By: Kai Teo
Photos: Volatille Ferreira – The Colour Burst Phenomena, Shimanski Edelweiss – The Last of the Ancient Tribe
Event: Fusion Festival – Lärz, Germany
Date: 27–30 June ’13
Artistes: Click here for full artiste list
Our rating: 999999999999999 out of 5
The legendary Fusion Festival. Its name embodies its entire philosophy.
It’s a fusion of the real world and the imaginary. A union of the psychedelic universe and the law-abiding everyday society. An interchange of completely different music genres, philosophies, sub-cultures, mindsets, bodies and lives. It’s a crazy, beautiful blend. It’s a little glimpse of Utopia.
And to let you in on one of the most beautiful, powerful experiences of Buddha Mag, we must begin our Fusion adventure right from the start.
The Arduous Journey – Of Hippie Vans and Their Many Bananas
Our journey began in Hamburg, on a grey, chilly and windy summer morning. Lugging our heavy festival backpacks filled with minimal clothes and the maximum amount of beers we could carry, we set off to the hitchhiking traffic junction, dressed in our usual hippie pants, stitched sweaters, feather necklaces and fuck loads of beads.
We held up a sign written with the name of the town that was halfway to the festival. Displayed on our faces were earnest excitement and sincere niceness. I tried to look as harmless as possible. No one wants to pick up some dirty hippie that they suspect might be carrying as many sheets of LSD as there are pages in the bible.
20 minutes. Boom. “Get in the car. It’s on my way.”
The journey’s conversation was conducted mainly in German. My couchsurf buddy took on the role of the friendly communicator and all I did was continue looking like a harmless little kitten while staring out into the vast open fields and massive forests along the way.
The kind stranger dropped us off at a gas station along the Autobahn. And here, the festival had already begun.
Standing in the crowded parking lot were hippie vans that miraculously survived the psychedelic 60s, sparkling new Audis that were filled to the brim with backpacks, tents and bananas, and a few rented cars that looked used and abused.
“Great, let’s go speak to everyone and ask if they have spaces in their vehicles.”
We were fucking kidding each other. Why would anyone in the right frame of mind throw away 20 bunches of festival bananas just to accommodate a random hitchhiker?
Not like we had a choice. We were out in the middle of nowhere. There might even be wolves hiding behind the bush I just peed at.
And it was interesting trying to judge who was nice and who wasn’t. “No, this dude looks like he works in a bank.” “No, not this one either. See? He’s wearing a Fred Perry polo tee.” “This girl? You’re shitting me. She has a Louis Vuitton bag.”
Amongst the nice festival folks, we could tell from their faces that they would take us if they had even an ounce of space in their cars. But they needed their bananas.
After much hustling and even a moderate amount of flirting and flashing my non-existent man tits, we decided to split up and got into a car each.
The moment I got into the festival-mobile, I fished out 2 beers from my stash and inappropriately offered my driver and his navigator girlfriend a drink. Being a good German citizen, the driver politely declined. Too bad for him. The co-driver and I then started to get drunk on the cheap Bavarian supermarket canned beers.
The whole hitchhiking thing. It’s wonderful isn’t it? It’s all about helping strangers unconditionally (though I wouldn’t be surprised some of them might try asking for a highway high-speed blowjob), trusting your fellow human beings, and generally making the world a little nicer.
And only cool people pick other people up. Well, except the ones that try to ask for something else, or those who simply kill innocent hitchhikers and eat their intestines. But we were lucky this time.
The little car meandered through the narrow streets of small towns littered with quaint, family-owned shops that sold absolutely nothing. There were porcelain shops that seemed to have closed down long ago, furniture stores that only sold hand-crafted wooden table legs, and I was pretty sure we would stumble upon a specialised butcher that sold only the skin found in between the right upper inner thigh of virgin bulls.
It was like travelling through time to 19th century East Germany, where things were a lot simpler, and a period where raves took the form of tea parties and grandma’s cookies.
It took us a little more than 2 hours, and a whole lot of beers, to get to the vehicle entrance of the festival. And that’s when the security dude reminded me that I didn’t have a ticket.
The Ninja – Meeting Other Sneaky Bastards and Surviving Vicious Electric Fences
I bid a sweet goodbye to my road saviours and embarked on the remaining part of the journey. On foot.
And this was the first time I actually thought that beer was heavy. I tottered along the roadside and came across a few other stragglers. They were, too, without tickets, and WHAT THE FUCK?
One of them was carrying a 24-pack carton of 1.5 litre carbonated mineral water. It’s good to drink water, but hey, they’ve got taps and shit here you know? I offered my help while trying hard not to laugh at their over-preparedness.
That’s when we discovered it. The miraculous gap in the fence.
Hidden behind some scrubs and carelessly left alone, the gap was large enough for 4 cows to walk through, shoulder to shoulder. This was too good to be true.
“But fuck it. Let’s see where the route takes us.”
My beautiful Asian legs were getting slashed mercilessly by thorny bushes and I was cursing in my head at the 12 bottles of Saskia I was carrying for the strangers. I distracted myself from the piercing pain by imagining a group of bright pink unicorns having an intense discussion about Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And we ventured on.
As we emerged from the thick vegetation, we could clearly see the festival grounds some 500 m away from us. But there was one thing separating us from our party.
An extremely evil-looking electric fence.
Whether it was erected to keep animals in or freeloading fence jumpers out, it definitely worked in striking a ridiculous amount of irrational fear into our feeble hearts.
I’ve seen enough Looney Tunes cartoons to know that if you touch an electric fence, you will shake uncontrollably, turn black, and people could see your skeleton from outside your skin.
Was this where we die? I hadn’t even called my parents to tell them I love them. Would I turn up in the headlines of the local newspaper the next day? “Festival fence jumper risked life to get to party. And died.”
We threw our backpacks over the fence and climbed under it. Sparks flew wildly as my thick sweater brushed against the livewire. If god exists, or Shiva, or the Spaghetti Monster, he’d better be looking out for me. Ok look. It wasn’t that dramatic. We simply climbed under the wire. No sparks. No crazy shit.
Shortly after my ordeal, my friend came to the main entrance to pass me my ticket and I finally got my wristband.
Malmörk in Wonderland – Your Acid Trip on Acid
Depending on your level of imagination, the mindscapes that can be created with the human brain can consist of the most ridiculous, yet wondrous creatures, arenas, playgrounds and dance floors.
Take that universe, supercharge it with nuclear power, feed it 2 litres of pure Hoffman potion, boil that shit in unicorn pee for 5 hours, let it cool a little, and then lace it with a swimming pool full of Redbull and Masala Chai. Finish with a sprinkle of sparkly, transparent pixie dust.
Ok, welcome to Fusion Festival.
An old airport has been ‘Fushioned’ and turned into a massive wonderland for people of all creeds, colours and cultures. I mean, 80% of them were Germans, but yea.
Hangars had been transformed into full-power dance clubs, concert halls, circuses, theatres and cinemas. A stage was not just a stage, it was like stepping into another universe – a magical realm specially created to enhance your experience of the music, to amplify your enjoyment of the performances, and to push every sensation in your mind, body and soul into the ultimate overdrive.
Whatever your creativity could conjure, someone had built it at Fusion. And of course, plus all sorts of whimsical insanity that our limited human minds could not even fathom.
Camping grounds were squeezed with colourful explorer tents that were decorated with Tibetan prayer flags, feathers and neon paint. Some had even turned their sleeping areas into full-on temporary hippie palaces complete with kitchens, couches, living rooms and hammocks. These were the high rollers of enjoyment.
My humble tent, even in its full glory, looked like an old plastic bag compared to these fortified mansions.
I was ushered around by my personal Fusion Festival guide, Becky Fuchs, whom I was sharing the tent with. At the tender age of 22, she is already a Fusion veteran, and she knows the different arenas like the back of her hand.
“Here’s the supermarket, where you can buy whatever the fuck you can buy at a supermarket. Except that it’s not really like a supermarket.” Ok, sounds pretty legit.
“And here’s Bassline Circus. Imagine your dirtiest dubstep and hardest drum and bass, combined with the spectacular ambience of a circus.”
“On this hill, you can see the Fusion Rocket. It crashed here 20 years ago. Climb on up and you’ll have a breathtaking view of the entire festival ground.”
“And on your left now…”
Omfg. Stop! Too much information. Too many adjustments for my mind to make. I needed some time to wrap my head around the fact that I wasn’t in the real world anymore, and yet come to terms with the fact that the wonderland is right there, fucking real, in front of my eyes.
Hear the Fire Roar – The Most Unexpected Musical Instrument
Fusion Festival in the day was nothing short of magical. But when night fell, everything turned neon, every light started flashing and swaying, and the enchantment was cranked up a few million notches.
The main street was lit with flamethrowers that blew fire phoenixes into the air one after another. The orange heat illuminated painted faces of shamans, clowns, wizards, walking statues, hysterical storybook characters and crazy hippies. Despite sticking 8,000 bindies and 2 kg of glitter on my face, I considered myself a mild exhibit in this fantasyland where everything was out of control.
For 5 days, you were whoever you wanted to be. You could spend all your time naked, or in a fully decorated and armoured elephant suit. Be whatever. It was your performance. It was your release. It was your fetish. Just, be.
As I was wandering the streets and acting pretty, I suddenly felt a giant burst of intense heat roar in my ear.
And there it was, standing like a freakish abandoned refinery was this giant structure consisting of twisted pipes and weird looking tubes. That was the culprit to my little shock. Made out of recycled corrugated metal, it looked like a contemporary installation art brought straight from the Tate. Just a little more hardcore.
This crazy monster was spewing out killer flames into the dark, night sky. And with every burst, the sound it emitted was even more ferocious than the blue-green inferno. Pipe after pipe after pipe, the blazes screamed like angry dragons and together, they formed a spectacular chorus of raw passion and hellish temperatures.
It was a musical instrument of a titanic scale, created by Satan himself. Who else could have thought of that?
It’s not everyday that you use a fucking flamethrower and decide to make music with 200 of these. I was dumbfounded. The amazing steampunk rusty machine didn’t just blow fiery tunes into the air, it blew my mind.
I was careful not to stand too close. It would be a disaster if my shampoo-commercial hair got incinerated. Some beauty is better perceived from a distance.
The Trancefloor – Hippies, Teeth-grinders and Drunk Ravers Unite
Breakfast the next morning consisted of some factory-grade manufactured potato chips, a few shots of Fireball cinnamon liquor, and a few cans of beer. Mmm… breakfast for champions.
You see, it took me a while to venture out to the endless rows of food stalls selling only vegan and vegetarian delicacies. The tent was just… too comfortable. Even the briyanis, pakoras, baked potatoes, steaming hot pastas, pizzas and fried rice could not tempt me.
Today was a special day. There was only one thing on my mind: the Trance Floor was opening. Throughout the entire day, I kept walking past it and saw that it was still in its final stages of construction, and realisation. I could make out a giant neon tree constructed out of other trees and some sort of a lava lamp of epic proportions. The stage, too, was built out of huge logs and planks. It looked extremely tribal.
And of course the Trance Floor had to look tribal. When all of us would be dancing like wild children under the powerful Tree of Life, you’ll see why we’re all from one tribe. Ok, hippie talk. But it fucking makes sense. Right?
3pm. Sound check. Full volume. The dance floor was still barricaded. But I couldn’t care less. I joined the impatient early birds beside the chai stall and started to do my thing – digging my feet into the ground, spreading my arms to touch the cosmic sounds, and letting my heart beat to the heavy pounds.
If there had to be one floor that catered to the teeth-grinders and true astronauts of space travel, this was it. No other genre of music can drum so much might and power into an influenced mind, yet at the same time launch you into an upward or downward spiral around the outskirts of the galaxy.
The sun was beating down on our backs as we trampled the grass according to the decree of the beats. I forgot about the chai stall, I forgot about the festival, I forgot who I was, I forgot everything, yet at the same time felt so present and at one with the entire universe and my own being. I was flying through the wonders of the world, feeling the wind on my face as I cruised in the air around the pyramids of Egypt, the leaning tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China… And then the music stopped.
It was another 8 more hours before the floor opened. I should just go take a nap. Or drink. Or hunt around for other cosmonauts to prepare our space shuttle for the long journey ahead.
Dalai Lucy Space Express – The Buddha with Kaleidoscope Eyes
Fusion Festival’s concept on controlled substances is very responsible and sensible. You see, these experience enhancers are definitely ever-present in festivals and parties. No matter how well you control them, they’ll find a way of sneaking in through rabbit holes, wormholes and even assholes.
And instead of putting an illegal stamp on these substances and banning them, the festival organisers have adopted a tolerant and safety-first stance. Instead of scaring festivalgoers, they have chosen to equip them with robust knowledge and give them medical and spiritual assistance in cases of over-consumption or in some instances, bad pills.
Sweden, watch and learn.
At this juncture, Buddha Mag would like to declare that we do not condone or encourage the use of drugs. And we do not consume these substances. But of course, if you’re a user of these wondrous, mind-expanding, consciousness-heightening gifts from the divine, we kindly advise that you enjoy them responsibly.
Now back to the festival.
As I was walking slowly away from the yet-to-be-opened trance floor, I bumped into this incredibly enchanting lady. As she stared into my eyes, I saw a twinkle as bright as a million stars, and it felt as if she was witnessing the very core of my soul. She didn’t talk much, she just gently took my hands in hers, and I instantly felt a surge of overwhelming emotions, and an intensely deep connection with her. It felt like I’ve known her forever.
And when she finally opened her mouth to utter her first sacred words to me, all she said was, “My name is Lucy”.
I took her back to my tent, and I let her read my mind. I remember it was 6pm, the gods were watering the earth and it rained lightly. I lay down with her and we looked up into the ceiling of my tent, watching the droplets trickle down gently and smoothly. Lucy told me to listen carefully and that was when I heard music. Every drop of rain was a note, a beat, an entire orchestra.
Was I witnessing the simple, yet profound beauty of nature? Or was I just smitten by Lucy? Was I falling in love? Or was it a mere fleeting passion?
The butterflies in my stomach escaped from the confines of my physical body and fluttered into my tent. As I tried to catch them, Lucy embraced me tightly and put my head on her thigh. Her touch on my skin felt as comforting as a mother’s kiss, as enlightening as Dalai Lama’s teachings, as liberating as launching myself into hyperspace, yet as poisonous as the serpent’s apple.
I fixated my eyes on the grey-blue evening skies, the clouds drifted and morphed into strange shapes, and my entire sight burst into a million colourful crystals, forming a kaleidoscope of reggae beats, tribal drums, trumpets, neon lights and the sweet smell of incense. And love.
We listened to the classics on my iPod together and she told me stories of Syd Barrett’s demise, interpreted Pink Floyd’s genius lyrics to me, and recreated an epic saga of a battle between the forces of light and darkness with golden horses, fire-breathing dragons, giant spiders that screamed fear into their enemies, a Gandalf-lookalike and the almighty Queen of Darkness.
Lucy took me on an exciting adventure, an arresting journey through space and time, and a glamourous party with celestial beings.
And it all happened within the confines of my little, slightly leaking tent.
We must have hugged each other and did nothing for 6 hours before we decided to make our way to the long-awaited Trance Floor.
The lights came alive and shone straight into our brains. The floor was packed, with little space to move and breathe. We joined hands, and hearts, with the ravers. And we danced anyway, bumping into everyone and everything. The concept of personal space disappeared and all we felt was union.
The crowd was plucked straight out from a futuristic fantasy movie. Young hipsters violently punching their fists in the air and grinding the living daylights out of their teeth, weird part-time gurus exhibiting new dance disciplines combining Kama Sutra, Yoga and popping and locking, innocent looking little girls who have lost their minds to alcohol, and sweaty gothic princes and princesses in their penguin suits and frilly Victorian dresses.
The music was hard and the loudest I’ve ever heard in my life. And the bass didn’t just hit straight into our lungs and organs, it went right through us, as if we were insignificant beings that stood in its path of world domination. Before I knew it, the sun had been out for the past few hours, my legs were giving way, my shoulders were sore, and my face paint had washed away with my sweat.
And Lucy was gone.
Balkan Beats, Riot Grrrrls, Sugarman, Dancehall and Trance that Sounded Exactly the Same
I woke up with a sweet taste of raspberries and cinnamon in my mouth, sweating from the heat, and dazed from my vivid dreams of flying turtles and machinegun-wielding watermelons. I put on my Friday set of face paint and reminisced about my little romantic rendezvous with the female Buddha.
As I stepped out of my tent, I was overwhelmed by my own stupid costume. I was The Shaman. And I got a little carried away playing that role, walking around the tent in circles and chanting lines from Infected Mushroom’s “Cities of the Future”. I even went so far as to sprinkle the ground with leftover beer and blessing it with goodness and fertility. Crazy Asian dude. And the weirdest thing was, no one even found that weird. We were at a festival, remember?
“Let’s not drink too much today. But let’s have 2 shots of Fireball before breakfast.”
We walked around the gigantic festival grounds and marveled at the expansiveness of the entire construction and concept. We watched poi players and jugglers flow with their toys like they were an extension of their own limbs. We watched a movie about the conflicting issues of Israeli raves and Palestinian protests. We took off our clothes as we jumped maniacally to live Balkan power. We let our inner girls out and boogied our hips to Russian riot grrrl ye-ye rock. We nodded off while mesmerising ourselves with Searching for Sugarman in the cinema. And after that, we grooved to the addictive basslines of dancehall and reggae.
Time flies like an arrow like fruit flies like a banana. It was 5 in the morning and I was strolling along the Mount Everests, K2s, and Kilimanjaros of empty bottles, cups, plastic bags, broken glass and breathing in the fresh morning air, adorned by the natural odours of carelessly released bodily fluids and defecation.
“Let’s hit the Trance Floor and use up our last ounce of energy.”
Boom boom boom. Pew pew pew pew. Then build-up. Pew pew. Then Boom boom boom pew pew and boom boom again.
What the fuck. This sounded exactly like last night. Or it had sounded extremely similar for the past 48 hours. It was fast and furious and relentless. Even the faces of the sleepless ravers started to look all too familiar. It was full-on psytrance and it didn’t quite fit the bright, golden sunrise that marked the beginning of a new day, and the widely anticipated clear skies.
I needed something uplifting, something hopeful. Not doomsday space warfare soundtracks.
But yea, I was still stuck there for 3 hours. The droning bass and powdered noses of the teenagers was strangely relaxing. It made me feel like the wisest person and the most clear-minded being amongst their locked jaws and huge pupils.
It made me think about my parties, and my life. And it made me reflect on the balance between the psychedelic universe and the corporate advertising world that I have been immersed in. I suddenly felt a pang of unwarranted sadness and guilt over nothing, blended with a warm comfort of self-assurance and security.
Just then, an old saying came surging into my head. I could see the words being punched, letter-by-letter, by a 1964 Remington typewriter, and scrolling from left to right above the DJ’s console:
“Wherever you go in your head, however hard you party, remember: Your trip is like a kite. You can fly however high you want, or stay as close to the ground as you desire. But always be sure to hold on to the string, the string of reality.”
I smiled. And I went to have a cup of steaming hot Masala Chai before drifting back to the tent to drift off into dreamland once again.
Catching the Train – Or Catching Myself not Really Giving a Shit about Catching the Train
It was Sunday. I packed up my backpack and gathered my mind and prepared to go back to Sweden. I didn’t know how I was gonna get to the train station. But I knew that I’d get there. If I had to ride a flying pig, I would.
I bid goodbye to my stoned-face companions and gave them my most sincere blessings. No time for food. No time to queue up for the shuttle buses. No time to look for Lucy, I couldn’t take her back to Sweden anyway, she didn’t have the right papers.
It didn’t take too long before we jumped into another kind couple’s Volkswagon. We’re fucking cheap bastards, and we love it.
As we cruised at 120 km/h back to our everyday lives, I couldn’t help but wish that the world could be more like a festival and life could be more like a party.
The sharing, the caring, the lack of insecurity, the bonding between strangers, the unconditional smiles, the uninhibited dancing. Let’s all live everyday like that, shall we?
At least I know I would.
And I missed my train.