The Closest Thing We Have
The Good 'ol days
Remember when you were sitting outside, underneath a tree in the nighttime, next to a stage with loud music? The lights from the stage hit your half-closed eyes as you're sitting there trying to warm up with your pashmina. Do you remember dancing the night away, sweat pouring down your face, and the sheer joy that radiated from your being? Do you remember trading Kandi and meeting up with your friends walking around aimlessly trying to grasp what your place was in the world? Does it all seem like a thing in the past? The closest thing we have right now are drive-in raves and creating our own worlds. As I was doing my late-night scrolling through Facebook and being less than productive, I stumbled upon a few different groups that I'm a part of, and what I found amazed me. I saw people that took it into their own hands to come together and make mini-festivals in the comfort of their backyards or small, intimate venues that they found. I saw Kandi trades, weddings, live music, and so much more. I had to dive in and see how things like this were even possible, especially at such unprecedented times.
A 27-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama, had a Bonnaroo-style birthday party that made some waves! "It was my idea. I planned to go to my 4th Bonnaroo with all of my friends and was even more excited when I found out it would be September this year for my birthday. Everyone was bummed out when it was canceled, so I decided why not throw it myself? I worked with a production company in Tuscaloosa for a little over a year, "Eat my beats," and got hired with a production company here in Birmingham, Alabama. A week before covid "Big Friendly Production Company" plus I worked at a music hall in Tuscaloosa for four years. Druid City Music Hall became a temporary general manager over it at one point. I was a production manager in Huntsville over a venue and have interned with many bands and managers, so I felt like I could easily accomplish a huge event, which I have done before. But this was going to be bigger than anything I'd ever done."
Cost for Bonnaroo birthday
The festival's cost was roughly around $1800, and she spent about $500 on Amazon for all of the decorations, lights, and paints. She stated she tried finding the best deals on everything as well. "I spent around $300 at Walmart for snacks, tables, and spray paints. Then I paid one of my production companies $100 for borrowing the video wall but mostly for the crew's help on setting it up because that thing is huge! My production company in Tuscaloosa let me borrow the sound equipment for free, which helped out a bunch. Then I had an artist, Alora Buird, who sang and had a rapper join her who I paid $100. My main DJ, Rayan, was paid $150 but donated it all to my fundraiser (Easter Baskets For Foster Kids) I had going on as well. I had Moes bbq cater to the event, which was $250 and plenty of food for everyone. I also had an open bar and spent around $300 on alcohol."
Efforts paid off
"I bartend at the moment until things go back to normal where I can work in production again and become a tour manager eventually, but as a head bartender, I'm working almost every day. I had to work while planning all of this. It was really hard and super frustrating at times, but the effort definitely paid off. I believe this isn't just something I needed but something a lot of us needed. Everyone has had to put a lot of their lives on hold because of the pandemic."
Kaitlyn says she doesn't plan to have the event next year because she hopes Bonnaroo will be happening. She plans on holding a fundraiser for "Easter Baskets For Foster Kids Fundraiser" she started it herself for Tuscaloosa, and she's hoping to get it done here in Birmingham now.
Kaitlyn says she had about 80 attendees show up to her event as well. "I had a security guard come at 7 pm, and he made sure everyone had a wristband that I had made months in advance. People who had rsvp had a plus one. Some people brought four, but I still had plenty out of the 100 I made. It started at 2 pm with old live Bonnaroo performances on the video screen in the backyard all day and night, then the DJs were inside by 9 pm, so people had plenty of space to adventure too. It was hard to get a headcount because many stayed for the day, then left, and many came at night."
Kaitlyn says her most valued experience was when they gathered to watch Alora perform. She said that not many people knew she hired some entertainers, so they complimented her by saying how "awesome it was." "Also, the Bonnaroo wedding chapel was fun. I'd stop by every once in a while and see random people getting married to the Roo vows I had posted with the ring pops."
“Get all of your friends on board; this was very, very hard to do mainly by myself. In the week before the party, I realized this and had to put everyone to work. I gave everyone a job and got a lot of help on the decor from my friend Scarlett. I borrowed pallets from friends to build the stage and had my boyfriend driving his truck all around to help me get the big things. Just realize it doesn’t all have to be put on you, and you can get everyone to help. Don’t make it feel like work and have fun with it!”
Making it all come together
“I’d like to think my previous knowledge of venue management and production work, but also I could NOT have done this without the help of my friends, production companies “Eat My Beats” and “Big Friendly Production Company.” Scarlett, my boyfriend, and my family, who even came down to help out. Plus, it was just hard work to earn money to put this all together. The wonderful people who came and made this a success; I can’t forget the DJs who came and played for free doing back to backs just for fun!”
Roo part 2
“I did 100%; this guy at the party was handing out handwritten notes that I’m still finding today that say things like “you are loved always,” “your shoes are dope” lmao random sweet things that made people laugh and smile and that was super Roo of him. Plus going around saying Happy Roo and giving out high fives! I think this is an event that will be talked about for a very long time, and I’m glad to have made my mark in Birmingham.”
Karley Burbink is a 20-year-old from Indiana who decided to throw a Bonnaroo get together as well. “My family and I go to Bonnaroo together every year, so we all decided to throw the party for our whole Roo crew and us!” “In total, we probably spent around $300, and I think we will make this an annual thing!” Said Burbink. The Bonnaroo experience had about 50 attendees, and she had stated that her favorite experience was staying up until sunrise flowing and vibing to music with her best friends.
Some advice from Karley
“My biggest piece of advice is to have stuff for your guests to do & use a lot of decorations! I set up a Kandi bar, a painting station, etc. I found tons of cool decorations from Hobby Lobby. We also used a big screen and projector to play some visuals to make it feel like a real show!” Although she hasn’t planned another event, Burbink says she “definitely had all the Roo vibes at our party!”
Gimme that advice
Marinell Malungcot, a 30-year-old Chicago Illinois resident, and her group of friends sadly missed Electric Forest (as we all did), but that didn’t stop them from creating their own world. To make up for it, they decided to throw their own “Electric Fauxrest” and wait until you see these pictures! “When Electric Forest got canceled earlier in the year (around April), we were heartbroken. Electric Forest is the festival that my rave fam and I look forward to every year. We knew we had to do something to get everyone together. Many ideas came to mind, but then one friend brought up that his family bought a few acres of forest in the middle of Wisconsin. This was when the idea of our own Electric Forest came about.”
“Myself and 5 or 6 others thought of the idea. We call ourselves the Fauxrest Planning Committee (FPC.)” Their rendition of Electric Forest cost about $1500, and it was located in a rural farm town in Hancock, Wisconsin. They plan on recreating Electric Fauxrest again next year if their friend allows it. Their mini-fest had roughly around 30 people attend. They have plans for more upcoming events as well. “The next event we will throw as a group will be the 2nd weekend of January. We will be renting a barn Airbnb, and we will be calling it Barnaroo!”
Come together, right now
“Our favorite experience had to be that Saturday night we were there. On the last night, when the rain cleared up, everything turned out so perfect. The rain literally stopped at 4:20 pm. From then on began the activities. Everyone dressed up in their favorite festival wear, which made it really feel like a festival setting. We had a couple of amazing DJ sets and a jam sesh with a band put together by our friends. All while that was going on, myself and a couple of others prepped the forest lights. Once the performances were over, everyone walked into the forest and saw it lit up to its full potential for the first time. We had decorated with tons of colored floodlights, string lights, fairy houses, and paintings all made by us. We did an emo night in the forest as well, where we all just sang our inner emo hearts out. We also organized a tent decorating contest, which helped make the forest even more festive (and magical!). The best part of all was being able to finally be together in a festival-like setting that we all love the most. It’s where the root of our friendships came from. The night couldn’t have been and more amazing.”
Experience of a lifetime
“Organize a planning committee, spread the workload, and work together. It takes a lot to do something like this, and coming together with different ideas makes things much easier. Start planning within six at least months ahead of time—every detail and logistics matter. Organizing and cleaning are VERY important. For example, the only bathroom was the RV bathroom, but we were afraid the septic tank would get full, so we rented out a porta-potty! Plan a scouting trip to the venue you plan to hold it to get a feel of the place (if you haven’t been there before.) Start a fund that everyone can donate to help with expenses. Things will definitely add up! Prepare for weather no matter what, just like at any other camping festival.”
The Fauxrest 2020
“When we thought about the idea (around May), we sort of just entertained the idea. It wasn’t until about a month before Fauxrest that the planning committee organized a scouting trip to our friend’s land. We thought it would be good to get an idea of what the area looked like. Being there really helped us imagine everything. We saw so much potential with making this look and feel like a festival. Then, within four weeks, we executed our plans. Everyone in the committee had different things we all organized and contributed, such as – funding, logistics, decor, visuals, music, etc. We got together a few times to discuss and plan, and even had days to do arts and crafts for the decor. The best part of everything coming together was that all of our friends contributed something. Whether it was helping set up, to surprise performances, contributing different activities, or just bringing the good vibes, we all worked together to make our own fest happen.”
Did you have that Bonnaroo spirit?
I don’t know about you guys, but I am inspired! Everyone took so much time to plan out these mini-festivals and put their hearts and souls into making everyone’s time a great one. Having mini-events like these are the closest thing we have to the real deal, and we have to stick together. It just goes to show you that with a little blood, sweat, and tears, you can make anything possible and that not even a pandemic can rain on your parade. Thank you to everyone who took their time to create safe spaces for everyone and making time for me! Everyone stay safe out there and remember that anything is possible.