A mind-altering journey into the heart of something called Bicycle Day
I don’t know where I am, but I know I’ve never been here before. This place is all blacklight and beats and bodies heaving against one another. It’s 3:07am when I hear someone say “Do it”, then turn to see a guy with thick long dreadlocks struggling to light what appears to be a very large joint sticking out of his left nostril. Ordinarily I would be at home asleep listening to the static purr of the baby monitor, but instead I’m in an anteroom at the Railway Hotel in Brunswick, researching something called Bicycle Day.
The guy next to me in the Mad Hatter outfit hasn’t heard of it before. I ask the girl dressed as the Dormouse what it means, and she smiles and gives me a hug. In the corner I think I spy Chet Faker wearing a kilt, but probably not. What the hell is Bicycle Day?
Jason explains. Jason wears a man-bun, a headband and a scarf he assures me is quite soft. He tells me he took some acid a little while ago. One drop. I don’t really know how much that is or what that means, but he says it was enough to distort and enhance his peripheral vision, and give him some “perspective” on life.
“It gives you an extra ‘woo’,” he says. “But any more than that, and you’d want to be home under a doona with your friends.”
Despite the woo-factor – or perhaps because of it – Jason offers a strikingly concise explanation of Bicycle Day.
Apparently 72 years ago a Swiss chemist named Albert Hoffman ate a compound derived from a fungus, and as he rode his bicycle home he experienced the transcendental effects of lysergic acid diethylamide, otherwise known as LSD. What Jason doesn’t mention is that the date in question – April 19, 1943 – has come to mark the birth of western psychedelic culture, nor that Hoffman was one in a long and continuing line of researchers who believe in medical research that might unlock the potential of the drug – research that is often stymied by conservative regulations.
Sex Party MP Fiona Patten called on Friday for these regulations to be relaxed, so that Australian doctors might add to a body of research examining potential treatments for conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Jason finds this interesting. He knows that despite the ravaging and demonstrable effects of alcohol and tobacco, people pass much stronger judgments on drugs such as LSD.
People don’t get it, he points out. A few minutes after we speak he even asks to retract his statement, until I explain that I’m only here to observe and understand. No judgment. “That’s cool man,” he says, wrapping his arms around me. “I just needed to know there was a soul behind those eyes.”
He is not the only person in this frame of mind tonight. This 12-hour party is lively and pleasant. There’s no Jefferson Airplane darkness or Timothy Leary weirdness, except maybe that guy over there dressed as cow. He looks unsettling. Perhaps the only organised advocate for Bicycle Day is backstage.
This event was put on by a group called Contact High, but it turns out Contact High is actually just one man. His name is Dean “Rayman” Lester, and he is a DJ determined to put his own stamp on the “psy-trance” genre of dance music. Although sober tonight, he said he decided to organise the party to emulate the positive energy at outdoor raves known as “bush doofs”, and says he owes much of his record spinning style to LSD.
“It’s inspiring. Gives me goose bumps,” he said. “It’s like having an antenna – reception to what is really going on.”
This story first appeared in The Saturday Age on April 19, 2015. (Konrad would still rather be home in bed.)