I’ve been to multiple music festivals over the years and among the abundance of just about every substance available, it’s the presence of medical grade (or worse?) nitrous that is one of the most interesting. When you go to these festivals you see how much money, planning and thought goes into getting hippies impaired for the weekend – it’s a huge system.
In 2008, I attended All Good Music Festival in West Virginia. Next to our campsite, the proverbial Nitrous Mafia had set up shop. To paint the picture; it’s three guys with a nitrous tank filling balloons and selling them to a long line of eager festival goes. The balloons sell for $5 and the buyers typically buy more than one, walking away with 3 or 4 huge balloons pinched in their fingers. The valve of the tank is removed and the flow of the gas is continuous. It sounds like they hit the valve off with a hammer because it makes quite a loud noise – almost a calling to surrounding “hippie crack” fiends. People in the camp grounds cheer and clap when the valve is cracked.
We heard the noise at least 50x that weekend. There is a system of small tents where full and empty bottles are systematically stored. There are runners and spotters – the runners keep those filling the balloons/collecting the cash with a full tanks and the spotters are at literal high points in the campground on paths within eyesight of the filling station, clutching Nextels. Anyone who’s been to a festival has seen the campgrounds littered with empty balloons.
At the event described above, the operation was busted on the second day – security guards in golf carts broke up the scene, arrested one or two people and confiscated the tanks. They found the tents storing the bottles and literally took a razor blade to the tent, violently destroying it and leaving it’s tattered remains for the nitrous mafia to find later.
About an hour later, the group was back, a line formed, and the hissing continued into the night.
How do the tanks get into the festival grounds? That question can be asked for all the illegal substances, contraband, unofficial t-shirts, etc. – and no one really knows – you just know that every festivals is loaded with the stuff. What led me to right this post was the finding of a video on YouTube from All Good 2008 – from the exact operation that I described above. Festival goers found a hole dug in the ground with a cavaity below that comfortably fit 4 adults – enough room for a hundred or so nitrous tanks.
Kudos, Nitrous Mafia. It’s no wonder you can make $300,000 a weekend peddling hippie crack to giggling festival goers – you literally dig holes in the campground weeks before hand.
Security guy/consvicated tanks in 2008