I almost didn't attend this party. Returning to my nine to five so soon after Glade prevented me from making concluding reflections and or attempting the assimilation of all my experiences from that weekend. Russell's phone call woke me up from an afternoon nap and, the mammoth train journey notwithstanding, managed to convince me that failing to go would permanently have me labelled "lame".
I met Jonny (also on his way to the party) at Ashford station before finding out that I still had two hours to wait until my buddies turned up. After wandering around town looking for a cheap burger, Russell, Casey, Begg and Billy finally rolled up. They were delayed owing to Billy's regurgitation of his lunch in the car. We waited for Mount to text me the directions and spent our time avoiding being robbed at the hands of the boy racer subculture or failing to get through to the answer machine messages on the infoline. We set off at eleven and were flagged down by Seb in a high-visibility jacket at twelve. A not-insignificant amount of time had been wasted driving down the wrong B-road and with me sent out to run down dodgy-looking tracks or listening to the evening breeze (in vain, naturally) for the emission of amplified music predominantly composed of successive beats. Thankfully, I persuaded Russell that, no, he wasn't tired and yes, it would be worth it when we finally got there.
The location turned out to be fucking superb. Mud had dried out to the extent that my shoes were salvageable and I only saw a couple of small-engined cars get stuck on the hill in the field-cum-carpark. The most stunning canopy of greenery arched over a beautiful little clearing that was lit by innumerate campfires and these groovy little torches-on-sticks. My companions soaked in UV rays and blew a tenner on nitrous while I assisted Mount in scaling dodgy aluminium ladders to hang the gorgeous psychedelic banners he'd somehow obtained. More cars began to arrive and the place became busy with an almost-tangible vibe of expectance which saturated chilly forest air. And then the soundsystem started up. Oh boy: the soundsystem.
sea of people all equal
smiles in front and behind me
all smiles all easy
where're you from, what're you on and what's your story?
The beat was contagious and before long I had to start dancing. I acquired a pill by less-than-scrupulous means from a fellow wearing Mad Hatter-style headgear. Billy joined me with a speck of MDMA and we danced with Casey, Russell and a million others all moving together, almost as one. Fuck you all: it was beautiful. We were full of love and couldn't stop hugging everyone like the goons we are. Human contact was just so very rewarding. There was big-time emotional affinity. We rubbed and mashed our palms over our faces to feel every last contour and texture. We devoured liquorice rizlas and nothing had ever tasted as nice before. I personally was overwhelmed with feelings of comfort and belonging around these people whose names I didn't even know. Dare I say it? There were no hints of phoniness and it felt like a life-changing, profound and almost spiritual experience.
where're you from, what's your name and what're you on?
Mount pushed a bottle of port into my face and I drained the sweet nectar. I felt like a saint; a disciple being offered holy blood. Indeed the majority of the worshippers celebrating around me had consumed "the body of Christ," God's Flesh, psilocybin – that or LSD and MDMA. Love resonated our corner of the earth and sustained itself with all-enveloping sibilance. The air was fresh with the deliciously sweet smell of em jay as a million joints were passed my way, and I wanted nothing more than to share my bottle with anyone who asked. A million nice people talked to us asking how we were and where we hailed from and, for the first time in my life, conversations were strung together effortlessly and without anxiety. I was embraced by them all from teenaged fluororavers to pensioners wearing Burberry and baseball caps.
known you all my life, i don't know your name
the name's european bob
anyway, have a dance now see you later
pleased to meet ya
likewise; a pleasure
The sun rose shedding its light through the delicate leaves above. We had outdanced the world and I bathed in the flux of love from above. It was amazing being able to dance without earnestly searching for approval or self consciously looking at your feet. There was something atavistic about it – that square of countryside was made into an autonomous zone by us, mere people! Good vibrations continued to wash over me, beaming like a cretin.
The pills inside precipitated natural expression and I could almost see what others felt from their movements. The chick with dreads and an amazing skirt bumping into me from behind? She's tripping balls and transfixed by the tracers her spiralling fingers make. The tweaked out guy with the faded t-shirt – he's five feet under from exhaustion but still doesn't care for the chillout rig; he's just thinking to himself how glad he is that he finally quit his job. The hive, the crowd keeps us all going. Here there are no braindead arms in the air to the chorus from the latest Hollywood car chase, there are no superstar DJs being fellated after their half-hour slot. This ain't the club scene with kids going through moves carefully-rehearsed in the mirror before just in case someone with a tight ass is watching.
When I had to catch my lift about seven thirty in the morning, I'd have done almost anything to be able to stay there a few more hours. Going home would have been a mission, a real chore if I couldn't just swear that the beats somehow remained pulsing in my head. The music came back with me and nothing could take away the special fact that I was there, a part of it.
That summer's night on the 24th July 2004 in Chilham, Kent. I was alive and I was there, whatever it all meant.