(Photos by: B51 Photography
The girl was between the ages of 19 and 21, and, in the parlance of our times
, she was rolling face. If you aren't up on your drug lingo, "rolling face" is slang for being on Molly aka MDMA aka the upper kids are doing these days instead of ecstasy (though I'm skeptical that most of the "Molly" kids are buying is the pure MDMA they think it is).
One of the most notable side effects of Molly besides the traditional rush of endorphins to the brain/increase in energy is a notable upswing in the pleasure derived from tactile experiences. Think about how nice it is to touch something like a micro-fleece blanket when you're sober. Now imagine that pleasure amplified to nearly orgasmic levels, and you've got an idea of what the Molly experience is like. And even if the girl standing behind me at the Big Gigantic show Friday night didn't look like her eyes were about to roll out of the back of her head (that's the etymology of the phrase "rolling face"), I'd have known she was hopped up on Molly because she kept groping me.
You've never really lived until you've had a coked out twenty year old feeling your leather jacket like it was a Koosh ball
and fondling your pony tail like you're a literal pony. This was all before Big Gigantic came on stage and I had to disappear into the most chaotic depths of the crowd to escape this drugged out hedonist, a decision that would have consequences later on.
Maybe I shouldn't give Miss Molly such a hard time. I wasn't entirely sober myself. I was going to my first ever EDM show where I'd actually be in a crowd (I'd photographed araabMUZIK & Paper Diamonds at Bonnaroo a couple years ago but I was comfortably in the photo pit for those moments), and...well, "when in Rome" (though I can confirm that I wasn't on any uppers; the last thing I need to is to get dehydrated and die of a heat stroke in Terminal 5). Dance shows are about being open to energy and rhythms and the people around you, and considering that I'm a constant bundle of neurotic anxiety, I needed a little help getting into that place before the show.
And if you read that statement and ask yourself, "well, hey, Don, why even go to an EDM show in the first place," that's a fair question. The genre isn't usually for me, but Big Gigantic is an act I've known and loved from their studio recordings for years. I missed out on the opportunity to see them at Bonnaroo in 2012, but I've been following their music ever since, and when the chance came up to see them at Terminal 5, I knew I had to finally take it, and it was the right decision even if I've never been more exhausted in my entire life than I was limping away from that Hell's Kitchen Mainstay at 1 in the morning.
In science, there's this concept called "osmosis."
It's the physical phenomena of molecules passing through a permeable membrane. That's a gross under-description, but I'm a music writer, not a scientist. Give me a break. There's also the notion of cultural osmosis. The idea we transmit cultural mores/norms/ideas not just through the art we make but also across cultural borders where those mores/norms/ideas might not exists. At the Big Gigantic show, I experienced EDM osmosis (and I don't care if that's not a real thing; it is now).
Having escaped my groper, I was much deeper in the Big Gigantic crowd by the time the Colorado jazztronica outfit hit the stage than I had remotely intended. I have MISERABLE crowd anxiety. If I'm in a crowd that's packed so tightly that I'm touching other people, there's a 50/50 chance I'm going to start hyperventilating at some point during the show. But once Big Gigantic hit the stage, that hyperventilation never came despite the fact that I was sandwiched so close to other people that I'm pretty sure there are a couple states in the South that would mandate we be in a common law marriage. My anxiety never arrived, and that was probably partially the fact that I wasn't precisely sober, but it was also the energy of that band, and the way the crowd became a powerful transmitter that created a sax-driven feedback loop between the band and the audience and no one could escape it.
It was less than a song into the performance before the EDM osmosis took over me. I'd managed to find myself shuffled into a group of about four very close female friends that I didn't know from Adam and Eve. They all had on that weird glitter/paint/can't tell if it's cultural appropriation s*** that's all the rage with the EDM/synthpop crowd these days. And as the show was starting, I was standing still and enjoying the music. That's my usual MO at shows (unless it's a band I've loved most of my life and then I'm in "sing along at the top of my lungs" mode), but these girls weren't standing still. They were dancing with reckless abandon. I had no personal space. They kept bumping against me in their dance. And less than a minute later, I decided I didn't want to fight it. I just went with the flow, and by the end of the show, I was still around the same girls, and I was positively drenched in sweat cause my body hadn't stopped moving the whole night.
I'm not sure if I'm going to start regularly going to EDM shows. I half suspect my state of supreme euphoria by the end of the night was a mixture of not being sober, being dehydrated, being overheated, and being dead tired. It started to feel like a near religious experience by the end. I was being rushed away on a whirlwind of ecstasy that was totally out of my control. I imagine it's akin to the notion that when you're on an acid trip, you shouldn't fight it. You should just ride it out. "Buy the ticket, take the ride" as Hunter S. Thompson would say. I didn't buy a Big Gigantic ticket (perks of being press) but they put on a hell of a ride that I hope to go on again some day.