Boom Festival: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Surrender to Psytrance

A Beginners Guide to Entering the Hive of Stokedness with Android Jones

Photo by:  Jakob Kolar

Photo by: Jakob Kolar

I was standing on the shore of a lake in Portugal barefoot on a wet sandy dance floor in the center of a structure that looked like the inside of a psychedelic beetle. At my feet was a mound of empty water bottles and other sloppy belongings that had accumulated throughout the day, possibly throughout the whole week. As the sun set on the banks of Lake Idanha-a-Velha, the warm sunlight bore through the center of the stage like a thick, heavy laser. Bathed in the glow was Swiss psytrance DJ and producer Ajja, resplendent with long dreadlocks extending around him. My grimy toes gripped the floor as I danced and wiggled to the strange alien sounds that had always seemed cheesy to me from afar. Well, that isn’t entirely correct; it wasn’t so much that I was dancing. “You don’t actually dance to psytrance,” the visionary artist Android Jones had warned me, “psytrance dances you.” As the kinetic electronica rippled through my body I made eye contact with another rapturous trancer who smiled with glee, acknowledging our mutual stokedness. Android’s partner Martha leaned over to me and, with a mixture of guilt and pride, confessed, “I feel more accepted here than I do anywhere else… like in my entire life.” I laughed, my body kept moving. I noticed I was doing some sort of zany karate. I surrendered.

Hours earlier I was still trying to wrap my head around the appeal of psytrance. I’ve always loved people who love the genre but I’ve never understood the allure of the music itself. To me it had the vibe of cacophonous space insects like something out of Starship Troopers. I had traveled halfway around the globe to attend Boom , one of the world’s foremost psytrance events, and yet I still didn’t get it. On the last day of the festival after spending most of the week with the burners on Funky Beach, contemplating visionary art or attending mind-expanding workshops, I knew I was missing something. Chatting with Android, I shared my theory that psytrance must be intentionally off-putting to shield the event against less conscious partiers. “I think that psytrance is so weird, it keeps the weekend warriors away,” I theorized proudly. Android smiled and shook his head “Have you stepped through the veil and spent more than 45 minutes in center of the Dance Temple?” he inquired. I confessed that I couldn’t imagine doing so and furthermore the festival was almost over and I had interviews to do. “We’re going in fifteen minutes,” Android said, “come with us.”