A Beginners Guide to Surviving the Amnesia Rockfest-Part 1

By: Maven Cade Leary

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction, and is not intended to encourage or condone the violation of applicable law.

Part One: Arrive Early, Exercise Restraint, and Get Some Sleep

As soon as we left the city, the temperature dropped by at least ten degrees Celsius. I wasn’t prepared for this shit. I knew it would become a pain in the ass, but I could do nothing about it now.

Just keep your alcohol level up, keep moving, and you should barely notice the lack of feeling in your extremities, I told myself.

I’m not a wuss, but Quebec nights can be cold. Even in late June. You forget this when you live in Montreal. The smog and the cement everywhere do a great job to keep the night’s tee-shirt weather.

The Rockfest only began at 11:30 the next morning, but we were determined to settle in for the weekend and not miss out on any of the fun.

The Amnesia Rockfest differs from most music festivals I have been to. To understand the atmosphere, one must understand that Montebello is a small town of around a thousand permanent residents. The place is tiny. And yet each year, Canada’s largest rock festival brings in around two hundred thousand people, predominantly metal fanatics and punks.

The entire town of Montebello, Quebec, is turned into a complete freak show, a prime example in debauchery, indulgence, camaraderie, and free-spiritedness. It’s not just a closed off grounds, it’s an open-ended environment. There are official hours, and they kick you off the official grounds after the shows, but the party just keeps on going in the streets, in backyard campgrounds, in the parks, on the front yard of the church, and pretty much everywhere.

Nobody tells you to go home or keep it down. The cops don’t care if you drink and smoke weed. They are there to prevent real accidents and to make sure no drunken freaks are driving around. They are not your friend by any measure, however, in this instance; they are not your enemy either. Which is a nice change.

Only one road goes through town, and this road is closed to traffic for the entirety of the festival. The unstated rule is that you arrive early to claim a spot as close to town as you can, and then you park your car on the side of the road and use it as a base to come back to for booze, drugs, and the occasional snack during the day. If you wait until the next morning, your vehicle ends up hours away, and proves an impossible mission to return too without missing out on some amazing music.

We were still at least ten kilometers out, smoking our third or fourth joint since leaving the city, when traffic came to a crawl. We were two vehicles, one of which had detoured to pick me up. A few kilometers later, the other group called us and told us of their attempts at getting as close as possible. They overshot their luck, and were forced by traffic to go all the way to the barricade, only to have to spend another half hour getting back to a spot where they could pull over.

By this point, we were on them. We parked, grabbed our supplies, and headed in to investigate and participate.

The only challenge was to not get totally wrecked.

There was music coming from everywhere. The smell of weed was like a sweet, ever-present perfume. As we walked along the side of the road, with cars and pedestrians passing us every-which-way, greeting us with hoots, hollers, and the ward against the evil eye, we consumed and indulged, hooted and hollered back, warding against the evil eye just in case.

The closer we got to the city limits, the denser the crowd got. These people, they were a weird bunch, instantly sympathetic to me. They were rough around the edges, wearing shirts with words of violent intent, and yet they smiled openly, proving to be very receptive to strangers. They spoke easily about anything and everything, but mostly about music, about the reasons they were here. Amongst the senseless hollering, one could often make out “ROCKFEST!!!” or the name of some band or other amongst the 103 bands scheduled to play.

The locals of Montebello only accept such an event due to their capacity to capitalize from our destructive presence. This weekend is undoubtedly their most profitable of the year. And it’s not just the local businesses. No, it’s all the local residents, especially those (the majority) that live on the main road. They turn into little hubs for groups of friends, each an oasis from the endless sea of people and chaos in every direction. Almost every yard is an improvised campsite, selling coffee, water bottles, and snacks. Some of the residents, those closer to the festival, have realized they can charge up to a hundred dollars a night for a spot for a single small tent packed amongst a sea of other small tents.

By the time we made it into Montebello, about half an hour later, we were already pretty wasted. We made our way past the barricades set up by the police, and entered the party.

The plan was simple. Go in, scope things out, then go back set up camp for the night.

We had left the majority of our drugs back in the car. All I had on me was a bunch of joints and a quart of bourbon. Our driver had done some kind of methamphetamines before leaving home, and still had a few loose pills in his pockets. We popped half of one each, and kept moving.

Just enough to get us in the zone, but not enough to keep us up all night. We were here for the music, after all.

Now, I would like to say this was a completely awesome evening, and tell you of my exploits, however, this is when the night took on a kind of a dark twist for me.

The driver was a dope fiend, and while I could trust him to a point, I am not convinced he knows exactly what he gave me that night. He assures me he had his Flunitrazepam in a separate case, ready for when we could not sleep, but I’ve been roofied before, and while the half-dose left me very mobile, and with a greater recollection, there was a clear flavor to the buzz that leaves me little doubt.

She was short and stout. Wearing a ripped up Misfits shirt, puke green pants, a nose ring, ragged hair that had once been red or pink, and tattoos all over her body. I wasn’t staring. She was just the next thing I became aware of.

I came out of my daze, ready to tell the bastard I was onto him, that I knew he’d switched the drugs on me. But they were gone.

Well, fuck them, I told myself. I have weed, I have booze, and I know where the car is parked.

I remained where I was long enough to pour myself a few ounces and pull out a joint. As I made my way into the crowd, getting denser and wilder by the moment, I had a brief moment of panic, forgetting where I was and who all these people were.

Suddenly, these were not mere music fanatics, but dark, twisted animals yelling and moving violently, raging even, speaking names and words I knew nothing about in a tongue that I had never heard before. I have no idea how long I walked around, aimlessly, confused by everything, but thankfully feeling no anxiety due to the shit pill he gave me.

At one point, one of these animals came right up to me and hollered something into my face, causing me to instinctively flinch.

He looked at me, surprised, almost worried. It occurred to me I had been spotted as the outsider I most definitely was at that moment. He grimaced and ran away like a ghoul.

“Hey man, you ok?” A tall presence to my right. He spoke softly, taking my arm and leading me off to the side of the street and up onto some random porch. Somewhere between the middle of the street and the porch, I pierced the fog over my mind and began to recall my environment.

This big biker dude sat me down and handed me a bottle of water. I put down my quart of liquor and drank it all greedily. With each sip, some of my lucidity returned. I felt like a man awakening from a dream. I’ve done lots of drugs, salvia being likely the most intense, and so have become used to existing in slightly less than rigid realities. I was disoriented, but not bad-tripping.

I sat there holding his empty bottle of water in one hand, and my barely smoked joint and glass of whisky in the other hand. I pounded back the booze, poured myself another two fingers, lit the joint, and passed the bottle to my new friend.

“Thanks. I… I had a bit of a moment there. Think my friend roofied me…”

“Well, we’ve not all been there. But I feel for you. You doing better?”

“Yeah, I… Yeah, things are a bit clearer now.”

I passed him the joint, but he refused.

“Here, let me help you. This should clear that shit out of your system.” He took out a small case and began prepping a bump for me.

Normally, I don’t do coke. It’s mostly shit, cut with god knows what, and the buzz isn’t really one I get off on. But this fucking half-roofie was a bad state of mind. I could feel myself slipping again.

I snorted what was offered me without a second thought.

The burning in my nose was sudden and intense. What the fuck?

“Ohhhh… What is that?”

“It’s mescaline, little man.”

I’m not that small I thought. You’re just a monster of a man…

“Really? I thought that shit was like impossible to get.”

“Nothing’s impossible. Anyways, you’re gonna be ok now. That medicine will make everything clear. I gotta go find my wife. Rock on man.” I watched him go, feeling really relaxed, and a bit irritated I had been given a random drug again.

I knew he was full of shit. Mescaline was too rare a beast to just hand out like that. Besides, I doubt it would have hurt so much going in. And the buzz was all wrong, more like a bad RC high, sudden, relatively short, and an almost exclusively superficial body/visual experience. The mind stays as lucid as a clam, kind of bored with things, closer to a body drunk than to the mind expansion offered by the true experience these knockoffs were created to mimic.

Still, it killed the R2 right out of my system, and regular thought patterns began to reform.

All the euphoria, the excitement and anticipation were gone though, replaced by a desolate feeling inside, like things were all wrong. Like this was just a bit hoax, a parade to make the mind forget all the important things.

I sat there on some stranger’s porch, watching the world go by. Well, some fucked up mutant sub-species of the world anyways. They were laughing and head-banging. I suddenly became aware of Raining Blood by Slayer blaring somewhere nearby.

I walk amongst them, and yet, I am not one of them.

At that exact moment, the thought of participating in all the apparent merriment was as foreign to my mind as sucking cock. I mean, do even girls like to do that shit?

That’s when I saw my friends making their way through the crowd back towards the cars.

I hurried to join them; all my bleak thoughts of not belonging lost as I laughed and bitched out the driver, and told them of my bump of some random powder. They were concerned for a moment when they saw I was gone, but since I tend to be a bit of a lone wolf, even in a group, no one had been worried.

We made our way back through the crowd and the police barricade, leaving the noise behind. The people in the cars and in the campgrounds were settling in for the night. It was already well past two in the morning.

We went to set up the tents in some random field, but ended up just laying down a huge tarp and sleeping under the stars. The night promised to be cold, but without rain. It took me quite a while for the research chemical I had snorted to let me get some sleep, and when I finally dozed off, it was shallow and cold, dreamless and short.