Bonnaroo 2010: The Agony And The Ecstasy

Festival's piecemeal lineup announcement slowly drives our writer crazy, in Bigger Than the Sound.

I am living my life in six-minute intervals. I am listening to a ticking cuckoo clock and watching animated punks attempt to smash androids with mallets. I am listening to snippets of polka music. Over and over again. And there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.

At the time of this writing, I have spent exactly 343 minutes on Bonnaroo's MySpace page, which, by the time you read this, will hopefully have returned to normal. Or at least have gotten rid of the anthropomorphic light bulb (hot-air balloon?) that has been hovering around the site all afternoon and will certainly haunt my dreams tonight, its spindly arms outstretched, as if posing the eternal, unanswerable question: Why?

Why indeed? On Tuesday, for reasons as twisted as they are inexplicable, the folks behind Bonnaroo decided to spice up the usually staid process of unveiling the fest's 2010 lineup (which, in years past, involved little more than a press release and an embargo) by turning the event into something far more sinister: a nine-hour endurance test, a harrowing psychological experiment more at home in the Swan hatch or a "Saw" flick.

Or, in decidedly less-threatening terms, they revealed the name of every single artist on the Bonnaroo bill — some 60 acts as I write this, but, according to a source at the fest, a list that will swell to around 90 — over the course of nine grueling hours. If you do the math, that means one new name every six minutes. Oh, and they decided to do this on MySpace, which officially made today the single longest period I've spent on the site since 2003, when I routinely used it to stalk my ex-girlfriend (wait, delete!).

It was diabolical. Brutal. Because my job mandated it, I was forced to keep 'Roo's MySpace page open all day long, watching the animated cloud slowly bob up and down and that cursed light bulb/ balloon mocking me. The ghostly cuckoo clock would count down the seconds to the next big reveal, and every six minutes, I'd hear those chimes, click over to the site to see some animated character unveiling the latest name. Sometimes, the wait was worth it — the Kings of Leon! Jay-Z! Jimmy-freaking-Cliff! Most of the time, it wasn't — hey ... it's ... Baaba Maal. Still, I kept watching. I grew this beard. The list got longer. My eyeballs began to bleed. I wanted to die.

And here's the thing. I love Bonnaroo. I really do. I think it's probably the best festival in the U.S., a genuinely great event that routinely books the best bands on the planet. And the folks behind the fest — Superfly Productions and AC Entertainment — have always been really great to me. One time they even let me fly in a helicopter there. But dudes, you're killing me here.

I fully understand why you chose to reveal the Bonnaroo lineup this way, and I will begrudgingly admit that no matter how evil a strategy it may be, it's also a pretty brilliant one. Not only did you get the jump on any lineup leaks (an annual tradition right up there with the press release and media embargo), but you created genuine buzz while doing it (as I write this, six of the top 10 Google Trends are Bonnaroo acts). If I could still see, I'd look in your general direction and give you a heartfelt nod, a well-earned "good job" from a weary newsman.

That said, I am slightly terrified that, thanks to the success of the Bonnaroo unveil, competing festivals will soon adopt similar gimmicks. I fear that the days of the press release are gone forever and that I will be spending the next several years of my life on MySpace, eternally watching some cuckoo clock tick down to zero, revealing the name of some Afrobeat band I've never heard of. And with each sweep of the dial, a little piece of my life will disappear, too, until all of a sudden it's 2040, and I'm hunched over at my holodeck watching a 3-D light bulb mock me. And then the name of Jay-Z's grandchild will appear, and everything will be worth it. Or maybe not.

Now, if you'll excuse me, the cuckoo is singing again, the polka band is tuning up, and an animated speakerbox is wrestling with a bear and shouting the name of the Disco Biscuits. Tell me this is all worth it. Tell me the end is nigh. Tell me I have led a good life.

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