Hippie Crack: The Nitrous Oxide Mafia

5026157.28The Village Voice delves into the dark side of the jam band scene, profiling the “Nitrous Mafia” — a criminal gang that sells nitrous oxide-filled balloons to concertgoers at summer music festivals. Apparently, neo-bohemians can’t get enough of the addictive balloon huffing, casually known as “hippie crack.”

Every morning, the festival campgrounds are riddled with balloons, “like bullet shells on a battlefield,” says a fan. Unlike traditional drugs, which have long-lasting effects and can carry a fan through a concert, the high from N20 is cheap and quick. After that, it’s often back to the end of the tank line for another round. “It’s an instant rush of pure euphoria, but it only lasts for 30 seconds or a minute, and then you want it back,” says Justin Heller, a fan who owns his own biodiesel company. He no longer does balloons, but remembers the days of buying 15 in a row. “You don’t think about your money—you’re just like, ‘I want that again, I want that again, I want that again.’ ”

Throughout the year, the Nitrous Mafia travels from state to state, selling balloons at concert sites. The scene in Williamsburg is only a small preview of what happens in summer, when the outdoor festival season kicks into gear. During these campground events, which last two to four days, the Mafia, which is divided into two rings, based in Boston and Philadelphia, can burn through hundreds of nitrous tanks. With the ability to fill up to 350 balloons per tank, which they sell for $5 and $10, they can bank more than $300,000 per festival, minus expenses. Year after year, security guards at these events attempt to crack down on the illicit business, but, in most cases, they’re outmatched by a phalanx of menacing gas dealers who have little regard for unarmed concert personnel.

9 Comments on "Hippie Crack: The Nitrous Oxide Mafia"

  1. perniciousknid | Jul 21, 2010 at 12:52 pm |

    Ummm…yeah. Why is this news? I could have told you that 15 years ago. But it sure beats i-dosing…

  2. justagirl | Jul 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm |

    festival campgrounds riddled with nitrous oxide filled balloons(!)… directions please?

  3. Huh, just made me dizzy and squeaky voiced. Lame, do propper drugs.

  4. BigBeautyBoy | Jul 21, 2010 at 3:02 pm |

    Sniffing glue is cheaper…

  5. GoodDoktorBad | Jul 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm |

    Go suck a can of whipped cream……sucked -not shaken….. and tasty too!

    Great for dental surgery!!!

  6. Hadrian999 | Jul 22, 2010 at 3:05 am |

    we need to just stop caring if people use drugs,
    I say legalize everything and impose strict penalties for committing crimes
    while under the influence of drugs. If people want to self destruct, let em.
    If people can function and enjoy their drugs responsibly more power to them.
    Im sick of this regulating everything people can or can't do from the cradle to the grave.
    don't like it don't use drugs, don't want your kids using drugs raise them the way you want but don't expect to enforce your views on everyone else for the sake of your kids.
    wanna know why people don't like Americans, it's not our freedom or even arrogance it's because we've turned into a bunch of annoying irritating wannabe hall monitors that don't want anyone else to have the fun we're afraid of having ourselves.

  7. Anonymous | Jul 23, 2010 at 1:53 pm |

    Nitrous is fun but you need to get a grip on yourself if you do 15 in a row. That’s 100% stupid decision making, they aren’t addictive.

  8. Nitrous is fun but you need to get a grip on yourself if you do 15 in a row. That's 100% stupid decision making, they aren't addictive.

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