Rude at Bonnaroo

The Rude Pundit at the Bonnaroo Music Festival

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It Came From Bonnaroo, Part 2: I Should Haven't Given It This Long a Title:
The way Grip Narley would tell the story later was horrifying in what it said and more horrifying in the things that the electrician wouldn’t say. Harsh McCord had tried to reach Grip, who was working backstage at That Tent, one of the oh-so-cleverly named locations where music took place. But it was too late as the Tickening took over soon after The Walkmen took the stage. Oh, the vermin had been lured there by the thrashing rock of Band of Skulls, but when the peppy punk band began, as Grip would say later, “It was like the entire ground had exposed high voltage cables running through it. People started jerking and swatting and picking on themselves. When the lead singer leaned back on a high note, he was eaten like his body had been tossed on a current transformer. There was so much screaming. This one girl came towards me and she was just flattening out and the ticks were as big as blood balloons. That’s when I hauled ass, Harsh. That’s when I hauled ass.” Inside Harsh’s mobile insect lab, the entomologist hugged the sobbing Grip, kissing the bearded bear of a man who had been his partner and lover for the last five years.

"Go home. Rest. I gotta take care of some shit."

Harsh had been to see Ash Cappington, the main promoter of Bonnaroo. Cappington stayed in his underground bunker below the Earth-bearing hand at Centeroo, watching the action from a battery of monitors, sending out his private security force to take care of any problems. Generally, Cappington allowed the pot smokers and the ecstasy-takers freedom since they rarely caused problems and they added to the sales of the food and water vendors. But anything harder and Cappington was swift and merciless, confiscating the meth or the coke and making sure that the offender was arrested swiftly.

Cappington had seen what had happened at That Tent, and as horrified as he was, he refused to believe it was anything other than a bad batch of acid or that someone had stupidly laced the joints with PCP. And Either way, when Harsh visited him, Cappington had already come to his own conclusions. “Ash, you gotta shut it down.”

“Oh, Christ, Bugman. I knew you’d be trouble when we hired you,” said the middle-aged man in a guayabera shirt and blue shorts.

“People are fleeing.”

“No, they’re not. Look.” He gestured at the monitors. “I locked the gates. I sent out platoons of dope dealers to give away free shit. They’re gonna be too stoned to care. And they’ll spend. On burritos. On beer. On batik bikinis.”

“You bastard.”

“What’s the problem?”

“It’s the ticks. I told you. I told you that--”

Cappington waved off Harsh. “Just stop now. That's bullshit. I took your advice.”


“Just don’t fuckin’ tell anyone else. They’ll get their recycled panties in a wad. I had the place sprayed down. I killed all the ticks. What happened out in Darth Maul wasn’t our fault.”

Harsh thought for a second. Then he blurted out, “I have work to do.”

Back in the lab, Harsh came upon a discovery. Dear god, the pesticides not only did not work, but they had a reverse effect when combined with the scent of hemp and patchouli. The cicadas were dead, gone, engorged by guinea hen and other birds. Their larvae were already polluting the trees. No, Harsh realized, it was the pot and body oil. And My Morning Jacket was preparing to play for an audience of 90,000 people. Ash Cappington had signed a death warrant.

Harsh called home. “Take the day off, Grip.”

“But I’ve been assigned the big stage. The What Stage.”

“Goddamnit, stay at the house.”

“Blow me, boyfriend. It’s a big gig. I gotta run.” And he hung up.

Harsh tried to call back, but Grip had shut off his phone. “Stubborn asshole,” the scientist muttered. That was the problem with a couple of power tops. Neither of them would back down, neither of them would simply let the other one have his way. Their sex was like Greco-Greco wrestling, all nude and oiled, with rolling around and pinning being the order of the day. Whoever won got to fuck the other, but, of course, it was fulfilling lovemaking all the way around. Harsh stared at his phone, wondering if he'd ever feel that fulfillment again.

(Note: Right now, I have a mixture of sunscreen, Off, ecstasy, THC, beer, caffeine, and Zyrtec coursing through my veins. So, no, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. To you.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

It Came From Bonnaroo, Part 1: The Tickening:
Roscoe Dupree sat alone in the crowded tent cafe’. A morbidly obese American with a goatee he hoped would hide his double chin (it didn’t), he was sweatily and sullenly filling his backpack water sack with bottles of cold water. It had been a great idea, getting all his buddies from the University of Tennessee-Martin to go to the giant music festival in the middle of nowhere. But, of course, 18-year olds being 18-year olds, everyone else bailed on him, but he had already convinced his parents to let him come, so he decided he’d go by himself. And now, early on Thursday, Roscoe, red-faced and frustrated, realized that he needed to go back to his tent to get sunscreen in the vast outer compound that made up the Bonnaroo campground. He lumbered out, sucking on the rubber straw that came out of the water sack, hoping that he’d at least see a few bare titties on the walk back. He did. They were the last titties he would ever see. But he never got to touch any.

When Roscoe Dupree’s body was found later by a volunteer in his camping pod, the girl shrieked at the sight. Eyes wide open, his tent knocked over by what must have been his flailing around, Roscoe lay on the ground, drained of blood, his legs coated with blood-filled hard-black sacs with legs. And teeth. The tickening had begun.

Harsh McCord received a text message while he was watching Karen Elson play in one of the three large tents. The British model wife of the legendary Jack White was a pretty damn good folk-rock singer on her own, even if most of the crowd was hoping he’d join her. She had no rapport with the crowd, though. At one point, her patter was to ask, “So, are you camping?”

“Jesus,” Harsh thought, “look to your left at all the fucking tents. Sorry if the rest of ‘em weren’t brought here by limo from their helicopters." He glanced at his phone. He was needed immediately out in the camps. The entomologist jumped into the golf cart on the side of the stage and headed out.

Harsh had been hired by the powers that be at Bonnaroo to consult on the insect problems on the farm where the music festival took place. He had already helped them get past mosquitoes, but this had been a bad year in Middle Tennessee. Brood XIX, a flock of 13-year cicadas, had plagued the trees and eardrums of region. And then there were the ticks. Harsh had warned the people in charge not to move the campgrounds into the woods from the fields where they had been in years past. He knew that when the cicadas went on their fucking and egg-laying frenzy, it also drove the ticks to madness. They would attack, constantly. Harsh had wanted the organizers to poison the entire forest, to DEET-bomb the place, but he was told that it wasn't part of the greening of the festival, that it was bad for the environment. The Vanderbilt-educated scientist hoped that things wouldn't get bad. He was very, very wrong.

When he arrived, Harsh saw that some of the security volunteers had cordoned off the area. They were locals who loved the little dose of power and loved even more an opportunity to beat and harass the hippies who essentially gave the town of Manchester its only non-Wal-Mart economy. They tried to stop him, since he was bearded and wore a bandanna, but he grabbed one by the shirt collar and said, "Eat this, fucker," shoving his special badge in their faces.

Standing over the tarp-covered body was an EMT. "I don't know why you needed me here," Harsh said. "Just another idiot who didn't drink enough water to go with his beer and ecstasy." Grimly, the EMT pulled back the tarp. When Harsh McCord saw the tick-encrusted legs, a horrible thought went through his head. "Dear god," he said, half to himself, half to the EMT, "I tried to warn them."

In the distance, he could hear the bands playing, around him were tens of thousands of people barely wearing clothes, their blood flow just a symphony drawing in the feasting ticks. He needed to shut down this festival. Now. Because the ticks would know that they could engorge themselves to bursting, sucking their hosts practically hollow, and then they would breed. And music just attracted them in larger numbers. The louder the music, the better. Tonight's line-up of Band of Skulls and Sleigh Bells would be a smorgasbord of blood.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day of the Roo, Part 3: Things Start to Get Killy:
The first time I saw Marc (with a "c") kill a zombie was, appropriately enough, during the Dead Weather's performance at Bonnaroo. Marc's a hugger, and his girth and height make him both lovable and deadly, like a Care Bear with John Wayne Gacy's face on his belly. As the band played its unholy mixture of punk, metal, and blues, Zeppelin on meth, as Alison Mosshart wailed out at the rain-spattered, stinky crowd, the zombies came through the fences. Festival goers tried to run, but the feeding had started. Marc started rushing towards a girl who might have been cute if she had had her entire face. And if she hadn't been biting the jugular vein of a dreadlock-topped teenaged boy wearing a hemp cloth skirt. I took out my pistol and was ready to chase after to protect him, but Mat touched my shoulder, giving me a stare, "No, let him go. Watch this. It's amazing."

Marc had a big grin as he stomped through the mud. "Here, pretty zombie," he called out. Her bloody snarl turned towards Marc. She dropped the violently twitching hippie and started racing at him. "You feel bad? You wanna hug?" He opened his arms. I tensed, my pistol ready. The zombie ran into his arms, but, before it could bite, Marc, truly, deeply, meaningfully, if that's possible, hugged her. Hard. Really fucking hard. So hard that the zombie stopped flailing and went limp. In one final squeeze, Marc said, "It's okay, girlie," and the beast's head popped off like a champagne cork.

I turned, stunned, to Mat, who shrugged. "Retard strength. What are ya gonna do?"

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day of the Roo, Part 2: What Is the Roo?:
Mat brought me to a door in the middle of the fountain in the horribly cutely-named Center Roo. All things are "Roo" here, it being one of the only sounds most of the zombies can intone. You can hear them in the distance, yawping, "Rooooo," as if calling the others to feed. We went down a staircase to a dripping room where Mat had fashioned a camp. "Those are good guns," Mat said. "You could get a round through three zombie skulls in one shot."

"Why didn't Matt ever tell me he had a twin?" I asked.

"He's ashamed of me. I decided to sell my soul to the Devil."

"For eternal life?"

"No. For a job with Dick Cheney."

"Sweet Jesus, you poor bastard."

"You have no idea. This," he said as he gestured at the earth above, "is not what you think."

"It's not a giant compound where you trick people into coming so you can feed the zombies?"

He paused. "Okay, it is that. But it's more. Why do you think Donald Rumsfeld resigned back in 2006? Because of the war in Iraq? The failure to capture bin Laden? Child's play. It's because Bonnaroo was the code name of a project started by the Pentagon to reanimate the dead."

I interrupted, "To turn them into soldiers?"

"Worse. To turn them into walking bombs. The problem was that it worked too well. It worked too well, Lee, don't you see? When did Bonnaroo start? In 2002. Post-9/11. Why the fuck would you put it in the middle of nowhere, to the left of Fuckmysister, Tennessee? So no one would know."

"Know what? What did Donald Rumsfeld figure out? How is Dick Cheney involved?"

We heard a pounding on the door above. I grabbed the rifle. "Wait," Mat said, "It's not what you think." More pounding. "There's something else I need to tell you." We ran up the stairs. "You're probably gonna need to prepare yourself here."

"What? Why? What's going--" The door burst open and standing there was my best friend, Mark, the zombie lord himself. Except something wasn't exactly the same. He had a big, innocent grin on his face, and, in each hand, he held, by their hair, a zombie head.

"I did good, Mat. I hugged two meanies and they broke."

Outside again, in the pouring fountain water, I fell to my knees, yelling, "I left you for dead!"

Mat stepped forward. "Lee, meet Mark's twin brother, Marc. With a 'c.' He's just like Mark, except he's not a zombie and--" Marc rushed forward to give me a bear hug - "he's a bit slow."

One-Hand Caveat:
Typing with a hook has proven difficult and slow. More later this afternoon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day of the Roo, Day One: Matt and the Mud:
"Who are you?" I screamed in the dark at the figure who looked exactly like my ripped-inside-out and eaten assistant, Matt. "You're not Matt. Matt died. Who the fuck are you?" The torrential rain pouring down around us, shaking furiously, I was holding the rifle with my right hand, balancing it on the hook that functioned for my left. "You tell me now before I shoot!" He took a step towards me.

Why am I back here, at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, one more time, the site of so many of my failures, the place where I lost my best friend, Mark, to the zombies, where he became their mad king, where I've seen so many killed and killed so many more? Why would I return to the fields of Manchester, Tennessee, to walk among the damned during their annual feeding ritual? It was simple: revenge.

I phoned Andrew, whose daughter, Laurel, had been turned into Mark's zombie bride last year. "I want to go to Bonnaroo," I said.

"You're mad," he replied. "You're fucked in the head. You were lucky you just lost a hand last time."

"I need to go. I want to kill them."


"All of them. But especially Mark and Laurel. Do you want to live on knowing your little girl is eating human flesh and fucking a dead man?"

"It's just a phase," he said, his voice filled with lies and despair.

"Bullshit. Send me in. I know how to walk among them. I have nothing else to lose."

"You have another hand."

But the conversation quickly turned to what I needed in the way of supplies, which came down to guns, big Beretta rifle, automatic Glock pistol, and ammo that would take down an armored elephant in one shot. Andrew arranged passage for me through one of the guardians of the zombie feasting grounds, where every year they tempt young human beings to offer themselves to the zombie hordes by providing a weekend of drugs, hemp clothing, and ungodly music. Obviously, this year, seeking to diversify the banquet, Jay-Z and Ozomatli would be playing their siren songs to lure the unwitting noodle dancers. The guards made sure that once the innocents entered, they did not leave until the zombies were satisfied. It kept them from running amok outside Bonnaroo.

I arrived in a gushing rainstorm, the fields all turned to mud. I went to where the fence was cut for me, and the downpour masked my arrival as I headedto the middle of Planet Roo to set up a sniper's nest. On my way towards the horrible disembodied hand statue, I fell in the muck and lost half my ammo and one of the guns.

Then I turned to see, oh, god, Matt, who now I yelled to stop before I shot him dead. Instead, I saw one of the zombies charging at him and fired, blowing the head off the monster. It was all the proof I needed. I fell to my knees, sobbing, "I thought you were dead."

The man knelt next to me. "No, I'm not Matt. I'm Matt's twin brother, Mat. With one 't'. Andrew sent me to help." He reached out and shook my hook.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dawn of the Roo, Day 4: The Hand Job:

The reason for the delay for the conclusion of my tale is simple: I am typing this with one hand. No, it's not that my left hand is occupied right now. Well, it might be. But I have no way of knowing since it is not with me. I'll get to that in a moment.

When he performed last night, Bruce Springsteen asked, "Is anyone alive out there?" We few who had not yet been turned into zombies called back, but it was to no avail, despite his repetition of his question. So, using the information Matt had acquired by having anal sex with a comely female zombie who I decapitated with a shovel, we coated ourselves in her viscous goo in order to throw off the zombie scent, and headed into the campgrounds surrounding the central area, also known as, "The Pods."

It was night as we traversed the grounds of Planet Roo and passed through the giant fence that separates the zombie home turf from the rest of the festival. As the zombette informed us, going while Phish was still playing was our best bet to travel with the fewest zombies around. We heard the repetition of a single guitar riff over and over in the distance and knew we were safe.

The Pods were like watching Fellini's Amarcord on acid. In one, long tracking shot we walked past zombies feasting on a tofu-stuffed child, downing ecstasy tabs like candy, searching mindlessly for limbs they had lost the previous night at MGMT's show. We witnessed every depravity we could imagine and some we could not. Watching zombies have sex with each other is not unlike watching moths rip each other's wings off, such was the violence and dismemberment on display as two male zombies attempted to 69, but instead ended up just laying there with disembodied balls on their faces. We saw them burning the legless zombies, beating each other with bones. It was a Carnival of Eww, a Circus of Oh-Fuck-Me.

Finally, in a Pod named "Han Solo," which, in a nearly ironic twist, is one letter short of how I now find myself, we saw the dumpster with "Arise" scrawled across it, indicating we had found the mythical lair of the zombie king. At that moment, we were surrounded by the undead, all painted with what smelled like barbecue sauce. They seized Matt and me and dragged us towards a chalet-sized tent where, sitting in a chair made of skulls and femurs, was my dear old friend Mark, who I thought I had left to the wolverines two years ago.

He was undead. He was a monster. He was the lord of the beasts, the master of zombie ceremonies. I only wish he had been wearing pants.

Dangling a bit lower and to the left, his head shaved, his legs missing chunks from where, I presumed, the wolverines had bitten him, wearing a Raconteurs t-shirt, he smiled. I nodded and said, "The barbecue sauce is a nice touch."

"Bullseye, motherfucker, Bullseye," he gurgled, as if his voice had been devoured. "I appreciate the smoky sweetness. Want some?" His laugh was something that echoes in my head.

"Where is Laurel?" I demanded, mustering every bit of strength I could to keep from retching.

"Oh, you mean my bride? Come out, darling," he said, gesturing to a flap in the tent, a place so huge it would do a Bedouin proud. There she was, barefoot, dressed in a spaghetti strap batik dress, beautiful, glowing, even, but glowing a dull green, a single bite taken out of her ass, a sure sign that Mark had transformed her. I texted Andrew, telling Mark to hold on a second as I wrote, "Laurel a zombie, send in the horses, get us the fuck out of here."

"You left me behind, dude," Mark said. "As sharp as the wolverine's teeth were, they were nothing compared to the bite of the zombies."

"You seem to have done pretty well for yourself, considering, you know, you're dead and, fuck, are those maggots?"

Laurel seemed transfixed by Matt's eyes. Surely, the smell of zombie made her think they could madly ball. And as she got closer to him, he put up his hands. Unfortunately, the awful zombie guts perfume had faded and his human scent awakened Laurel's monster hunger. She jammed her hand down Matt's throat, reaching all the way to his sphincter as Matt thrashed and shouted muffled cries of pain, but was essentially a shish-ka-bob on the stick of Laurel's arm. The she-monster grabbed hold deep inside Matt and pulled. And then, in a moment that never leaves my brain now, Laurel yanked Matt inside out, exposing his organs to the air, leaving him a twitching, pulsating mass. Laurel and the other attendant zombies dove in to feast. Mark laughed as they handed him the heart and said, "Ooooh, that's gotta hurt." He took a bite, adding, "Too soon?"

I dropped to my knees. "Am I next?"

Mark made me wait until he finished Matt's heart to answer. "I'll tell you what I'm gonna do. You need to leave me tribute. I'd look bad to all these stinky fuckers if I just let you go. But I still love ya, dude. Even if you didn't jump in to fight the wolverines with me." I tried to protest, but he continued, "Yeah, I'd've probably rode on, too." He listened to the air. "Phish is almost over. Then my minions will return. What'll it be?"

I swallowed and asked, "Tribute?"

"Yeah, yeah, tribute. I gotta eat part of you. But we'll cut it off first and shit, so you don't become a zombie. You can then, I don't know, go out and fuckin' warn people that I'm planning a revolution, to transform all of the earth in Roo World, man, into peace and cooperation and love and flesh-eating, a beautiful thing. Can you imagine what that'll be like?"

He was lost, mad, cackling at the idea. I was sort of stuck on the first thing he said. "Cut off a part? Of me?"

"Yep. And, sorry, it can't be something small, like a toe or your cock. Nah, just joking. I don't wanna eat your cock, fag." I didn't laugh. He shook his head. "Let's make it your left hand. That way you can still jack off. Better hurry. I hear the sound of a jam band getting tired." A painted, machete-wielding zombie headed towards me.

The next thing I remember is waking up at dawn under a pile of straw and seeing that my left hand was gone, the wound pus-covered from a quickie cauterization. I screamed into my arm to muffle the cry and then I stumbled out of the tent to find Bonnaroo abandoned. But a lone horse rider sauntered up to me and asked if I was me.

I nodded. "Andrew sent me. He said I was supposed to kill you if you were unharmed. But you are fucked up." I vomited. She reached down and pulled me onto the steed to ride away, ride away, to figure out a way to warn everyone without seeming like a Cassandra or Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

But I conclude this with a tribute to Matt, whose death I cannot help feel I am somewhat responsible for.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dawn of the Roo, Day 3: Observations on Interacting with Zombies:
Even though I have had previous experience with the zombies of Bonnaroo, I have learned a bit more through my three days of contact with them.

1. If you kill a zombie, reach through its paper-thin skin, grab a handful of guts, and rub yourself all over with its decaying innards, other zombies will think you are one of them by your scent. Thus it is easier to traverse the fields of the ghouls.

2. Sex with a zombie is a difficult thing. It's not the potential for fucking right through whatever orifice you're plunged into. You need to fuck a zombie from behind.

I learned this and more because I had decided that my assistant, Matt, needed to get more information in order for us to move through the crowds of the undead. So, after Matt had used his axe to hack the head of one noodle dancing Phish fan who jerkily waved his arms as he gnashed at us, I grabbed his stomach and intestines and gave us the perfume of the monsters. Then, after a brief discussion - Matt would call it an argument, but he's young - we "agreed" that fucking a zombie was the best way to find out about the zombie leader we'd heard about in the pods of campers around the Bonnaroo perimeter. He would do the sex part, and I would watch. Oh, and listen.

Despite the fact that he's gay, Matt suggested that he fuck a female zombie (or "zombette," as he called them) because she'd be more likely to know where a teenager like Laurel might be, too. I said he wouldn't be bisexual because fucking a thing without a soul is not like fucking a person. He was relieved. After a brief discussion about why any offers of fellatio ought to be obviously ignored, Matt, who, truth be told, is a good-looking guy, which is why he gets so much cock, we decided the way to avoid getting bitten should the odor disguise fail is to enter the zombie from behind. And that he should use a segment of intestine for a condom.

A couple of other observations:
a. Music is the only thing that transfixes the zombies and stops them from eating the flesh of we captives. Nine Inch Nails throws them into such a fervor, with the flashing lights and grinding guitars, that they end up ripping their own body parts off to beat each other senseless. The Beastie Boys turn the males into raving jerk-offs. Public Enemy confuses them. Bruce Springsteen came close to getting them to give up their zombie ways, but he wouldn't do another encore and was forced to escape in a hot-air balloon.

b. If you watch as your assistant fucks a zombie female just to get information that you need in order to find the zombie leader who might be the friend you abandoned two years prior to ravenous wolverines, you probably shouldn't give in to the temptation to jack off. It generally upsets the assistant, especially when you kill the zombie just as he's coming. You have to agree to pay for the therapy.

Tomorrow: we make it to the zombie leader's camp. On entering, we see this horrible image that chills us for the potential revolution to come:

Dawn of the Roo, Day 3:

Pictured: zombie bait - young, fresh, passed-out, lamp-lit.

More tomorrow morning, but Andrew called. He received a panicky text from Laurel: "Took sooooo much e thirsty but boy named Drew wl help." Andrew has reminded of how he saved my life back in 1999 during the third Woodstock, how he used Flea as a battering ram to get me through the marauding hordes after I had been injured by a flying water bottle. Damn him. Into the zombies' camps.