Bonnaroo’s Bioluminescence

It’s Thursday night at Bonnaroo. I’m dressed in all black: a hoodie and rain pants, headed straight to the Other Stage from working all day at our campsite. I had no idea what the ebbs and flows of my night would look like, but I became the shadows of something extraordinary.

Rave and EDM are cultures that I’ve been disconnected to for most of my life. The only time I’ve ever recognized an emotional relationship with it was watching my sister blast the speakers and head-bang to dubstep whenever we were home alone, or more passionately, my deep love for samples. But Bonnaroo’s Other Stage-to-Where in the Woods pipeline felt like coexisting on another plane. I saw Zed’s Dead for the first time, actually twice that night, both inside and out of the festival grounds. 

The first round of Zed’s Dead was their classic house/dubstep energy, a space filled with familiar fans and feels. But the late night set was miles away on the spectrum: slow trancy dubstep material with waves of festival goers snoozing on the ground and in their respective hammocks. I was enamored. I discovered a fondness for a genre out of my comfort zone, and that is largely because of the way the crowd inspired me to be the silly and chaotic person I never knew I could be. 

The atmosphere I was surrounded by paralleled a journey to the bottom of the ocean. The crowd and energy started as a vibrant sea of fish – colors, unique totems galore, swimming, moving, grooving and vocalizing subliminal reactions after a new element was added to each beat drop. It felt euphoric in that crowd, undeniably sharing the heart and soul consciousness within the joys of stimulation. 

But Where in the Woods was the bottom of the ocean, where different bioluminescent species came out to play. The deeper you walk into the forest venue, the stranger the creatures get. Every person was lit up one way or the other. Any type of LED toy or outfit that you could ever imagine (hula hoops, fur coats, fiber whips, glasses) were all present. Although each person dressed up to their own uniqueness, whichever outfits were fun to them, became a visual experience for everyone else. There were hippies, jersey clubbers, elves and fairies. A mystical frenzy. 

What do I mean by this? I felt a hue of darkness. It wasn’t a darkness that was inescapable, lonely, unknowing… It was instead a hub of transcendence for the psychedelic wild things to come out and play. 

Where in the Woods at Bonnaroo 2023

I could go into detail about what was really at each destination, but I don’t think that’s the point of what I’m trying to express. I experienced a new community that knows how to expose child innocence and adventure all while tripping and going down the rabbit hole to find the Mad Hatter. And this is only one location, one area, in the greater raver nightlife atmosphere. The culture is limitless, loving, dynamic, amplifying, mysterious, eccentric, and only filled with discoveries that are unknown anywhere else. 

The darkness, the ocean, is not a scary place. The only reason it’s terrifying is because we haven’t unraveled the unknown. We just need to dive deeper to find the glow, the real raw excitement. 


– Rachel

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