MANCHESTER, Tenn. — Chattanooga City Judge Russell Bean, 72, drove up Friday just to see Paul McCartney at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.
"I saw Elvis, and I saw Frank Sinatra, but I never saw the Beatles," Bean said. "This is a bucket list one for me."
Much of the talk leading up to McCartney's show was that everyone wanted to "see a Beatle." Even hard-core fans like Rhythm & Brews club manager Mike Dougher were surprised by his 21/2 hour performance.
"Best show I've ever seen. So many emotions and memories from my entire life came flooding back."
He was also struck by how many young people knew every word to every song, whether they were hits by The Beatles, Wings or from McCartney's solo career.
"I was near two people from Iowa and when he did the John Lennon tribute and then the beautiful tribute to George Harrison, I looked over and one of them was wiping away tears. How do they even know the songs or what they mean?" Dougher said.
Those are the kinds of moments that bring people to Bonnaroo and make them want to endure the summer heat, portable toilets and sleeping in a tent. Though it's not that way for everybody.
"People have such a misconception about Bonnaroo," Dougher said Friday before McCartney's performance.
Dougher was sitting in a folding chair under a tarp strung between a truck and large eight-sided, screened-in tent. Under it sat several coolers, a table filled with food, condiments and a cutting board where WDOD radio personality Brad Steiner was slicing a piece of bread for a snack.
"People think they are stepping into Mad Max and the Thunderdome," said Dinson Lee, another camper in Dougher's group that also included Bryan Stone with Cumulus radio.
An easy walk from their site was the shower room, a new addition to the festival, replacing the shower trailers from previous years. Everyone appreciates a hot shower after a day in the sun.
Just on the other side of a line of trees are several rows of RVs, including Adam and Monica Kinsey's Airstream with the Track 29 logo on the side.
Over Bonnaroo's 12-year history, co-organizers Superfly Productions and AC Entertainment have made numerous improvements, adding electricity, planting trees and grass -- no, not that kind -- and landscaping to better manage water runoff.
"We are constantly making improvements," said festival spokesman Ken Weinstein with Big Hassle Media.
Bean left early Saturday morning, but intends to drive back up today to see Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
"It was wonderful. Bonnaroo was wonderful," Bean said. "People told me what to expect, but I had no idea really. It was just a really wonderful experience. and I will know better what to do next year. I am going back."
Contact staff writer Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...