” I had a very specific idea of what that should look like. As the day waned and the headlining acts drew closer (that night it was my fave Chance the Rapper) I realized how chill our day was. We’d watched most music acts from afar, and spent downtime in the shade eating glazed doughnuts. It wasn’t a bad day by any means, but it wasn’t what I had in mind. I didn’t want Bonnaroo to be “chill”—I wanted it to be crazy, wild, the time of my life, something I alone, with my youth and vigor, could achieve. I saw Chance as my opportunity to make that happen. My plan was to get there early and as far up front as I could.
Fast forward to ten minutes before Chance was scheduled to come out. Everyone (and I mean everyone) at the festival was gathered around the main stage, waiting. I was standing in the thick of a giant crowd. My already non-existent personal space was invaded by latecomers trying to get up front, and even in the cool night breeze, I was sweating from the heat of the bodies around me. For some this might be heaven, but for me it was a new kind of hell. It was only when I felt a claustrophobia-induced panic attack coming on that I finally worked up the courage to leave. I saw her, my mother, standing farther back where the density of people had lessened slightly. The first thing I did was run up and hug her as tightly as I could. Nobody hugs like her.
With the next night’s headliner, Lorde, we did it right, and this time by “right” I mean we attended the concert in a way that worked for both of us. No, Bonnaroo wasn’t the wild party experience I might have had with friends, but if Chance taught me anything, it’s that I would rather have a view of something other than the backs of people’s heads. I would rather be with my mom.
By Sophie Hayssen, 20