The security for music festivals is always more for show. The polo-shirted guards at the entrance of Mysteryland were ostensibly there to enforce the “Zero Tolerance” policy set forth on Mysteryland’s website, which reads:
“It is forbidden to use, distribute, sell and/or to be in possession of drugs on the festival grounds and campsite. Violators of this rule shall be forced to leave the festival ground and/or campsite. The Mysteryland staff will closely monitor any potential drug activity, relying in part on security cameras placed throughout the site.”
If this was enforced, the weekend would consist of a series of confrontations between festival-goers wired on molly and security personnel without handcuffs. It wouldn’t be very fun. And when you’re throwing the first major music festival at Bethel Woods since Woodstock 45 years ago, you have a whole lot of fun to live up to.
Aaron and I ecstatically shuffled forwards in the security queue, part of the crowd of 20,000 that would quadruple the population of Bethel, NY this Memorial Day weekend. Some festival-goer had gotten spooked by the security and dropped his hash vape mid-way down the line, so now Aaron had a hash vape.
I was next, and emptied my pockets and backpack to the phlegmatic scrutiny of a skinny guard in his late 30s.
“Can’t bring in open packs, man.” The guard lifted my L&M 100s off the table with the tips of his fingers as he glanced down the line.
“Wha?” An opened pack of cigarettes seemed to be the least illicit item trying to get through security.
“Yeah, look.” Still glancing down the line, he slid a garbage can from under the table, revealing a graveyard of half-consumed packs.
“Sorry,” he said with much more sympathy than one would expect from a) A Security Guard and b) A Security Guard who had been dealing with Nicotine addicts’ wails of protest all day.
Everyone had decked themselves the fuck out for Mysteryland. The get-ups had the creativity of what you’d see for Halloween, but the summer heat allowed a degree of skin-baring that would be impossible in late October. Or at any place that had children or cops. Girls wiggled around in technicolor bikini tops, DIY-beaded halters, cheek-baring jeans shorts, turquoise-scaled mermaid bras, half-thongs under rainbow tutus, full-thongs under nothing…people donned neon raver-bracelets, faux-fur leg warmers, hand-dyed bandanas, sailors caps, ivy tiaras, their skin splashed and sprayed with body paint, henna, glitter…I saw Waldo, Faeries, Jesus with the crown of thorns, Wonder Woman and the most promiscuously-dressed Batgirl ever. A buxom girl walked past us with her shirt open as we exited security, the parted edges of the shirt’s linen clinging coyly to the peaks of her bare twins. She had an exuberant look on her face; everyone did.
It was 2:30 in the afternoon, and the EDM bass was already slamming. Instead of it thumping out of the speakers and ricocheting around the hard walls of some caliginous club, the vibrations rushed past your ears and off over the verdant rolls of the Southern Catskills.
Aaron, his girlfriend Alexandria and I hopped around the festie, taking everything in. We came upon a 15-foot tree constructed with 2x4s and painted white. There was a multitude of currencies plastered to the wood, each one festooned with day-glo ink. A Dutch guy approached us. He was wearing what started as a business suit at his shoulders, but fluidly morphed into splattered painters’ overalls by the ankle cuffs.
He was part of an anti-capitalist group that traveled around doing installations and disagreeing with Adam Smith. He encouraged us to take a bill from our wallets and attack it with the day-glo, deconstructing this venerated staple of our economy and turning it into art. It seemed this would be a great & ironic scheme to schiest a bunch of money from unsuspecting hippies, but the finished bills were solidly affixed to the tree with carpenter’s glue, so I think the Netherlander was being genuine.
People often approach me when I’m dancing. I dance kind of crazy. I like to think my style is that of a highly-sexed Transformer. From the recent movies, though, not the 80s show. That would be horrible dancing.
“Yoo! Fuckin CRUSHIN it, man!” A tall raver with short blonde hair held his hand up and slammed it down on mine for a low five. “Wish I had those moves!”
“Did you SEE that guy dancing?!?”—a petite, ample-chested Korean girl wearing a half-thong and a skimpy bikini top pointed at me, the bright strings in her braids still swinging around her face post-dance. The person she was alerting was her boyfriend, but she was a superb dancer, and it’s nice to be appreciated, anyway.
The third person who commented during this particular set (after clasping his hands to the sides of his face a la Home Alone and going ‘WHHAAAA?!?’ for like 5 minutes) was named Connor. He couldn’t have weighed more than 120 pounds, lived near where I grew up in Connecticut, and had taken a LOT of molly.
After saying something about my moves, he introduced himself and immediately began filming a selfie of us dancing. It was for Snapchat.
“DROP THAT SHIT!!! DROP IT!!!!” he kept on screaming at the DJ, who was definably out of earshot.
He hopped back and forth from me to the two people he was there with—a pretty elfin-faced girl and (again) her boyfriend, a big guy with floppy goldenrod hair whose right calf and foot were encased in a plastic cast.
“Yo, I woke up SO fuckin hungover today.” He was by far the least energetic person visible in the crowd.
“I told myself yesterday it wasn’t a good time to party…shoulda jus’ saved it for today.” He looked disappointed in himself. Connor hopped back over and grasped the guy’s shoulders to get his attention. The guy tensed up and ignored him, directing his attention at me, so Connor just started massaging him.
I continued to dance between Aaron and the braided girl with the half-thong. Sound Remedy was spinning, a Venice Beach-based dubstep DJ. I glanced in the direction of Goldenrod while executing a particularly exotic dance move and saw that he was sitting on the ground, subtly vomiting into the space between his legs.
I grabbed the water out of my bag to offer it, but saw mid-way through the movement that Connor had already thrust a Dasani bottle in Goldenrod’s face. Goldenrod bitchily brushed it away, a sickly look on his face. He glanced up and saw my Poland Spring liter. He took it, nodding in thanks.
Connor was pure Connecticut whitebread, but at the same time was the type of person that other people in Connecticut would hate. It was a brand of hate the upper-class parts of Western CT had patented—effete and dismissive, demeaning and cruel. I immediately felt bad for him.
Or maybe they were all good friends, and Connor was just acting annoying because of all the molly.
Aaron and I sought out another tent to rage in. We gravitated to one packed with lights and smoke and steam and people throwing themselves around. Standing at the entrance like some sort of terrestrial Cerberus was a shirtless Latino wearing red camo pants and an over-the-cranium rubber mask. The mask was of a decapitated pig’s head with its mouth sewn shut. I couldn’t even tell if the mask had eyeholes.
Sound Remedy’s spinning had been epic; the music in the current tent sounded like the DJ had become angry at his drum machine early on and had resolved to spend the rest of his set mercilessly punching it off-beat.
“It’s called Hardstyle,” Aaron informed me after I had convinced him to jump ship. “It’s real fast, like 180, 190 beats per minute.” This is also the pulse rate that physical trainers call the “No Go Zone” and can result in heart attacks, which is exactly what would have happened to me if I had stayed there.
Cerberus seemed to enjoy it. He was skanking outside the entrance of the tent with the mask still on. To my relief, he whipped it off to reveal an actual, non-horrifying head.
Aaron had to meet Alexandria at the Media tent, where she had been interviewing people all day for an EDM website, so I wandered off on my own.
I came upon a structure the size of a cramped bedroom. A stubby steeple poked up from the peaked roof, and the exterior was covered with pink and white faux-chiffon. The interior was invisible through the narrow entrance. It was labeled “The Love Chapel.”
I wasn’t sure what the function of the Chapel was, but it looked like something you’d find in the seedier parts of a Red Light District—something for the thrifty customer in a rush.
A guy disappeared through the entranceway trailing a girl in a hula skirt. He was gone for a moment, then his head reappeared.
“Hey!…Hey, anyone? We’re getting married…is there someone here that can marry us?”
There didn’t seem to be anyone ordained within earshot, but four people rushed in nonetheless. I followed.
Stuffed into the 5×10 room, we watched the couple ask for each other’s names, then take their vows. When it was time for the kiss, the girl balked for a couple seconds with her face scrunched-up and her head drawn back. She finally jerked her neck forward and latched on for a smooch. It was awkward.
Towards nightfall, Aaron and I were loitering outside the Media area, waiting for Alexandria to use the media-only toilets. Aaron suddenly brayed laughter.
“What?” I asked.
“You didn’t hear that?”
“You find any good drugs out there?”—is what Aaron heard very loudly and clearly projected from the inside of the Media Area. The media folks seemed very well-sequestered, so I guess this entailed fact-finding.
The drug scene was actually pleasantly under-the-radar for a festie. You saw people drinking and blazing, but not even that much, and I only saw one person super-inebriated
Following in the traditions of Woodstock, drug use is an integral part of the festival scene, which is fine, but it gets excessive at a lot of these events. I remember going to Shakedown Street at Bonnaroo and seeing innumerable dealers screaming “Molly,” “Shrooms,” and “Headies” at the lines of festie-goers that went to the area specifically to cop. The fact that the dealers were selling the same three things—all stashed in the same model backpack—made me think it was organized…they were here for profit, not to sell a few bags to recoup the expenses of the weekend…very anti-Woodstock.
Aaron and Alexandria were supposed to take a ride over the festival in a hot air balloon at the end of the night, but the balloon was deflated when they showed up. We left a little after that, one-ish. Aaron, who had been commonly going to festies for the last 12 years, said it was the best he had ever gone to.
“Well, at least since 2004, anyway,” he reconsidered.
We pulled out of the festival parking lot and into the farmland and forest of Sullivan County, the multi-hued lights of Mysteryland tinting the night sky behind us. There were three cops standing directly in the intersection that linked the road leading to the festival and Route 17B. They pinwheeled their arms like the green light had just flashed on at a drag race, directly us onto the main road.
Even they seemed to be having a good time.