Why It Died: How Counterculture is Destroying the Music Festival Circuit and Itself

Jason Beauregard

Late in July, Bridgeport smelled the same wind of memories and summers passed, yet with it came an air of change.  For many festival goers, that change has become vividly apparent.  The once careless environment, peppered with gently twirling topless twenty some-things and smiling faces, much like the tattered tie dyes that adorn them have faded from their free formed visual improvisation and been replaced by something much more lackluster.  The formation of the not so happy hippie drug ring has for the most part taken over the once peaceful setting of festivals such as Bonnaroo and Mountain Jam, threatened Moe. Down and caused the first fatality at the annual Gathering of the Vibes.

I found myself once again in another world populated by many of the same faces I find myself now considering kindred, and at first blush the scene seemed unscathed by the economic misfortunes of the past year. Yet much like the girl you may eye at the bar before discovering her uncharacteristic panty bulge, this foxy bitch of a weekend would end up flashing her package and exposing those whorish qualities, all in due time,Watson.  Summer and fall’s nuptials were still a few months away, yet an uncharacteristic chill greeted those who gathered a Seaside Park in Bridgeport in late July.  It was the chill of change, and those who shook enough to remember forty years earlier at a farm in upstate New York could and would tell of the changes they saw.
The Gathering of the Vibes was in rare form, blasted by the traditional monsoon and dosed enough to write it off as refreshing.  Yet as people filtered back from the late night shows, they returned to their campsites and found them ravaged of all valuables, cars broken into, nitrous salesman using their camping chairs and Ez-Ups to set up shop; altogether invaded.  Such was the case for many campers at the nation’s top festivals this summer.  Although it is not my intention to place all of the blame eggs in one basket, there is much to be said about a group of would-be business men from Philadelphia, known as the romantics of the Philly Nitrous Mob.  This group, cut from the same cloth as the BHC of the greater Boston area, whose mob mentality worked for one central purpose, to pedal the wares of their cylinders and simultaneously steal all they could.  It is common among this scene for groups of friends to come up with a scheme to make it to the next show, dollar grilled cheeses, dollar Papst, Shaman and spiritual advice for those lost in the new alter egos they built on small bits of white paper.  However, these fine youngsters took it upon themselves to run the ever present hippie crack ring at the festivals this summer.
Each cell contained a carrier, the one who carried their two pound tank in a backpack along with balloons; two or three runners who fanned out, and two or three watchmen; an entire mobile squad ready to shift as soon as security was spotted on the perimeter.  These squads also doubled as “finders”.  These finders would simply check car doors as they went about their business.  If an unlocked one was discovered, a whistle and shuffle later the group would be on top of the wheels, stripping it of finance and valuables with demonic precision.  Now if one was to be spotted, the guise of the K -hole effect would be employed, allowing them a common excuse, lets face it, nobody wants to beat up a confused hippie, right?  Examine comes with quite a strange side effect, you feel as if you are stuck in a hole, and your immediate surrounding seem as though they are your home, all the surrounding possessions and indeed vehicles yours, a both empowering and terrifying feeling to be sure.  This became the excuse of these mobsters, and led them to at least some looting success.

Several other groups like this are around, although this past year the legend of the Philly family has risen to unbelievable fame, and because of their high security protocol and ultimate mobility, went unchecked all season.  While the desire to tour all summer is indeed a noble one, thriving off of others misfortune and unlocked car doors is outright shameful.  The weekend, which attracts many aging deadheads, was littered with disappointment of the lost perspective of years past.  No longer did peace and love prevail, rather self preservation and advancement only to get to the next festival and do it all over again.

Now I must admit, in the spirit of Woodstock and those who got there on literally change and chance, my friends and I (for our purposes Joe and John) gained entrance by less than admirable terms.  However, we went with the full intention of respect and good vibes, and certainly left our two U-Haul full of nitrous tanks at home, to the direct contrast of the fellas from Philly.

As I walked around that weekend, I saw a lot of things and experienced a variety of feelings.  Lovers loving, haters hating, to a greater extent than ever before.  Every feeling magnified to the size of the reality we were experiencing, a vast chasm filled with feeling.  Yet through it all it became clear that the overall vibe of what was happening had changed, and slightly for the worse.  The self destruction our generation imposes may be prevalent, but is it necessary?  We saw our parents try for peace and world change, and we saw them fail to a great extent, so for us who masquerade under the same flag, it has become purely recreational, nobody wants to change things; it has leaked into our blood streams, making us greedy and thirsty for that which is not ours, yet stills seeking peace in all the wrong places.  And as I camped less than a football field away from the corpse of not only the Vibes first fatality but, the corpse of peace and the best of vibes, this writer asked why?