Unless you were lucky enough to arrive at What The Festival on Thursday, Mother Nature and logistics made for a difficult time setting up camp. My carriage pulled up to Wolf Run Ranch around noon on Friday, and despite leaving Portland with partly sunny skies and temperatures near 70, we were greeted by weather much chillier and windier with only occasional breaks of sunshine.
The crews lead us to the West parking lot, which posed an issue, because our friends who’d come the night before had set up our tents in the West woods. This meant hauling all of our gear, coolers included, all the way through the venue to the other side of the ranch about a mile away. When we got up to the gate we were informed that OLCC regulations wouldn’t allow us to bring our booze through the festival grounds, and this accounted for about half our belongings.
“Hey! I know what you can do.” Some hippie who’d overheard our predicament chimed in. “I’ll distract them with my rock. It will hypnotize them.” From his jacket he pulled out a technicolored rock and a flashy stick. He walked up to the two security guards, rubbing his objects together and berated them with a philosophical spiel about illusions. Once I could see the guards were becoming annoyed, we made a run for it. Somehow, the hippy’s plan worked, and we were on our way to camp.
The sky remained cloudy, but stayed dry for the next few hours. After we’d just finished setting up tarps, the wind started and brought rain along with it. I noticed an odd looking fellow standing near our camp with all his gear. When he got a little closer and I recognized that it was my good friend Jack Nancy, which puzzled me because I thought he was living in Los Angeles. As the rain continue to pour, he decided to drop shop and set up camp with us.
Water continued to unleash over our tents until sundown, at which point I came to realize that most of my crew was missing from camp. This separation could prove fatal because my friend Martian was holding onto all of my gummy bears. The last time I’d seen Lettuce, a spectacular eight piece funk outfit, I didn’t have any gummies, so I was determined. Jack Nancy and I headed into the venue only to realize that the sky was pitch dark and all we could see were swarms of glowing lights and crazy outfits. So the obstacle of finding a tallish guy with long hair and fur coat was a big order. It was going to be quicker to find someone else with gummy bears than it would be to to find Martian.
I kept getting distracted from my objective, pulled into FKJ’s music as he’d play saxophone over his beats, so I began asking around. Some lunatic brushed off my inquiry, mumbling the only thing his feeble brain could muster. “Did you know a trumpet sounds like God’s vagina?” he asked. Luckily, we found some of Jack’s hippie friends who loaded us up with enough goods to last the entire night. I could finally rest easy and let the music take over.
Later we ventured into the infamous Illuminated Forest only to get lost. Not literally lost, because everyone to some degree was wondering through the glowing trees, psychedelic art, and giant vagina big enough to crawl through and cuddle inside. We encountered some Alaskans that we took a liking to and the whole lot of us continued making runs through the forest, dancing to Portland’s Solovox at the LOL stage and the legendary house DJ Claude Von Stroke at the Dragon Stage, all while making frequent pit stops back at camp to stock up on booze. We finally called it a night after a long sunrise by the campfire, calculating that we’d put down entire bottles of tequila and wine. It was time for bed.
One good thing about the cloud cover is that you don’t have to worry about the Earth’s rotation waking you up at the ass-crack of dawn. The gray skies do nothing however for massive hangovers that come after partying until six in the morning. My head was pounding and my legs were cramped from walking seven miles, but I had to pee like waterfall, so I struggled my way out the tent. I stumbled into one of the neighbors who I’d met the day before and he showed me a small piece of art on blotter paper. He told me it was mine and insisted I shared it with others.
Around 1PM I was back laying in my tent when I felt the sun hit, followed by a loud cheer throughout the camp. Saturday got off to a slow start as the clouds began to dissipate into the desert sky. I checked out the pool stage which was much more crowded than the day before, and then went back to camp, ate dinner and got ready for another night wild night, this time without the rain. The agenda for the night revolved around catching Thievery Corporation, a bucket list band for me. About ten of us decided to eat tootsie rolls at sundown for the occasion.
Things immediately felt weird as we made our way to the stage. My legs were heavy, and everyone’s voices seemed to slow way down. Then the giggles came, everything was funnier. “I think you’re supposed to lick it first!” I heard someone yell, and we all fell on the ground laughing. It felt like that walk took four hours. Every few minutes we’d turn around and someone would be lost, especially the ones who thought they were cats. Oddly, the unicorns had no trouble staying together. Eventually Thievery Corporation came on stage, and from the first drum beat their sound took hold of my guts and gripped my soul. The bass player danced around as they brought out singer after singer on stage. Raggae singers, rappers, and the beautiful voice of Loulou Ghelichkhani singing “Sweet Tides” which lifted me higher and higher above the audience. It felt like the whole festival was climaxing. I could have lived in the middle of that show surrounded by their deep tone forever. I guess in some ways I will live there forever.
Photos and video by Tyler Bertram, words by Colin Hudson.