Producer Patrick Ahern Attends Bonnaroo: Hot Dogs, Potato Salad, and Herbie Hancock

Live from Music Row, Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed producer Patrick Ahern to the microphones to share his experience last weekend at Bonnaroo Music and Art Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

Leahy: This is going to be a fun segment because I get to learn something and I get to have a conversation with our good friend, the intrepid producer of this show, Patrick. Good morning, Patrick.

Ahern: Morning, Michael.

Leahy: (Chuckles) Well, so Bonnaroo. Bonnaroo has been around, I don’t know, 20 years. Long time. I must say this, Patrick. It’s a place I’ve never, ever wanted to go to because I hate big crowds like that. I hate being jammed in.

But tell us a little bit. You are a very talented musician, you’re a drummer, got your own band here, and you perform. You are very interested in music as well. So tell us a little bit about this. This is the first time you’ve been to Bonnaroo, right?

Ahern: I actually went four times previously, 10 years ago.

Leahy: See, I’ve already learned something new.

Ahern: From 2009 to 2012, I went as well. You went to Bonnaroo back then. And so you are already a vet of Bonnaroo.

Ahern: It has changed a lot since then. It’s much more organized.

Leahy: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about this time you went to Bonnaroo. Obviously, you moved to Tennessee so you could go to Bonnaroo every year, right?

Ahern: (Laughter) The sole reason.

Leahy: So just describe the entire process. What time did you get there? Did you go there Wednesday night?

Ahern: Thursday, yeah.

Leahy: Wednesday night you arrive, set up camp. Well, let’s see. Where do you drive?

Ahern: Manchester, Tennessee.

Leahy: You drive to Manchester. You get off on I 24. How far from I 24 exit is it?

Ahern: I’m not sure. We just follow the GPS. It’s about an hour south of Nashville, though.

Leahy: Okay, but not too far from when you get off, right off the highway. It’s right off the highway? Yeah.

Ahern: Yes. It’s a giant farm. Okay.

Leahy: It’s a giant farm. Okay. Was it a big traffic jam Wednesday night?

Ahern: Not really. Some people go in Tuesday night, some people get in there all day Wednesday, and then some people arrive Thursday morning.

Leahy: Okay, so you get off and what do you do? Is there like, you got to sign off on something or do you have to pay them some money?

Ahern: Yeah, you pay in advance. They ship you a car pass to get your car in, and you set up camp.

Leahy: Describe setting up camp.

Ahern: So you pull in and they line up all the cars in various fields surrounding the venue area where all the stages are played.

So there’s camping, like, in a ring around the area. And they line up all the cars. And you have a 20 x 20 space next to your car to camp.

Leahy: Oh, it’s a 20 x 20 space next to your car. Okay. So they just assign it’s a car lot with a 20 x 20 space. I’m getting the feel of it. So what do you set up to camp in?

Ahern: We had a tent and canopy, some camping chairs, and a little stove to cook. It was a pretty simple setup. You don’t spend much time at the campsite. It’s really just a sleep.

Leahy: It’s just to sleep. Yeah.

Ahern: Everything you want to see is in the venue?

Leahy: So Wednesday night you arrived there late Wednesday. Was it dark?

Ahern: It was a little dark, yeah. We have headlamps and things to set up.

Leahy: But you had enough to set up? All right, so you had a team of four people there? Five people, six people?

Ahern: Just my roommate and myself.

Leahy: Oh, so two people there. So you set up. What happened? And you get up the next morning and you look around. What do you see?

Ahern: It’s a sea of cars and trucks and vans and canopies. And often in the distance, you see a giant Ferris wheel and a bunch of lights coming from the venue area.

Leahy: Is the giant Ferris wheel next to the venue area.

Ahern: It’s inside. There’s a bunch of activities to do other than seeing concerts. There’s a whole bunch of food.

Leahy: So you can buy food.

Ahern: Yes.

Leahy: Are adult beverages available?

Ahern: Yes, yes, plenty of adult beverages.

Leahy: Plenty of adult beverages.

Ahern: Too many, in fact.

Leahy: Too many?

Ahern: Yes.

Leahy: And by the way, if you’re a state official, stay away from those adult beverages if you attend Bonnaroo. So how many people are there?

Ahern: I believe this year was somewhere between 20 and $30,000.

Leahy: A pretty big crowd. I get claustrophobic. I’d b like get me out of here!

Ahern: That’s not for everyone.

Leahy: It’s not for me. So there you are. You get up Thursday morning, you look around, there’s a sea of cars, and then often the distance is the venue. So do you make yourself some breakfast?

Ahern: Yes, we usually make some breakfast. We had dogs and potato salad. Some easy stuff.

Leahy: Easy stuff. So then how far is it to walk to the venue?

Ahern: 20 minutes.

Leahy: 20 minutes. And so at the venue, like, do you stand? Do you sit? What do you do?

Ahern: I try to find as much shade as possible throughout the day because it was pretty hot out there.

Leahy: But did you stand in the shade? Did you bring a lawn chair?

Ahern: Yes. We’ll bring a blanket. You can sit down. You can stand. We had a unique situation. My roommate’s sister was actually in a band that was playing the festival, so she had backstage passes the whole time.

Leahy: That’s pretty cool.

Ahern: It was pretty nice.   So we got to be in the back hanging out with the bands. I got to see Herbie Hancock, 10ft away from him.

Leahy: Herbie Hancock? Now I’m sure somewhere I’ve heard the name, Herbie Hancock. Tell us about Herbie Hancock.

Ahern: He was in Miles Davis’s second quintet.

Leahy: The great Miles Davis. Jazz trumpet guy, right?

Ahern: Yes. He’s like a living legend.

Leahy: Did you say hi Herbie or we’re or just near him?

Ahern: It was overwhelming being in his presence. He’s like, just a monster musician.

Listen to the interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.


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2 Thoughts to “Producer Patrick Ahern Attends Bonnaroo: Hot Dogs, Potato Salad, and Herbie Hancock”

  1. Cannoneer2

    Are there VIP spots for state cars?

  2. 83ragtop50

    Sounds like soooo much fun. I bet there was not an illegal drug to be had. But if one is drunk it probably does not matter.