The ticket to hell costs 480 ARS, about 30 EUR, and is issued by a grumpy woman with glasses in a neon lit cubicle. It’s 3:50am and the cashier looks like she would rather be in bed. In the background, music is pumping. We scan the tickets at the gates, and enter Time Warp, an electronic music festival. A couple of metres behind the barriers we’re hit by the smells of purgatory as sweaty bodies welcome us in their midst. A potpourri of odors envelops us - armpits, feet, crotches, damp clothes, energy drinks, alcohol. Cigarette smoke and air that has been breathed a thousand times over. All glazed with a thin layer of diarrhea. Some of the mood enhancers circulating in the crowd seem to have stimulated a couple digestive tract.
As we enter the hall, the air gets thicker and the music louder. It is difficult to see - the place is dark, and pale faces wearing sunglasses are only illuminated by strobing lights as we try to make our way towards the front. A thumping beat pushes us forward. We squeeze through the crowd and climb over clothes and backpacks stacked up to small obstacle islands on the slimey floor. Bodies bump into us, twitching and jerking in sync with the music. Two minutes in, and I’m covered head to toe in the sweat of other people. I depend on my Argentinian friend Ezequiel to drag me forward through the crowd. At some point, I can’t see where we’re coming from and where we’re going.
Past a couple of topless men massaging each other, we reach a corner of the giant hall where people are not stacked on top of each other. There is a bit of space and a more room to breathe. By sheer luck, we manage to find Ezequiel’s friends. They have been here for hours and are still going strong. Suddenly, the rhythm of the music changes and the crowd roars. Denise leans over to me and screams, “Loco Dice is playing”. All around us, people are dancing like crazy, grinding, half-naked, eyes closed. The energy is palpable. You have to go with the flow, or drown in the sensory overload. I don’t think i’ve been at a festival this intense before, and I’ve been to a few. The atmosphere is fierce, almost scary, but also fascinating. “We don’t get a lot of electronic music here in Buenos Aires. If we do, we go mental.” She twirls a lollipop in her mouth. “Want one?” “No thanks,” I shake my head.
As I fall into a rhythm myself, the girl next to me leans over. “Just let go, let it flow”. She waves her Garmin wristband in front of my eyes. “It’s a great workout! I’ve done my daily goal in steps three times over, since midnight! 27,000 steps”. Dum dum dum dummm, dum dum dum dumm. Moving in time with the music, she throws her hands towards the ceiling, head nodding, hair flying. A Garmin, at this primal event? Somehow, I find the juxtaposition amusing. I let my gaze wander across the crowd. There are lots of glistening bodies caught in time, repeating the same movement over and over. Smiles, seemingly frozen, illuminated by the laser show. One guy is doubled over; his friends, while continuing to dance, pour water down his neck. A few seconds later, he is back up, back on the beat, grinning. He chugs the rest of the water. The whole huge hall, I notice, is littered by flattened plastic water bottles. Hardly anyone is drinking alcohol. The only mixer available at the bar, “Speed”, is aptly named, considering that everyone around me seems to be on the pill of the same name. Or on MDMA, or cocaine, or a mix of all three.
By now it’s 6:30am, and I have to check out of my hostel in three hours. The air that fills the hall is devoid of any oxygen. The porta potties are in a state that’s beyond describable. When I can’t avoid it anymore, I squint my eyes, hold my breath and step into a puddle of puke that covers the plastic floor of the toilet. I make it out of there as quickly as possible. We decide to head home. The crowd is still throbbing, and our group forms a human caterpillar to move through the masses. We emerge, sticky and foul smelling. I follow the others to a huge parking deck; to my surprise, people are getting into cars and driving away. After partying 9 hours straight. “Yeah, there are no cabs and no busses,” my friend explains. “We’re lucky to hitch a ride”.
The next morning, I’m in a cab on my way to the airport when Facebook lights up. A new message. Ezequiel has sent me an link. “Cinco jóvenes murieron en una fiesta electrónica en Costa Salguero,” five people died last night. Most likely of drugs. Two of them were only discovered when the festival was evacuated - probably shortly after we left. I’m reminded of the awful smell that greeted us when we entered the first hall. One of people overdoing it, of losing control - of themselves, and their bodies. Maybe I had a sense of foreboding. Maybe I’m only imagining it, in retrospect.
I check Google, another headline pops up. “Five People Dead At Time Warp Argentina In Buenos Aires — Some Attendees Still Call It A ‘Great Night’” titles an online news outlet, while the BBC's note is a bit drier. Driving through the grey city, I watch a lone raindrop rolling down the window, and contemplate the article. It was certainly an intense night, different somehow. One could sense the energy, very raw, very real, contained by the music in positive space, but on the cusp of switching over to something darker. Something bad. I could feel it, and it gave me a tingling of the spine. Maybe some people probably thrive on that. I close my eyes, briefly, and see myself on the dance floor, in that sea of people. I can’t see an exit. I’m glad the switch wasn’t flicked.