Things get weird in the waning hours of a festival, and not the good kind of weird. By 9:30 on Sunday evening, most of the stages at Bonnaroo had already shut down. Stragglers were mostly just hanging around, unsure of what to do with themselves and seemingly indifferent about Billy Joel wailing away from the What Stage.
Earlier in the day, I consciously made the decision to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones at the Other Tent at 10PM. I had never seen a TV show at a festival before, so why not take advantage of the circumstance? I usually watch it while fighting off sleep and occasionally inebriated on a 13-inch computer screen, so this seemed like a promising change of pace.
I started having second thoughts about the whole thing when I was wandering around a mostly vacant portion of the festival grounds near This Tent while listening to a forklift beep a cautionary tale about being in reverse. I had half an hour to kill and the "festival vibes" were waning quickly. Should I hang around for a dumb TV show or just bail?
It was around then that a dreadlocked 'Roovian tried to hand me a flyer for Afteroo, which he told me is a week long after-party that starts immediately after Bonnaroo ends.
"I'm going home tomorrow," I informed him. He took the flyer back.
Amongst the beep.beep.beep. of the reversing forklift and the sobering-up remnants of festival goers scattered amongst the lawn, there seemed to be enough reminders that the festival was ending. The staunch reality of my encroaching day-to-day existence was making its way back into my skull. Maybe watching a TV show in the Other Tent, which just housed a wildly fun set by Caribou, would help smooth out my transition back into normal civilian living. Considering that I'm talking about the most fantastical show on television, that might be a bit of a stretch.
After killing a bit of time wandering around the middle of the festival, I started to make my way toward the screening. At 9:53 I could hear "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC, and I wondered what the hell I was missing at the What Stage.
I finally arrived at the screening and was a little surprised to find a modestly sized, seated crowd inside the tent and smaller one outside of it in front of one of the side screens.
I found a spot near the back of the tent, just right of center and behind the soundboard. Soon after, the show began and the theme song came roaring in over the P.A. The crowd erupted. One of the guys seated 10 feet to my right pulled out his pipe and started smoking, singing "I'm getting stoned" along to the tune of the Game of Thrones theme.
As the show began, something became abundantly clear to me: I could totally hear Billy Joel's sound bleed. I wasn't the only one.
"Louder!" someone yelled. They turned it up, but Billy's music was still bouncing along the background as if perfectly embedded into the show's score. It was pretty weird, but I knew what I was signing up for. Otherwise, the sound in there was great. Game of Thrones sounds amazing through an expensive PA with subs. The video was blocky and pixelated, but it was watchable.
The biggest difference for me was that I was watching a TV show with hundreds of strangers. They weren't rowdy per se, but they would cheer and interject random comments. None of this was surprising. What was surprising was the burst of cheering when Stannis stabbed those dudes in the woods. I didn't know that guy still had fans. He just lit his daughter on fire. I don't cheer for daughter burners.
The most bizarrely memorable scene came when Arya Stark brutally murdered Meryn Trant to the tune of Billy Joel's "Piano Man." I never expected to see eyes being gouged out alongside the lackadaisical "la de de da" of Billy in the background. But there I was, sitting in a dance tent watching murder while listening to a timeless classic. Bonnaroo!
In the scene where Myrcella told Jaime Lannister that she knew he was both her uncle and her dad, a very awkward incest-cheer emanated from parts of the crowd. Then she died (probably). It was a weird sequence. Billy was killing it, though.
Soon after, his set ended following a loud-ish volley of fireworks. His absence was palpable. Without him we were just a bunch of weirdos sitting in dirt and cheering for murder in the middle of a farm in Tennessee.
Nobody cheered for Jon Snow's murder, though. People were pissed. I can't imagine that Billy Joel's set also ended with the murder of someone we all like. This was a bad way to end Bonnaroo. Quotes:
"I'm done watching this show."
"What the fuck was that?!"
"Fuck them for playing with my emotions like that."
"They killed Dumbledore!" (???)
People quickly scattered toward the exit. And with that, Bonnaroo was over. Reality hits you fast.