Summertime is here and, with it, an endless parade of outdoor music festivals. For some, music festivals are a place to see as many great artists as they can, taking advantage of superstar lineups and cramming a month's worth of culture into one weekend. For others, festivals are all about getting fucked up and cramming a month's worth of Adderall into one nostril.
With Bonnaroo right around the corner, festival goers tell us which drugs, if any, are best suited to the festival experience.
"Drugs are omnipresent at Bonnaroo," says CincyMusic writer Nat Tracey-Miller. "Pot is the drug of choice. You smell it as soon as you hit the campgrounds the first day, and it never really lets up."
Pot's prevalence at Bonnaroo probably goes back to its jam band roots. According to DrugAbuse.com, a Bonnaroo Instagrammer is most likely to talk about alcohol, weed, and shrooms: the holy trinity of drugs and the only thing that makes listening to Widespread Panic bearable. Bonnaroo attendees report that security has been getting tighter and tighter both in and around the festival. State police line the route to the festival, looking for decked-out SUV's with pot leaf bumper stickers and out-of-state plates. According to state law, possession of half an ounce or less of weed is punishable by a $250 fine and up to one year in prison. "The oft-repeated wisdom on the message boards is 'Don't bring sand to the beach,' i.e., you'll be able to easily find what you need once you get there, so don't risk traveling with it," says Tracey-Miller.
Other festival-goers I spoke to reported that same potluck approach to drugs. "Usually I buy them there but it's also usually a rip-off," says a Dave Matthews Band enthusiast who spoke to me on the condition that he remain nameless because, as he puts it, "I'm talking about crimes I plan on committing again this July."
One problem with getting high on someone else's supply? Adulteration. "I went to Alpine Valley and smoked some weed that was laced," says my DMB-loving friend. "My driver said he forgot how to see, and he was the only one who could drive a stick."
"Bonnaroo sets often run up until sunrise, and things start to get weird after dark," says Tracey-Miller. "Especially since the festival started to focus more on EDM, molly seems to have taken on a lot more prominence." Molly is the street name for powdered MDMA.
Natalie, an ethics professor in Indiana, took molly back when it was called ecstasy and sold in pill form at the Area 51 festival back in the early 2000s. It was the most early-2000s drug to take while seeing the most early-2000's lineup: Nelly Furtado, The Roots, Incubus, Outkast, and Moby. Natalie has nothing but good memories. "Great show. Intense roll. Wonderful time," she says. "I felt a feeling of pure physical pleasure pumping through my brain stem for four hours, along with more intense senses, particularly hearing."
However, feelings can get too intense. Ronaldo went to Bonnaroo on molly and failed to tell his anxious girlfriend back home that he planned to "roll." He also got way too high to remember to check in over text. Finally, when he remembered and called his girlfriend, she broke up with him. "I was still rolling and my heart was broken," he says. "I was watching one of my fave bands, Beach House, for the first time, and it was very emotionally intense. Sort of ruined the trip."
VICE reporter Michael Segalov went to England's Bestival in 2015 and tested the purity of attendees' drugs. He found everything from "molly," which actually contained the much more dangerous PMA, to an alleged ecstasy tab which was actually half an antacid. Drug-testing kits are readily available online, and organizations like DanceSafe and the Zendo Project are strong presences at many festivals. However, some festivals are moving away from harm reduction and towards prohibition. In 2014, drug testing company Bunk Police had their merchandise confiscated by Bonnaroo security. CEO Adam Auctor took to Reddit to decry his treatment: "As some of you may know, the event is now owned by Live Nation and this resulted in significantly stricter security throughout," he wrote.
The main problem with molly (besides the fact that you're probably not doing molly) is overheating and dehydration. MDMA, the active ingredient in molly, causes dehydration, as does being outdoors for three days straight in the hot Tennessee sun. "Bonnaroo can be a pretty extreme environment: humid, near-shadeless, and with temperatures pushing well into the 90s," says Tracey-Miller. "I've gone through as much as three gallons of water in a single day." And he's not even on drugs.
Some may decide to avoid strict security and iffy drugs by going the technically legal route. I spoke with Kyle, a friend from college, about "robotripping" at the Virgin Music Festival. Robotripping is basically an intentional overdose of DXM, the active ingredient in cough syrup. Kyle would buy a bottle of generic Tussin caplets and take half the bottle. I vividly recall an evening my freshman year when he was robotripping and genuinely believed himself to be a velociraptor from Jurassic Park. "We had a good time at the Virgin fest in part because we didn't go too far overboard," he says. "I had before and knew it could be a bad time." A time he went overboard was Halloween of 2007, when Kyle dressed up as Baron Samedi and layered his DXM with resin and Jim Beam. I spent half an hour trying to coax him off a tire swing. He wasn't swinging, per se, just clutching it for dear life and trying to telepathically link with the kitten playing next to him.
Kyle has done other drugs at other festivals—most notably the time he did mushrooms at a festival, then was interviewed for a documentary on prog rock just as he was peaking. "I did my best soldiering though that 20 minutes," he says, "but I don't think it made the final cut." He says dissociatives like DXM and hallucinogens are perhaps not the best choice for a crowded festival. "Moving around and walking can be very tricky. The perception of what you feel your body is doing and what you can see it do are very disjointed. You feel like you're walking a lot slower or faster, or that you're still moving when you've stopped."
Bonnaroo Ballerina by Courtney Murphy via Flickr
Kyle acknowledges that many festivals have a laissez-faire attitude to people shitted off their face, but "it can make for weird feelings in public because you're not quite sure if what your body is doing is normal or not." Carly had similar problems with making her body work. "I find the roughest parts of being on drugs at a show are using the bathroom and waiting in a hot clumsy crowd of people during set changes or before the show starts," she says. "The dexterity necessary to unbutton my pants and urinate while sweaty metal heads wait patiently behind me is not really available. It is also difficult to determine whether I have urinated entirely on my leg or in the intended receptacle."
The High of Having Hundreds of Dollars to Spend on Tickets, You Monster
All the veteran dope fiends I spoke to had one thing in common: they wanted to partake in moderation. "From 2001 to 2004 my summers were spent in festival culture," says Gina. "I'd recommend the experience. I wouldn't recommend overindulgence. The next day, I felt like crap."
Tracey-Miller argues that's the most likely pitfall of overindulging at a festival—missing the live music you presumably paid hundreds of dollars to see. A friend of his "managed to sleep through Chromeo, his top act of the weekend, even though they took the stage at 7:30 PM. I also came across a guy passed out on the ground less than 100 feet from the speaker stacks at Slayer last year."
Some people are content to pay exorbitant fees to stare at their hands in a field, but according to Tracey-Miller, "If you're sleeping through Slayer, you've definitely gone too far."