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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

MOE.DOWN FESTIVAL IN UPSTATE NY. A recollection of events, thoughts and perhaps a guide to the uninformed.


~~ First time at MOE.DOWN

 A recollection of events, thoughts and perhaps a guide to the uninformed.



It was 6:15 am when we opened the first bottle of previously mixed cranberry vodka. The sky was still more than half black and the sun was just starting to push through that one end of the darkness, but the multitudes were already there.  The 5 hours trip from Budd lake NJ to Turin, Upstate New York was a tiring one due to the lack of sleep, the accumulated crankiness of having  had to work the day before and the fact that the whole previous week was a particularly tough one at our jobs.  Never mind all that, my wife Roxy, her brother Radu and I were mentally prepared and soul ready for the event that we set up to be the last great party of the summer of 2014.  Once we got there the vibe just got right; when you see hundreds of people drinking hard liquor and burning weed by the side of the road at those hours it feels very inviting, invigorating and comforting.

The line of cars extended very far out the road already, even though the parking lot and the event doors were not going to be open for another 3 hours. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that thousands of people were already there with so much anticipation. Most of them, we assumed, had been camping there from the night before, this meant that there was a movement of people that was very excited about what was about to happen. 
As the sun was getting higher, faces and bodies began to take shape and I started to realize my second surprise... there was a considerable amount of hippies beside that long line of cars. Girls dancing with hula hoops in gypsy like dresses, long dreadlocked hair and bearded guys wearing Grateful Dead  T-shirts smoking weed, and families with kids in old vans and R.V’s. It started to look more and more like those images from “Woodstock” 1969, but of course, smaller in size, intensity, meaning and everything else. Nevertheless, we were overjoyed at the fact that we drove from the nearest town to this retired ski park  without seeing one single police car,  police officer or anything resembling any “Nazi” law enforcement agency representative. That was very uplifting and made us think that good times in this event were very possible.

You see… MOE.DOWN for those of you who are not knowledgeable about it, is this three day long “acid rock” festival that is been taking place for the last 15 years in upstate NY. A gathering of hippies, freaks, drunkards, druggies, music enthusiasts and bad decision makers of all ages, sexes and genders, but not of every race, as I got to the conclusion in the next few days. About 99% of the gatherers were white American folks, except for me (Uruguayan) and two black fellows that I saw walking by a few times always together as if on guard. Roxy and Radu, although white skinned, do not consider themselves full blooded Americans.  All these underground bands of acid rock, folk, country and symphonic rock  gather around this one band called MOE, who as the name suggests, is also the creator and organizer of this event where MOE itself plays up to 3 times every day.
My interest about MOE.DOWN sparked about a month before the event took place. Close to the end of July 2014 the three of us and five or six of our friends happened to be at the Island beach State Park hotel in southern NJ in a 3 day drugs and alcohol binge, when I heard about MOE.DOWN for the first time. Life celebrations like that one were nothing new to us.  Roxy, Radu and I have been a party team for many years, have got in trouble many times and ridden many irresponsible and untellable adventures together.
To get as much information about MOE.DOWN as I could and later remember it proved to be a futile exercise. Our mental and physical states were not helping at all. On our last day at the beach, with our friends already gone, we decided to eat three doses each of this bad ass LSD and take a long walk through the sand dunes of the desolated beach State Park.  As we walked along this paradisiacal scenery, the existence of the festival, the next date for it and a few other details  were mentioned to me by Radu, but little that we knew, a few words later the universe was going to make us its bitches.
That acid blasted us with no warning like a fucking kaleidoscopic tsunami of feelings of Euphoria, love and universal truth, a total and very intense psychedelic trip that left us almost disoriented and talking nonsense in the sand.
A few hours into the trip, somehow, we got to the definitive and unmistakable conclusion that we did not have enough water in my back pack to survive so many hours under the sun. We must’ve thought that within a few hours, we were going to become rotten seagull food, laying in the hot sand, so we left that empty paradise teaming with radiant and beautiful vibrations to enter a part of the beach where an awful, dark and menacing pulse lurked and got all around us. That line in the sand where the park ended and civilization started was the area where our hotel room also happened to be, and it was infested with the kind of people that wouldn’t think twice about freaking out at our altered psychological state and call the police on us so we could be removed from their prefab, comfortable and secure reality. After all we were sticking out like a sore thumb, precariously walking among beach goers in that beautiful sunny day, and that could not be tolerated.
Once at the door of our cheep hotel room our conversation turned confused and desperate.
-Stay together! ...
-What? ...
-Who the fuck said that? ... -Was it me?
-Who’s got the key?
-Act normal! -Just look at the door and ignore the effects of this powerful drug! (I thought) …
-I don’t have the key! ...
-Who said that, you? Me? ...
-Is here! ...
-Open! ...
-Yes! - We are in!!! …
-What the fuck are we doing here? ...
-What did we come here for?
My vision turned into rapid flashes with different parts of the room in each blink of my eyes. Money everywhere, clothes, laughter!
-Who the fuck is laughing? Is it me?
The cell phones we left at the room were all ringing at the same time. We were bumping on each other, laughing and getting scared at the same time. The vibrations were getting ugly and freakish; the TV was on and loud. Little midgets were on the TV. Little scary midgets on little fucking suits!
-FUCK THIS! I said, and unplugged the TV. Chaos ensued!
 -Guys, guys! Let’s sit down, Said Radu.
We all sat down on the floor in an Indian circle.
-We are ok now, said Roxy
- Guys! We are not OK Guys, Said Radu, -WE ARE ABOUT TO FUCKING LOOSE IT! He screamed.
At this point I looked at his face and the movement of his hands doing enfaces on the sentence, and I saw the terror possessing him!
 WATER! I said, -We came to put water in the backpack and head back to the sand dunes.
 And so we did, with a few other misadventures on the way there.
-Is this guy coming towards me? I said.
- fuck! I hope he doesn’t try to talk to me! –Don’t come near me you fuck!
-Did I just scream on his face? -Shit! Let’s keep walking…yes towards the good vibes…yes that’s better …

For the next few days,  going back to the routine, the job etc, I felt greatly alive, enjoying the aftermath of such a trip, but I had almost no recollection of the MOE.DOWN talks, except that two of my favorite bands of all times were going to be there. Radu is a very hard to find individual during his periods of normality and dull work routine, so I didn’t get much information about it anymore. Why didn’t I check the internet? Well, I think that working 10 to 12 hours every day as a CNC machinist leaves me in no mood to do that kind of research. For a guy who doesn’t like nor believe in the “work culture”, I work too fucking much, so It was either that or I was just too fucking lazy to do it. I remitted myself to buy the tickets and wait for it, with the hope in my heart that a scene and a situation like the one at the beach surely would not, could not happen at MOE.DOWN. Radu didn’t say much about the festival during the ride there either, maybe he thought he already had, maybe he knew that I wasn’t much into the “hippie thing” and didn’t want me to get there with any bias preconceptions.
Around 8:30 am the parking lot across the street from the camping area opened its doors. While Roxy kept driving in the slow moving line towards our soon to be assigned parking space, Radu and I carried (drunkenly) all our gear and provisions across the street towards the check point.  Amicable security guys and girls in sky blue T-shirts opened every bag, unfolded every tent and searched every pocket, mostly looking for big amounts of drugs or weapons or anything that could be used as a weapon. Our gear was prepared the day before and consisted of : a six people Coleman tent, three folding chairs, sleeping bags, two inflatable mattresses, two back packs with clothes, a small cooler with some sandwiches and snacks and a big cooler full of booze. We knew that we were going to find food and drink vendors there, but in this kind of festivals food is usually expensive, of little variety and not very appealing, as I could verify and assert later on, and the booze is usually only five dollars plastic cups of beer, and I wasn’t wrong about that either. It was very impractical and unfair the fact that we were not allowed to walk into the two stages show area with food or drinks, so one would have no choice but to buy their food and drinks. This ordinance was enforced to the point where Radu was dispossessed of an orange that somebody had happily gifted him with, right before getting in the show area check point.
-So much for anti capitalist hippies, I thought.
Our big cooler had two 24 packs of Yuengling beer, six bottles of cranberry juice heavily mixed with vodka and two big Poland spring water bottles full of a plum Romanian moonshine we called “rocket fuel” but is actually called “Tuica” or “Rakia” (my father in law brings this stuff to the US at least once a year)As for drugs, we only had…I should say -they- only had a decent bag of weed(I happen not to smoke marihuana). I was assured by my brother that the medicine I was planning to take could be found within the camping areas, and I believed him because I knew he wanted it too and also as he explained to me for the first time once we got there, because he had been to a few MOE.DOWNS before. It is part of is quiet nature to do this kind of things and never tell, he knows how to be quite a mysterious dude at times. In that state of drunken euphoria and excitement, we walked across the fence that separated the road from the camping ground trying to carry all of the stuff at once; needless to say the whole walk was a funny mess out of “the Benny Hill show”. Almost 2 hours later our camp was ready and we were feeling very proud of having accomplished such an intricate feat under those dreadful conditions; it was time for a nap.
I woke up 3 hours later and saw that the field was full almost to capacity, I mean tent next to tent as far as the eye could see. Roxy was smoking a joint and having a beer and Radu had gone for a walk to the camp at the other side of the show area. This is a good time to explain that there were two camping areas:the so called “sober and quiet camp” where we were staying…ha-ha…yeah! And the wild camp, also called the “shake down” camp, where the -after parties- were supposed to happen late at night after the end of the last show.We decided for the quiet camp because you never know when you are going to feel like sleeping without having some crazed beast raging war with the universe next to your tent, and we liked having that choice. Anyhow, to my surprise, the so called “wild” camp was anything but. I never got to see any after party raging wild until dawn.  At the end of the “shake down” camp there was a ditch about five feet deep by ten feet wide that extended along the east end of the camp’s perimeter, part of an old ski lift chair system that looked abandoned. In this place, I heard, is where wild “ditch parties” happened every night after the last band was done playing, but I never got to see anything like that in all the time I spent there. Nevertheless, that camp had more of a festive vibe than ours and it was also where one could find all the types of medicine a person would need to assure a more than interesting long weekend at a rock festival in the woods.
As I was sticking my head outside the tent and getting my eyes accustomed to the sun light, I saw Radu coming back from his walk, and he was bringing lots of goodies!
–I got some stuff guys! Look! He said, as he started getting things out of his pockets.
– I got magic mushrooms chocolate bars, a ball of opium, weed cookies, a bag of cocaine and a ten strip of LSD,  he said all happy and proud.
-Good God! I said, -You have done well my brother!
Immediately I ate a chocolate shroom and snorted some blow in order to wake up from the hot drunken stupor I was still in. We all medicated ourselves with the products of our choice and according to our needs, and walked towards the stage area where the sounds of the first or second band were already filling the hot air of that early afternoon.
After passing through the security check point we found ourselves walking  in this flat and open area surrounded by vendors of all kinds: food, drinks, books, jewelry, weed paraphernalia, ethnic musical instruments a general store and a “lost and found”. At the southern end of this place there was a big stage with a band already on board, at its north was the main stage showing its back to this one and facing an enormous and almost vertical ski slope with very little flat space between the stage and the slope. Everything was very impressive I must say. It looked very well organized. When one band was about to finish playing on one stage, the other band was starting to take on the next, and as the last notes were ringing , the firsts notes of the new band were starting to flow in the other stage. It was fun to watch crowds of hundreds of people walking the hundred yards between one stage and the other every hour or so.
Now…about the music…well…here is the issue I had with the whole thing, I never liked, I don’t like nor I will ever like “The grateful Dead” and not for lack of trying, it just doesn’t work for me.  There are also philosophical reasons behind my dislike but I will explain this later. Almost every band there seemed to be trying to emulate- Jerry Garcia and his pals- in some way or another, especially MOE. Those long lasting guitar solos all over the fucking songs can make me run away in disgust if I happen not to be fully medicated.
There used to be a radio DJ in my native country that I grew up listening to, and he had a show in which he would critique bands from all over the world, but always reminding the listeners of his 10 favorite bands of all times, this way the public could understand why he liked or dislike this or that band. In much the same way I want to let the readers know that one of the main reasons I decided to assist to this festival was the fact that Less Claypool from “Primus” was going to be there with he’s alternate band “Duo de Twang” playing an acoustic set. Also the great “Gogol Bordello” was going to be there presenting their unique gypsy punk, reggae cumbia, go ape shit fucked up show!
Having understood the type of festival it was and the kind of crowd it was made of, I couldn’t help but wonder what were these two bands doing there. They seemed so out of place. - Why were they hired to play in such a festival? But the excitement of knowing that I was going to see them didn’t let me think too much about it until much later.
Radu has always been a much more communicative and social person than me, so he took the initiative to walk around on his own every now and then, engaging in conversations with total strangers (something I’d rather not do) and this way finding out what was going on where and most importantly who had the drugs. It was this way we came to befriend this group of guys and girls who had their camp right next to “the ditch”, young fellows not older than 25 that didn’t look much like hippies but more like adventures, drug hungry and fresh minded people. Some of them reminded me of myself at that age. The attraction was mutual. We just clicked, and we would hang out every day and night for a while during the time we spent there. In a way we were all universal ambassadors representing many diverse tribes.
I had got into and hang out with Punks, Metal heads, Hippies, Latin music lovers, Gypsies, Rastafarians, Yuppies, Rednecks, Politicians, religious people, Gun nuts, Hipsters, lefties and righties and had never been full part of either of those circles, but I have taken the best aspects out of all of them and amalgamated it into my life, to become that kind of ambassador I mention before.
Our ambassador’s gift to these guys in exchange for their kind company was Romanian moonshine. Since I’m also a bit of an agent of chaos, it was kind of a mission to me to give away as many shots of our Rakia as possible to these kids and get them as drunk out of their fucking wits as possible, which I did, with a lot of personal satisfaction I must add.
Around midnight with the last band playing, we decided to head back to camp and call it a night, after all we had been awake for about 50 hours, minus that 3 hour nap, and had accomplished what we had planned for the first day at MOE.DOWN. The outlined achievement was to get intoxicated with alcohol to the extent of losing control over normal physical and mental functions (shrooms included). Having been drinking for about 17 hours, the mission was accomplished thoroughly.



We woke up around 9:00 am to another beautiful, radiant summer day at this bucolic place we were calling home for the time being and walked to the coffee joint at the end of our camp.  A tent was set up outside an old ski lodge –bar and restaurant to quench the caffeine cravings of morning waking uppers. It was a beautiful blessing to realize that across the dirt road from the coffee joint there were shower rooms where one could take a 5 minute hot shower for 5 dollars. There is no better way to start a day (for me) than showering off all the nastiness from the day before.  After some weak ass coffee, decent sausage egg and cheese sandwiches and my revitalizing shower we walked back to our tent and sat down in our folding chairs for a few minutes. Roxy and Radu had their ritualistic morning marihuana intake while we discussed the plan for the rest of the day.
The plan for the 2nd day was simple: we were going to rehydrate ourselves to combat the hangover feelings, walk into the show area and hang out there until twelve  O’clock when the main stage would be opened, climb up the ski slope as far up as we could, take 2 tabs of LSD each and trip our faces off listening to the music for about 5 or 6 hours. Normally I avoid dropping acid surrounded by thousands of people, but I realized that at this particular event, with private security managing the place, Thousands of freaks,  party ready Hippies  and no cop on sight, people were expected to walk around all fucked up and happy. We figured that by the time we would be coming down from the trip less Claypool’s “Duo de Twang” would have been playing and we could enjoy it with all of our senses in full alert. After them, another band called “Twiddle” was on and this would give us time to drink heavily and get in the mood for “Gogol Bordello”. Our plans only went that far, the rest was up to the universe, drugs and alcohol and our determination to enjoy life to the fullest.
A few bottles of water later, it was time to walk up the grassy ski slope and take our doses. Half way before the top we sat down and waited for the magic to happen while enjoying the sun and…The music?...well let me just say that MOE was playing its first show of the day as I was thinking:
– Well, there is a reason why they call this music “acid rock”; probably it’s really cool to listen to while tripping balls.
One hour later it was evident that no lysergic chemical reactions were taking place in our brains.
– Hey Radu! Do you feel anything yet?
-Well, I feel good
-what the fuck is that supposed to mean?
-No, I don’t feel anything
-Baby, how about you?
- No, nothing here
I knew what had happened, we had been robbed! We got sold a piece of fucking paper! But just to try and keep positive we waited one more hour. At the end of that hour I said it! – We got fucking robbed man! We all agreed.  Radu got up and went to try to score some more, Roxy just sat there in disgust, and I went down to the beer stand to drink out of anger, and to think about a plan B, which most likely was going to be getting hammered drunk. After loading myself with some 4 beers, I got two more for the road and headed back up to the spot where Roxy was waiting, thinking how vile , evil and twisted a human being can be to do such a thing as to sell fake drugs. What a disgusting animal! What a horrible and filthy troll! What a sorry ass excuse for a human being! People …I should say –entities- like this one, should be shamed in public, whipped and shunned from humanity for the rest of their miserable existence. That experience also taught me about some of the people that go to that festival, people that didn’t care about the music, the ambiance or any kind of hippie ideology, not even about the universal ambassador thing that I explained before. No! That guy was just the bottom of the barrel of human society, not much different than a cut throat multinational corporation C.E.O.
As soon as I got there and sat down to share the beer with Roxy, Radu showed up with -rice crispy weed- treats and 6 doses of LSD.
-How does he do it? I thought. Everything was so fast! Or maybe I was just expecting the worse( that being not to get any acid until much later) and to see him coming back so fast carrying all that goodness was a sight for soar brains.We ate our treats and our tabs and sat down there again with our positive energy restored.  Thirty minutes later I started feeling funny and I thought:
 - I think the rice crispy weed treat is working!
A minute later something urged me to close my eyes and my head turned sideways and back as if I was getting slapped by some invisible and mystical hand. When I opened my eyes I was already there, in that colorful energy realm that I know so well, and I said out loud:
 - That was not the rice crispy treats!
Those beers did not mix well with me, the roller coaster feeling that I was suddenly being subject to and the distress I was put thru some time earlier. The vomit came out in the form of foam!
-Jesus Fuck! I am puking white foam! I said.
It was right there, looking at me from its green bed of grass. Even though I sometimes vomit after taking acid, it is hard to get used to this kind of affair.  I don’t even see it as a bad thing, au contraire, I take it as a sign of good times coming, but that foamy and nasty puddle seemed to be always next to me,
– Damn it! It keeps following me! I shouted.
Roxy started laughing hysterically and it was beautifully contagious, then Radu started laughing too. Yes! This was good acid at last.
I realized then and there that the ski slope was one trippy hill! Everyone around us was laughing hysterically, laying down smiling at the sky or like one guy not far from us, laying face down and grabbing a handful of grass as if holding tight not to fall from the face of the earth. I was being overwhelmed by intense waives of euphoria, explosions of energy and what I like to call intense periods of “goddamn!” when I realized that the so called “acid rock” wasn’t really working for me.
Once I had a trip while listening to “dub step” yes, that god awful robot music that youngsters love so much nowadays, and even though I’m not about to get tickets to “Electric Daisy” or “Tomorrow land” let me tell you, I had an awesome time. That music mixed perfectly with the vibrations I was being part of at that time, what can I say? It just worked, but I didn’t see what was so great about the famous “acid rock”, I couldn’t get in to it no matter how much I tried.

From the whole 60’s revolutionary music era very little did stick to me  (a person born in 1979) “The Doors” and “Jimmy Hendrix” are the two bands from that time with which I can identify with the most. These were intelligent guys who were very interested in chaos and revolt as means of cultural and social structural change (Well, mostly Jim Morrison);  but it is hard to lump up these two bands with other hippie bands or even the cultural setting of the times they lived in.  Most of the outspoken hippies in the time of Morrison and Hendrix thought that cultural and social structural change could be achieved with nothing but love, living off the land, not brushing their teeth and daily intake of LSD. Free sex, drugs, music and constant complaining about the constructs of society were the flag and main core of their movement; perhaps they had very good intentions, but at some point along the way, the hippie insurgency became a caricature of itself and no effective actions were actually taken in order to contribute to real change. As “CHE Guevara” once said: “A guerrilla that does not achieve objectives is a dead guerrilla” (or something along those lines) and thus the 60’s hippie generation got old, burned out, and never amounted to anything significant. That is why the few surviving man and women from that era who are recognizable today are computer geniuses and big shot CEO’s, positions in  society that are the antipodes of the hippie philosophy of “no social status” and actually no society the way we know it.  Chaos and revolt by the proletariat may not have changed the world into a better place, but it has definitely made a more profound and positive mark in recent human history. It is thanks to the old revolting anarchist from the 1800’s that we have today these 8 hours to work, 8 hours to be with the family and 8 hours to sleep that we all take for granted, regardless of the fact that this current social system is far from being ideal.
When listening to “The Grateful Dead” and bands that follow that line of thought and music I am always reminded of all the failures and stupidity of the hippie movement. Perhaps because I don’t like the music and I unconsciously associate negative with negative. But, let me get a little positive here… Not everything has to be a dark analysis of their social and philosophical ways. If there is something admirable about the old hippie insurgency is the fact that it was exactly that, an insurgency, an immense and insolent insurgency. It was an attack to the old concepts of living, following, submission, family, pride, honor, government, traditions, order, happiness and most important, reality. 

The MOE.DOWN attendants, however hippie-ish in its majority, were a far cry from what I had pictured in my mind about what a hippie gathering was supposed to be.  I just want to describe as fair and non bias as I can  what I saw and felt at the festival, but let me tell you, these people were nothing like the old hard core hippies from the 60’s that I heard so much about. At MOE.DOWN there was a sense of unity and community but not one rooted in discontent with society and the need for change. The unity revolved around getting fucked up, partying and being able to walk around doing it freely for three days. Which is what we were doing, but, we didn’t feel the need to pretend being hippies, wear colorful clothing or dancing like a drugged zombie at the sound of adijiri-fucking-doo.
We walked down the hill to the smaller stage to see another band, feeling like mischievous gods and we lay down on a patch of shade. Since the music wasn’t really cutting it for me, I started looking at people and the way they were acting. I saw happy people smiling, walking, dancing, drinking, talking and having good trips and not so good ones. I focused my attention on a beautiful, tall and long haired blonde dancing with hula hoops. She was so well built and so full of grace.
- What a magnificent creature, I said. Even Roxy couldn’t keep her eyes away from her.
We stayed there looking at her for what it felt like an eternity. At that moment nothing mattered, not my philosophies nor theirs, no reasoning, no cultural analysis. There was only harmony and happiness all around us.
Today, looking back at that nirvana like moment, I think that perhaps feeling constantly like that is what made it impossible for the hippie utopia to catch on; there was just too much fun and not enough action being taken. As for me living moments like that one: well…not only it doesn’t happen very often but I am also the kind of guy that always enjoyed  “the coming down” as much as the trip itself, the moment when LSD is leaving y my brain and I feel so alive. This is when Ideas come pouring down magically, when epiphanies may materialize and life and reality seem so easy to handle, when actions are more likely to be taken.
“Hula hoop girl” stopped dancing as the music ended giving way to strange mutant base guitar sounds echoing across the park from the main stage. That wasn’t hula hoop dancing music, fuck no! I recognized that maddening noise! That was Less Claypool mercilessly slapping his acoustic base. What a great time to be alive and so high it was!
I first heard about Primus and Less Claypool when I was a teenager living in Uruguay many years ago, but back then I wasn’t into that kind of madness. It wasn’t until Later, in 2003, already living in the US when a DVD called “Animals should not try to act like people” somehow ended up in my hands that I went into psycho mode rediscovering that music genius. I researched his entire career, fell in love with it and added him to my list of greatest artist of all times. A month before MOE.DOWN I had the fortune and the honor of seeing him playing with Primus at “the stone pony” in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and now I was being blessed by the gods once again to see a whole different performance by this outstanding character.
Less Claypool’s show was in full swing when Drew, one of the guys from the “ditch “ camp we had been hanging out with showed up with one of his friends, both tripping hard on mushrooms. His friend was laughing his lungs out, but Drew appeared to be having a more internal journey. The idea was to be sobering down by the time Less Claypool started playing but due to the fake LSD situation we went thru, the timing had move forward a few hours. We were still having “good times” when Drew went on saying:
–Wait! I think I’m having an epiphany here!
 That statement coming from a guy who a few minutes before had asked me if I had seen the latest “teenage mutant ninja turtles” movie, really pissed me off, if only for a second.  I felt like slapping some sense into that boy’s confused head, but I didn’t. I was having too much of a good time to become violent. I turned my face the other way and paid full attention to the show, so when he went on explaining his “revelation” I just heard a distant whispering of jibber jabber. I liked those guys but they were too young, too inexperienced and too fucking high for me to take them seriously at that moment; Like I said before, revelations and epiphanies may come only after the trip, and after one had lived a little longer on this hearth. That situation further enlightened me about the people at MOE.DOWN. A lot of them where these cool and intelligent  kids full of good intentions, lots of heart and determination, but not really in tune with our “zeitgeist”, not really going after something concrete…misguided and derailed, perhaps a sign of the times we are living. Nevertheless they were good young people, people I rather hang out with, unlike shallow, dumb kids I’ve seen filling up concerts where security doesn’t allow mush pits. Maybe Less Claypool knew all this, or at least that’s what I liked to think. Near the end of the show, the duo went on playing the “south park” theme song that Claypool had created for that cartoon show many years ago, explaining beforehand that one day his epitaph may say something like “here lies Less Claypool creator of the “South park” theme song” (as if the rest of his career would have gone unknown by the new generations) They went on playing it several times in a row, and all I could think while laughing with that funny song was how much “Cartman” (the nasty little kid character from South Park) hated hippies. Was this the reason why he chose to play that song? Was he making fun of all those hippies and wannabe hippies? Maybe…after all he is known to be a sarcastic and smart ass kind of mutant.
The show was over and our “coming down” was starting. We knew we only had one hour until what I considered to be the main event of the night. The five of us agreed to walk to our camp, do some drinking and come back to see the show.  I also had a plan to try to smuggle some moonshine thru security by duct taping the bottle to my groin underneath my cargo shorts, and I wanted to start the preparations for that. On our way there Drew’s delirious friend got lost in the crowd and never made it to our camp. We all worried a little, because the kid wasn’t in his right mind, and I thought he might have been showing the telltale signs of a bad psilocybin trip on its early stages. Drew said that he wasn’t coming straight to the show, he was going to go look for his friend first, right after our drinking was done, and would join us later near the main stage where we would be waiting for him. There was not much of an alarm about it anyway since there were no cops around and Security wasn’t really tough, it was more of a formality. There was (thankfully) a crew of E.M.T’s walking around scouting for gatherers in need of any kind of medical help; that eased our worries even more. Security being friendly with the party enthusiasts also made it easy to smuggle our rocket fuel for the night; this potent distillation was going to be one of the highlights of the night once more.
We were getting happy drunk walking towards the main stage as the day was turning into night and we started to recognize the familiar faces working on the sound check: Thomas in base, Sergey in violin and P-drito on percussion. They were right there, only a few yards from us. I looked around at the crowd as they started to get closer to the stage and only then, it hit me. That was not the crowd for Gogol Bordello!

In October 2012 during a lazy –couch- laying- weekend afternoon, I found this movie on Netflix called “Kill your idols” , a documentary about what some people like to call “Art punk”, basically a bunch of weird bands from New York from the last 30 years until our present. I wasn’t really impressed by most of the bands, and anyway not much of their music was being shown. The documentary was focused on the interviews and what all those freaks had to say about the musical and artistic scene in NYC. But there was this one string bean looking guy with a curled up mustache named -Eugene Hutz- Leader of a band called “Gogol Bordello” who impressed me by the way he was expressing himself and the topics he was touching. Among other things, he was saying that his music was a mixture of different musical and cultural stiles, including Punk and Gypsy music. 
Being married to a Romanian lady I was somewhat knowledgeable about Gypsy music. For the last few years I had been researching more and more about the Gypsy music and culture, and I was finding it rebellious and to some extent a replacement for the “rock” culture that have been disappointing me for so long. I wrote the name of the band on a piece of paper for later further research and kept going about my life; a few days later after getting home from work I Googled the name of the band . At 10:00 PM Roxy got home from school and found me still in my work clothes smiling at the screen.
 -You have to check out this band! I said, and that was the beginning of our fanatic romance with Gogol Bordello.
The band had started its journey in NYC in 1999, and was the freak birth child of Eugene Hutz and his “contaminated friends”. Hutz is a very well read, music savvy Ukrainian Gypsy and Ring leader of whatever situation he happens to find himself in. He had the original and much needed idea of mixing the circus and cabaret atmosphere with the heartfelt gypsy way of being and the mind opening lyrics and explosive power that rock and roll and reggae once had.
The epicenter of this genius insanity was “Mehanata” a super transcontinental Bulgarian Gypsy bar in East side Manhattan where Huts started throwing parties and DJing back in the 90’s. In November 2012 Roxy and I went to Mehanata for the first time. I had never felt so comfortable at a bar in the USA before. I mean…this place was not for the weak hearted. Mehanata is located in some Transuniversal energy vortex and after walking thru the narrow hallway and opening that red door, we weren’t in Manhattan anymore. Once inside we found ourselves vodka fueled dancing to “Yuri Yunakov and the grand masters of gypsy music” somewhere between rural Bulgaria and “The twilight zone”. It was impossible to ignore all the Trans dimensional space goats that spontaneously manifested in the joint, Jumping and Raging! Horny little beasts! We realized that it was a place to love or hate, no half ass feelings, no room for the hesitant or the doubtful, the mundane or the shallow at that place.
A year or so later while standing at the door of the bar we heard that the whole Gogol Bordello crew was going to be hanging out there, and Eugene was going to be DJing. Yes! The gods were smiling at us again! As the night went on, on a dance floor more packed than the usual, the members of the band started walking amongst us like any regular patrons. We talked to some of them(as much as the loud music permitted us), got autographs and shared drinks while Eugene blasted some Balkan Cumbia. I saw Eugene turning down requests for autographs and pictures, which I thought it was odd and kind of messed up since most of the people that go there are truly hardcore fans, not only of his music but also of that small, underground, cultural thing that can only be found at that place in NYC.
–Well, maybe he just doesn’t want to be a rock star tonight, I thought.  Maybe he just wants to party amongst all of us like another regular Joe, and that is cool, but then again…he is a rock star! , and people are showing him genuine affection and admiration.  I thought that if he didn’t want to be the center of attention, maybe he should have become something else, a carpenter or a mechanic perhaps. As I was tumbling these thoughts in my mind already wet with vodka, I saw Roxy making a B line towards the DJ booth where Eugene was. She touched him on the shoulder and he looked at her with a smile. She showed him a pen and a “Mehanata” business card, making clear her intention of getting an autograph. At this point he wiped the smile off his face, put his arm on his hip and looked at her with an expression of mockery and disgust. Roxy’s smile vanished and her arms went down then turned around and started walking towards me.
– He is an ass hole! , she said in a furious but sad tone. I was immediately enraged. I thought about going there and telling him how much of an asshole he was for what he had just done, but I would have had to yell at the top of my lungs just so he could barely hear me through the loud music, attracting unwanted attention from his bouncers. I thought about moping “Mehanata’s” floor with his skinny frame. I could probably have inflicted a lot of damage to him before security would have put me in a choke hold. But, Nah… he wouldn’t have even known why he was getting beaten up and I probably would have had spend the rest of the night in jail as well as being banned from the bar. We spent the rest of the night in the downstairs dance floor away from him.
Later on I realized that not only I hadn’t  gone medieval on him because there wasn’t enough vodka in my system , but also, I couldn’t help thinking that being me in his place, I would have probably acted the same way. The guy seemed to be a bit of an asshole, but if anything…he was my kind of asshole.
We didn’t stay mad at him for long anyway, and New Year’s Eve 2013 we spent it at our first Gogol Bordello show in Manhattan. Once again we found ourselves at one of the best life celebrations we have ever been part of.
Gogol Bordello’s fans had never been the kind of crowd to sit back and wait to be entertained. The band always encouraged the people to be a part of the show, to be a part of the whole demented experience. The venue for the New Years Eve show was steaming hot and packed to the point where Circle pits were barely possible due to the lack of space. Roxy and I were in the front row of the hot and raving biomass, jumping and mashing relentlessly with smiles on our faces. It was beautiful pandemonium on the making. Almost at the end of the show, some guy tried to elbow his way in front of me, totally out of his mind.
–NO! You can’t get in front of me! – Stop fucking elbowing me! I yielded. Not only he didn’t stop this reckless action, he looked at me in defiance.
 – I will fuck you up motherfucker! I yielded very close to his face. This didn’t deter him at all, so I punched him right in his left cheekbone. He ducked his head and tried to grab one of my legs. Bouncers from first row saw the whole thing happening and leaned forward from the stage fence putting their hands between us before I could land a second punch.
– The show is almost over, Said the bouncer. –You guys keep it cool! It is almost over! 
The guy’s friends were already pulling him back at this point and nothing escalated further than that. Later on the guy came and apologized for being an asshole, which I thought it was cool… weird and unexpected, but cool. It went to tell the kind of people that formed the biomass. They were Intelligent but drunk and -happy to be alive- individuals who may cross a line or two but always keeping enough common sense to realize that we were all a part of this event that it was greater than ourselves.
Nothing in the crowd of MOE.DOWN hippies resembled the beautiful insanity that we had been part of 8 months before, not the faces or the body language, nor the attitude.
Gogol Bordellos’ show at MOE.DOWN started with all its might. The band exploded on stage trying to get the public into an immediate frenzy. I started singing every song to the limit of my voice, dancing and jumping around with Roxy, as Radu was also diving into frantic mood. The rest of the crowd was numb, spaced out, standing there moving their heads in a circle, nodding with a smile, not quite understanding what the hell was going on and not knowing how to react. There was a big guy standing next to me the whole show, in some kind of catatonic state, arms straight down, eyes wide open, staring at the stage as if he was contemplating life. As I was jumping around I bumped into him, and for the only time during the show he turned his head and looked at me with no expression on his face.
–Get mad at me! Push me back! Fight me!  Let’s make this show a hell a lot more interesting, goddamn it! I mumbled. He turned his head back to the stage and went back to his comatose state.
Fuck! I wanted to beat every one there into a revolt of souls…but I didn’t. I was going to be very out of place by performing any kind of violent action on those people turned into idiot gelatin by so much inner peace and “The Grateful Dead” guitar solos. I would most definitely have been kicked out of the festival. The band noticed that the crowd was an impossible one. I saw them looking at each other and gesticulating as if asking one another –What the hell is going on?
In a display of professionalism, they tried even harder to get a reaction, but all they achieved was to get people closer to each other a few yards around the edge of the stage, at which point Eugene demanded a circle pit, only to be ignored. I wasn’t about to try and start a mosh pit by myself either; I didn’t think bastards would know the meaning of those words. Another guy next to me seemed to be very happy and enjoying the show, even though he wasn’t about to go ape shit, and I thought that he was the coolest guy around.
–Hey! Try some of this Romanian moonshine! I told him –Sure why not?! He said. I got that guy so wasted he could barely stand on his feet after a while. Close to the end of the show, with the bottle almost empty, I offered him another drink and he looked at the bottle like saying “Oh god almighty I just can’t do this anymore”. He took the bottle and placed it against his lips but didn’t open them. That made me happy and filled me up with a sense of achievement. At least something was going right about this whole weird situation, I thought. The show ended shorter than what it was supposed to be, with Eugene Hutz saying to the worst crowd he probably ever played for: -GOOD BYE FOR EVER! That made me smile…my kind of bastard!

We found Drew and some of his friends amongst the marching crowd, but the shroom crazed guy was not there, they hadn’t been able to find him they said. We made arrangements with them to get together at their camp after picking up the last of our booze from our tent. As we were walking out of the stage area, I told Radu “I wish you hadn’t seen this show tonight”. This was his first Gogol Bordello’s show and I wished he had experienced the real deal. I felt kind of responsible about it.
–I understand, he said, -this is not how it was supposed to be, but I was too crazy and exited not to enjoy it.
We stopped at the vendor’s area for some fried dough, not that we were really hungry but we hadn’t eaten anything the whole day and we figured that some fried dough would soak up some of the alcohol in our bellies. It also gave us an excuse to sit down and rest for a few minutes before going on with our depraved night. It was at that place, with the next band already playing that same old sound we’d been hearing for the last two days, where a thought assaulted me, and I just had to get it out. Being the impulsive person I am and seeing all the hippies happy to be back in their element around the second stage, I couldn’t help it, I took Roxy’s head between my hands and I said to her ear
–I despise the hippie race! And then to her other ear- They should all die!
Roxy burst out laughing, grabbed my face between her hands and said to my ear –This is why I love you! Then to my other ear, -You just reminded me why I love you so much, you old grumpy bastard!
I didn’t mean what I said. I was just letting go of the accumulated frustration of not having enjoyed the show in the way I knew it was possible. It was also there at that place and time where Radu remembered something of outmost importance:
 –We have a half bottle of Jose Cuervo in the trunk! Fuck yeah guys! He said in a much exited voice. Fuck yeah indeed; I took that as the greatest epiphany of the day.
Not only we found the tequila in the car, but we also found a glorious bottle of margarita mix.  It had been a rough day, or a couple of days actually, and the moonshine was taking its toll. “Tuica” has a deteriorating effect on my esophagus and swallowing system. I have mastered the craft of drinking great quantities of it without passing out, but there are certain physical effects that are out of my control. To drink that tequila straight would have been a tough assignment.
On the dirt road on rout to our friend’s camp we bumped in to the lost-mushroom poisoned- kid, trying to find his way towards his friends. He told us that at one point the mushrooms had turned on him and he’s mind had entered a downward spiral from which he couldn’t get out. And let me say that, that is a horrendous feeling to have. He said that he found himself walking without advancing towards the place he wanted to go to. Desperation turned into terror and he started freaking out, hysterically screaming in the middle of the crowd. EMT’s got to him and tried to make him come back to reality. When trying to take his vital signs a few of them got punched in the face. They had to restrain him for a few minutes until he came to a better place in his head and then had let him go. It was a hell of a story and he explained it with a certain sense of pride. As he was removing the round sticky vital sign pads from his chest, I remember thinking:
-This is one of the coolest persons I have met at this place so far!
We walked with him to his camp where all his buddies were happy to see him safe and healthy. We sat down for rounds of drinks and to tell each other the stories we had been part of during this second day at MOE.DOWN.
I avoided talking about Gogol bordello’s show. I didn’t want to ruin anybody’s night ranting about philosophical stands, especially not mine. I heard some of them saying that it was the best band they have ever brought to MOE.DOWN. What the fuck!? I thought, then why was everybody looking so confused and boring? Where was the rebelliousness that was supposed to be unchained in such an atmosphere? Such lack of passion in a group of people who are supposedly trying to live a divergent way of life, made no sense to me. A line of one of Gogol Bordello’s songs started to go round and round in my mind:
 “I make a better rock revolution alone with my dick”.
Relax! I said to myself. -You have had a great couple of days and nights doing everything you wanted without a care, hanging out with some nice people in a rock festival, and now you are drinking around the fire and grilling sausages after seeing a great show. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend that long weekend.




Apparently it had rained while we were sleeping. The sky was completely grey and the ground was damp and soft. A very fine mist covered the morning air and for some reason, the area around our tent was littered with beer cans, news papers and a few empty bottles of whiskey. Our folding chairs were many feet away from the tent and one of them was ripped apart. What the hell had happened here? None of us could remember. Did we come back with beer and whiskey? Did we throw a party at our camp? Our brains seemed to have stopped recording events a few hours after we got to the “ditch” camp. We woke up together and inside our tent, also no wounds or pains were noticeable, we called that a good morning as far as we were concerned.  It was twelve o’clock and there were no major signs of hangover either, so other than the shitty weather it was looking like a decent day. Shower, breakfast and weed happened, and we headed towards the show area again, still trying to make sense of the erased events of the previous night. To be honest I started to feel a little tired at that point, in part because of my 35 years of age with about 20 of those years spent partying, but also because the bands playing there, were starting to bore me to death after three days. It wasn’t so much the people that were making me so critical of everything; it was by all means the music.
I have been to massive events with big names as headliners and bands that I know and listen to, where people (mostly youngsters) appeared to be so stupid to me, so ignorant and shallow. I have seen fathers buying plastic colored Mohawks, for their kids at these mayor concerts, I have seen Young douche bags beating up people at mosh pits, and mosh pits being stopped by even bigger douche bags in uniforms. No, it wasn’t the people that were making me feel like ending this adventure prematurely, it was the passionless, boring music and the lack of enthusiasm that generated among our fellow participants. I realized the adventure was almost over for me, after all, an “ambassador” is supposed to represent his realm and learn from the new lands he happens to be at, but he also has to return to his world at some point.
Radu went for a walk while Roxy and I stayed by the main stage looking at the hangover faces all around.  the day before I remember seeing a big white sign resembling the “Hollywood sign” that read, MOE.DOWN, only much smaller, and not at the top of the hill but at the bottom, right before the entrance to the main stage area.  But in this misty morning we found out that the sign had been modified and moved way up the hill, most likely by a mob of drunk and deranged individuals and it was made to read: DO ME NOW.  We were looking at it, giving our backs to the stage, thinking how funny and clever the whole thing was, when a band started playing.  We turned around to see this band called “Jerry Douglas” Playing country/folk music with a slide guitar, not the kind of music I needed to hear at that time if I was going to hang around any longer. The tiredness, the music and the grey chilly day were bumming me out. I was already thinking about going back to camp and start packing our things up when this “Jerry Douglas” guy and his band started playing their hillbilly version of Jimmy Hendrix’s –Hey Joe-  They were butchering that great song without any respect, mercy or remorse. I looked at Roxy, I gave her a hug and I said
– I had enough.

There were no police roadblocks at the exit roads like we thought it might be. The ride back home was pleasant and quiet. With Roxy and Radu sleeping most of the time I had plenty of time and serenity to recap the events from the last three days, most of them at least.  All in all we had a great happy time. It was the last great event of the summer 2014; just like we had planned it to be. Not my crowd perhaps, definitely not my music, but three happy days nevertheless. I couldn’t imagine a reason why any free spirited person wouldn’t come to MOE.DOWN and have a good time at least once in their life. Why not come and have some fun with all these good hearted and unhinged individuals? Why not come to this festival, if only to experience being out of your comfort zone? People can learn a thing or two about themselves by hanging out with different tribes. And one day might get to old age being able to say they have done it, instead of suffering from self repression induced panic attacks and a sour stomach full of fingernails.



Wilson Rosano
September 2014


Submitted: November 23, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Wilson Rosano. All rights reserved.

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