by Maven Cade Leary
featured art by Clayton Luce
This year’s Rockfest was a bit different. It was my mistake, obviously.
It all began as a fairly normal early summer weekend, or at least as normal as entering a small village invaded by drunk punks and rockers can be.
Once more, our entrance was by foot, one of the crowd, and we found our welcome customary and usual, friendly, but of the non-personal variety. Fully stocked in booze and weed, we set out in search of things to compliment our weekend.
The weirdest part about that evening was clearly the little amusement park itself, a few cheap rides and a few carny booths. With the crowd stumbling around that creepy lot, this would have been a bad scene to the heavy tripper for sure.
We walked around town for hours, ending up in the back fields, walking around the big mess of a collective camping ground. Not wanting anything with an edge, it was hard to find a source. Everyone and everyone’s brother had coke, speed and MDMA, which explains a lot of my later perceptions of the crowd. But for what we did want we got leads ranging from a bunch of punks rolling in the mud over there by the woods to a freaking pink unicorn, but the guy told me to keep it on the downlow.
With people dressed as gumby, weird animals, and all kinds of fucked up costumes, like a banana dude, the unicorn was not out of the question . . . I did eventually find it, but by that point I was already tripping on LSD, and I walked right past the vendors booth with a little pink unicorn oddly tied to one of the posts of the gazebo. To be honest, not sure that wasn’t just a coincidence, but at the moment, it felt like synchronicity.
While he went to his camp for the goods, someone else offered me some acid. I took it all.
We slept out on the tarp in the same field all three nights. We never paid, never talked to anyone, never bothered anyone . . . went way out back late at night when we were exhausted, hid in our sleeping bags from the mosquitoes, and got the fuck outta dodge bright and early.
The first day was pretty cool. I did a bunch of the mushrooms around ten, with the action only starting around noon or so. This gave me a bit of time to get into the zone, get past the weird and into the groove.
The first band sounded like a bad death metal group tuned to provoke alley cats to fight. Maybe it was the ‘shrooms, but I don’t think so.
The next few groups I thoroughly enjoyed. The first actual music I heard was a Ska Punk group called Mad Caddies, followed by The Dillinger Escape Plan. The Mad Caddies had some mad talent on the brass, and while I got nothing against the singer, I couldn’t wait for him to shut up and let the musicians do their thing. Some groups do that, they think that when the lead sings, everything else should stop. Other groups use the two more directly intermixed. I have a clear preference for the latter. But still, honestly, they were good.
The Dillinger Escape Plan was missing their lead singer, for reasons I still don’t know, but the dude that stepped in did a terrific job. He looked totally crazy up there, moving with speed and enthusiasm such as to make you stare in awe, not wanting to blink because you are sure something is about to happen. This crazy bastard couldn’t keep this up. I don’t care how good your balance of drugs is, that’s more than any mortal man should be able to accomplish.
I have a bit of it on film, and if I ever figure out how to get those sons of bitches out of my electronic devices, I will link that shit here so you can see for yourself what a train-wreck about to happen looks like.
The rest of the day went pretty well. Everyone rocked out and did great. Oh, except that fucking idiot Stevo from jackass. Man, that dude bombed so bad it was beyond embarrassing. And you just knew he knew how bad he was doing. You had to see it to understand what a total epic fail that was. But if you didn’t see it, you are clearly among the lucky ones. It was so completely ugly and wrong as to remain crystal clear in one’s mind for time indefinite.
Kicking off the evening was Sublime With Rome. It’s obviously not the same without Bradley, but they are very enjoyable. I would recommend seeing them live for sure. Well worth it.
The Offspring came up next, and while I am a fan, having listened to all their albums countless times, I was not super impressed with their live performance. They were as good as their recordings, which already speaks to their skills as musicians, but not any better. Maybe it was a lack of personal charisma or something.
And then came Lincoln Park. And I now realize it was either my mood, or the bands that evening, or maybe just some great convergence of events making things appear so, but I did not feel them at all. The whole vibe was uptight and presumptuous. Maybe it wasn’t even a thing. Maybe it was the after effects of the shrooms making me wish for some quality instrumentals and it was all a setup for disappointment.
Sleep was sudden and eventless. Down/out/up, and back into action.
They caught me at the entrance with joints and sent me back out. Those bastards! Musicians keep telling us to light up and shit and these assholes are taking our fucking drugs. Why the fuck don’t they just chill out and check for weapons? I could have easily snuck in a boot knife or other concealed weapons, but no, they never check my boots, not even to feel around the ankle to pretend. But that bitch had to open my little tin and tell me to fuck off with my weed…
I walked back in line and smoked all the joints I had for the day in one-shot, knowing my friends had some inside and I could get to the car later and reload. I went back to the same chick, told her what I had done, and told her to fucking let me in already.
Retarded as that was, the real insanity didn’t begin until I took the acid, which she did not find in case anyone was wondering…
At this point, things finally got weird enough for me. For the first time in my life, I was overwhelmed. We had been sitting in the middle of the grounds, smoking, feeling the sting of the sun on our burnt skin as if we had been vampires, when we decided this was as good a moment as any to take a trip.
Should be fine by mid-afternoon. Not lucid, obviously, but alright.
Which was true enough. But the time in between was oddly stretched.
Last thing I clearly remember is Less Than Jake playing something or other, and then, apart from a short sequence of Catch 22 playing Keasby Nights, I was gone.
When we were standing still, I could manage. But moving through the crowd was a little much. I experienced a mental reset, if anyone else knows what I mean by that, and I turn around to find some poor bastard also on acid.
“I just want to let you know, in case you’re following me, I have no idea where I’m going.”
He points right in front of me, and to the rest of our group I was apparently following…
At this point, things are obviously a bit jumbled. Too many people. Too fucking hot. The music too intense to properly process. No idea how long we spent in there, but it was probably nowhere near as long as it felt. When someone, maybe me, suggested we go out, since we had a bit of a break between groups, I eagerly agreed.
Chilling in front of the church, the little hub for drugs, felt very comfortable. I liked it for both it’s spiritual and social function but was too far gone to think about whether these two worlds were not closer than they appeared. Maybe even one and the same. At the time, it simply felt like a fact. I clearly felt close to something bigger than myself, as I always do under the right kind of influence.
The sound of the wind in the leaves, the strong and intense internal visuals when I closed my eyes… Yeah, this felt about right. Meditating, riding the wave, making internal connections impossible to verbalize. Not letting the trip ride me. This last is crucial.
I wanted more nature. More isolation, movement, space to see the universe at work, time to think.
Before I had even remotely enough time to process, we were making our way back into the throng. At first, it was kinda funny. The short time meditating had centered me, and I was back in control. I was able to once more take notice of individual features of those around me without overloading my senses. These were the lollygaggers in the streets. They were happy enough, and not unpleasant to the senses.
And then the lineup to hell. I have no idea how long it lasted, but it really did seem like forever. All kinds of thoughts came and went. Some good, some horrible. I was wondering how we all contribute to this big mess, and I felt somehow oddly out of place. I felt at once just like everyone around, and yet like an alien. Who were these needy sons of bitches? Was their choice of drugs responsible for this angst I could feel all around? This violence about to unleash itself in the nearest mosh pit, was that a natural part of each and every one of us?
I had certainly actively contributed to it and indulged in it many times in the past, without ever thinking about why I did it.
At that moment all I wanted to do was get away from everyone. Normally, I might have been as agitated and anxious to see Rancid playing as these beasts surrounding me and hardly notice the look in their eyes. But my bad choice of substances had given me the power to see into the souls of those I glanced upon and glimpse their emotional state right there out in the open. I was afraid to look any of them in the eye, afraid they would see I was not one of them, afraid to completely and totally see them, naked and ugly. I looked way too calm. I was not fitting in at all.
I briefly considered explaining to everyone, one by one, that I was on acid and could they please let me pass as I could not take this any more. But the idea passed when I realized I would have to do this to everyone ahead of me. The thought of having to address hundreds of random people right then and there was simply inconceivable.
Nearing the end of this torture, this lineup of the damned, the guy in front of me, a total stranger, turns and says, “I know what you’re thinking right now. I know, because I am thinking the same thing.”
I doubted it, but I told him to go on.
“You’re thinking you’re way too fucked up to be in this line-up right about now.”
My look must have betrayed my amazement, or he was in a similar place and could also read people like books, because he smiled and nodded, looking back in front of him and avoiding all eye contact.
Truth is, maybe I didn’t understand a single thing about anyone around me. Maybe it was all my own demons I was seeing reflected back at me. Maybe this dude in front of me was not that good at reading people at all. Maybe I really looked totally fucked up and everyone and anyone could tell with a glance.
The fucked up thing is once we got to the front, the person I was tripping with got caught with a bunch of joints and rather than toss em all or smoke’m in line as I had done that morning, we headed back out, leaving the main group behind in search of quieter surroundings for a bit.
Of the whole mess that was that year’s Rockfest, the only regret I have is missing Rancid. But our time in a little country road leading absolutely nowhere was pretty nice, too. At that moment, it was a breath of fresh air, a calm after the storm.
To the endless boredom of my companion’s company, I ranted about purpose and finding one’s place in this big scrambled mess. I thought a few times of Roland the Gunslinger’s relentless quest for the Dark Tower (thanks for that one Steve, that was fucking epic!) and how sometimes one is driven beyond reason towards something that one does not even know exists. In fact, everyone is driven by forces somewhat beyond their control and understanding. Genetic species imperatives do a lot of the heavy lifting, but those only account for the broad strokes. The key, that which gives flavor to personality, to life, is this kind of assuming, this becoming a role that is brought about in part by choices one makes, and has made, but is also in large part in direct response to environmental stimuli. No two people react the same way to the same external event, but react they do, and in so doing, shape who they are and what they act like.
This is going through my mind as I am looking at the long grass and wild wheat in the field, thinking of the fucked-up looking kid in the banana costume. The grass, knowing nothing of the wind, nonetheless moves. We, not fully understanding the forces that drive us, must act, assume movement within this whirlwind, or seize to exist, unless fed and kept by someone else.
This led me to a funny realization. On acid, I always think everything out to the extreme. I go to do something, then ask myself, do I really want to do this? Why?
And when I decide yes, this is the thing that best represents my current intent towards the object of my action given the incoming stimuli, I then have to figure out exactly the right way to express or accomplish the outcome desired.
If a council of a hundred and eight of the wisest and most balanced individuals all took acid together and made decisions on issues of global impact, I believe we just might see an immediate end to many of the problems plaguing our species. They would, of course, have to be given executive power to enact their group decisions.
But one individual, one little strand of grass trying to come to grips with the wind that is pushing it into action, this is difficult.
I won’t bore anyone with any more musings, but suffice to say that I walked out of there, and back into the festival grounds feeling fairly refreshed, accepting my place, and feeling ok with the fact that the wind that pushed me was apparently not felt by all. I would keep moving towards that damned holy grail, right onto my end, hopefully a long, long time from now, going from place to place, seeking clues behind waterfalls, always moving, as if the very hounds of hell were hot on my trail.
When the storm hits, resistance is futile. Flexibility is life.
So yeah, we enter the festival grounds, and as we are passing by the little ferris wheel near the entrance, we hear some kind of a thud. I didn’t really see much of anything, thankfully, but I kind of got a glimpse of something under the ferris wheel, and then I got hit by a passing paramedic.
Gregory Stanley Louttit, one of those injured in the fall, issued the following statement:
“I was rocking the chair, holding on to the bar that secured us, and all of a sudden it came off and I hit the bars 3 times before I hit the ground…my friend said witnesses told her I stood right up, but I collapsed right after. I don’t remember standing up.”
At the time, it was a serious shock to my system. I was sure those two poor bastards were dead, or at the least, seriously injured.
It was a hell of a price to pay for the fun and debauchery of hundreds of thousands… So easy to justify, and yet, at the same time, so hard.
I didn’t want to deal with that right then and there. I was having a hard time not tearing up as it was. Acid makes me very sensitive and emotional. Any sign of the futility and fragility of the human existence is prone to get me into a sad state. I walked away, and due to the fact felt worse than I would have had I confronted the simple reality of the situation.
So off we went to see the living legend, Snoop D O double G!
Yeah, losing the lion thing and going back to the dogs was a good call. Not sure what kind of high he was on when he suddenly perceived himself as the king of the animal kingdom, but the comedown must have been excruciating.
Right off the bat, he asks us if we are ready to get high, as he is lighting up a blunt on-stage. I’m thinking to myself, Snoop, dog, I am wayyy ahead of you on that one. I was straight out peaking right then and there, and everything around seemed like some kind of weird alien cultural rite that I didn’t belong in. We had lost our weed to the evil gatekeepers, but the acid and our elevated THC levels kept any kind of longing for anything temporarily at bay.
I don’t even listen to his music. I mean, I have heard it all over the place since my teens, but it’s not on my personal playlists. That being said, I love the guy as an actor, and despite our disparate life views, I feel a certain respect and appreciation for him that kept me there against all my animal instincts telling me to make a run for it.
Oddly enough, despite the very disrespectful nature of his lyrics, it was the females of our species that seemed to sing along with the most precision and ardor. They moved with it. The males remained mostly impassive physically, though not verbally. Maybe feeling the presence of a true predator in their midst…
Snoop makes the crowd work for it. He makes us fill in blanks. He makes us repeat after him, controlling which part of the crowd responds at any given time. He likes to tell them hos what to do. Even I am amongst the millions who throughout the ages has repeatedly called his name upon request. I was pretty fucking high, but some weird wind was pushing me, to be a part of whatever it was that was happening, whether it was significant or not.
Drugs and music and icons makes for weird moments in the minds of those stuck under their spell. This in and of itself might account for a large portion of why those god-damned hippies thought so much was going down right then and there.
At one point, he was making the crowd repeatedly chant something or other, in sequence. This side. Then that side. Then this side again… I had lost all interest and pretenses of belonging. I was looking around at the people. The chanting stops and everyone starts cheering like crazy. This Lithuanian kid in front of me suddenly cracks up. He turns, unable to stop laughing, and says “That was the WHOLE SONG!”
Yeah, it was pretty fucked up. I agree. It was a way to get people involved, to anchor yourself in their minds.
Research on methods of influencing people have demonstrated that a person who is uncertain about something has a tendency to become very certain about it if they openly state it for others to hear. Also, affirmations of opinions strongly reinforce them in the mind of the person uttering them.
This was all a bunch of weird mind control. And if you asked any one of these drones what they thought of this, they would likely look at you like you’re fucked up and not getting the point at all. These crazy bastards WANT to be influenced. They WANT to be moved by something beyond their complete understanding, beyond their direct control. They were moving like the blades of grass would have been had they not been trampled for kilometers around, pushed by the wind that was Snoop Dogg.
And here I was, now actively resisting the whole thing, feeling like this was not a true wind, but merely some idiot’s hot air, self promotion of the most shameless kind. It was a weird moment for me, an epiphany that I took the rest of the afternoon to process.
I saw Tom Green. He was a hell of a lot better than Steve-o, but man, I don’t know. Guess I was just not in that kind of mood. I don’t really remember much of it at all, unlike his disgusting and highly disturbed colleague.
Rob Zombie was pretty good. I enjoyed his music. But I was mostly thinking. About life, my future, my current plans…
Tenacious D sounded tight. They are good. But to my ear, they sounded too tight. Repeating and predictable. Mainstream metal made for the radio.
At some point, I lost interest. I was listening, but I was barely registering.
Something was brewing below the surface. I could feel the energy rising. The time was approaching.
With each moment, Slayer grew closer.
The acid was wearing off, but still I felt a resistance to making physical contact. I made my way to about where I figured the mosh pit would end and waited anxiously. Slayer is one of those bands for me that while I would not listen to them recorded, live, they are pretty much one of my all time favorites. Every time I have witnessed their power, I have been highly impressed.
They started strong, like always. They are not the type of band to go on endlessly with boring speeches, mentioning the name of the current city, asking everyone if they are having a good time, asking people if they are ready to rock?… No, they get up there and they just go right into it, letting their music speak for itself.
If you are not ready to rock, you will likely flee from Slayer like there’s a fire spreading from the stage, because they are LOUD. For the first two songs, I just stood there in shock as the vibrations blasted through me, making my whole system shake from the inside.
After two songs, my mosher instinct began to kick in, and I made my way to the front. I moved around for the first part of the show, got into the heavy moshing dead center of the front zone, moved back a bit to catch my breath, body surfed a bit, but eventually just kinda hung out right in the front, checking out the musicians and ignoring the wild throng all around.
At one point, some chick got seriously humped, and some old dude with her was trying unsuccessfully to get the fucking pig off. I moved back a bit, and with some well placed elbows and knees, not only did a bit of damage, but got the son of a bitch to move on. Mind you, I didn’t hit him. It was controlled applied pressure to his nerves… He probably just moved away from me, found another prey, and was a bit sore the next day. Fucking sick bastard.
Yeah, Slayer was my crowning moment of the weekend for sure. The bassist straight out looks like a demon, and the old man looks exactly like what Satan would look like if he was a redneck. Their music was tight, and the sound quality and volume was unmatched in my experience.
Somehow, it all felt exactly right. As the acid wore off, I came back down into the world of the damned.
As the music finished and the band got off the stage, I turned around to leave, only to be right away blocked by an incoming crowd. I was right up front and center, and all these motherfuckers were cramming me in, giving no room to escape.
“What the fuck guys, they are gone! What, are ya coming to pay homage to an empty stage?…”
The guy in front of me looks at me like I am such a fucking idiot. “We’re here to watch System of a Down.”
Ok… really?… they weren’t scheduled to play for another half an hour or something… So, first off, you wait, then you just make your way to the front. Don’t these people know how mosh pits work? there’s no reserving a spot… And second, in what world is System of a Down better than Slayer?… Guess I really am getting old.
Met up with my friends at the designated meet spot, was amused to learn my ally had lost his shoe in there. Steel toed combat boots guys and gals, it’s a must for any serious mosher.
At this point, we all decided the show was over. We made our way to our vehicles with System of a Down playing their little nursery rhymes while Slayer still reverberated through our skulls.
Seriously, there’s a wrong high for the right place, and LSD and rockfest are clearly that combination. Still, overall, a weekend well spent.