It is music festival season, and I have started to drink weed.
I drank weed and went to the Denver Day of Rock festival with some friends and my editor Ricardo. We’d stood below an angry sky, sweating the small stuff, delusional in the sense that afterward I was overwhelmed by my very specie.
Ingesting weed through a straw isn’t something I’d recommend for new cannabis users. I have heard weed-drinking nightmares:
The grandma who no longer understood her own home’s doorways.
The overwhelming urge to be far away.
The dreams that sobriety will soon come.
Beneath the festival’s VIP tent, a couple blocks off Larimer Street on the 16th Street Mall, I prepared myself for the Dixie Elixir weed soda to bubble through my veins. I’d been feeling good. I’d purchased a pair of Nikes just hours before, high and sashaying through the streets of Cherry Creek, sipping bellinis and feigning interest in $800 dollar pillows.
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A best friend from high school — Kevin, an outdoorsy, stoner bellhop — was in town, and whenever he comes into contact with the big city he seems to lose himself in the sounds and faces. When we got word of our invite to the downtown music festival — featuring the Hold Steady, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears and others — Kevin swooned at the opportunity to get high and dip his toes into the 2014 concert season. Living in a small mountain town it’s been a while since he’s been laid and ages since he’s been to a festival.
One of my favorite Kevin-stories took place a few years back when he saw a show at Red Rocks. After getting sufficiently high the show ended and Kevin followed his friends back to the car. Only problem, they weren’t his friends. He had never met them, and in turn he looked like a creepy guy. After apologizing, blushing, they laughed — seeing his bloodshot eyes — and turned him toward the mountains for direction, and he wandered away.
This is the story I come back to when I think of getting high at concerts. Concerts are one of the only venues we have where being stoned is OK. Even in a state that has legalized weed, there aren’t any true venues for smoking weed. Yet music festivals offer a space that’s mostly open to marijuana, because in the end, marijuana and music make a good couple.
But at the Denver Day of Rock, things were different.
When the weed soda had finally traveled up my spine I felt it work itself into my airways with a shock. I had been standing next to Ricardo, my girlfriend and a few other friends including Kevin. We had put down the soda in a fury. It tasted like grape Kool-Aid, and instead of carbonation tickling the back of our throats it was the THC.
The high from this stuff felt original, unique and twisted, in a marijuana-moonshine kind of way.
It had caused my breath to become labored.
After the Hold Steady took the stage, the sounds began to warp my point of view. Faces marred themselves into stares, and the music’s rhythms felt like long lines of string being shot through my body. It was overwhelming. The crowd listened with their drinks held to their chests as they whispered the lyrics over the lids of their cups. I was more stoned than I had ever had been at concert or festival.
And it was beautiful.
At the South by Southwest music festival earlier this year, I had managed to get high and move from taco truck to taco truck, drink Lone Star beer, watch men wander out of bars with holstered hand guns and meet random musicians backstage. I had the streets to get lost in.
But here I was cooped up in a tent, and all the plastic walls were closing in around me.
On more than three occasions I had asked a random person the name of the band and replied “Thank you” with the same unflagging interest. I had worn a backpack carrying rain jackets and deodorant and accidentally brushed it against everyone I walked by. I am a generous man, and it was unbearable, realizing I was pressing a Columbia or JanSport or L.L. Bean into everyone’s personal space.
Kevin could feel my paranoia, and on several occasions he took large huffs of air and whispered dramatically through his exhalation: “I am sooooo high.”
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We ate food and drank rose from small plastic cups, hoping to trap our buzz like fireflies. But it wasn’t until I felt something fall on my head that I snapped from my weedconscious.
Ricardo had gathered the glistening confetti from the surrounding table tops and began to sprinkle it over our heads — washing our faces in snowflakes of reds and greens and blues. He moved from friend to friend, high and giggling in this silent internal way. As the confetti hit me I started to make eye contact, piece together social queues and wonder why I wasn’t dancing — why nobody was dancing.
The plastic walls breathed, and the band’s chords expanded into melodies that made sense. Outside rain drops fell sparsely over the cement, the smell of damp skyscrapers clung to the air. Everyone else began to join in. Confetti went everywhere — in drinks, ears and down shirt collars. When Ricardo stepped away from the tables, smiling, we spoke about the way the lead singer spilled his arms over the stage and how he maybe looks like other artists and how, at some angles, he’s balding.
My high had cooled, and I was no longer fretting. I needed the festival and my friends to realize that the beauty of weed and music is that both have a way of taking control of a situation, and sometimes it’s best to simply give in to the experience.