My damaged tent was erected first time, hunger was placated, and we wandered out on an exploratory adventure across the fields. Last minute soundtesting sent out marvellous noises around the echoing hills. Our recce uncovered a brilliant mans who chatted to me about my Mexican home mushroom-growing kit; some massive, bulbous psychedelic flowers made from purple fabric billowing toward the sky; and several fluorescent jackets rushing around nailing things to the stages and unloading shiny new portaloos. The first evening we had nothing to do and no alcohol was available for sale yet, even at exorbitant bar prices. Such is our social deficiency, it seemed impossible to enjoy ourselves at a festival where we knew no-one and had no drugs. To drag down our sprits a little more, David had nil funds in his bank account and had also managed to misplace his cash card.
Thus we began a lonely trek up the slope among various circles of tents filled with laughter, marijuana smoke and crushed lager cans. With no mood-altering chemicals in our bloodstream, the prospect of joining in mashed campfire discussions and shouting "Bollocks!" at each other seemed depressingly distant. However, it can't have been long before a mans wielding a long pole (to which he'd attached blue glow sticks at each end) engaged us in conversation on a topic I don't recall, but was almost certainly an attempt to peddle illicit substances. His efforts to vend "bombs" and bud were entirely unsuccessful because the vernacular drug lingo was entirely foreign to us both. Regardless, we were invited into his abode where I was asked to roll a joint and, after introductions to his chums, he continued to inform all present just how "hammered" he was.
That evening, several marijuana cigarettes were shared, the merit of the Coen brothers' various audio-visual outputs was discussed and some MDMA that was supposedly pure was acquired by me for a massive laugh. We also met a hottie who danced a lot and one of the best Quake II CTF players in Europe talked about his favourite maps and tactics with us and his hott girlfriend (gamer with a gf – what was all that about?) The evening took on a surreal turn: tetrahydrocannabinol warped time as well as short-term memory and, after being regaled with stories of erectile dysfunction, some brilliant nu-swing records and much more hilarity, David and I made our leave and visited the Solar Chill lands. They were all far too cool for us anyway...
The chill-out area was magnificent in its delicate beauty. Paper lanterns suspended from the trees by invisible strings danced erratically in the evening breeze; sculpted thai mushrooms stood erect and people lay on the grass or sat cross-legged at small curvaceous tables half a foot off the ground. Everything was glowing eerily, outlined by UV-reactive paints. People laughed with each other quietly, and reassuringly chilled music lilted ambiently through the smoky air. After some time, we walked back to our tent and shortly went to sleep until ten the next morning.
An almost-chubby girl with a porcelain face and a deliberate tear in the seat of her jeans – it was just below her panty line at the base of her left cheek – stole our money as we boarded the Big Red Bus heading to a nearby town on the Friday. She wasn't at all hott. I withdrew almost £100 and we purchased provisions: cider, Bacardi, cherry cola, bread, baccy, skins. The alcohol was decanted into unmarked plastic bottles as middle-aged women walked past for their weekly perm or perhaps toward the launderette. It wasn't necessary to conceal the unlicensed beverages in the end because, by virtue of our proficient social engineering skills, we slipped through the gates along with our smuggled goods. I bought Jelly Babies and we sat in the doorway of the tent and dropped 30g of fresh cubensis mushrooms. While waiting to come up on my dose, I rolled cigarettes.
Once more I am obliged to admit that the trip was the most amazing experience of my life. Forget teenaged fumblings and inelegant groping, immature dabblings with crap gear, and rich kids snorting coke off dull suburbs girls' breasts. Other kids depressingly spend their college years going on 18-30s holidays in the sun, trawling Newquay clubs in search of underage chicks or praying for the next weekend so they can get twd again. Meanwhile, I'm more convinced than ever: This is what it's all about; this is where it's really at. For an hour I sat in dust clouds kicked up by infinite stomping feet, gawping at the UV faeries that effortlessly twirled and flowed through the crowd. The one that looked like Tracy Emin scared me the least. At this stage I was still typically self-conscious, although I couldn't help inanely nodding my head to the beat and anxiously rocking my shoulders. I was so envious of the people dancing around me: devoid of inhibitions, partaking of the shared ecstasy, simultaneously not caring about anything but the beats pumped out of the 28KW sound system and totally at one with each other. Hydrophonic's organic trance seemed to effervesce and coagulate into itself: the tunes graciously morphed together and I was entranced. After a significant length of time, I finally noticed that the decorative butterflies had the patterns of eyes in their wings and chuckled to myself.
I don't wish to write much else about the trip. Truth be told, I can remember less about it than any other time I've taken mushrooms. As the threshold effects washed over me and I approached the plateau, I wiped a thick coating of dust from my cheek and went to sit on the grass on a hill that was situated quite close to the left subs. For the next few hours I sat transfixed by the feelings the drug was allowing me. Before that day, I'd marvelled for hours at impossible topology and geometry-defying shows projected in fractal dimensions onto my eyelids. The best part of last summer was when I spent a Thursday afternoon watching clouds rush over my face as though the world was rotating on speed. But this time, the hallucinations were minimal and the cerebral journey through a human's quantum mind and consciousness explored relatively few synapses. However, the euphoria that washed over me as I slowly came down in such naturally beautiful surroundings made all of existence worthwhile to the nine. The edges of the trees around me glowed with divine supernatural halos. Massive, proximate, immaculately white clouds reflected my eye: I stared into the infinite, into nothingness and into the future - the sky was blue, blue, blue and it all made sense. The night before we'd been craving alcohol like the gutter tramp whose gin ran out three days previously. Now, my eyes were wide open; I was more confident and relaxed than ever before and I no longer needed drugs to overcome the social anxiety that I'd allowed to become ingrained over the last eighteen years. Life was now openair and free – I was in orbit and felt weightless. We were no longer slaves for our minds were now free.
Call it an epiphany – call it whatever you want. It was special and it was magical and best of all, it was real.
I danced lots and, with every pulsing beat of the music, felt the absence of my worldly worries reinforced and my newfound carefree demeanour was bolstered. What was strange about the trip is that I don't remember many of the intricacies and self-similar details of my thought processes. I wasn't interested in reductionist analysis of the minute, preferring to consider (and thus fully understand) creation: existence as a whole. And boy, did I marvel gleefully at it all. Rather than act as a revolutionary experience in itself, the trip was a prophetic precursor to the entire weekend as its own self-contained unit. It allowed me to escape the shackles of my self-consciousness and embrace in the shared joy, blessing and genuine understanding of those present.
That evening Mount even turned up, but shitty UK licensing laws meant that the Origin stage had shut down by twelve. I traipsed off and watched fire spinners with a mans from Scotland who didn't seem to notice them at all. He started talking to me then shared a couple of bowls of dope with those around us before I excused myself went off to have an early night.
The next day I scoffed a baguette and immediately made my way toward the psytrance. I danced some, dropped my MDMA "bomb" and then was introduced to some of Mount's chums while he and a dude named Dawson munched thirty gees of assorted mushies each. Overly aware of the risks of dehydration (and also hyponatraemia), I made sure I drank about half a litre of water to every hour of dancing and, as such, urinated a lot. I didn't really notice coming up and as I was naturally high and drank quite a bit of cheap cider: I put down the earlier shimmers of love down to transient placebo effects. At about T+0:35, I was impatient and made a judgement that perhaps I wouldn't have deemed wise or worthwhile when sober. I wanted to really feel the drug during my first experience. And so, I dropped a small powder-containing capsule I'd managed to obtain on top of the original dose that I hadn't really felt yet. Despite failing to notice the launch, I really doubt both hits were duds. In retrospect, while they were both a little speedy, I noticed the acquisition of borrowed energy, some mouth dryness and enhanced appreciated for music. That day was one of the most enjoyable I'd ever experienced. Both ecstatically off our heads, Samuel Mount and I danced like damned fools to The Egg playing live in a freshly hotboxed main stage. Beaming so widely, he conspiratorially mouthed to me, "Try explaining something like this to the people at school." I could only dumbly nod my agreement.
I didn't start gnawing at the inside of my mouth as my dealer had assured me, but I certers felt some degree of latent entactogenesis – being alive at this exact moment and in this exact place was almost too wonderful for me to bear. There was a feeling of emotional closeness with both others and myself that went beyond the normal festival spirit, but that felt entirely natural at the time. Inhibitions and communication restrictions also seemed to have dissolved: I'm sure I wore a gormless beaming smile the whole time I was dancing away with the bassy report of the psytrance beats resonating joy in my ears. That day I danced non-stop for eight hours under the most beautiful sky, in a broad green field and surrounded by the most friendly and stunning people I'd ever connected with. Together we recouped some of the sense of the shared infinity that childhood allows and that is rarely recognised before it's gone.
There was nothing to care about anymore. This was the way things could be. Trashy tabloids print scare-stories and E is classified as a Class A controlled substance but, with the benefit of sobriety and foresight, I would have smugly discontinued living after that day. Really I would. I'm only too aware of how much of a "woah, deep duuuude" tit this discourse makes me appear, and deeply regret if I'm giving psychedelic trippers (or even all recreation drug users) a bad name. I do hate to sound like the whiney "look at me look at me" Nathan Barley-esque character who thinks he's cool and special to have taken drugs when he's, shit, only eighteen but really, to say anything else would be denying this experience the aura of divinity that it deserves.
That night I continued dancing through Tristan, an incredible Hallucinogen set, the end of Squarepusher's self-indulgent wankery (plus a brilliant live performance of Journey To Reedham) and finally had to sit down to catch Aphex Twin and his freaky visual show. I crashed early that night once again, but woke the next day with an enormous sense of well-being. The remainder of the festival was spent smoking baccylicious jays, worrying about rain, trying to inhale phil stos, scoring gear off a hippy, giving away rubbish, laughing at the fags who camped near us and did nothing but sit in chairs, trading spliffs for ice creams, dancing next to the hottest chick ever to exist, and being approached by a mans from Rugby who spoke about UK Hip Hop events very very slowly in the amazing surroundings of the Solar Chill area.
Seeing as we'd have to miss Protoculture, I allowed myself half an hour more of psytrance before we departed. I asked a girl running a nearby stall to look after my bag while I danced – she was very pretty. As soon as we had we ridden the Big Red Bus back to the train station, the depressing reality of (un)reality hit us when uncouth pikeys strolled cuntishly into Thatham station. David longed even more than I to light up a last jay as we travelled back toward Redhill. But we were now away from the festival and the outside world was still shackled, still needed to be changed. Despite this, when I arrived at home, I realised that nothing would ever be the same again.