LSD, sunstroke, and my 60,000 friends.
… “what time is it?”… “Six O’Clock…” … “lets go get in line to get in”… And so it begins…
Its late June, 1993. Quonset Point Air Station, Rhode Island… I have been in this passenger seat since 11pm the night before, and we have spent the night unsuccessfully trying to get some shuteye, we decide its time to find the main gate to enter the festivities. Upon arrival to that gate we discover we are the first to arrive at the location, sure its 6am, yeah it’s a Thursday. The things that take place from this place forward are to the best of my recollection…
Around 7, the very first cars begin to show up and we realize that we are the first in line of 60,000 to eventually enter the airfield. After a long night of fitfully sleeping in an upright position in the front seat of a Toyota Corolla, I get out to stretch my legs and to look around at the developing scene. The line of cars behind us stretches along the roadway like a disjointed, lumpy and shining, multicolored serpent, as far as we can see. Is anyone aware that this day will have lifelong repercussions and consequences? The sights, sounds, and smells are beginning to develop around us. Teens listening to music at an obscene volume, getting pumped for the day, older hippie types, just relaxing in the early morning sun, small groups of people milling about, drinking coffee, soda, beer, and multitudes of mixed offerings, games of frisbee, and hacky sack are springing up. Its a really nice morning. There is an electricity in the air unlike anything I have felt.
10 O’clock. Gates are being opened. The security guards tell us to proceed along the marked route to the parking area, we follow along the runway, its massive and wide, we drive along the length of it until directed to park on a large area of taxiway, parking only feet from the gate. John and I jump out of the car and decide we should just get into the festival and see whats what… Upon headed in that direction he stops me and hands me a small foil wrapped package “Take these”. With the nervous hands of a child on Christmas morning I open up the foil and to my horror(Joy) I see the familiar dark green squares imprinted with the navy blue and gold shields that I recognize immediately, 3 of them. I ask John if these are what I think they are, and he replies in the affirmative. Now let me tell you about these curious items. These green paper tabs are saturated with some of the strongest and most intense LSD I have ever taken, we had a whole bunch of them the prior winter and John had put a dozen or so away for the purpose of an epic time come summer. These things ARE pure insanity.
He planned well.
I without hesitation pop all three of these tabs into my mouth and am greeted with the familiar, metallic, oily taste, and it sends chills up my spine…
We get inside and John and I decide to go and explore on our own, he hands me his wallet, and says “If we don’t meet up during the day I’ll catch you back at the car.”
By 11:30 I have made my way to the main stage area, wondering who the first band will be, I can feel the effects of the acid creeping up on me. I find myself about 100 feet from the stage, and in a massive herd of humanity when all of I hear what now is the unmistakable opening guitar sequence of “Bombtrack”. The place erupts into a swirling mass of bodies, and dust as I for the very first time in my life hear Rage Against the Machine… It all becomes very overwhelming and I retreat to the rear and make my way across to gain a better view of this amazing musical spectacle.
The drugs are taking hold. I begin to question my preparedness for this event. I run down the list.
1. I haven’t slept in nearly 24 hours, and its only noon.
2. I had shaved my head 2 days prior and I brought no hat or sunscreen, its forecast 87 and sunny.
3. I am alone. I am under the influence of strong drugs. In a strange place.
4. I realize I have no money to buy a bottle of water, or anything else for that matter.
As suddenly as it began the controlled chaos of Rage seems to exit the stage with the same abrupt style, leaving the audience charged up, and a little rowdy. I walk through the buzzing swarm of bodies, mostly staring at the ground as I walk, making sure I don’t fall off the face of the earth. I am hallucinating hard now, the edges have gone from fuzzy to straight up melted, and nondeterminate. More music is coming at me from the stage area, Its familiar, its Fishbone, I revel in the funk. Letting the groove soak directly into my soul, each note on the guitar resonates within me, the sound of the saxophone is like pure sunshine, the funky, slappy bass makes me smile, inside and out. I begin to feel the day become something more than just another concert, this is going to be amazing I tell myself.
Over the next few hours I witness some amazing music, Dinosaur Jr. blew my mind, Tool came out just as the drugs were peaking in my system. Maynard seems to me a deranged preacher, I am totally enraptured and feel like I am connected at the most primal level to this gathering of people that has now swelled to a number that I cannot imagine. Every direction I look in I see people, as far as I can see… we are a city. And at this point I have named that city Fuckedupville, and I have elected myself mayor…
Just as Arrested Development take the stage I hear a voice… ‘Hey Mike!’ I look around and see the familiar elf like face of a high school friend… ‘Wanna get high?’ and he produces what at the time seemed like the biggest pipe I have ever seen from his backpack, and we start toking. we smoke for what seems an eternity each hit driving the nail deeper. Now, I’m not sure how many of you out there have taken LSD before, but those of you who have know what happens when you smoke weed when tripping. For those who don’t let me try to put this in a way that you can relate to. Its sort of like driving a small compact car all your life, and then someone hands you the keys to a very large and powerful car, with no speed limits, and no chance of crashing. Its fucking amazing.
When all was said and done I visited with my elf like friend for the entire Arrested Development set… I am now twisted out of my mind, my thoughts are rushing by at a million miles an hour, I’m in that disconnected space, the one between waking life, and dreamtime. Im a little bit freaked out and feeling a little funny… and it must have shown… An older gentleman stops me and asks if I’m ok, offers me some sunscreen, and mumbles something about it being too late, but may help it from getting worse. Worse? What? As I apply this to my head I then realize what he is talking about… I am BURNT. When I say I was burnt, im not saying I had a lobster like complexion, no. That would be simple. Let me just say, I am probably the palest guy you are likely to meet, I burn in minutes… Im fucking toast. If it werent for the large amounts of Lysergic Acid I had pumping through my veins keeping my adrenaline level up, im sure it would have actually hurt, LSD is dangerous like that.
I decide maybe if I move around more the sun wont be able to burn me as bad, and this actually makes sense to my drug addled mind at the time. Sure Mike, you can outrun the sun… This is when I spotted my salvation, a water tanker that was surrounded by people all getting hosed down by a security guard. I made my way into this mess, finding my way to the cool mist that was being sprayed on the mass of overheated and burned bodies, we all stood and soaked up the cool water feeling it bringing our energy levels up, re-hydrating our bodies transdermally, My soul was beginning to feel like jerky too. Feeling a bit better, I ambled to a largely unpopulated area of grass and unceremoniously laid down, as I watched the clouds float by and change their shape and being overlaid with rapidly changing geometric patterns, and the occasional face of a passerby giving me a second glance, perhaps to see if i was alive, as I am sure my pupils were dilated like a corpse from the Acid. The stage crew was setting up another band… just as the sun was starting to go down and the clouds started to take on an orange and pink tint I hear Alice in Chains begin to play ‘Junkhead’ and I chuckle to myself at the irony of it. I am transported to another place, I am fully enveloped by the music, as I lay and listen, the music runs through me bringing joy to my very soul. They play through what seems like all their amazing songs, and I feel so connected to everything, my mind is twisted, my head is burnt, Im teetering on the edge of sunstroke/heat exhaustion/dehydration, and all I can think of is how awesome this day has been…
In the dwindling daylight I get up from my grassy spot, I feel the blisters on my scalp and neck, the pain in my feet and legs from walking all day, and the drugs are loosening their hold on me… There is only one band left for the evening… Primus… Now, I had seen them in concert before this, and I knew just how amazing a performance they are capable of putting on, but this was different. I was different. This day has changed me. As I stood in awe and listened to the amazing sounds of Les Claypool and his cronies work through an amazing setlist and watched the clouds of dust rise from in front of the stage from the people who are dancing gleefully to the songs that sometimes can only be described as Evil circus music, feeling the incredible punch of the bass run through my body I realize what an amazing day I have had, what kind of person I am, and the lengths I will go to in search of a good time.
The Acid is wearing off now, The sky is clear, there is a slightly ocean scented breeze moving across the airfield, and the crowd is showing its becoming tired, tired like me… recovering from a sensory overload, this has been one of the single greatest days of my life. I haven’t slept in around 40 hours now, im coming down hard from the drugs, and the sun, the dehydration. It is then and only then I realize I had not seen John since morning… and I wonder where he is and what his day turned out like as we both had ingested the devils bile… (god I loved it)… I finally caught up with him at the car, we both just looked at each other and laughed… sunburnt, tired, and happier than pigs in shit.
We then headed out on the long drive home… close to 2.5 hours to Framingham, I could write another story based on that ride alone… between the hypnotizing lines on the highway, to the missing the corner on the exit ramp and flying across the grass infield area of the exit at 50mph, Im amazed we made it at all.
That was the last day I ever hung out with John, he and I had been friends since the 7th grade. Over the last year we had began growing apart, driven away by what I could only see as his growing mental illness, and acting out due to his apparent loneliness. We as a group of friends had tried everything to try to snap him out of it… it had just gotten to the point where we couldn’t handle it anymore and had to remove ourselves from the situation. Maybe it was selfish, maybe it was self preservation.
I have taken LSD over 200 times, and also other hallucinogens more times than I care to count, they changed my life, they spawned creativity in me I never would have known. They allowed me to perceive the world from a different angle, and shaped me into the person I am now. I still hurt over the loss of my friend, but I know the last day we spent ‘together’ was both one of our most amazing. I wouldn’t trade away one second of that day…
Moral of the story. Wear sunscreen, hydrate yourself, and when attending large alternative music festivals on large doses of really heavy drugs, prepare yourself for a radical change.
09 Murder the Government