CAPTIN (pretend) CRAZY JOE SKALLY-CROW
(CPTN C.J S. Crow)
Veritas Numquam Prohibere Bonum Fabula.
A pirate and vagabond’s guide to Festival adventures around Europe and how to live like a king on a peasant’s coin.
Dancing, drinking, the imbibing of alchemical vices, gentlemanly wenching, feasting, and the causing of general havoc.
Goodbye to Baroa San Joao. The long drive up the coast road. The gathering of a two-day storm. A tent made of toilet paper. Wet shoulders and stiff upper lips. A night and a day outdoors roaming around sharing wine. Finding a bottle of psychedelic rum. Keeping company with determined yet wet people. Emergency rations of grog for fuel. Digging trenches lest the whole thing wash away. Keep drinking and carry on. Monstrous insects. A perfect Sunday. Hibernating beauties emerge. Shaking off the cobwebs of winter. Acid with magic mushrooms. Dancing on a sunny Sunday. Free Italian pizza. And Portuguese wine. Czech speed to follow. To the cave I return.
March, Portugal. The last and most glorious outpost of the British free party scene run by British ravers who fled the tyranny of Maggie Thatcher and the public order act with their sound systems and families, and aided by their Iberian allies and other New European friends of the self-made party scene.
There’s a real free party rave vibe. So no security as such, but they’re a responsible people and organization. Raiders and renegades, be warned. The van dwellers are well equipped to police themselves. The festival is a fair size and they’ve had a few thousand in the past. But this year’s rain kept it to around 1,200 I think. Everyone’s welcome, but you see more mohawks than dreadlocks and anarchy symbols than Hindu Ohms, and there’s very little designer gear in sight. So the more oversensitive of the hippie or hipster crowd, beware… Here lie travelers & Techno Pykeys. It’s a five-stage party with different genres of dance music as well as some live bands and theatre and comedy performances. All the music is underground and made by people, not corporations (bar the odd sample of sing-along breaks on the Monday when it’s crew party time). So with five stages and real music it’s hard to not be enjoying yourself somewhere. There’re pretty good facilities which stay fairly clean and it’s donation based but definitely worth a good donation. Definitely one for the true core of outdoor party lovers.
29th – 31st of March
Near Lisbon, Portugal (site & dates may move).
No need, they’re nice. So be nice, like, help out if you’re poor. Try and give ’em something. Contact ’em about volunteering, collect rubbish, etc.
Security and Police
Police at the main gate on entry. Didn’t see them come on the festival site. Security is a self-policing thing that works very well—although there are sober people in charge with radios, etc.
There’re lots of cafes, some chill spaces which are all pretty good and most have music. Most selling and shopping there is pirate style. There was some good stuff as well as all the usual ‘one girl and a sewing machine fashion’ which is always good to see. Cheap, nice sheepskins and hand-made knives stood out as the best buys. I can’t remember if there were any actual clothing shops.
4. Funky beats (main stage, a bit of everything, breaks, drum and bass, electro swing). Freek Boutique (live music, performances, magic, some comedy). Techno floor (Hard Tech/Techno). Trance arena (Goa psy trance). Chill Dome café (house, minimal techno, reggae).
Booze and Prices
One main bar. Big, cheap, okay quality spirits and 2 euro beer—pretty good. Few places selling brandy chais, etc. Ok to bring your own booze on site; responsible crowd trusted with glass.
Good eating and at a fair price. As I recall, Italian pizza was the best. The British cafe next to the main stage had free or donation-based tea, lunch, and dinner service for a few euros. I think all the food was veggie. But there’re enough campfires and friends with vans for a chap to get some meat in his belly.
Availability and quality of all common drugs like speed, MDMA, acid, shrooms, hash, and weed was high, with some good Moroccan hash and nice outdoor green and organic skunks being the main offerings. Prices were between 3-10 euros a gram for weed, 7-10 euros for acid, 10-15 euros for speed, and I’m pretty sure you could have found other stuff like opium, DMT/Changa, and 2C-B or 2C-I, etc. if you were looking, but I wasn’t. It’s more a case of meeting people than a dealer going ’round though. Nice and discreet.
Best drug for this festival
Mushrooms—it is spring after all.
Tat (British festival slang for things and the opportunity to pick up said things left lying around during—or mostly after the festival—tents, sleeping bags, and drugs people have lost, etc. etc.)
Opportunities to find stuff are low. It’s an eco-conscious crowd who know how to get fucked without losing everything they own. A high proportion of people with good outdoor kits that you don’t just leave. I believe I found a bread knife and a sleeping bag. All good though—real ravers pick up litter.
Two main areas in the woods either side of the main field, free to pitch as you please within reason. I saw one sign on the way in saying ‘no fire’. There were lots of fires, always are, apparently. Good stuff.
Water and Washing
Three decent quality water supplies on site. Showers and toilets. A toilet block that stayed fairly clean and some pretty good compost toilets. Maybe some plastic toilets. Everything was clean enough and there were enough of them. This crowd knows how to shit outside, so if you do, dig a hole or you’ll get shouted at. There’re enough people with shovels around to ask nicely. I don’t know if there were showers; it was raining so much, it didn’t seem to matter.
There’re a lot of attractive people of both sexes there and it is spring after all. I had some great dances with some beautiful women but the rain kept things from going further. Or maybe I missed my chances. They’d probably improve if you owned a big cool Hippie van.
I arrived at the site in the Lisboan countryside in the back of a Mercedes van late in the afternoon on the Friday with two friends I’d met when I was living in a cave on the beach in the Algarve over winter. We’d all been through a lot over the long, wet winter months including poverty, starvation, periods of failing mental health, heavy gunfire, and fleas. We cruised through the police checks unmolested, which was nice because, like usual with me, the vehicle I was in was carrying drugs.
The festival stewards turned out to be friends of mine from England and it was uplifting to see familiar faces. They directed us though the wooded campsite to where there were still some nice spaces. With the tall Douglas Firs, huge bent Cork Oaks, and a brooding dark grey sky it almost looked like England and I felt like us Britishers had somehow brought the weather and the landscape with us.
A nice young lady called Lina, whom I’d befriended, had given me a tent and I set the thing up. It looked like some 1970s children’s summer play tent. It did not fill me with confidence. Evening drew in and the rain started; within minutes my tent was see-though. Honestly, you could see the tree on the other side right through it.
I rescued my rucksack and knocked on the door of my friends’ van. My friends Duke and Flo were in bed together, grinning. I deposited the bag but knew staying there was not an option. They’d just started screwing again after some kind of break and it seemed best to let them have their space.
So I thought, “No tent, no shelter; it’s dark and pissing down with rain and I don’t know were anyone I can hang with is.”
De nada—I’ll just drink and stay awake till something better happens. I opened a bottle of cheap yet lovely Portuguese red wine and set off into the woodland dark in search of the festival or some kind of entertainment.
I thought I had a fair approximation of the shape of the camping area and where the actual festival structures were. But as you all know, festival tents and trees have legs are wont to move around at night. I couldn’t orientate myself and ended up just wandering. I drank the wine and then, as luck would have it, discovered a bottle of rum just lying on the track far enough away from anyone’s tent for me to deem it ‘tat’ and take it with a sense of good karma… Manna from heaven.
I found a well-lit camp with a small group of people having a little dance and talking. A small 1k small sound system was pumping out some pretty good trance. Having no real idea of the scale of this party, I actually thought this was the trance arena for a while. Rum was handed out and spliffs were passed around. After a while I started to trip a bit: faint lines of multi-coloured geometry and floral paisley-type patterns appeared out of the ether. I looked at the rum I’d found on the ground. Hmmmm…
I felt obliged to tell the guys I was with what had happened. Mostly they were amused, but it took a little explaining to make the guys realise that I hadn’t been irresponsibly dosing people up with psychedelics without their knowledge. Everyone took the attitude of “Oh well, free drugs,” soon enough, but we were unable to put our finger on what exactly we had taken—or, for that matter, what the dosage was. It might have been acid, it might have been a 2C-B or a 2C-I (Alexander Shulgin Creations, psychedelic designer drugs—Google them, they’re fun, but require a user’s guide), or maybe even a combination. The next 24 hours or so were a bit of a blur, albeit a colourful one. Wandering off to other campsites, yet more sharing of our psychedelic rum—this time with a forewarning. The receiving of spliffs, other forms of alcohol, and, once it got lighter, some speed.
Exploring the festival site as the light came. Running into other old English friends and making new ones—British or otherwise. The rain continuing without break, only easing of for long enough to come back with renewed force. Huddled groups trying to stay dry, camaraderie in tough conditions. Having a bit of a dance at the main stage. It’s difficult to get a flow on in a raincoat. Pipes of Moroccan hash and hot tea.
The rain got so bad the festival organizers started digging a trench around the main stage bar area. I pitched in. Wielding a shovel with speed brought on by, well, speed. Huge monstrous insects were being washed into the trench. Foot-long poisonous centipedes, fat brown Lacrau scorpions, and the index finger-sized mole cricket. A freakish creature that has arms with small hands it uses to dig, thick carapace, and a call like a Geiger counter linked up to a 100 decibel speaker.
Some of the sons of the organizers (small boys around the age of ten) were helping with the digging work. I did my best to keep them away from the nastier insects and then we caught some of the mole crickets and put them in plastic pint glasses the sides of which they could not scale. Then I took my tribe of ecstatic little boys around with our bug collection and showed them to people, getting lots of horrified and amazed reactions. I didn’t tell the lads, but I was loosely looking for people who looked like they were tripping. Insects are pretty cool anyways when you’re on acid and the sight of a six inch-long furious alien in a plastic cup was worth sharing.
Eventually late on the Saturday night I finally gave in, having been awake for 36-odd hours at that point. Not having found any more exciting prospects or beautiful women who wanted me to keep them warm, I managed to persuade my friends to let me crash on the floor of the van.
I awoke later than usual, around ten, the daylight that had roused me in the cave and my tent for the last few months being unable to penetrate the walls of the van. I saw the clouds had disappeared and the sun was out and hot. Perfect, sunny Sundays at a party are always best. I breakfasted quickly and after a quick whore’s bath, or ‘squaddie’ wash (wet wipes), I headed in the direction of the main festival.
The music didn’t start properly till 12 but the cafes and general areas around the dance floors were already starting to fill up with groups of expectant people. I found some German friends I’d made over winter in their big Wagon. Did some speed, took some acid, and cracked a bottle of red wine as we did so. The music started and we headed in the direction of the stages. The trance floor was playing old-style Goa stuff and, while it’s not my favorite, after a winter of hunger, fleas, living in a cave, and not seeing an attractive women for several months, I felt fully ready to stomp it out.
All the festival had come out to play, and after everyone had been hiding in their vans and tents for two days and only interacting in small groups, it was surprising to see just how many people had made it and were ready for action. I soon found myself dancing with an absolutely gorgeous Portuguese girl called Anna. She spoke only a little English but managed to tell me she was an air stewardess and that she had taken five acids. There’s a lot to be said for just dancing with a beautiful exotic woman when you’ve been living like a hermit and the only girls you’ve seen for months are black-shawled Portuguese grandmothers and the odd mate’s girlfriend.
My male ego and need for alcohol were helped by the posse of young Portugese guys she had with her who were standing around just off the dance floor. They kept bringing her drinks, which she kept sharing with me. Cheers, guys. After a while Anna said she had to go, which was sad, but she did stick a load of magic mushrooms in my mouth before she left, which was pretty nice.
I spent the whole day dancing at the different stages. The whole festival was really thumping and everyone had great energy and attitude. Although my winter had been tougher than that of most, I think everyone was well in need of a good outdoor stomp, shaking off the cobwebs of winter with this primordial—if electronic—spring rite of merrymaking.
The main stage played some great dubwise (look it up—it’s like jungle but better) and generally speaking all the music there was great. Lots of genres with the word dub in them. The techno stage, although hard and full on, was enthusiastically attended by those who like such things. I saw some great Balkan-y, swingy, gypsy-style bands on the live stage and the Gypsy Bag Hags (again, Google them) stood out.
Later on I had some free pizza from the Italian guys and listened to some nice reggae in the chill dome. In all, it was a great day at a great festival. I left on the Monday, driving back to the beach where my cave lay with my German friend Igor. It had been a special place for me and I wanted to start my journey out of Portugal properly from there. I ate as much food as I could that night and then set off the next day, heading along the coast with the aim of hitching to Seville were my next big party lay. The grande fair of Seville…