I don’t attend music festivals. I find them to be hallowed by the Millennial impression of what a “good time” can be packaged and sold as. Just another reason for some bum-fuck, upper-middle class college student to walk around, take drugs and wear a headdress.
On Thursday, June 30th, I received a message from Rebel Love Show host, Rob Mathias.
I called him up to figure out what a “Rainbow Gathering” was. My assumption was that this gathering was some sort of music festival, but according to him, this wasn’t the case.
I thought that I wouldn’t be able to go, considering how broke I was. So I straight up told him that I didn’t have any money, but he was persistent .
“It’s an anarcho-communist community” he would go on to say. “This isn’t a festival with a big stage, it’s how people live- it’s a lifestyle. There’s no money involved, they hate money. Everything is community-based, and it’s your personal choice to donate or bring food.”
He sold me. Seeing as though I had no money, this was a pretty good opportunity to check it out. Also, with how sketchy this sounded, I didn’t have much to lose. As I pried for more information, I had to ask the big question.
“This isn’t a cult, is it?” I asked.
On the other line, I could hear a slight laugh.
“No, but this is probably the closest thing to being one without actually being one that you’ll experience.”
I made a nervous chuckle.
“I’m in”, I said, mentally getting myself together to actually go through with my commitment. There was no backing out of this now. I said yes, and I was going.
“Awesome, dude. You won’t regret going”, he said.
My initial thought was focused on my job. It was 4th of July weekend so I had Monday off, but Tuesday needed to be worked on. I told him that I needed to be back for Tuesday morning because of work and he told me he would call some people and get back to me. After a few minutes of waiting, I got a call back saying that his friend, Nate, was going to head back Tuesday. Everything was in place. The only thing I didn’t have was a tent.
“We’ll figure out your tent situation”, Rob said.
As I hung up, I turned to my two friends whom I was staying with for the night.
“I just got invited to a Rainbow Family Gathering”, I told them. “I’m still unsure of what this entails but I’m definitely going.”
As I tried to convey to them what Rob told me, I decided to look it up. There were images of naked, dreadlocked people running around in the mud, holding each other, and standing in a circle with their heads down in prayer.
“This is totally a cult,” I said with a laugh. “Holy shit this is totally a cult.” The tone of my friends was that of concern. They were skeptical as to why I was going and, for the most part, they had a good reason. They didn’t know what I was getting into, hell, I didn’t even know. I had never been to any sort of festival before. I’m not the kind of person who spends $300 dollars to travel out to the middle of nowhere, listen to a bunch of crappy EDM music and wear a headdress, but from what I had gathered, this was something leagues above any of that. This was something that was real. This was a lifestyle.
According to Wikipedia:
Rainbow Gatherings are temporary loosely knit communities of people who congregate annually in remote forests around the world for one or more weeks at a time to enact a supposedly shared ideology of peace, harmony, freedom, and respect. Anyone is allowed to attend and participants refer to themselves as a “Rainbow Family”. The goal is to create what they believe is a more satisfying culture—free from consumerism,capitalism, and mass media—that’s nonhierarchical, furthers world peace, and serves as a model for reforms to mainstream society.“
“Are you going to get naked and dance in the mud?” they joked.
I was unsure.
“At this point, probably?” I replied.
“Well we wish you the best”, they said.
I went to bed that night thinking about what I had gotten myself into. It kept me up, I stirred over how I would handle myself.
“Should I stay reserved? Should I just go all in? It wouldn’t make much of a story if I stayed on the outside through the whole thing. That’s just not fun. I’m only going to be there for a day. Some people have been doing this for 30 years. I think I can handle a day, yeah. If I’m only going to be there for a day, I should just go all in. I’m going to come in hot, stay hot, and leave burnt. Like a comet. Yeah, all in.”
On Sunday, the day that I was expected to leave, I got another message from Rob. This time, he told me that Nate, the person driving me back on Tuesday, planned to leave later than expected. That meant I had to call my boss.
I quickly gave him a call and flat-out explained to him what I was getting into. “It would make a good article for my personal blog”, I explained. He was very understanding.
“Good luck”, he said. “I had a cousin go out to one of those in the 70’s. We didn’t hear back from her for about 5 years.”
That wasn’t the best thing to hear as I was getting ready to leave. I got off the phone and tried to amp myself up.
“You’re not backing out of this,” I told myself. “You’ll only be there for, what, a day and a half? This will be fun.”
I left my friend’s apartment and drove home to get ready. As I was packing, my landlady, who I call “Mamma Brown”, asked where I was going.
“Uh…to a Rainbow Family Gathering”, I said.
She stood there, in a simple confusion.
“I’m not even going to ask”, she turned around and waved her hand. “Just be careful.”
I threw all of my stuff in the car and drove to Rob’s apartment. I arrived shortly before him so I hung out on his stoop until he pulled in. I was a little tense.
He arrived, invited me into his place, and showed me around. Colored lights and tapestries covered the walls. I got to take a look at his broadcasting studio as well as have a discussion about anarchism and the state of things in New Hampshire. Rob’s an Anarchist. He and his fiance moved to the state of New Hampshire for the Free State Project. After some time, Nate showed up. I walked out, eager to meet him.
Nate is a calm, well-spoken individual. Upon meeting him, I could sense a “lightness” to his presence. His genuine personality created somewhat of a foundation of which, if anything were to happen, would maintain some form of stability, whatever “stability” meant. I was glad to meet him and was glad he was coming with us. We gave our introductions and started talking about our limited festival experience. He was like me – none. I wasn’t alone, thank God. Our opinions of what we were getting into were similar which was nervous but excited. We were going to experience whatever this “Rainbow Gathering” was. Maybe we would uncover something about ourselves…or whatever.
We threw all of our stuff together and headed out. I drove with Rob while Nate followed closely behind. The Sun, with its deep red hue, began to set in front of us. Lighting our direction until slowly falling behind the great woods and mountains of New Hampshire.
Our pilgrimage to Rainbow had begun.