The 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.”
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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.