Anyone who's been to the festival will tell you that Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is about much more than live music. Every attendee has a story, and over the decades, many of those stories intersect. To document the phenomenon, David Bruce launched the "I am Bonnaroo" photography project, which chronicles the many stories from The Farm.
Bruce has been capturing the sights and tales of Bonnaroo for over a decade now, having started this record-keeping mission in 2011. He joins Barry and Lord Taco on this episode of The What Podcast to talk about his journey, as well as the Bonnaroo Yearbook project he kicked off last year.
Listen to The What Podcast with David Bruce or watch it via YouTube. While you're at it, go ahead and like, review, and subscribe to The What Podcast wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow the Consequence Podcast Network for updates on all our shows, and snag our "Radiate Positivity" T-shirt on the Consequence Shop.
Guest: David Bruce
The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.
For people who know, you know that it's all about live music,
hundreds of acts.
It's about community.
It's about people getting together and radiating positivity.
It's also about a journey.
This has been a journey for me since at least 2007.
It's been a journey for my partner on the What Podcast Russ
since at least 2018.
And we have a special guest today, David Bruce, better known
as I am Bonnaroo.
His journey is about what Bonnaroo is all about.
This is a guy who came on a whim in 2011 and this last year
had his photographs displayed in an amazing format and he also
has a new project which the Bonnaroo people came up with
along with him called the Bonnaroo yearbook.
Russ, I can't think of a better example and there are hundreds
of them and that's the point I really want to emphasize.
It's not like this is an outlier, right?
There are hundreds of examples.
Oh, yeah, of people who Bonnaroo has become a huge part of their
lives for many, many reasons.
But David's is is a great example of this random thing that
he thought he would go to and then the Bonnaroo people reached
out and said, hey, we've been paying attention to what you're
We love it.
How can we help make it better?
Yeah, and you pretty much hear that.
And you pretty much he needs no introduction.
I mean, if you listen to this show, if you go to Bonnaroo,
you probably know David or at least his work.
You've seen probably the photographs that he posts.
I am Bonnaroo on Instagram.
And so we're very fortunate to have him come on and talk with
us about what he was able to do and it's nice to actually
talk about Bonnaroo again.
You know, we've been spent the last few weeks.
We've talked about Moon River, which we just had here in
You know, Brad went to Riot Fest.
We're kind of branching out to other festivals, but you know
what the show was kind of formed over was Bonnaroo and it's
always nice to get back to talking to it.
Even in we're at now in October and we're talking about a
festival that happened in June.
Yeah, that's a great point.
And it's big and it's big again.
We we talk about it here in the show.
It's because it's become this year-round conversation, right?
Yeah, and it's funny.
We talked last last week with Brad is this the are we at the
end of a season or the beginning of a season and I I don't know
y'all you guys seem to want to have those definitions endpoints
and starting points more than I do because to me it never
I mean, it's just continuous.
It really doesn't matter.
Yeah, it's it's a year-round thing.
It never ends.
Yeah, you're just like me where you probably at least once a
day you think of Bonnaroo or at least something reminds you
of something that happened to Bonnaroo or you talk to somebody
that you met from Bonnaroo and so it's it's just so woven into
the fabric, you know of everything that we do pretty much.
Yes, it's almost become a part of us.
And again, David, it's like David said, yeah, he said it's
made him a better person not to give away the right the interview,
but yeah, you'll hear him talk about that.
So again, he's you know, he lives in New York, but I consider
him a friend.
I know you do.
I mean, there's so many people that are now parts of our lives
that that don't live near us, you know, but I think of them
as being close friends because of this festival and this
So again, it's the journey and it's the friendships and the
shared experiences and just cool people.
I mean, let's just be honest.
It's just cool people.
It is cool people.
And that's what keeps us coming back and thinking about it
and talking about it is, you know, the lineup comes out and
you know, you know, it's going to be great.
But yeah, for me, I don't care what the line of who they
announce, you know, I'm going back to to hang out with you
and people like David and just see all these people that
we talked to year round.
You know, it almost is like a homecoming thing.
I mean, how great is it this last year when we were there
we're walking out of what one of the I guess the media area
and oh hey, there's David Bruce.
I think you said, oh hey, there's David and then he yeah,
he came back to camp and then he followed us to do one
of the interviews with one of the bands and shoot photographs.
I mean, how cool is that to have this guy who's such a
great photographer join us, you know, to be a part of taking
He and I mentioned Nate Gale, Nate is so great to do that.
He's done it for years and years, but we're so lucky to
have people like that.
But that's just that those sort of random things like, you
know, oh hey, you want to take a picture?
You know, works for us.
So here we go.
Here's our interview a visit with David Bruce.
I am Bonnaroo Russ is going to include a lot of links and
not just do his work, but also his websites and what he's
So check it out.
Yeah, please do.
And this is one you almost want to if you listen to the podcast
on Spotify or anything, you know, you might want to check
over on YouTube because we're going to have a lot of pictures
of what he's talking about and stuff.
So this is almost more of a visual episode just as it is
one to listen to.
So that's it.
Enjoy and see you guys soon.
And we are back for another episode of the what podcast.
Thank you all for listening.
Thank you all for watching.
Thank you all for finding us.
Whatever it is you're doing.
I'm Barry to the on your screen there and the PBR hat is Russ
or as we like to call him Lord Taka.
We have a very special guest as we always do.
We have David Bruce with us.
You might know him as I am Bonnaroo and thank you David for
We are so excited to talk about this.
I'm going to call this sort of a journey episode because to me
this episode is all about the Bonnaroo journey and you'll you
guys will understand what I mean as we get into this but what
I'm so excited to talk about this how we met when we met where
it's gone for you for us.
It's incredible, right?
Yeah, I think there's a lot of people that are regulars at the
farm that can sort of relate to this because absolutely people
They make connections.
They make new friends and you know, they start calling them
You know, it's like your extended family.
So yeah, for sure.
Let me see if I can set the table if you will and you guys
please jump in and correct me if I get dates wrong or names
wrong or the story wrong or whatever.
But I started I went to the first one 2002 for the first day
I covered it for the Times Free Press chatting to the Times
Free Press as a reporter realized immediately what a cool
thing and kind of wish that I was there but also didn't want
to camp and to be quite honest was not a big jam band fan.
So it wasn't totally my scene flashback to 2007.
The paper said hey, we need you to start going regularly and
I said, okay and so started going.
I've been going ever since 2007 our co-host Brad Steiner who
is not here as you will see Brad lives in New York and has
a whole lot of things on his plate.
He's a radio guy.
And so this year kind of not always with us but he and I
were having lunch regularly after that we started hanging
out quite a bit and realized we were talking about Bonnaroo
all the time year-round and we were about to go to the 2018 Bonnaroo
which that's correct.
Yeah, he's been there since the beginning as well kind of he
missed a few early on like I did but has been every year
since but realized we were talking about it all the time
and realized we should probably do a show.
He came up with the idea for a podcast.
He reached out to some guy named Lord Taco who I'd not met
who I'd never heard of Taco at that time stood for what tweeting
and communicating online which was what a random name you
plucked out of nowhere, right?
I mean, yeah, well there was a bunch of us.
There was a Dr.
Taco and a Mr.
Taco and Commander Taco and so I just picked Lord Taco just
literally for no reason it was available.
Yeah, you certainly didn't think it was ever going to show
up on a podcast, right?
No, if people are going to call me that in real life, I probably
would have put a little more thought into the name.
But so Brad left.
I mean we he left the lunch and like the next day he said
what I have a website.
We have a podcast.
I have a guy who's building it for us.
It's Lord Taco and we're going to do this show for two
months three months leading up to the 2018 Bonnaroo and that
That was that was our thought and we reached out to AC
Entertainment, which was the co-founder of Bonnaroo just so
we could be legit, you know and and said here's what we're
going to do and they were like we love the idea.
You can't use Bonnaroo and anything any of your graphics,
but we love the idea.
So that's sort of where it started.
We've been doing this ever since somewhere along the line.
I don't remember what year it was David to you when we when
we met and sort of reached out was it 19?
That sounds about right.
Yeah, I mean I first met Russ ironically enough at a speakeasy
mini-roo the first year that Bonnaroo was canceled because
Okay, that's right.
Yeah, so I went I was you know, all dressed for the party and
had no place to go. So I impulsively ended up going down
to to Lindsay's farm, which is about 30 minutes from where
Bonnaroo is held every year.
He invited a bunch of people down.
I grabbed my camera gear some film met some fantastic people
down there who none of I had ever met before true Ruvians.
You know, Russ was one of those people and we started chatting
and it's kind of like I had a conversation with him there.
I believe before I actually even realized to you know, he was
Lord taco, even though I was fully aware of Lord taco.
So that's kind of where that's that's kind of where I think I
came into, you know, the fold with you folks.
Yeah, so that was the inception of that.
So yeah, and yeah for me.
I mean, like you said, I had never been to Bonnaroo 2018 was
my first year you guys had gone nearly every year.
Of course us living so close in Chattanooga.
I've always heard of Bonnaroo known people that gone just had
never gone for whatever reason.
I've had the bus 20 years and you know, that's one of the most
frequently asked questions when people see it and want to talk
they're like, oh, I bet you take it to Bonnaroo and I'm like
now I've never been and then it started to become a question
of why haven't I been what's you know, so it was on my radar
and I was thinking about going and then when you know, Brad
approached and that said can we get a website and the podcast?
I said sure can I get a ticket and that was basically the
agreement was that was my payment was to set all this up.
I got a ticket to go and of course we all thought this was
a one-off, you know, we'll do this for the year and then
I'll be it but heck what six years later, we're still doing
it. Yeah, David you mentioned the the mini-roo and that's
that's part of this journey.
You mentioned Lindsay.
Like I said Brad and I talked about we realized we were
talking about Bonnaroo year-round.
We have met he and I I knew Brad because of our jobs prior
but it was at Bonnaroo where we really met and hung out and
became friends and then we started Camp Nut Butter which
is named because his wife Hillary is a vegan vegetarian
and makes her own nut butter and quite frankly nut butter
is a funny word.
So I said that's what we should you know, I just randomly
said let's see you guys next year at Camp Nut Butter.
Well, it's we now have a sign we I mean it was a whole
So it's it the people that were there we we had like 28
people one year at its at its biggest that I remember and
these are people that you know, I would see once a year but
they were like you said David they became family.
Yeah, some were from Chattanooga some not you mentioned
again going back the mini-roo when the when we had the
pandemic had many roos all over the place and Lindsay who
Russ and I saw earlier this month at Moon River as we have
every year for the last couple of years one of the great
Bonnaroo people Sharla and Daniel and they have they have
some really cool stuff in the works from the roo bus the
real roo bus.
These are people that we talked to year-round these are Chloe,
you know, Liesl people that have become friends because of
Yeah Parker and Reed.
It's just an amazing community.
And so I wanted to sort of set that table as to why we're
here how we got here and and introduce David your project
bring everybody up to speed as to how you got to Bonnaroo
and then we'll sort of go from there because you had a
project at Bonnaroo this last year that I again everything
about your story and our story to me is what Bonnaroo is all
about for people who who are listening you guys know, I
mean, there's nobody listening who's not been who doesn't
understand but it's so much more than just a series of
I mean the live music is great.
Oh for sure, but it's so much more and it's this community
and the things that have come out of it.
I mean, I never imagined we'd be doing this.
I can only imagine you never thought you would be taking the
do an I am Bonnaroo project like you are so bring people
up to speed if you don't mind.
But before I do that just just to sort of comment on something
that you said one of one of the things that I learned this
year specifically in the whole process with talking with folks
from Bonnaroo who had never communicated with before is you
know, they're they are truly interested in the Bonnaroo
community and it's apparent, you know that that's how they're
really growing the Bonnaroo experience.
I mean, I'm sure that if you talk with Daniel and Charlotte
from the Roobus they would sort of say that's true as well
And I mean if you if you look at all of the things they've done
in the Plaza this year, they're really making Bonnaroo an
expanded experience that goes beyond just the music which is
great because you know a lot of people that they go to Bonnaroo
regularly say, you know, it's it's great to hear the lineup.
I look forward to seeing the bands.
I want to see I look forward to learning about artists that
I've never heard of before but they're really going for the
Bonnaroo experience and I think to me it's become obvious that
the people who are sort of driving the Bonnaroo bus totally
get that and they're they're really capitalizing on that and
I think that's one of the reasons why you know, we've seen
this year all of the outer roo experiences.
I mean it has a name now they have all of these different
plazas and they really sort of put that into hard overdrive
this year, you know, and luckily for me I got to be a small
part of that, you know, but so I digress but to get back to
your your last question to try to summarize it.
I first went to Bonnaroo in 2011.
It was an impulsive decision.
My daughter who at the time was a freshman in college sent
my wife a message and said I'm going to go to this music
festival in Tennessee this year.
She sent me a text.
I was at work and she said, what do you know about a festival
called Bonnaroo in Tennessee?
I said it's a world-class music festival.
And she said because Madison our daughter is thinking about
going and I told her that I was wow.
I said, I think that's great.
I'm actually envious of that.
So what happened was her roommate's dad at the time who
lives in Long Island.
I live in upstate New York.
Had also told his daughter that he was kind of envious that
she was going and she suggested well, why don't you get
together with Madison's dad and you guys can go to Bonnaroo
So my first trip to Bonnaroo was with somebody who I didn't
know who, you know, who I got to know really well on a thousand
mile journey down there.
We still send each other Christmas cards every year.
I think 2011 was the only year that he's been but what a great
experience, you know, and I mean, I think that's part of
the Bonnaroo experiences is the journey there.
It's definitely making connections with people.
It's it's, you know, those memories and those stories that
don't leave you that that stick and last, you know, so, you
know, fast forward to now.
I haven't missed a Bonnaroo the first time I went to Bonnaroo
I decided to bring a camera and a few rolls of film because
you know, I'm a photographer and just kind of shoot what was
going on down there and I didn't I didn't really have any
expectation of what it was going to be like and you know, so
and we went me and Joe the guy that I went down there with in
2011 when we just showed up massively unprepared.
I mean our tent neighbors must have just been pointing and
laughing at us, you know, so I went down with a few rolls of
I brought a vintage film camera because I sort of envisioned
it being a little bit like Woodstock and I kind of wanted
to capture that Woodstock essence.
Let me interrupt a little bit when you say that for a lot of
people they think camera they think their phone.
Yeah, did you was it black and white that first year or did
you bring color film or I mean 120?
No, it was you bring.
So I brought a I brought a 1969 to be very specific Nikon film
camera 35 millimeter film camera because you know what I when
I thought about how I wanted those images to possibly look I
was thinking of the original Woodstock Festival.
I was thinking of ironically enough Vietnam.
So you did have wanted that you had you did have a little bit
of a vision.
I mean it was accidental and I think it's important to this
narrative, but you did have a little bit of vision going in
so I'd for sure.
And you know, the thing of it is is the best laid plans that
that whole saying especially when you're walking into a
scenario that you're not that you're not really that familiar
I could have shot those those half a dozen rolls of film that
I brought with me in the first half a day.
I was at Bonnaroo.
I was there and I was I was like a kid walking around at Disney
World for the first time.
It was a visual feast.
I had to pace myself.
I had to try to source some additional film and just try to
get through the weekend that way.
So, you know, so if you think about 2011 going down with five
or six rolls of film and a camera now I travel down there
with two primary cameras a backup camera and 45 rolls of
That's what I did this year and it's not just it's not just
black and white.
It's black and white and color.
Okay, and you know, I was a portrait photographer and my
philosophy is is unless color plays a role in making a photo
It's a distraction.
So that's why I typically shot everything in black and white
and I still shoot black and white but then you know, I
started it kind of dawned on me after a few years that you
know Bonnaroo was such a colorful place and the people
are so colorful that I was kind of missing.
I was missing a little a little bit of that ingredient by just
shooting black and white.
So now I shoot pretty much equally black and white and
color film there.
Yeah, there is a difference between because you know most
people now one click in Photoshop in a color photo becomes
black and white.
Yeah, but you're actually using black and white film that
yeah does not process any color.
What what's the difference between that and just clicking
a button like is the film does it you know, yeah, richer is
100% and you know that the images that you see on my Instagram
social feed are all low res and they're jpeg.
So they're truncated.
So where you really notice the difference between a high
quality digital image and a high quality film image is in
the print in the large print.
I'm not saying that one is better.
They just look and feel different.
So to answer your question black and white film has a very
specific grain structure.
I love grain the more green the better and it's in it's you
know, the image is actually captured by silver particles
on film color film is a little bit different.
I mean, I've shot color images that I've converted to black
and white because I just thought the image was better in black
and white or grayscale.
But when you look at those you can still tell that even though
it kind of looks like a film image that was converted from
color to black and white it from a print standpoint the two
images still look very different.
Yeah, that's that's what I was getting at because I would say
there's a huge generation of people now who've never shot on
a film camera, you know, digital photography is the only
thing they know.
So that's a pretty neat pretty neat distinction.
That's exactly right.
That's why I asked it is our phones take really nice photos
and we all can be really good photographers and capture a
But when you see a professional who knows what he's doing,
it's a huge difference and yeah, yeah, it's there.
There's there's definitely a difference in, you know, I see
in the digital world that a lot more of the filters are sort
of adding grain and you know dust speckles and trying to
replicate the look and feel of film, which I think is very
Yeah, because to me it means that that you know, people still
want to see that kind of imagery, you know, but anyway,
so we're getting into the into the weeds here.
So the so yeah, so you realize pretty quickly that this was
a treasure trove, right?
You realized you had an opportunity to do something really
cool with this festival, right? Definitely 100% and so, you
know, after I went the second year and was a little bit more
I had said to my wife, you know, would be really cool is
if I could turn this into like a five-year project because
now it's not just, you know, some photos that I shot now.
Now it's a body of work and if I could do it for five years,
then that's kind of an accomplishment, you know, it's
it's sort of like an opus, I guess, but I once I got into it,
I just I couldn't stop doing it.
It just kept growing and the more the more I went the more
I shot the more feedback that I got from people that I still
get from people that just kept the wind in my sails.
I just it just kept going and kept going.
So then I set my sight on a 10-year mark.
I'm like, I'm going to I'm going to do this for 10 consecutive
years because that's for me personally, that's an accomplishment.
And of course, the 10th year was the COVID Roo that never
happened, you know, and that's how I ended up down at Lindsey's
So yeah, and essentially I did shoot Bonnaroovians.
And you reached out to us at one point.
Thankfully, I guess you met Russ and reached out and we had
you on the show and talked about the great photos and what
you were doing and your project and then I remember you reached
out and very humbly kind of said, you know, is there any way
you can hook me up with the folks at at Bonnaroov and get
you more access?
I don't think you were asking for anything crazy or anything
And they were receptive and then you started for folks who, you
know, been part of this show for a while, you've seen David's
One of the great parts about this whole festival is we started
with the show getting access to artists and getting interviews
and just kind of randomly write.
David, I mean, I don't know.
It's not like it's a formal thing.
You met us backstage and we got to do some interviews with some
really cool artists and you were like, do you mind if I take
photographs of these artists?
And I can't know that would be awesome.
So I mean churches was that was one of my favorite interviews
ever and you were there.
I mean, we looked right, Russ.
We look like we knew what we were doing, right?
We come walking in with all of our equipment and we got a
professional for two of them.
Actually, Nate Gale also has been so kind to shoot artists
for us and and you David.
So we get these amazing like we walked in with a whole crew.
Yeah, it looked like we know what we're doing.
Yeah, but it's so ironically enough and I again, I don't
want to digress, but I was actually watching churches live
performance at Glastonbury from this year last night.
So and you know to to see them on that stage, you know across
the Great Pond in that capacity just doing their things.
I'm literally sitting there saying myself.
I remember when I was with the what podcast guys sitting a
small trailer with these three people and it was just it was
it was literally literally surreal.
Wow, it was so cool.
It was very cool.
And yeah, you anyway.
So again trying to tell this story sort of as tightly as I
can or we can so you went your first five years six years by
yourself took all these photographs, right?
I mean in their huge format.
I remember you we would I remember asking you to send us
a copy and I mean, it's it's a big big digital format.
These are not again, I feel like we're going to have to
send you a copy of the photo.
So you're very serious about it.
And so you did that and then tell us about this this last
year because again the and this is the part of the journey and
I heard you say that earlier.
This has been a journey the whole Bonnaroo experience for
so many people is a journey and it is evolved and developed
and again for people to see.
Again for people who don't know or new to it.
It's just so much more than a list of bands who are performing.
There's all these things that are happening behind the scenes
year-round whatever just like we're talking about.
So when did you when did they reach out to you or tell that
story because you came to our camp this last year on was it
Sunday morning or Saturday Sunday morning?
I think it was the last day.
It was Sunday morning.
You came and and we're telling telling us about this project
that you had at Bonnaroo and I really want to get into that
because it's so cool and it illustrates not just your
journey, but it illustrates Bonnaroo's as you kind of
alluded to earlier their acceptance of all these things
like this and their willingness to say there's a lot of cool
stuff happening like with the Roobus and the beer exchange
and the parachute people and there are so many cool things
that people are doing that are part of this experience that
are not they're not on the program so to speak though.
Some of these things are yeah, but anyway, tell us about that
how that happened and how it evolved and what you did.
Okay, so how it happened and there's a there's a lot of
details and I'm going to try to consolidate it for you a
little bit, but so it was February.
It was sometime in February of this year and you know at that
point everything's kind of radio silent from from Bonnaroo
for the obvious reasons, you know, they're in between things
and I got a random email one day from somebody from Bonnaroo
and said they basically said hey, we're wondering if you
might be interested in and possibly a collaboration this
It was literally just like that and I had to read it like
three or four times because I mean, obviously that's a
rhetorical question, you know, so I simply responded.
Absolutely, you know, and they so I got an email back probably
the next day.
Great at this point.
Maybe we should try to do a FaceTime or a zoom meeting so
that we can finally, you know, meet you and meet us and we
can kind of get to know each other and so many words and I'm
Just let me know when so another day or so goes by and they
said are you available next Wednesday at 11 o'clock and I
said, yes, I am.
So still I had no idea what was going on.
I had to I had a week to think about it.
I was trying not to overthink it.
It could have been something that I wasn't maybe interested
in doing or it could have been something great.
I really had no idea, you know.
So the zoom meeting was was me and two people from Bonnaroo
actually one of the people was was from C3 presents who is
based out of Austin who organizes a lot of festivals
Bonnaroo being one of them and the second person that was on
that zoom was Cory and I'm sure he probably wouldn't mind me
mentioning his name.
You guys have had Cory on the show.
We're going to have him on here in a couple weeks very soon.
So yeah, I literally looked at him when I saw him pop up in
the zoom window and I said I know you from the what podcast
and he just started laughing.
But but so anyways, so that the first zoom conversation was
It was kind of like hey nice to meet you and it was it was
kind of like just so you know, we love your project.
We've been following it for years for me.
That was a massive win right there and they said we
would like to collab.
We'd like to collaborate with you somehow don't know how you
feel about that and don't even really know what that would
possibly look like.
So in a sense, do you have any ideas?
Maybe we can come up with some some ideas together.
So I was totally unprepared for that because going into it.
I thought they sort of had an idea or a vision for what this
collaboration would be.
So I kind of thought about it for a second and I said well,
I said in a in a perfect world.
I said, you know one year I went on the farm and I saw some
Danny clinch photos Danny clinch is a legendary concert
photographer and they had a few of his photos just wheat
pasted on some of the barricades throughout center.
I thought that was really cool.
I mean, I literally said wow, this is this is fantastic and
I told them that and I said so I guess kind of a dream of
mine might be that I could walk into center or Bonnaroo at
some point and see one of my images some of my images
I said that that would be a major accomplishment for me,
you know, and without hesitating they said we can do that.
I was like wow great and then they talked and they said well,
we'll reach out to this person who manages all of those
things at Bonnaroo and we'll get back to you and we'll let
you know what that looks like.
But maybe we could do like 12 to 18 photos and I'm like that
would be that would be incredible.
Honestly, so another week or so went by and they came back
and they said yeah, we're going to do that.
Can can we possibly have maybe around 30 images and I said
yes, you can.
So without going to that so there was days in between kind
of very great communication.
But every time they asked for something I'm like, absolutely.
Thank you so much that that actually grew into over a
hundred high resolution images by the time it was all said
and done which they used at the rest stop Plaza and you know,
I'll talk more more about that but I didn't even really know
what that was going to look like until I till I showed up.
I didn't know how those photos were going to be used.
They could have just cherry picked their favorite 15 out
of the hundred that I sent and use those.
I had no idea what it was going to be.
But as far as the yearbook thing goes what had happened in
one of these conversations is I impulsively sent them an email
and I said hey listen, I said maybe for 2024 down the road.
I had this idea of doing a photo shoot of you know, some
poor a portrait session of the Bonnaroovians kind of make
it look a little bit like a red carpet event and I and I
mocked up one of my previous photos with a with a made-up
blurb for the person in the photo and said hey my first
year at Bonnaroo is this and my favorite part of Bonnaroo
is this and I said and this is how this could possibly
look and one of those folks in the the five people that
this email chain had grown into you said this is a pretty
We'll talk about it and we'll get back to you and I'm like
Another week or so goes by and they asked if I was they sent
a message and said are you available to do another zoom
meeting next Tuesday at 1 o'clock and I said yes I am and
this was with a whole different group of people and I thought
at that point we were still talking about the photo
installation that I had been working on with them and what
I realized was they wanted to sort of hit the ground running
with this project that became the the Bonnaroov yearbook
series and they kind of came up with the name the yearbook
series with the idea that it would be something that would
continue from from one year to the next.
So at that point I'm pretty excited because now I'm like
they're not just talking about a one-off for 2024 or even
They're talking about this possibly growing into a regular
thing and you know, I had said to them I said I think that
folks would really dig this.
I think it's another way to engage people there, but not
only there during the festival but to keep people engaged
after the festival by just trickling these things out as
we go along.
They said yeah, we think that's that's a great idea.
Let's do it.
So that's truncating a pretty long story about how the
yearbook series became and that sort of was started running
parallel before Bonnaroov this year with the whole photo
installation thing that I was doing and that's what the
whole initial conversation was about.
So, I mean all I really had to do was they asked all I had
to do is sort of put out an idea that I had.
They liked it and it became a true collaboration because
they named the project.
They gave the space the project of space and not only that
but after Bonnaroov this year, they put me in contact with
the person who is their lead graphic designer and that
individual came up with the color scheme that I use for all
of the yearbook posts, sent me the font, which is a licensed
font by the way.
They actually they actually paid a typographer in like
Switzerland or Germany to design their Bonnaroov font.
And if you look at it is very unique.
It has the Bonnaroov logo sort of built into the to the O's
and zeros and stuff.
So, you know, so from that standpoint, it definitely
became a true collaboration, you know.
See, I hope people who if you're still with us, you
understand when I said this is the journey.
That's what we were going to talk about on this show is
I remember when you were sitting with us on that Sunday
morning and it was a brief conversation.
But I mean, I remember thinking this is going to be a great
podcast episode or multiple ones because what a journey,
Halfway through that conversation.
I was wishing we had a record recording.
It's like this is a this is a great story.
Yeah, I thought the same.
Where's the camera?
Where's the recorder?
I mean, there's so much about it.
It illustrates the Bonnaroo Bonnaroo's willingness to do
cool things, right?
I mean, that's the thing.
I remember walking in that very first day in 2002 thinking
this is a different event.
You know, these guys are willing to and trying to do cool
things for the fans and for themselves, right?
It wasn't I've said it since we started this show.
I never felt like they had their hand in my wallet.
It wasn't about a money grab.
It was about doing cool stuff, right?
This is I mean, you know, David, you come from New York on
a whim because your daughter's coming.
You come with a guy you've never met before and you thought
this is a cool thing and look where it's it's come.
So tell us I remember your yearbook series.
Tell us about the family.
I think that you shot.
I think it was a husband and wife and maybe a child or maybe
it was just a husband and wife, but he he had a particular
request as to how he wanted to be photographed, right?
Yeah, that that that was a standout for me.
I had a lot of standouts.
I mean, I was I was thrilled with the turnout from the
people on the enthusiasm.
One of the things that I had mentioned real quick to the
folks in the zoom call is is I really want the yearbook series
to showcase the diversity of the Bonnaroo community.
I'm hoping it's not, you know, one or two kinds of people that
show up for it and it's truly a diverse photo series and I'm
only about halfway through it to be perfectly honest with you.
I shot a lot, but I'm sorry to answer your question.
So this this guy and his I can't remember if his wife of wife
or his girlfriend showed up and as I'm getting ready to take
their photo, he says to me, do you mind if I get naked for
And I said I'd be disappointed if you didn't, you know, so he
did and meanwhile my buddy Scott who's helping me out with
this who is essential to me, you know, getting getting through
this every day was had a whole line of people who had showed
up for their for the time slot that were waiting to get their
There was probably 15 people in the line at the time and this
this dude literally just dropped everything except for the
He was wearing he got naked and I took him and his wife's
photo in front of a line full of people.
I asked him to hold her fan in front of you know, his mid
section to because I'm like there's no way that I'll ever
be able to show these on socials or there's no way Bonnaroo
will ever share them if you're full on naked.
So he did that and that ended up being the shot that I used
but yeah, he had like one of the Japanese fans, right?
You said fan.
Yeah, one of those what are they call those those pop fans
or something like that what their technical term is but yeah,
But yeah, just one of one of my great stories that I got from
from shooting that series of share, you know, so the other
thing you said and and and it gave me chills to hear you talk
about it and you mentioned Danny Glinch who is terrific.
So what was it like for you to walk in and see your photographs?
It was the the where in the woods right?
They were they were on the fence area.
Yeah leading in.
Yeah, what was that like man?
I can't even imagine.
I wow. So what happened was we we entered Bonnaroo in an area
that we've never entered before this year because we were camping
in a vendor camping area.
They gave us directions on how to get there and when we got
to the security check-in point, we were met by a person in
a golf cart who sort of chaperoned as to where we needed to
So as we actually start getting into the Bonnaroo grounds on
the farm start seeing the tents we start driving down the
dirt road that basically goes right past where in the woods
and then all of sudden we came up to this chain-link fence
that had all of the photos just displayed and we're literally
driving to where we were going to be camping and that was
that was the first time I saw that it was the first time I
realized exactly how all of those images that I sent to them
were being used because I still really had no idea but there
was over a hundred large format images mounted on that chain-
link fence that they printed nine 12 foot long vinyl panels
and just decorated the outside of that that fence that that
led into the rest stop and I got chills.
I just did it again.
Probably I even had tears welled up in my eyes because I
never would have you know, even before I got the email in
February I wasn't close to ending this project but you
know, I was getting to the point where it's like, okay,
it's kind of plateauing a little bit.
It's sort of status quo.
You know, what do I do?
That's anything different to try to grow this a little bit
and then boom I get that email in February and then to see
that come to fruition in June the way that it did was just
that's like wow.
I'm definitely not I'm not done here yet, you know along
What do you know the idea is ask for it reach for the moon.
What's your idea?
What do you want to do?
I mean the yearbook thing you want to continue.
I assume you're going to continue your your photographs.
Is there something else and you know, maybe you can't talk
about it yet.
I don't I don't even know.
I haven't asked I haven't asked you yet.
But is there something else you want to do?
Not really, you know, well, I don't want to say not really
there's there's lots I want to do.
I mean, I definitely want to continue with the yearbook
series because I think that now people actually see what
it's what it is.
It's going to generate even more interest and I think that
if I do it again this year, I mean, I was told that I would
be doing it this year.
I don't want to take that for granted.
But I think that you know, I'll probably have a little bit
of a different space and things like that.
But I mean, you know, when it's all said and done, I'd
love to do a book and one of the reasons why I haven't
really started compiling that yet is because I'm not done
with the project yet, you know, but at some point.
I definitely want to I want to do a book that's going to
sort of be the whole I am Bonnaroo sort of story.
And I think that I don't know probably not from a printed
standpoint, but I think Bonnaroo is definitely going to
be doing something with the yearbook series photos as well,
whether it's an online thing or or whatever.
But you know, one of the things that you said is to people
is ask, you know, if you have an idea, if you think nobody
that you're sending emails or messages into the abyss to
the folks at Bonnaroo, just put it out there.
And even if you don't get a response doesn't mean that
they're not paying attention and they're not listening
because that's that's truly my my personal experience with
them. And what I found out afterwards is that they had
been paying attention all along.
Yeah, we've we found the same, you know, that I mean, you
remember Russ, I'll never I mean, there have been so many
incidents, but you remember when we asked to interview
Steven and Brian, the guys who booked the the artists and
actually what I had reached out to Ted Heining and said,
I'd like to interview you.
And he said, now you don't want to talk to me.
How about you talk to the guys who actually booked the
artists? And I'm like, are you kidding?
That's an option.
And then yeah, we had no idea.
No idea. And then I, you know, I slept on it overnight.
And I thought they're there just in Knoxville.
They're an hour and a half away.
Why don't we go up there?
And they said, come on, you know, so the the that that I'm
glad you mentioned that again, David, because that sort of
thing is I think why this festival is so different.
If somebody has a good idea, they're willing to at least
listen and see if it can't work.
And I mean, yes, you know, let's be honest.
It's it's great for them because it's free labor.
I mean, you know, at the very basic, you know, they get for,
you know, free stuff and it's cool.
Yeah, but not everybody does that.
You know, not everybody is willing to say absolutely do it
run with it.
Yeah. So that's really cool.
You know, and the thing of it is, is I had multiple zoom
meetings with these folks and at the end of every one of them,
they said, okay, great.
Is there anything else that you know, you need from us?
And every time I was never prepared for that and I and to
be honest with you, I never asked.
I was just so grateful to be to be doing that.
I never asked for anything.
You know, I mean, this project for me is never I've never made
a dollar from this project.
It's a labor of love.
Matter of fact, it's cost me thousands of dollars.
Understand, don't we?
So it's not a money thing.
It's totally a passion project for me.
And you want to know something?
My reward for that is them paying attention and them sort
of, you know, helping me sort of show the work and they're
doing that on a they're doing that on a grand a grandiose
Well, I think I can speak for Russ and Brad.
I mean for us to be able to go online and see your photo of
churches and brist and Moroni and whoever else, you know,
you're there shooting.
It's just it's it's a wow.
It's a wow.
I can't believe we got to do that.
That was really cool type of thing.
So and I did want to ask just because I mean, it's a kind of
a personal thing.
But what is your wife and daughter think of this now?
Not like your wife doesn't go.
My wife doesn't go but she 100% sees the passion that I have
And so she's like, it's your thing.
Go have a great time, you know, and for me, you know, it's
I'm gone for a week sometimes not this last time and she
So, you know, give her a little shout out.
I assume she's very supportive.
Like my wife.
Yeah, you know, I don't maybe it's maybe it's the name Kelly
because both of our wives names are Kelly but I can tell you
that my project wouldn't be what it is right now without my
wife support and that's that's the only way that I can sort
of summarize that she is she has never been to Bonnaroo.
She has no desire to go to Bonnaroo.
It's not her thing.
She is this project's largest fan and I can say that and so
is my daughter and so are my two sons both both of my sons
were music industry majors.
They both been to Bonnaroo with me.
My daughter by the way showed up as a surprise on Father's
Day while I was doing the yearbook shoot said she wasn't
going to be there because she had a work commitment which
was true and she showed up and surprised me while I was doing
the yearbook thing on Father's Day.
See incredible very cool.
What have we anything I haven't asked about I this was everything
that I thought it would be right?
What am I missing?
Yeah, I want to go back to that.
You mentioned the 2020 year when Bonnaroo was canceled and
that was going to be your 10 year anniversary of this thing
and you know, we we kind of both showed up at this mini
group out in Winchester, Tennessee.
You know, I think your experience is kind of similar mine.
I didn't know anyone I knew Daniel and Sharla and I get a
text with an address and just says show up this weekend and
I'm thinking okay, there's there's no Bonnaroo.
So we might as well try this.
So, you know, hop in the car and drive out to very very rural
Not and don't know anybody don't know what I'm going to
show up at had never met Lindsay before and you know,
it's his property and what there was maybe 50 of us that
kind of just showed up and of course by the end of the weekend
we were all, you know, really close and that's kind of where
this friendship started was, you know, since there was no
Bonnaroo we were forced to try these different, you know,
kind of last-minute alternative camping plans and all that.
Yeah, and and I think that definitely had an impact on how
we've kind of evolved as far as just because you know, like
we, you know, there's a bunch of people I met there including
you that we talk almost every day.
Was that the year you came you came to my house?
David was that the same year was it the next I think that
was 2021 because we did two of these mini-rules.
So it actually if I could take a minute to talk about both
of those things.
What I you know, one of my one of my interest in going to
the first mini-rue was because I really wanted to see if the
Bonnaroo spirit thrived and survived outside of the farm on
those four days and it did and then some it was fantastic.
I pulled in there like Russ said I knew nobody.
No one knew had no idea what to expect by the time I was out
of my car.
I had a few people walking over and asking me if I needed
help setting up my tent. Russ and I got to know each other.
We ended up doing a second trip during another cancelled
I'm texting him like hey, are you going down to Lindsay's
And he's like, yes, I am.
So I'm driving down the thousand-mile journey by myself.
I get a message from Ross saying hey Mark Rubelay pronouncing
his name wrong.
I'm sure is going to be playing in Chattanooga.
He was supposed to be on Bonnaroo's lineup that year.
He said we're going to go see him in Chattanooga.
Are you interested in going?
I'm like, yes, I'm interested in going.
So, you know, that was a great thing that I got to do with
with Russ, you know, during another year that Bonnaroo was
We jumped in the bus.
We came to your house.
It was the first time I met you and Brad you were an amazing
host. Definitely a highlight for me that weekend.
Got to meet you guys.
We had a couple of beers on your porch.
Yeah, it was just a fantastic journey.
It was literally just another chapter to the whole Bonnaroo
journey for me personally, you know, and the thing is, yeah,
that's it's not just us.
I mean, that's that's what is so amazing is it's not like
there's just these 50 people or 10 people that have these
There's thousands of them that have similar experiences, right?
That's what makes this thing so special.
And I mean, there's there's a bunch of people they're going
to listen to the podcast that'll hear that part of it if
it doesn't get edited out and they're going to be like I can
relate to that.
Yeah, and honestly, I'll be honest with you guys and I'm
not I'm not just trying to throw some sunshine your way,
but you know, if I didn't know you I would still listen to
the podcast because when you listen to the podcast, it's
like sitting there being part of a conversation with people
that, you know, when you're talking about things that you
know, some commonality you understand the Bonnaroo
experience because you've been there.
So it feels like you're just part of a conversation with
some friends in a room.
So that that's the beauty of the what podcast, you know,
it's like nothing else.
I know of I mean, I you know, I have we all have hobbies and
passions and and and whatever but I don't know anything else
like this and it's very cool and and I'm so happy for you.
David it that Sunday morning with you and rice were sitting
there and I I think we had a couple other campmates who I
could just see in their faces like really what I mean, that
is so cool.
You know, it's yeah, it's like I said, it's it's this journey
that we've all been on and can't wait to see what happens
I mean, I don't know how else to put it right.
Yeah, you and me both because for me personally, I had going
into the new year.
I had no idea that I thought I was going to go into another
year reaching out to somebody that I've never met before
asking for photo credentials so that I could get my camera
gear into center a lot a lot of people just you know, the
message me and they'll be like, hey, how do I get a how do I
get photo credentials for to shoot Bonnaroo and my response
is that's a good question because up until this point I've
had to try to figure that out every year, you know, yeah.
So yeah, and and you know to be clear, it's because some
people are going to be thinking that you're not shooting
bands and I don't know why I feel like we need to say that
you're you know, because that's that's when people think photo
they think you're going to be shooting the bands.
That's not your interest and not what you're after and you're
interested in the experience and there's plenty of that to
So all right.
Oh, it's yeah, David.
Thank you so much for giving up your time and for what you're
doing and for being a friend to us and to this show and I
just think it's awesome.
And I like I said, there's dozens and dozens of similar
stories about people who have found Bonnaroo and it become
an adventure and a journey and it's I mean, it's it's changed
There's no question about it and I wouldn't know Russ.
I wouldn't know Brad really.
Yeah, I certainly wouldn't know you David without Bonnaroo
and I'm better for it.
So very cool.
100% all right.
Yeah, I've said to a number of people in the past that I don't
think I was a bad person before Bonnaroo.
I don't want to suggest that but it's I've definitely become
a better better rounded person because of the Bonnaroo
experience for sure.
I mean, it's cause and effect, you know, yeah, just be cool,
I mean, that's that's the thing, right?
Just be cool.
Yeah, just relax.
See this this glass right here.
It says calm the fuck down.
You probably can't read that.
That's that's that's the Monterey.
Thank you so much.
Rush, you know, I love you.
Good to see you guys.
I can't wait to see you.
Yeah, this summer and and I know we'll talk.
Yeah, looking forward to spending some quality time with
you guys on the farm again.
If not, if not before somehow, if not sooner.
Yeah, like like you said that Sunday when the
three of us were just kind of sitting at camp just telling
stories and talking.
I mean, that's what this that's what we wanted to bring
to the show and that kind of it's nice to revisit that.
So I'm definitely looking forward to next year.
Yeah, I'm honored guys.
So there you go.
What a great guy.
What a good friend.
I mean, you know, when people ask me, do you know somebody
my my sort of dividing line, if you will, is have they been
to my house?
David Bruce has been to my house.
So he's a friend.
I consider him a very close friend and and I absolutely
respect what he does.
Yeah, can't wait to see what he does for next year.
Maybe he can get a chance to come down to Chattanooga
for Moon River.
That'd be cool, too.
Can you imagine driving up on a golf cart and seeing your
photographs 12 feet?
Big on the fence of honor.
I know that that that's got to be just mind blowing.
All right, guys.
Thank you all.
Have a great day.
Have a great week.
Have a great life.