Night Crawler

We decide to camp just over the hill.
The heat of the day starts at dawn and the lake feels like bath water. Fortified, I head over to Libertatia where most of the camp is still sleeping it off or wiping slumber from their eyes and lighting morning cigarettes. A few teenage girls with multihued hair stand in the lake drinking beer, waiting for the first band to start playing, but Libertatia wakes up slowly. John Geek, or John Mink as his mother likes to call him, brushes his teeth under the shade of a tree before going over to check out the morning mush. "This is thoroughly ridiculous, isn't it?" says Mink with an unassuming, good-natured smile. "Being out here for an entire week with a hundred bands. By the end of it, we should be mentally deranged and hallucinating."

Mink is the "King" of the Geeks -- a loose amalgamation of punk kids with a penchant for Dungeons & Dragons and live-action role-playing games like Amtgard. He has dedicated all his free time to offering music to kids in culturally deprived locations -- like his hometown of El Sabronte. His booking policy is simple: If you want to play, you can. It doesn't matter if you're good; it's not a moneymaker, it's an outlet for young musicians and fans. Libertatia is his three-year anniversary and farewell.

"Maybe, I'm getting too old for this," says the 24-year-old, with the sympathetic air of a Dungeon Master. "I need a life again. But there are enough other people involved. Geekfest will carry on without me."

Punks between the age of 16 and 24 with names like Yogi, Scary Mike, and Roberto Eggplantia slide into the lake as Mink announces the first band of the day. The music is loud and fast, and only occasionally good, but on the lake, with enough beer in you, singing "Let's kill all the people we hate" or "I'm shitting blood" is enjoyable as hell.

Throughout the day, people run into friends from back home -- Cincinnati, San Diego, Reno. They share beer, river rafts, and stories. They play with their dogs (Monsterface and Barnacle) and giggle over the previous night's late-night movies (vintage dog porn and Evil Dead). A 20-year-old mohawkan named Pubby Applemaggot pushes his keg into the water to keep it cool, and sits on it most of the day, watching the bands and dangling his boots in the muck.

Nineteen-year-old Brad Rollander strings green rubber snakes through his hair, covers his face in electric blue war paint, and attacks another Amtgard player with a foam battle-ax (it's only the first of many costume changes and clashes for Rollander). Dylan McPuke -- head of foam-sword warfare -- collects treasure donations for the scavenger hunt: cigarettes, beer, pot, canned fruit, whistles, mushrooms, baby food. He hides the "treasure chest" on Rattlesnake Island and turns the map over to Marcus da Anarchist, captain of the Pirate Punx. For the most part, the Pirate Punx stay in their camp at the far end of Libertatia, until dusk. They are a harder bunch -- more leather, tattoos, piercings, facial hair, and muscle development -- but their language is also sprinkled with D&D references like "orc club" and "shambling mound" and there seems to be no end to their sense of virtue: They all keep their dogs on very short leashes; they pick up plastic bags floating on the lake; they ask before borrowing other people's floaty toys; and they share their booty.

Da Anarchist was born and raised in San Francisco by parents who also organized free music for their peers.

"Music brings people together," says Da Anarchist from behind an intricately braided black beard and a large silver nose ring. "It's part of our nature and should be free for everyone. It shouldn't be restricted. On that, the Geeks and the Pirates completely agree."

As night falls, gruel is served -- quite a tasty improvement, I'm told, over the previous year's chow, prepared by chefs on hallucinogens -- and the last of the bands perform. Mink announces a dating game, but since the prize is booze, nearly all the volunteers are men. It's funny anyway. The Geeks hold an old-school hip-hop dance party. The Pirates discover someone has looted the treasure chest, leaving only empty beer cans and cigarette packs for the diligent scavengers who were playing by the rules. Da Anarchist is not pleased. (The night before, he was forced to expel a group from Libertatia for stealing from within the encampment.)

More bands play. Folks get drunk and pass out with their boots in the lake. Lazy, beer-filled days roll into lazy, beer-filled nights. And so on. As Saturday approaches, weekend warriors with simple synapses and Jet Skis move in on my side of the lake. They wake at dawn, roaring back and forth, back and forth, over and over again, spilling gasoline into the lake and shouting, "Yahoo!" They are relentless. They listen to bad reggae music. I realize "Kamp Krusty" (as Mink's roommate Stephanie Culhane coined it) is more peaceful. At least they stop amplified sound before 2 in the morning, wake slowly, and pick up each other's trash.

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