There are three rules:
Check your inhibitions at the gate.
Once upon a time there was a fourth rule: No drugs. But these days that’s less a rule and more a cautionary tale. Two people have died. Ye be warned. Of course, that kind of thing only happens to other people, not you, so don’t worry about it.
The drive’ll take about four hours, give or take how much The Engineer speeds up the freeway. It’s plenty of time to smash a few tinnies in the back seat. The Gas Attendant is killing it on the tunes. By the time you’re through the gates, and have traded your ticket for a wristband, you’ll be well buzzed.
Car wheels churn slowly through miles of camps and cars. It’s quiet. Deep breath before the plunge and all that. But every now and then laughter or a shout of recognition cracks like lightening.
The Blinds Expert got there early, staked out a fair chunk of real-estate right by the road. What a legend.
Set up the tent you picked up for ten bucks at Kmart last night. Chuck your drinks in the Eskie. There’s twenty of you sharing the site, and plus-ones besides. The Industrial Designer welded up a couple of geo-domes that take up every inch of non-tented space. From a distance, they look like psychedelic tortoise shells. Inside they’re kitted with rugs and couches and beanbags and what amounts to a small army of camping chairs. Lounging around, everyone shoots the shit.
Wandering salesmen pitch their powdered wares out of bum-bags. At those prices, be glad you came prepared. Later, when the bass kicks in, when it thunders through the dirt, it’s time. Drop to get up. Rail to get derailed.
You’ll come to, gently rocking. A rainbow spray of pinwheels shimmer above you. You’re wearing someone else’s shirt and don’t know why but it’s better than yours was. Time exists only in the difference between night and day, and currently it’s dark. Just drift a while in the hammock. Stare up at the pretty lights while your brain tries to scrape itself off the walls of your skull where it exploded like a marshmallow in a microwave.
Someone calls your name. The glitter and sweat smothered conglomeration of The Phone Salesmen, The Hotdog Vendor and The Barista join you in the city of hammocks. They regale you with their adventures, trying to top each other and laughing like drunk hyenas. You’ve fallen a bit in love with everything, with everyone, and it’s warm like a hug but the connections you’re making have as much substance as candy-floss in a puddle. A child scampers past, a stark reminder that this is a family festival.
Join them, head back to camp. It’s late enough to obliterate your consciousness with downers, maybe catch an hour of shut eye before dawn. Don’t hit it too hard tonight you party animal, it’s only day one.
Everything’s sweaty. You’re a snake in a hot, loose skin. Abandon sleep, seek out the breeze that carries the welcoming shouts of your name. You look like mashed up dumpling skin, but it’s nothing a slap of face paint and more glitter won’t fix. It’s hard to ignore how well put together the other girls look with their soft hair and contouring. They’ll decide the best hashtag for the group shot they ask you to snap for them is #’high’fashion, insert winky face, because if nobody knows they had a good time, they probably didn’t. The Bartender and The Stationary Expert and The Marketing Analyst look suitably identical, except one has bigger boobs.
Some king has already done an ice run and there’s cold brews all round. Frankly, it would be impolite to kick off the morning with anything other than a beer-bong. In his red tie and little else, The Real-Estate Agent holds and pours, his hand steady even after his half a slab breakfast. Pick a seat close to the edge of the dome, enjoy the people watching. Smoke the joint you find tangled up in your tumbleweed hair. Listen.
Two women stroll by. Their leotards are high cut and plunge low, parting for peeking rhinestone pasties. As they pass, one proclaims, ‘It’s so freeing, being able to wear whatever I want,’ right as a guy ambles the other way muttering ‘Sluts,’ under his breath. His greedy eyes scan the dirt for lost baggies.
But you’ll be interrupted before long. Most of your friends are still carrying on from yesterday. The HR Rep comes stumbling into camp with an infinite smile and flowers braided into his hair. He’ll have another bump as he flops down beside you. You could eat off his pupils.
Polish off a six pack, wait until midday to candy-flip.
Yesterday. Acid day. Remember trying to put on pants and how hard that was?
Your insides feel like warmed taffy, but taffy that’s been dropped on a dirty floor and picked up all kinds of nasties. You spent most of the day at the back of the stages on a blow-up couch half deflated by ciggie burns. Remember how you watched your mates drip LSD up their nasal cavities, then spin around really fast all together inside a hula hoop until the hoop snapped and they went down like so many flailing inflatable balloon men? No? Neither do they.
When was the last time you slept? Or ate? Forget about it. Boog$ is on stage in ten minutes and you need to get a wriggle on. Don’t forget to forget that all progressive techno sounds the same to your uncultured ears, otherwise you might not enjoy it.
Monday morning. It’s dark.
The Arborist pounds his bruised chest. He’s answered by howls as his new pack jumps together to the glitch hop. Around them, naked bodies writhe freely in the mud. Camp has receded back into quiet. Most have packed up and shipped back out, swapping out their hedonism for inhibition at the gates. The Brickie sits alone in the dome. He’s been there for hours, quietly shoveling fistfuls of watermelon into his mouth. It oozes over his chin and dribbles down the staircase of his ribs. Broken chairs and litter are scattered like salt. You can try to sleep, but The Graphic Designer spilt a bong in your tent while you were dancing and it smells like a dead cat double died in there. Just doze on a beanbag for a while, at least until the dregs of your camp wash loudly back in. They’re an obnoxious reminder you just don’t have the stamina to keep up.
The car is cheerful, but hushed. It glides down a road lined with flashing lights and punters sucking cotton lollipops. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the rearview mirror, the five days were years on you. Beyond that, the golden sun rises into the sky and the light follows you home.
This article was written by Kate Frances.
Kate Frances is a student of Creative Writing at RMIT University, where she is regularly reminded that she knows nothing about anything. She writes stories and drinks wine in that hopes that one day, when she’s old, she’ll fossilise into a Winosaur and the powers that be will hang her purpled bones in a museum and she’ll finally become infinite.