One of the most incredibly delightful experiences of my life happened in May of 2013, specifically between the hours of 7pm and 3am on Monday May 27th. It was during that time that I dropped acid at Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington State.
The decision to take acid at the festival had been solidified months before the event. The only problem would be actually locating the substance at the festival. As I am Canadian, I didn’t feel like taking the risk of smuggling drugs over the border (although I imagine acid would be one of the easiest to bring through, being that it is typically produced as tiny, odorless pieces of paper). Besides, I would be at a music festival where acid grows on trees, or at least rains from the sky at regular intervals. Right?
As it turned out, LSD was just a teeeensy little bit more difficult to come by than that. You want weed? No problem. Hash brownies? Gotcha covered. Even magically enchanted mushrooms could be easily unearthed, usually in the form of delicious white-chocolate covered delicacies. But acid?
“Aaah, I dunno man. Sorry. But I have some weed-infused vodka if you want a swizzle.” Sure, I’ll take a swizzle. What a clever way to get drunk and high at the same time, my new best friend!
It turns out my new best friend, Kyle, was also best friends with everyone else at the festival. He was a colourful concoction of tie-dye, face paint, and any drug he could get his little mitts on. As such, Kyle was the perfect spirit guide.
“I can help you get some acid, for sure! In fact, I had some the other night. It was fuckin’ killer, bro!”
Like I said: perfect. After spending two days in a fruitless search for the illusive ‘Lucy’ my time had finally come. With Kyle and his big, docile grin by my side, anything was possible. I could almost feel the chemical paper caressing my tongue already. Almost.
My spirit guide.
Despite his optimism, Kyle and his bright-yellow-pants-so-tight-you-could-feel-his-package-poking-your-eyeballs didn’t actually know a specific seller. But he was willing to aid me in my quest. So with my newfound moral support, Kyle and I began our trek around the camp of 50,000 degenerates, desperately calling out the name of our long lost girlfriend like some twisted, psychedelic search-and-rescue.
After a series of run-ins with the usual suspects, we eventually came across a couple bros who offered us a swig of their party-water. They didn’t know where Lucy was either, but their friend – a beautiful blonde in a tight blue t-shirt that didn’t leave much to the imagination – might have some idea.
It was love at first sight. Which is not particularly surprising for me. Usually a smile and a wink is enough to send me head-over-heels. And in this case, my love interest was packing more heat than usual.
“You’re looking for some acid? Yeah. I have some, but I’m not really looking to sell it.”
Turns out she was from BC as well, and had the gumption to cross the border with her personal supply. I felt like a total loser.
After a little bit of sweet talk, she still wasn’t willing to sell it. Even better – she was willing to give it to me. Score! I tossed her a couple bills anyway, because I’m not always a complete asshole – just most of the time.
Though my pretty little drug dealer said one would be enough, I ended up with two tabs. I didn’t particularly want to hallucinate alone, so I hooked my brother up with a tab. Our plan was to do it on the last night of the festival…
Sometimes this is what acid looks like.
Before long, the time to drop was upon us. Just after 7pm on Monday night, as the brooding alt-pop of Twin Shadow emanated from the Bigfoot stage, we each took a tiny square of paper and placed it on our respective tongues. There was no taste, no indication of what was to come. Just a couple unassuming pieces of coloured paper, gratefully gobbling up all the saliva we had to give.
Soon it was time to bid Twin Shadow adieu, mid-set (one of many festival sacrifices) in favour of the deep-house duo Disclosure, performing at the party tent known as El Chupacabra.
The energy in the tent was high, as we would soon be ourselves. Disclosure’s signature sound of thudding bass, pulsating organs and seductive R&B-inflected vocals provided the perfect atmosphere for our come up. We began to dance, slowly at first, working ourselves into the groove. I felt elation building within me, imparting a lightness to my step. Between gyrations, I gazed upon my fellow festival-goers, who were equally lost in the music. I felt a sense of community in our shared moment. They knew how I felt and I knew how they felt. And let me tell you, it felt pretty fucking good.
The energy in the tent was high. So were we.
Almost as soon as they had begun Disclosure had completed their set, and like a thousand tiny disturbed ants, the crowd began to evacuate the tent. Excitement filled the humid air. Dusk was upon us and Alt-J was about to take the Bigfoot stage. I felt euphoria building in me as we reeled towards the English music-makers. Alt-J was clearly one of the most highly anticipated groups of the festival, evidenced by the absolutely massive crowd gathered before them.
At Bigfoot, the closer you are to the stage, the better. The sound is eagerly soaked up by the thousands in the front, becoming only a shadow of itself by the time it reaches the unfortunate souls in the back. We found ourselves somewhere in the middle, absorbed by a group of smiling faces. The vibe was welcoming and open. My brother and I made a dazed effort to introduce ourselves before the first soothing notes of Alt-J frontman Joe Newman’s voice hit us.
It had been about an hour and a half since we took the acid, and its effects were becoming quite apparent. The world was transforming into a dreamlike place – simultaneously weightless and heavy. A rosy softness blurred the edges of my vision, bestowing the world a pleasantly pink hue. The power of the music was undeniable; I let my body fuse with the sound, allowing it to push and pull me at its discretion.
Alt-J’s sweet voiced Joe Newman.
My brother was unsatisfied with our location and wanted to get closer. I couldn’t blame him – the sound would be better further up. But I also saw how tight the crowd had become, and frankly I was enjoying the company of our new friends. Alas, this was not enough to convince my brother, so he pressed on through the thick crowd without me. It was not my intention to split up, but I accepted it as part of the universe’s master plan.
The remainder of the set was spent as a group sway-and-sing-along. I was giddy, smiling from ear to ear. My body felt as if it were covered in a wash of magical rainbow sparkles, making me extra sensitive to the increasingly fantastical world unfolding around me.
By the time Alt-J retired from the stage, the LSD was in full effect. I couldn’t believe my eyes as the mob dispersed around me. It was as if I were watching a movie on fast-forward as the multitudes of people speedily jerked hither and thither. Contrarily, my body seemed stuck in slow-motion.
Eventually, my legs began to carry me towards the Yeti stage, where one of my favourite groups was performing. Though I knew I was walking, I could have sworn I was floating, being carried by some unknown, placid force. I was eager to be overtaken by the weirdness of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience that was to come.
As I entered the arena of the festival’s smallest stage, I sensed I had arrived at an entirely different realm. A relatively small crowd had gathered in the valley beneath me, encased within a thick, green-blue fog. Onstage, a group of nefarious silhouettes resembling Tolkien’s Barrow-wights was conjuring a cacophonous roar that had the attendees entranced. This was where I was meant to be.
The haunting spectres of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.
As I stumbled down the hill, I got a better look at my fellow weirdos. Many were outfitted in leather and spikes, with long, greasy hair, mirroring the frontman. A cigarette dangled from the bright red lips of the one nearest me. I offered the best salutation I could in my abnormal state:
“What the fuck?!”
“I know, right? My name is Ariel. Like him!” She eagerly declared.
I looked towards the stage, where a short, leather-clad man with a mop of greasy hair crooned into a microphone. Ariel was flanked by his bandmates, backlit by two large screens displaying a variety of psychedelic images. Smoke had flooded the stage and continued to pour onto the crowd below.
The band deftly delivered its unique melange of harmonious progressive pop combined with eerie, psychic soundscapes, infused with Pink’s signature howl. This was the kind of music acid was made for.
Ariel the crooner.
I closed my eyes and let the sound take me whole. I was no longer on Earth; rather, I was a voyager of the universe, careening through the strange and beautiful world of my mind. My body oscillated wildly with the current of the music. Though it was not a traditional dance by any means, it was the most natural physical expression I could ever hope to conjure.
In that moment, I achieved absolute freedom. I was no longer simply my individual self. In fact, I had shed my individuality in favour of a union with the universe. I felt as one with everyone and everything that currently, has or ever will exist. I felt completely secure, totally content, and utterly alive.
But, as with all things, that moment eventually came to an end, leaving me pleasantly drained both physically and mentally. As Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti exited the stage, a cute blonde approached me. We began to talk, and I came to realize that she wasn’t simply a cute blonde; she was a gorgeous blonde hippie-goddess. And she had also dropped acid that night. I was in love. Again.
We gazed deeply into one another’s eyes and tried our best to describe how we were feeling. I sensed a deep and powerful connection with this girl, only minutes after meeting her. I confided in her, and it turned out that the feeling was mutual. It was decided – we would be married to one another for the night.
We locked hands and began to awkwardly traverse the ever-shifting landscape beneath us. We were headed for the main stage, to see the reunion of The Postal Service. As we entered the overflowing pit, I gazed up at the entertainers before us. Ben Gibbard and co. writhed through an intensely energetic rendition of their latest single, “A Tattered Line of String,” which honestly left me a little frightened. Not being a huge fan, I wasn’t into this setting as much as I could have been. After a couple more songs, I told my new blonde wife that we had to go catch the end of Rusko’s set, as it would make for the best finale to the festival. She agreed, and we high-tailed it to the Bigfoot stage.
The crowd had thinned considerably by this point, allowing us to get close enough to be fully enveloped by the heavy buzzsaw bass and cartoon-like bleeps and bloops that make up Rusko’s special dubstep recipe. We tossed our day-bags to the ground and eagerly joined the zoo that had erupted around us, flailing with the grandiose, swooping movements the music invited. Rusko himself cavorted violently behind his DJ booth, which seemed to be shifting around the stage like a one-man music-making spacecraft.
The maniacal mastermind Rusko.
As Rusko transferred the mood to something mellower, hippie-goddess and I got closer. We began to kiss, softly at first, eventually progressing into a full on sloppy, drug-addled make-out. I wasn’t particularly lustful (the acid had suppressed my primitive sexual urges) but it still felt amazing.
Unfortunately, the time had come for our short-lived marriage to conclude. My blonde accomplice and her friends were leaving that very night, within the hour in fact. I was dumbfounded – to me, the thought of leaving the festival at that point was absurd. Her friend needed to catch an early flight, however. We quickly came to accept the state of affairs, sharing one last, passionate embrace before parting ways, forever.
I was left alone, again. This didn’t bother me, though – I’ve always been comfortable on my own. I continued to dance until Rukso’s final “womp-womp” died in the warm night air, signaling the end of the performance.
Beneath the bright lights, I lingered in the aftermath of the Bigfoot stage, watching the crowd disperse. The ground was littered with the usual suspects: glowsticks, bottles, the odd valuable. Post-concert grounds can be a goldmine for the astute scavenger, but that was the last thing on my mind.
I felt a slight pang of sorrow, knowing that the festival had come to an end. I consoled myself with the fact that the night was not yet over. And while my trip was on the decline by this point, I was still experiencing an altered reality.
I began to walk haphazardly towards the exit, the ground still slightly shifting beneath me. I kept my eye out for a familiar face, in vain. That was OK, I was with everyone, and they were with me. The festival wasn’t simply about being entertained by musicians and comedians, it was about sharing these moments with a massive amount of likeminded folk. I wanted to look at all of them, to read each individual’s face. I decided to walk backwards so I could take them all in.
It’s about the peeps!
It was incredible, the sheer amount of people walking towards me. There seemed to be no end to the flood of humans. Their dirty, worn faces reflected the gamut of human emotion, from ecstatic joy to moderate fatigue to plain disgust. Most were so desensitized by the last four days that a guy walking backwards was about as interesting to them as sand in a desert.
The trek back to camp took nearly three times as long, but I was committed to doing it backwards. Eventually I was joined by yet another cute (and well inebriated) blonde. She was enthralled that I was walking backwards. Finally, someone understood me, or was at least drunk enough to find the situation entertaining! I expected her to lose interest after a few moments, but she stuck around. Arm in arm we made our way, like two lovers on a strange, romantic backwards stroll through the park.
After a while her sister and friends caught up to us. I was a savior, having found and kept safe drunk blonde girl. Apparently to them, a loner guy tripping on acid and walking backwards was “safe.” What can I say? Four days of intense hedonism changes people.
The rest of the night was spent hanging out with the girls and then wandering around camp. I found my brother again, playing beer pong on a table that seemed to be floating over a black abyss. He described some highlights of his hallucinations, including fantastic light shows erupting from people’s faces and masses being reformed into floating torsos. He had also found himself transfixed by the festival’s schedule pamphlet, staring at it for an inordinate amount of time. Clearly the acid had made an impact.
By this point, my trip had nearly come to an end. I felt calm and serene, even amongst the wails of the last remaining partiers. I went to bed, satisfied with the day and with life in general. I fell asleep listening to Peace, the first band I’d seen perform that day; an appropriate finish to the wild ride the last 96 hours had been. My last thoughts before drifting into oblivion were how great it was to be alive and experience the myriad pleasures this world has to offer.
And the fact that I needed to marry the next blonde girl I met.