TELLURIDE – Rumor has it there will be lava lamps and soft lighting, stuffed animals, cartoons and possibly, if the vibe is just right, a chance to play Twister.
No, it’s not the recreation of an Austin Powers-style shag pad in Town Park, but Telluride’s first ever “trip tent” making its debut at the Phish shows next Monday and Tuesday nights.
Planned as a friendly, chill sanctuary from the concert fray, the trip tent is going to be a pretty cool place to hang out. Maybe even the coolest place to be seen during the two-night gig, like some velvet-roped V.I.P. room in a trendy L.A. nightclub.
Actually, though, the inspiration for the trip tent isn’t that glamorous. It’s really just a pragmatic attempt by the community to minimize the expected drain on its limited medical and law enforcement resources in the wake of the arrival of 9,000 Phishheads with a reputation for rampant drug use, no offense.
A partitioned-off section of the medical tent normally set up at Telluride’s large-scale events like the Bluegrass and Blues and Brews festivals (though at 40-feet by 30-feet it’s three times larger than the usual 20-feet by 20-feet dimensions) the trip tent will offer tranquility and good juju to people whose highs have gone awry, but who aren’t in any immediate danger requiring medical intervention, and pose little threat to anyone but themselves.
“They’re people that don’t necessarily need formal medical services and they don’t need law enforcement, but they need someone to watch out for them,” said Diana Koelliker, MD, Medical Director of Emergency Services at the Telluride Medical Center.
Koelliker said that among the band’s other summer tour stops, the one other location that set up a trip tent saw drastically fewer emergency medical and law enforcement responses compared to other venues.
The idea is that concerned friends who recognize that someone’s trip may be heading nowhere good will bring them by the white tent marked with a red cross near the back of the festival grounds, where first responders can check their vital signs and make sure they’re in no imminent medical danger.
Two “phan” psychiatrists have also volunteered to lend their professional expertise to the scene for one night each.
Ideal trip tent candidates are people who can still walk and talk but who aren’t thinking clearly and could benefit from increased observation in case they go on to experience a potentially life-threatening medical or psychologically damaging event.
The hope then is that the attending friend will then stick around to add a familiar face and support to the scene.
On any other night in Telluride someone found tripping would likely ride it out in the Telluride Medical Center emergency department or in the San Miguel County Jail detox hold.
“In this case we’ve got to try to act as the go-between,” said Chief Paramedic Emil Sante.
“We’re letting people ride out whatever they’ve taken in a conducive place.”
Keep in mind, however, that the trip tent is located in Town Park and as such is only accessible to ticketed concertgoers during concert hours.