This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.If you have ever spent at least five minutes watching national television in your life then you know that there is actually very little that holds Canada together. Aside from corporate coffee, hating Toronto, and ignoring our complicity in genocide, I mean.But despite our many awful and hilarious differences, one place all Canadians are on an equal footing is when we're outside getting obliterated somewhere. And I don't mean a stealthy wine drunk in a city park or smoking dope in a back alley downtown. I'm talking about the rural Canadian ritual of going into the wild and getting absolutely ossified. It doesn't matter if you're crushing beer cans into the slopes of the Rocky Mountains or passing joints around a bonfire on the shores of Conception Bay.
I'm from Newfoundland and we just called them parties. I'm told in the Maritimes and the east they're called field parties and that west of Toronto they are either bush parties or farm parties, depending on whether you end up tripping over tree roots in the woods or burning pallets out by the barn, respectively. I have no idea what they're called in Quebec but faisant le parti dehors is a sweet time in any language. The geographical features of where you stumble around in the dark may vary, but the spirit remains the same.The magic proper to a bush party doesn't just happen, though. There is an art and a science to it. Any scrub can throw together wilderness + booze + fire but it takes a certain finesse for that to turn into a solid night out and not a trip to the hospital. We've compiled all the knowledge we've gleaned from years of boozing in the bush for this definitive guide to taking off in the Great White North.
The first thing to consider is: What is it like outside?Winter partying presents many unique challenges, like flirting in snow pants or trying not to pass out in a snowbank and die. Getting fucked up out in the snow is generally a bad idea and you should probably avoid it if at all possible, and odds are if you can't it means you're underage and have nowhere else to go. Just go home, kids. Or to the Lion's Club dance or whatever it is you're supposed to do with yourself before you're old enough to legally drown your rural alienation in the comfort of your home and/or local Legion.
'TIS THE SEASON
Even in the prime months for Canadian field parties—the season generally running from May Two-Four to a little after Halloween—some kind of fire is key to establishing the appropriate ambiance. A good fire is the centerpiece to the whole affair. But you have to be smart about it. Up in St. Anthony, they used to have this grand bacchanalian ritual around a fire for their grad celebrations, but then two idiots ruined it for everyone by starting a scrap. One dude falls into the fire and the other dude just jumps in on top of him and keeps throwing smacks and now there are no more grad fires and why the fuck even finish high school at this point, honestly.It's also important to have some good materials for putting a fire together. Wood pallets work great because you can just stack them together like Jenga blocks and light the fucker up. But you can basically use anything flammable.For example: A buddy of mine went out to Old Perlican for May Two-Four a couple years ago and set up in a field by some ocean cliffs, and him and his friends built a big-ass fire out of logs they found lying around. Not firewood or anything, I mean they literally stacked up a bunch of fallen trees and set 'em all ablaze.
That's a slow burner. It takes a lot of work getting a pile of trees going, so as they got progressively more fucked up they just kept throwing shit into the fire for fuel. They were throwing garbage, soiled clothes (pantshitting happens—no judgment), everything that wasn't nailed down. At one point someone chucked in a stereo. Buddy. You'd better believe there was some smoke coming out of that.
Anyways, the fire got huge. You could see it from the town and all along the highway up and down the coast. At one point one of the guys from the local fire department rolls up in his quad and the b'ys figure they were totally fucked. But all buddy wants to do is smoke a couple draws with them and remind everyone to leave their empties behind because the town was doing a bottle drive. Otherwise, they had the run of the place. He drove off again after a couple joints. Later, some people from the town came up and told everybody they could come down and use their showers and have a feed of bologna or whatever the fuck if they wanted.A good field party gets respect, man. Old Perlican knows what's up.
Organizing and logistics is a major part of any field party. It's a lot more complicated than just telling people to BYOB to a fire in the countryside, but obviously a pro will make it look hilariously simple.The linchpin of the whole operation is a pickup truck. Trucks will haul your beer in and out of the bush and—if you really economize space—can generally fit like a dozen people between the cab and the pan. This not only cuts down your carbon footprint but also reduces the number of fuckers who are stuck with the job of DD.I'm just assuming here that you have access to a truck. If you live in rural Canada and don't know at least one guy with a truck then I don't know what the fuck to tell you. I mean there's nothing stopping you from showing up to a bonfire in your mom's minivan but maybe you should just stay home and arrange the charcuterie tasting at your condo's next cocktail party instead?
KEEP ON TRUCKIN'
If you're lucky, you'll know someone whose truck also has a decent sound system (and a big battery). The traditional method for setting up the tunes was to just throw a mixtape into the rig and crank that fucker up. Alternatively, if you're partying out on a farm, you can just run an obscenely long extension cord out into the field and hook in an amplifier and/or a blender (to serve up piña coladas).
The music selection is obviously key. But fortunately it's also really straightforward. For example, if you're drinking by a fire out in the country and you're not listening to The Hip, go fuck yourself basically and maybe also consider turning in your passport. But if for whatever reason you hate Canada, you have other options. Really, the music can be anything you want, but for full effect it should sound like the smell of smoke-soaked flannel.Sleeping arrangements are also a very important consideration. If you're planning ahead, it's probably not a bad idea to bring some tents—if only so that people have a place to fuck in private, should the evening's festivities start leaning in their favor. The pan of a truck is also a great place to sleep (and make clumsy sexual advances on your crush du jour), but that's basically like a royal bedroom for the kingly driver.The rest of the plebs can make due with sleeping in any random location. Passing out in the woods is a toss up, because if you stick your slumbering head in the wrong crevasse then you may be faced with an angry skunk or a bunch of spiders or all kinds of fucked up shit.
Generally, striking out into the words is can get super risky if you're not prepared. My fiancée was out drinking by the sand pits up in central Labrador and she wandered too far away from the main camp and wound up getting stalked by a couple wolves. That's maybe the most Labrador problem possible, but it's definitely something worth watching out for.It's theoretically possible after enough substance abuse that you go into a sort of fugue state and wander safely through the wilderness like an R-rated Mr. Magoo. But I probably wouldn't bank on it. I've seen outrageously messed up dudes go into the forest on trikes or whatever and come out hours later, totally unscathed and unaware that any time had passed at all or that they'd even left camp.It could be the fairies. Or it could be the unholy trinity of Lamb's rum, shitty St. John's weed, and dangerously unsafe motor vehicle practices that miraculously didn't result in death. We may never know for sure. But you definitely don't want to be the moron who re-runs that experiment.
Choice of venue is paramount. There is obviously more to this than just picking out a random field or woodland clearing and telling people to show up. Ideally, you want somewhere secluded enough that you can raise a ruckus without drawing out the cops. Hunting for the perfect location is pretty time consuming and even if you conjure up a totally deadly locale, there is no guarantee that the ass won't still fall out of her.Here's a parable. Back in 1999, a buddy of mine from Saskatchewan and his graduating class were trying to put together the sickest New Year's party that Moose Jaw had ever seen. The plan was to bring in Y2K by blowing up some guy's house while his parents were out of town. But at the last minute they changed their plans and put the kibosh on the whole thing before it could get off the ground. Imagine the plot to Dazed and Confused except set in Saskatchewan at the turn of the century, and yeah.
A DRUNK AND ON DRUGS BREAKFAST CLUB
But the show must go on, and mercifully some farm kid from the outskirts offers to host the party at his place. They all assumed it would be a field but then it turns out to be a fucking horse riding arena. Like where they got horses to practice jumps over hurdles and shit.Anyway. This would be merely novel and ultimately forgettable except a rival high school found out about the party and decided to show up and turn it into a rural white-bread gang war. There were fights everywhere. At least four were going at any given time. The local RCMP couldn't be arsed to break up a couple high school fistfights so the gladiatorial combat went on basically all night. It broke, briefly, when my buddy smashed a 66er of vodka to announced the Year of Our Lord 2000 but otherwise it was basically just a night of bored white kids wailing on each other.So obviously a good time isn't guaranteed. If you're an asshole, then there is no fucking way you'll get a transcendental time out of any of this. You're more likely to have somebody shave off one of your eyebrows the moment you pass out somewhere in a gravel pit, and you'll deserve it.Even the best parties will have the inevitable asshole. There will always be one hick who is more interested in dropkicking frogs or stomping on field mice than just chilling out. One dude at my sister's grad party killed a fucking beaver and mounted its tail on a stick. Some people can't handle their liquor and also clearly can't handle being a decent human being.
Having to deal with random idiots is the nature of the beast. This is especially true in that first summer after grad where all the biggest field parties are clustered together and everyone you ever knew shows up, for better or for worse. Thankfully most people are not giant pieces of shit and these parties become legendarily good.The bullshit social divisions of high school melt away as previously mortal enemies start breaking bread with each other. One night down at the basketball courts, goths came together with jocks and nerds to pool all their dope together and roll a massive ten-paper bat. It's impossible to capture this utopian space of youthful harmony in any other setting.This is why field parties are such a staple of rural Canadiana. They're the closest we can get to time travel. When you're young and world is full of possibilities—before you learn that life is mostly boredom interspersed with suffering and that, best case scenario, you get to spend your life spinning a debt-powered hamster wheel to make someone else rich—you and all your friends are just out getting drunk and stoned in the country. It's the only place you can go to recapture the fading glory.For a brief moment underneath the stars, you get to be forever young. The bonfire, filtered through a drunken haze, is the cherub's flaming sword outside the locked gates of Eden. You can never go back, but the good Lord will let you tailgate it a couple times a year.And that's good enough for me.Follow Drew Brown on Twitter.