That’s odd. I hadn’t heard anyone snoring. Then a crackling sting spreads across my scorched flesh and with it comes a sudden and embarrassing realisation. I had been sitting there on the shores of the Saint John River, warming myself in the sunshine, when my lights finally winked out. Folly Fest is a gruelling three days of nearly non-stop revelry and music, and only those possessing a superhuman level of endurance, or a source of military grade energy drink, can survive the sixty hour-long gauntlet without blinking.
I possess neither, and I am unashamed to admit it. I lack the conditioning, and thus require certain creature comforts: a warm bed, and a set of sturdy eyelids firmly shuttered against all manner of disruptions, peace and quiet, and the promise of hot coffee in the morning. None of which seemed to readily present themselves with any great certainty.
The tent almost didn’t happen at all. I was apprehensive about camping. Having earned my winter scouting badges long ago, I felt no need to revisit the matter. After the deluge that nearly washed away last weekend’s Midsummer Madness I had also meticulously laid out my escape plan ahead of time. Neither man, nor king, nor God, had coaxed or commanded me into unfurling my sleeping bag in more than a decade, and I had been fairly certain that nothing short of the demands of a zombie apocalypse could. But what I would not attempt for all the saints of Christendom was reduced to a mere triviality when faced with the sirens’ call.
“We’ll help you setup your tent!” Woe to the innocent who hears that sound! He will not see his cat nor his bed, in joy, swaddled about him, home from Folly. Three of them, terrible, beautiful, and complete strangers, lured me in with their offer to navigate a Gordian knot of canvas and poles, and further seduced me with the promise of Cheetos. I grew weak and helpless as though I had been bound by the tent pegs themselves. My fate was sealed, and I resigned myself to it.
“We exchanged tickets for vegetables for like five people. How wholesome is that?”
This is not an uncommon tactic at Folly Fest; they’ve earned their reputation as the friendliest festival in the East. Festival-goers have no qualms about manipulating you with ‘friendship’ and ‘being nice to you’. The natural instinct is to go with it. Do so. Lean into it. Folly people are good people. There are a couple hundred volunteers on site that are good for whatever ails you, but they’re nearly indistinguishable from everyone else who are just as willing to do the same. My tent may have looked like it was drunkenly assembled in the dark, and it was, but it had character and exuded a strong sense of camaraderie. But then, so did the entirety of the campground, a complete village that had sprung up overnight. It consisted of everything from teahouse tee-pees, to the more luxurious VW bus. Eclectic by nature, and determinedly welcoming, each cluster of tents was another party looking to adopt. If one can accept music as a predominantly auditory experience, the experience of the tent village becomes equally as engrossing, if not more so, as the sounds from the stage carry far on into the campsite.
The days stretched on, as a seemingly impossible number of bands passed across the stage. Local favourites like Tomato/Tomato, Earthbound Trio, Papa Ya, and a reunited All of Green, interspersed with big names like Dumpstaphunk and Iron Horse. There is no hesitation as crowds get down and dirty ‘dancing in the dust’. When the designated quiet hour of 2:00am arrived, it’s only to transition to the Silent Disco, and so commenced the bizarre pantomime of a party. Dancers shuffled about in the darkness, privately bobbing away to the music piped in through their headphones.
“My nephew saw his first pair of breasts yesterday. They were being painted, and it has changed his life.”
As dawn crept closer, and I crept toward my tent, there were still those refusing to go gentle into that good night. 5:00am, for some, is the hour of stentorian introspection. The minutiae of life becomes the greatest of mysteries, and must be describe, and debated, loudly, lest it be forgotten. Fingers begin ‘finging’, as they say. It was on the third day that I discovered quiet camping, that blissful oasis, but by then I was begging anyone that would listen if they could direct me to the nearest hot tub.
There is an undeniable air of positivity that surrounds Folly Fest. It just feels good. There’s a relaxed atmosphere, and perhaps it comes from an acceptance that to absorb the festival in its entirety is impossible. There will always be more acts to see, more people to meet, and more things to experience. It can be satisfying, and exhausting, but it’s important to remember that it’s okay to take a break, relax in a hammock, and come back. It’s never far off, and it’s always welcoming. Most importantly, there is coffee, and it’s one thing they take very seriously.