Fans of Bonnaroo have always known that their favorite festival holds some of the craziest, most passionate fans in the world. So it's no surprise that Travel Channel personality Adam Richman chose Bonnaroo to feature as part of his new program Fandemonium. While the show taped during Bonnaroo in June, it is just now getting its television premiere on Sept. 15. We spoke with Adam Richman by phone to get his take on what he experienced at Bonnaroo 2013 and why they chose it out of all the music festivals they could have visited.
For folks who haven't seen the show yet, can you give me a rundown of what Fandemonium is all about?
Sure. Fandemonium is essentially the exploration of fan passion across all kinds of venues, finding what makes fans so passionate about these things they love, what makes them spend unbelievable amounts of time, money, and energy to have these celebrations. It also showcases their ingenuity and their creativity, not just I've got the biggest or I've got the best or I've got the most, but the most creative. What drives their passion 30, 40, 50 years down the road. What's fascinating is you find the same level of passion at a renaissance festival or a car race or a horse race or a music festival.
So far this season, you've already hit a number of different types of festivals.
Yeah. We did Memphis in May, Indy 500, Daytona 500, Calgary Stampede, Country Stampede, as I said a Ren Faire in Texas, The Kentucky Derby, mudding events in Florida, snow festivals in deepest darkest Alaska, and more. We've covered the world, or at least the United States.
Your next upcoming episode covers one of our local events, Bonnaroo. What made you guys choose Bonnaroo?
Well, I'm very fortunate because I knew a bit more about Bonnaroo than other festivals because Alex Machurov from Superfly, one of the big entities behind Bonnaroo and Googa Mooga, went to school with me from 1st to 12th grade. Also, I lived in the South for a long time. I lived in Georgia and Kentucky, and Alabama so I knew a lot of people who went.
As an Executive Producer and a Host I wanted to go because one thing about Bonnaroo that I've always been taken with is that it is so much more than a music festival. I know that's the most overused sound bite in history, but it's true. It's about community and collaboration and artistic expression. Whether that collaboration takes place on the What State or Which Stage or That Tent or This Tent or in the RV lot or because you have a day-glo hula hoop and a really cool body paint. There's no judgment. It's one of the most endlessly creative communal environments I've been in. And it never stops. Any hour of the day there's something to get into, there's someone to dance with, there's something to eat, there's something to ride, there's something to explore or someone to collaborate with. It's such a sprawling thing but doesn't feel impersonal. And the lineup this year was not to be beat.
We've always called it “camping with 80,000 of your closest friends.”
Yeah. That's exactly it. There's certainly a rock show element to it so there's always going to be a little bit of a wild side. But this is not a hostile environment or an environment that is deeply aggressive. The Gathering of the Juggalos this is not. And I don't say that to malign Juggalos in any way but it's... I guess for me you can meet someone and have a brief rapport with them. You may never meet them again but for just a few moments there is such warmth and such closeness. So many festivals and music festivals in particular are just an excuse for people to mosh and get wasted but Bonnaroo really has a true experience element to it. You go there and it just washes over you. You don't feel hostility. There isn't this overwhelming influence on getting destroyed. They have a wonderful expression in their Bonnaroovian Code, “Don't Be That Guy.” And I love that. Don't be that guy making people uncomfortable at the show. Don't be that guy who makes people uncomfortable because of how wasted you are. Don't be that guy who makes a woman feel uncomfortable because of what she's wearing or not wearing. It's such a remarkably respectful environment.
And there's something there for everyone. You can have an RV lot. You can just camp in a tent. Or you can Roll Like a Rock Star. There's that sliding scale for everyone and I love that.
Can you tell us a little bit about some of the people we met at Bonnaroo for your episode?
Absolutely. We saw just amazing, amazing music. First and foremost, the music we saw was stellar. I don't want to give away what band we met and filmed with. I'll let that be a tease. They're a band on the rise. We got a chance to eat and tailgate with one of the bands and it was really remarkable because they are fans of Bonnaroo themselves. So to see the band appreciate the opportunity to be alongside the artists they admire, to the point that after they played 2 shows they would chill out themselves, grill up some burgers and have a great time. We filmed with some of the hula hoopers, with some of the food trucks at the Food Truck Oasis. We filmed with a whole bunch of people in the parking lot, who had built a geodesic dome to camp in. And we met the creators of the Inforoo Brunch that happens in Tent Only. We profiled their culinary creations and their traditions.
For me, being part of it all to see The National and The Wu-Tang Clan, being on stage for Tom Petty or Pretty Lights. Being in the front row for Empire of the Sun or The XX or Billy Idol. My God. The shows... I mean Tom Petty was just staggering. It's another thing I love about Bonnaroo. You can pick your favorite genre of music and just do that or you can do a mixed bag. And I think that's very cool.
You mentioned the Camp Inforoo Brunch and that's a group I've met many times over my years of covering Bonnaroo and they're definitely a passionate lot so I'd be curious to hear more about your time with them.
Well, you know, you can't pretend this festival doesn't take place in the information age and I think Bonnaroo really accepts and embraces that. Everyone has their cell phone out and is Tweeting or Instagraming or Vining. I love that the Inforoo group embraced it and then brought it back to a less than technical standpoint to make it warm and user friendly. I like that you have people from literally all over the world, from multiple countries to participate in it. I like that it's dead smack in the middle of all these tents, it's a little oasis. The tents are so close at Bonnaroo. I have no idea how people navigate. But these people have created this little oasis with tutus and such. And there's a potluck that takes place with the most original and fascinating foods that I have seen since doing this show. There was a woman who made quick rise brownies using the dashboard of her car like a convection oven. That's so clever. And they were just such nice people and so warm. And it wasn't because I was there with the cameras. They were just respectful people who wanted to have a good time and I respected that a lot.
Did you have any favorite bands you saw?
Oh my God... Being on stage for The Wu-Tang Clan was epic. Empire of the Sun and The XX both put on outstanding shows. I'm a huge National fan so being on stage for them was amazing because they closed with my favorite National song and I was almost in tears. It's the beautiful thing about music. It takes you to that place of poetry and artwork, that undefinable wash of emotion. They closed with “Mr. November” and killed it. Pretty Lights put on this 3.5 hour or 4 hour show that was unbelievable. Literally until the sun came up. Grizzly Bear was great. I love the jam sessions at the end of the night. They did one with DJ Jazzy Jeff and RZA and everybody. That was really cool. Obviously Paul McCartney was really fun. But if I had to pick favorites, it would be on stage with The Wu-Tang Clan and The National because it was me seeing two of my favorite bands, to see their process. That was so heavy and so incredible for me personally. And I have to mention Empire of the Sun because I wasn't all that familiar with them. Their stage show was one of the best things I've ever seen. So clever, so creative, such a pure rock star energy. The XX I had also never seen live and they present such a massive stage to be so chill and so calm. It was very haunting and hypnotic. It was really cool.
Thanks for talking to me today, Adam. Good luck with the show. It definitely seems like it's a lot less punishing on your body than Man vs. Food was!
*laugh* Oh yes. To say the least. To say the very least!
If you'd like to watch Adam Richman's Fandemonium take on Bonnaroo, you can catch it on Sept. 15 at 9 p.m/8 Central on The Travel Channel.