Ian Harris ~ Forty-five miles south of Iowa City was expected to be the place to be during the last weekend of April. An estimated 300 people traveled everywhere from Arizona to New York to make it to the Midwest Annual Goa Experience.
The venue was beautiful. It was just outside the small, rural town of Peru, Iowa. There were ten acres of camping space circling a steep hill, where the two stages (psytrance and electronic dance) were set. The opening ceremony got the music pumping a little after 8:30 P.M. on Friday night. At almost the exact same time, the rain began to fall and it wouldn't quit until the wee hours of Monday morning.
After several hours of nonstop precipitation, the trails leading to the stages became mudslides. There really was no safe route to reach the music at that point, but people continued to climb. Unlike the weather, the music was to die for. The repetitive bass lines persuaded everyone to take their shoes off and dance in the woods and become one with nature.
The psytrance stage attracted somewhere around 80% of the crowd. There was a large fire between the two stages to accommodate the dropping temperatures. The decorations added to the overall effect of the goa experience. However, these were not circumstances anyone wanted to be caught camping in. The rain took over half of the tents as victims and a lot of people went home early just because the forecast said the weather was only going to get worse. Several people danced and screamed the night away, and in the morning, there was no sunrise to do yoga to, only more clouds and more rain.
Personally, I was very inspired by the crowd that never left the top of the hill. The fire dancers did their thing even in the pouring rain. Some people truly mastered the art of release as they left their tents and belongings behind to be flooded with water and invaded by ticks.
The second day the overall effect of the experience seemed to be lessened as more and more people packed up their things and headed for home. However, Saturday night was an admirable one. Even though the rain nearly prohibited the fire from burning, several hippies sat in a circle around the fire and sang songs. Many people, soaking wet and freezing cold, refused to stop dancing. It was, from an observer's point of view, something that can't be found in a typical sample of any population.
When Sunday morning came, the music started to die down along with the crowd and the mud was so thick there were literally dozens of shoes left in the mud with no one coming back for them.
Overall, I think that nothing went as it was planned to. There were supposed to be rituals being performed, but the rain refused to halt. Going along with that, I think the appeal to emotion was much unexpected as well. For those who stayed, it was worth the grueling conditions.