Words || Amy Hadley
I don’t like dirt. I don’t like camping. I don’t particularly like the bush. For the sake of good music, new experiences and an honest article, I have recently braved my first bush doof.
I’ve never witnessed a scene more quintessentially Australian than seeing a bloke in the bush laugh to his friend and yell, “Mate, you’re c*nt eyed!” Without a shadow of a doubt, I knew that the friend he was talking to was profusely sweating, pupils dilated and experiencing an amphetamine-induced euphoria. Welcome to Rabbits Eat Lettuce – a bush doof located somewhere between Casino (Northern New South Wales) and the middle of nowhere.
Bush doofs began in the nineties as as an anti-clubbing, pro-Earth, psychedelic getaway. They create temporary bush communities which celebrate the natural environment, positive experiences, and freedom of expression. The décor is a kaleidoscope of light shows and eclectic art installations. The music accommodates to practically every electronic niche you could imagine. All that attendees are expected to do is leave no trace and enjoy themselves without harming others. There’s an unfortunate minority of people at music festivals who aim to start fights, get laid in any capacity, or munch on pills until they make a disgrace of themselves. For whatever reason, this minority doesn’t seem to exist at bush doofs. Most noticeably, doofs bring together a strange cross section of society who are there to embrace the community, and experience what is pleasurable to them.
I came to Rabbits Eat Lettuce armed with my gal pal Bec. We are both well-versed in music festivals, yet neither of us had braved a bush doof. We were lured in by the promise of glamping tents, eclectic music, and the opportunity to wear body glitter all weekend. Funnily enough, the way that we made friends was through our love for everything glittery, iridescent, and holographic. I imagine that our sparkly aesthetic in all its glory was an absolute treat to view under the influence of substance. We revelled in creating glitter beards and adorning new buddies with rhinestones.
It’s tempting to liken Rabbits Eat Lettuce attendees to, “long haired lay-abouts high on the happy herbs” (quoted from Australia’s outback hero, Russell Coight). Admittedly, my initial judgements were along these lines. I shouldn’t have been so stunned to see such an enormous volume of crocheted bras and harem pants from Tree of Life. By the end of the first day, I coined a term for this segment of the population: ‘career level doofers’. They are the stall holders, workshop leaders, fire dancers, aerial performers, hobby DJs, and drug dealers. Above all, they are nomadic. If you ask a career level doofer where they are from, the most common answer was, “Nowhere in particular.” As an outsider to this world, it was unfathomable for me to imagine people eternally floating from one bush doof to another. However as the days passed, it became clear. Hell, I even contemplated starting my own roaming nail salon called Doofs & Hoofs.
Aside from career level doofers, the main doof population is comprised of metropolitan Australians like me. They are high achieving students, blue and white collar workers, and your estranged ‘probably took a lot of drugs in the seventies’ aunt or uncle. Sure, the bush isn’t a usual hangout from most urban adults, but it is a place to disconnect from the mundanities of everyday life. There was no mobile phone service, so Rabbits Eat Lettuce created the opportunity to drop off the grid for a few days. After only a few hours, I found total solace in the disconnection. This is perhaps what is most appealing to people who venture deep into the bush and away from their normal lives.
When falling down the hole which is Rabbits Eat Lettuce, I noticed that attendees enter a hedonistic state. In the bush, pleasure seeking comes in many forms – dancing until the sun rises, proudly wearing your birthday suit, or dropping as many tabs as your brain will allow. If you’re after a more mellow experience, you may find higher consciousness by being at one with a tree. You may want to learn a new skill. Free workshops such as yoga, tie dying, Japanese bondage and Shiatsu massage kept the masses feeling frisky all weekend long. No matter the time of day or night, doofers will let loose. As the sun sets, inhibitions became as irrelevant as your last shower. Under the cover of darkness, sexual conquests became less reserved, and the chances of accidentally stepping on a couple having sex on the dirt dramatically increased.
Now, let’s get to the important business. Between the three stages and bellowing sound systems there was absolutely no shortage of space. They were each set to blend seamlessly into the bush, and decorated to let your eyes feast on lights and lasers. When it came to the munchies, Rabbits Eat Lettuce provided the goods. The main marketplace offered foods to satisfy any craving – pizza, waffles, falafels, burgers, smoothies, Indian, and thankfully, delicious coffee. There was plenty of space to recline, relax and regroup before heading back to the dancefloor. If you were part of the minority who actually showered, a pleasant surprise awaited you. The cubicles were pretty clean and consistently had hot water! (Although, rumour has it that someone pooped in the men’s showers.) The only downfall was the very limited opening times of the shower block. I occasionally became desperate to clean up my act, so I resorted to the rinse-yourself-off-using-the-bathroom-sink option.
When the volunteer team for any event is comprised mainly of stoners, you’re going to encounter some problems with efficiency and organisation. Herein lies my first real criticism. The volunteers were friendly and approachable, but not proactive in resolving issues. When I had troubles with my ticket, it took a day to reach a resolution. When an ATM ate $50 of my friend’s money, the stock standard response from volunteers was, “Oh, that’s shit” and “Maybe go to the operations tent”. This was the festival version of the customer centre mantra, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Thankfully at the operations tent, the volunteers and organisers were far more receptive and able to provide assistance. I felt a particularly strong sense of sympathy towards an organiser who had to spend ten minutes cutting the wristband off a cretin who tied his on so tightly that his hand went blue.
After all the mischief and adventure of Rabbits Eat Lettuce, I was exhausted to my very core. Even in my state of sluggishness, I knew that I’d been converted. I really didn’t think the day would come where I would be pro-bush doof; I don’t like camping, dirt, or the bush. I will never be ready to become a career level doofer. However, I am certainly ready to start recruiting friends for next year’s edition of Rabbits Eat Lettuce, and for future bush doofs.
Thank you very much to the Rabbits Eat Lettuce team for inviting me to join the hippie-hoppity fun!