In normal times, the tiny town of Manchester, Tennessee is not so vegan friendly. There's a Subway and a Taco Bell, and that's about it for vegan options. But for a few days every June, it turns into a vegan mecca as the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival rolls into town. This massive 4-day music fest plays host to more than 80,000 people — many of whom are hippies —so vegan food is a must. While there's plenty of meat sold too, vegan options are everywhere.
I spent last Thursday through Monday at the 11th annual Bonnaroo. It's just a four-hour drive from Memphis, so my co-worker Shara and I go every year with media passes. She writes a story for our newspaper (The Memphis Flyer), and I take the photos. That means I get to shoot from the photo pit right by the stage! This year, I shot Skrillex (YES!), Bad Brains, Flogging Molly, Ludacris, St. Vincent, Radiohead, The Shins, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
But back to the food. The hands down highlight for me was this Fried Cauliflower from the Gypsy Queen Cuisine food truck out of Asheville, North Carolina:
These little florets were lightly fried and topped with the world's best vegan garlic aioli and tahini dressing. The man who served me these from the truck's window warned me they'd be delicious. And oh my god was he right!! I must figure out how to recreate this at home. The food truck was parked in Bonnaroo's Food Truck Oasis, an area where food trucks from all over park and vend. Gypsy Queen Cuisine only served vegan options, like falafel and hummus plates.
I also ate my fair share of samosas at Bonnaroo. There's a vendor who comes every year called Samosaman, and as the name implies, they only sell samosas. Several of them are vegan, but I chose the Roasted Tofu Samosa:
On Friday night after Radiohead, I stopped by an Indian food booth for a cheap bowl of dal and rice. But the vendor was about to close for the night, and they gave me Dal, Chana Masala, Rice, and two Samosas for $5! I may have just been famished, but at the time, this was some of the best Indian food I've ever tasted:
On Saturday afternoon, before catching the Bad Brains show, I stumbled upon a BBQ vendor selling Smoked Tofu Sandwiches. This tofu was soft and smoky and perfectly covered in sweet 'n' tangy sauce:
On my last night there, I was craving vegan pizza. But the vegan pizza vendor who's usually there (they serve Daiya) was nowhere to be found this year. The closest vegan food I could find was a falafel stand selling build-your-own Falafel Wraps:
This thing was ridiculous! They let you serve yourself from a buffet of toppings, so besides the five crispy falafel balls they gave me, I filled my wrap with everything they had — corn, stewed tomatoes, sprouts, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, rice, peppers, and balsamic dressing. Yes, it sounds like a weirdo combo. But it was damn delicious.
Other than the food and music, Bonnaroo provides plenty in the way of atmosphere. There's a ferris wheel and a psychedelic clock tower. There's carnival games and a glow-in-the-dark mushroom fountain where the dirty hippies bathe (at least the ones who are too cheap to pay for showers).
I have loads of music photos that I'd love to share, but I've not had time yet to sort through them all. I did look through my Skrillex pics though since that was my favorite Broo show of all time. The kid is a magic maker, y'all. Yo Skrill, drop it hard: