Ghettoblaster, 2007: Special Report: Bewilderoo, TN

Still awaiting surgery, so since I can’t sit up and type out long form pieces for the moment, here’s a little blast from the past. I was lucky enough to get press passes to cover Bonnaroo every year between 2003 and 2009 on behalf of Get Underground, Ghettoblaster, AMP magazine and Spacelab. This is the first section of my attempt at gonzo music journalism, Summer of 2007 in Manchester, Tennessee. You can find the link to the full piece from Ghettoblaster at the bottom of the page. But without further ado, welcome to Bewilderoo…

SPECIAL REPORT: BEWILDEROO, TN

AUGUST 1, 2007

A not so common look at the not so common festival.

by Phillip Fairbanks

Though the festivities didn’t begin until June, my Bonnaroo story begins in March, when I got my confirmation that I would indeed be receiving press credentials and tickets for the big show. In a way, here in early July, I’m coming full circle as I put pen to paper in attempts to capture some literary tincture of that magic something, that “temporary autonomous zone” that for four days in Manchester, Tennessee is known as Bonnaroo.

The first elements are preparation and anticipation. March through June were a whirlwind of consciousness expansion including, but not limited to, ingestion of obscure, legal herbs from the Oaxacan, Mayan and Aztec canon, shadowboxing, glossolalia, yoga and failed attempts at emulating the painfully intricate moving meditation of Master Li Hongzhi’s Falun Dafa. At about the same time, I was working on a sort of counterculture Tony Robbins, a la Tim Leary and Robert Anton Wilson that resulted in pages of maps, models, schemas, tips, tricks, mantras and insufferably incoherent psychobabble based on anchoring intense states for ready retrieval. Here I was treading on dangerous waters. My roommates at the time, who had dealt with this quasi-psychotic behavior since March had had enough by the time May rolled around.

Armed with new and activated knowledge, or as Bob Wilson deems it “neuro-somatic knowhow,” I didn’t let this snag steal the momentum of the movement, but consciously down-shifted at this point. Besides, after a frightening Salvia Divinorum experiment gone awry, it seemed high time to arc down my emotional parabola.

Being a small town boy from a rural area, having something as big as Bonnaroo breeze through once a year next door, so to speak, is a dreamlike experience. Being at times, a pretentious performance artist for an audience of one, constantly crafting an opus I like to call, my life, the annual festival down on the farm down the road is always an ordeal, a crucible and a rite, not merely a convergence of people, art, music and drugs (though these are typical cornerstones of many ancient ritual festivals as well). Needless to say I got no sleep Wednesday night and word comes that they’re letting folks in to set up camp so we head to Manchester.

I get dropped off Thursday morning around 3:30 in the A.M. By the time sun comes up my tent is still unpacked. It’s hot and there are thousands of people surrounding me in every direction. I’m closed in. Bonnaroo has become overnight. A rush of adrenaline tinged terror wraps icy tendrils about me. I know that my notorious lack of direction will ensure that I will lose my site if I leave. After meeting Will and his group, I decide it might be safe to leave as long as I don’t get separated from them and lose all chance of ever rediscovering my campsite. Already I’m feeling that soft sadness that accompanies this small town boy’s Bonnaroo experience. It’s beautiful, like life, but like life its over before its begun, and I make sure to soak up every ounce of that weird tincture of emotions that infectiously spreads. Like Norman from New Jersey had corroborated earlier. The world is a strange and weird place.

I get dropped off Thursday morning around 3:30 in the A.M. By the time sun comes up my tent is still unpacked. It’s hot and there are thousands of people surrounding me in every direction. I’m closed in. Bonnaroo has become overnight. A rush of adrenaline tinged terror wraps icy tendrils about me. I know that my notorious lack of direction will ensure that I will lose my site if I leave. After meeting Will and his group, I decide it might be safe to leave as long as I don’t get separated from them and lose all chance of ever rediscovering my campsite. Already I’m feeling that soft sadness that accompanies this small town boy’s Bonnaroo experience. It’s beautiful, like life, but like life its over before its begun, and I make sure to soak up every ounce of that weird tincture of emotions that infectiously spreads. Like Norman from New Jersey had corroborated earlier. The world is a strange and weird place.

Read more at Ghettoblaster. 

Vignette I: and so socrates said, “well make that a double”

Vignette I: and so socrates said, “well make that a double”

from the tentatively entitled: “house of the yellow lichen” (to be a lovecraftian horror by way of burroughs/thompson in the vein of philip k. dick)

Vignette I: and so socrates said, “well make that a double”


Consider it screwed:

you know though, it’s probably best not to take most of what i say without a dose of salt (and maybe a tablespoon of activated charcoal if you have any about). i don’t know what it is i’ve got but i’m pretty certain by now it’s contagious and it may very well spread as easily through thought as any other vector. orgonian overdose? mk-ultra? electromagnetic pollution? satellite array transmitted assassination networks (SATAN, for short), i dunno what it is these days but lately it’s like a constant headache, fog or else a mania. Feel my brain all tingly…I wonder if listening to black metal while generating new neurons will have any repercussions?


Better than my old buddy “big red’s” idea though surely: Huff raid, he said, it only kills the weak braincells


oh well, at least i’ve been recording/documenting all i’ve seen and thought i saw. all the connections i mined or imagined. I’m a goof, sure but sometimes I’m pretty sure that maybe deep down I could be great undifferentiated connective tissue, too…

i will never forget the first story i was told when i finally made it to the yellow house:
It was up here in Northern Cali, maybe Ukiah but I think probably more like Garberville, I knew a guy who would crystalize Raid by spraying it on an electrified screen. He would scrape it off and bag it up and sell it as speed. Apparently, the pyrethrins short circuit your nerves and create an amphetamine like sensation…as they DIE.


Well that’s a nifty recipe for a hot shot. I exhaled, remembering the ridiculous trek following Nathan (not the Nathan I had come to McKinleyville, home of the largest totem pole in North America to see, but it seemed portentous at the time, so I followed) that ended with me in the middle of nowhere, dressed in leather fringe and tight, paint stained purple denim, twisted ankle throbbing in Burbank cast off mock-moccasins). That needs to go into a story though, I thought to myself.

True story. He said. I watched him do it.
Whoof… I barked, just under my breath
Yeh…it was brutal. His old lady had a smack habit. Dope don’t buy itself. Caveat emptor..
Yikes, cuz what fun is fucking a girl to death when you could see her die so much more slowly by letting her boyfriend fuck HIM to death and let her live with THAT debt

Hey, you roll the dice, you takes your chances…

i need to get on with it though, at least draw together the important parts, let you make of it what you will. something about a psychedelic sentient lichen and that place they called the house near hootenannie where
the floor rotting in was nothing to the mist of must that gently constricted and tickled the inner soft fleshy palate of throat flesh
then there was
the society of seekers scene, only known as the society of seekers to hangers-on, “prospects” and the scant group of researchers who seem themselves nearly as cultish and obsessed. society members (most of whom manage to evade any public note apart from basic census data)

on your role, complete in every detail, the rollercoasterdips and dives
i’m getting off track again though, aren’t i. this always happened. the weird, wired way my brain worked, the way i thought in a sort of web, wrought with recursive loops. sometimes i drop the golden thread entirely, at that point i’m done for.


like, have you ever woke up, either from anesthesia, being knocked in the head hard enough to cause a concussion or the wrong combination of compounds? that first second, the sort of ether huffing, laughing gas “wah wah” that you get from good model glue, the warmth in the pit of your cheeks and then the brightness and a sense of overhwelming “okayness” followed by a swift and sharp panic, of “where am i, what just happened, hasn’t this happened before, who am i?”

TO BE CONTINUED (perhaps)