After a long journey, I discover a creature in the desert. Where I, and other travellers get caught in a sandstorm of doof.
Walking on red dirt, under a sky that seemed impossibly bigger than my homeland. I marched onward through the dry hot farmland. Taking small sips of water under the sporadic groups of gum trees, I paced myself. Fore I had heard about a place that existed out in the dust. A beast that would awake once a year around this time.
My brother had given me the tip off that such a place existed. It seemed too good to pass up, so I made the journey over from New Zealand by sky boat. He would be there with his girlfriend and a rag tag group that I did not know. This gave me an opportunity I did not appreciate at the time.
The opportunity was anonymity: I was no longer Tom from Dunedin, but a nomadic traveller, survivor of the dunes, drifting in from a far away place where the world was not at all like this place. Where I was from was green, wet and had birds that did not squawk like a drunk neighbour but sang like a pleasant ringtone. A ringtone that you would enjoy hearing. A place where the same device was called a heat pump, not an air con. Where Ready Salted chips were packaged in red, not blue. But of course, that was comparing New Zealand to Australia. This place, this beast in the desert was something completely different again.
It wasn’t long after arriving that I was eaten by the beast. Or rather, I could not help but enter it’s body. The animal used a certain hum, a thud that travelled through the ground and up through my feet. It was hypnotic. It made me move, like the thousands of other wastelanders around me, I became entranced.
Before long, I was a part of a network of drones, each one plugged in through the reverberation that pulsed through the ground. I did not break my trance, I did not want to. I became comepletely aware of my thirst for more. More hypno that would pulse an orgasm of movement through its host. More more more.
As the sun started to set. I settled into a deep religious dance with many of the cosmic wanderers that had also been entrapped by the pulse emitting from the earth. Our lifeblood was shared. It connected us, made us all as one. Energy congregated at the centre and stirred us like a phyclone. I did not tire because none of us tired. We did not stop because the Phystrance did not stop. It only teased; it pushed us and pulled us and jerked us off.
It’s unknown how long that first hit was. I can only estimate it was three hours. I remembering the warm suns rays slowly sinking into the Australian desert and turning the sky a band of red. Nighttime moved in and still we did our drone dance. The electric sand at our feet was kicked
up, creating a haze in the air. I struggled to breathe, wrapping my shirt around my mouth to filter the sand filled air. It helped but still, the air was not clean. The wasteland would not allow us to dance so freely. Still I jerked in spasms with my breathren. Still wanting more.
I inevitably snapped off the tendril and backed away from the pulse. My body was sending me messages. It was trying to tell me something it felt was important; I could not breath.
Back at our campsite, I spent the good part of the early morning concentrating on breathing. Never has it been that hard for me to breath in oxygen. I opened the tent door, realising that the outside air was fresh therefore supplying me with more precious oxygen.
The next day I purchased a bumbag and a mask from a local vendor. I needed a bumbag for my acid, ketamine, phone and sunnies. Plus a pink square extacy pill purchased from a tall dark French man in a leather geestring. The mask helped, but the damage was done. My breathing was strained. The lungs felt inflamed and were sensitive to the slightest of airborn particles so the mask stayed up. My bucket hat gave me a brim of shade, while my sunnies gave me a tinted window from which to look out from. I had inevitably evolved into a wasteland survivor. One prepped for the desert after a day caught out by the sandstorm. One that desperately wanted back on the pulsing trendril of doof. More more more.
Plugging back in was easy. I had left my brother and his girlfriend as soon as we entered the main grounds and headed straight to Ascension. Back to where it began. This stage had a massive pshycodelic backboard exhibiting the most incredible visuals that moved and twisted when the lights were mixed in. This time round I brought a bag with three bottles. Two were mixed with vodka, water and orange juice, both containing the last of my vodka and the third bottle; water. I had no reason to leave. I had taken half a tab of acid an hour before and was expecting to exhaust the other tab and bag of ketamine that night. I dropped my bag in front of my feet, massaging them into the sand, feeling for the pulse of the Phystrance. The unrelenting, unstoppable hypno thud. Once connect I was transformed. I became the king of the dunes. A limby beast, cutting my way through the air, causing waves as well as catching them from ones created by my breathren. We attacked once again. Some familiar faces were back - I didn’t feel alone. We were all there for each other as we suckled on the pulsating doof nipple.
The ghost in the night.
I detached somewhere around midnight and began to wander the rest of the festival grounds. There was so much to see. With the exception of my home stage, The four main stages were nestled within the thin eucalyptus forest. One set up as a classic but elaborate bush doof, with the outside encircled with a shanty of wood boarded nooks. I took some time to sit in a nook that had another storey above me. It twisted and bounced from the many people dancing above. Bark from the beams dropping down on our heads. Each stage was inspiring. Each containing an eclectic group of wasteland doofers. Each stage filled up with more people than I had seen at any other festival.
I had a unique opportunity to spend my time as a lone warrior. With my hat, sunnies and mask, I was completely anonymous. I eventually ditched the glasses but my disguise remained air tight. I was the Dune Spirit. A kin to the Psywalker. A mirage in the night. Approaching congregation of events and peeking in at the strange and beautiful hum that filled the air. The acid left me almost completely void of ego, and the freedom of no one knowing me only added to that feeling. I meet many people; had many beautiful honest and open conversations, sometimes wandering with them to different areas, talking and dancing along the way. But each person I had to leave, I embraced the lone wanderers way. I saw something beautiful in it. My interactions with these people were always bitter sweet- we knew were were never to see each other again. Without cell phone coverage and the fact that I will travel back to my home land meant we would stay ships in the night.
I was in a timeless state of mind, endlessly wandering from location to location, through a museum of trip art, dub stages, fire dancing shows, shuffling through the phydrones or dropping my bag at my feet and connecting to the tendril within the red sand. It was only when OK Sure ended at the Bush Techno stage that I got a sense that this night would come to an end. I left the Bush Techno stage and headed towards the Snake Pit stage. Passing through the Sun Temple stage along the way. As I approached Snake Pit, I realised I couldn’t hear the comforting thud of techno increase in clarity. The Snake Pit stage was dead. It’s life force silenced. Another limb had been cut from the beast. I realised the impending doom, the stages were closing. Even though it was Sunday, and that the big night was the night before, I expected this night to never end. I turned and headed back out of the thin eucalyptus covering and out into the exposed desert - I had to see if my beloved Assention stage was still alive. I panicked as I heard no thud from out in the dunes competing with the Sun Tower stage. This giant ephemeral beast, with its many hypnotic limbs - that had taken us in, that had changed our chemistry, that was breaking down years of habitual irrelevancy and building us a new was dying.
People congregated to the Sun Tower stage; which was at the heart of the festival grounds. The many smaller festival stages were flickering out almost simultaneously. Only the beast’s heartbeat was left. It’s continuous thud provided the nectar for the drones and the congregation of bodies kept us all warm as the temperature continued to drop. As the legendary group GMS finished up their set, I was expecting to hear a new set start up. But it did not. It just stopped. There was no more thud, no more doof, the tendrils had retracted and the beast lay silent.
Like many of us, I couldn’t believe that it was over. I just assumed there was some small official after party happening somewhere on the grounds - for the ones who did not care for sleep, who had been infected by the doof and needed a new hit. As the crowd dispersed from the main stage, so did the heat and I found myself following the biggest chunk of that crowd. We moved out into the city of camping set ups; tents, gazebos, cars, couches, couches on cars, fairy lights and general chaotic suburbs of what I can only describe as distopian acid glamping were surprisingly quiet compared to the night before. Still I followed the ever thinning mass of people. It became apparent that our destination was Moby Dicks, another stage set up by the organisers; an oasis in the middle of the camping city that had a stage and a cosy little apocalyptic enclave full of couches, lamps framed paintings and nicknacks. Inside at the end was a small humble stage with three lads entertaining the docile crowd with acoustic guitars. Their stage presence was fun and reminded me of a comedy act where they would bounce around songs whilst having fun with the chaos of their unscripted set. I immediately moved inwards and found a place to stand near the side, stepping over the majority of people who had nestled down on the rugged ground, snuggling with their friends for warmth and comfort. We laughed, sang in unison to Valerie, Eminem and Country road until an official from Esoteric came and asked for the music to turn off. It would seem that the organisers of the event were making it clear that tonight, the partying needed to finish.
We all sat in there for another good hour or so, I was offered a seat on the rug and a part of a blanket in between humans and talked to a woman from Poland; a multimedia artist who was particularly interested in how esoteric sets up their interactive environments. She offered me a warm tea which was exactly what my raw throat needed. Many brave people got up on stage and sun old folk shanty’s archipella, with a couple helping out on percussion, tapping on tables and speaker stands with drumsticks and objects close by.
The walk back to my tent was a fair distance and the drop in temperature had become quite threatening. My breathing became erratic, jaw clenching and my bare legs did a poor job of keeping in my body’s heat. The purple sports jacket I wore had been a godsend the whole night, with its loose light fit, I had felt comfortable as well as adding to my ghostly anonymity. But at this point, it was a race against time, no purple jacket would save me at 4 am in the morning in the Australian desert. Close to camp, there was another refuge set up by the organisers - it was another makeshift enclave used throughout the festival hosting live stand up comedy acts and musicians. I had to go inside, not for the warmth but because I could hear live music - afterall, I was nothing more but a psydrone looking for it’s next hit of thud and doof. The music was not doof, but a human playing an electric guitar and looping their parts. I walked in, the place was similar to the one at Moby Dicks, although this time most of its occupants were using the couches and blankets to sleep for the night. I wandered around the room for a blanket. There were none so I grabbed a bean bag, sat down against a pole and threw the bean bag over my legs. The musician on stage looked like he had been thrown through a second hand shop that only sold the best in acid themed clothing. Their rainbow coloured Lycra jumper was pulled down to become something resembling pants, their pink lipstick was only just apparent, it had been smushed all over their face and matched well with their bleached short hair and stubble. Their jacket was a pink shaggy fur coat that was perfect for this cold apocalyptic night. The song they played had a stoner riff played on a lower than standard tuned guitar with an ensemble of rhythmic parts including a beatbox driving the beat. After they finished their song, they said thanks and that they were done. I showed my appreciation by telling them how much I liked that last song by which they replied, thanks I just made it up. I asked for their music and they said that they had none but his name was Nick Lyons with a Y. I said cool, not knowing exactly what to do with that.
The night ended with me jumping into a cosy sleeping bag and huddling up in the foetal position. Knowing that my tent would stay cold and incredibly humid (for some reason I still can’t figure out) until the sun shone into the opening of the tent sometime around six. I drifted off to sleep. Finally finding refuge, finding peace as the lone traveller, the dune warrior, the night mirage, finally taking off my mask after adventuring through the belly of the psybeast and resting a stiff and dusty body on a half blown up air mattress.
From what I can tell, there were more than 7000 people attending this festival. Close to 600 live acts along with lectures, discussions, art performances, yoga, makeshift movie theatres, classes, massages, therapy, life drawing, self care and feline moving meditation journeys to name a few of the none doof related. All placed in one of the most incredible natural settings I’ve been in at any festival, not to mention the absolutely incredible stage and set design. Everyone I met was inspired and moved by the place and I can’t wait to come back, dig my toes into the red sand and connect to the tendrils once again.