If there was any doubt about the state of acid culture in America, last summer’s Phish concert in Coventry, Vermont, cleared it up. The verdict is in: it’s gone.
Well, gone might be a bit strong, but the days when clean acid was readily available at a cheap price are over, and there’s nothing to indicate that times will get any better in Psychedelia anytime soon.
The conventional wisdom is that ecstasy and its purer sister Molly forced acid out with their smoother and more sensual high. The wisdom is, as usual, wrong.
Molly just happened to be in a position in the parking lot to flourish after the bust of acid legend Leonard Pickard in October of 2000. With supply instantly cut as the bust reverberated through the tight-knit and ideological industry, demand for dancing clouds was going unmet. So into this void stepped fake acid.
Veterans of Dead (yes, they’re back) and Phish tours say that every dose of acid they’ve bought, seen, or heard of, has been bunk. Only on the extremely rare occasion when someone has been “dosed” (spontaneously given free acid) has the trip been real. And this reporter, in the interests of drug market research, tried several paper tabs and a drop of the liquid variety. All fake. Similar experiments at Bonnaroo last June and the national Rainbow Gathering in Northern California yielded similar results. And if the hippies ain’t got it, it ain’t out there.
This fake acid has dealt a potentially mortal blow to the acid world. The contradiction between the celestial feeling one is expecting after dropping a dose and the ensuing one that creeps up with the realization that the acid was fake and the hippie salesman a scumbag is enough to persuade someone on the cusp to tune out, turn off, and drop out of the whole Timothy Leary scene. Demand plummets as word quickly spreads that the doses are bunk.
Into this flailing market stepped Molly. It’s easy, it’s everywhere, and it ain’t bunk. That the free market demand for acid was stronger than the acid culture’s traditionally moral solidarity is an irony surely not lost on the incarcerated grandfathers of the movement.
The Phish era thus draws to a close on a sour note. Acid’s promise that another plane of existence was possible proved a lie in the face of terrestrial greed and hedonism.
RYAN GRIM is the senior congressional correspondent for the Huffington Post. He is the author of This Is Your Country on Drugs (Wiley, 2009).