On Tipper, Psilocybin, and Social Anxiety

I've been struggling lately with understanding whether or not I like actually like Tipper. Sometimes I think I prefer the unique, complementary live visuals created by visionary artists Johnathan Singer or Android Jones more than the music itself. I don’t want to say I have a love/hate relationship with Tipper, but I’ve definitely been feeling a little ambivalent.

I impulsively bought three-night tickets to Tipper’s Tippsgiving event at the King’s Theater in Brooklyn—the venue’s first electronic music event. I have this bad habit of buying way too many tickets to events to make sure that all of my friends have tickets out of fear that the event will sell out. The events rarely sell out, I end up being unable to attend, and then I end up selling the tickets under face value just to get rid of them. Luckily, this event sold out, so I had plenty of options. I just don’t understand why I was inclined to buy a three-day pass in the first place when I had no interest in attending the first night, which was “uptempo” night.

At his curated festivals and events, Tipper will label his sets as “uptempo” or “tip hop,” “downtempo,” or “ambient.” When he opened for Pretty Lights on his episodic tour, Tipper played “twilight" sets during the sunset, where the transforming sky substituted for his typical visual accompaniment. I had never seen a rare ambient set, but I had seen everything else, and I couldn’t help but feel that I was hearing the same songs and transitions at all of his sets. I was disappointed because I wanted to love Tipper but couldn’t relate to the hype. My friends kept insisting that I had to attend a curated event.

I hadn’t attended a curated event since Tipper’s last appearance in New York City at the PlayStation Theater right after New Year’s in 2015. I hate this venue. Besides the fact that it's located in the middle of Times Square, its weird, underground set-up makes me terrified to do drugs there. The only good thing about it was the security--I'm a big fan of metal detectors instead of elaborate groping. We only went to the downtempo night, and I remember feeling even then that it wasn’t truly downtempo. My ambivalence was cemented at a particularly underwhelming set at Lightning in a Bottle this year. I was over uptempo Tipper, but still had high expectations for the ambient set.

I took a gamble on a mushroom chocolate that I had bought in Dolores Park in San Francisco that was either an eighth or half of one, and there was only one way to find out. Luckily, it ended up being the latter, and this “microdose” made me comfortably introspective.

I spent a good part of the show making to-do lists, taking notes on things to bring up with my new somatic therapist and my manager at my new job, and reflecting on my social anxiety relapse over the course of the week. It was my first "extended" visit back to New York after my partner and I moved to San Francisco nearly a year and a half ago, and I completely over-extended myself by making plans with 20+ people in four locations that aren’t as easy to navigate between as you might think. I was shocked that my social anxiety manifested around the people that I am the most comfortable with. It usually happens around newer friends, where even if I look look calm on the outside, I am internally panicking about trying to come up with the next thing that I’m going to say to try to keep the conversation going. I’d take notes during conversations if I didn’t think it would make me look insane.

Anyway, this time my social anxiety manifested because I wanted everyone to feel like I valued their time and that they were important to me. After all, many of them had gone through the immense effort of flying across the country to visit me and my partner, and I felt compelled, if not obliged, to reciprocate the effort, and I was so worried about hurting people’s feelings.

I love mushrooms because I experience euphoria and clarity. The trip gave me a new perspective on my social anxiety. I remembered that in New York, I roll deep—I have relationships with so many people. Maybe it’s an ego thing, but my reputation as a friend is important to me. I don’t think I realized this until after I lost friends as a result of my own actions. This completely shook me, and I am terrified of this happening again. I learned the important lesson that my actions speak louder than words, and that my actions define me as a person and a friend. I am confident that I am a better friend now, but I wasn’t always an easy person to be friends with. In this case, I wanted my actions during my brief visit to reflect my affection and appreciation.

Not everyone understands my social anxiety, but I figured that if there was one person that would, it would be my friend Zach. On the last night of Lightning in a Bottle earlier this year, we had an indescribable bonding experience over our shared social experiences as geminis. If we do something awkward or experience a social miscue, we’ll think about it for years. We empathized with each other over past relationships, having our trust betrayed, and that feeling of trepidation when you start to tread the waters again where a bridge was broken but has the potential to be rebuilt. I had never bonded this way with anyone before. At the beginning of the weekend, we were mere acquaintances that shared mutual friends, but I literally describe him as my birthday brother now.

Anyway, at Tipper I expressed my social anxiety to him, and how I already had a list of people that I felt inclined to call and apologize to for not spending enough time with them. At Lightning in a Bottle, I feel like I was more of the sounding board, and at Tipper he reciprocated the favor by helping me realize that I was overthinking things and getting in my head too much.

For the record, I absolutely loved the ambient set, it was without a doubt the most unique Tipper set I had ever attended. My favorite part might have been the "psychedelic interludes" in between the openers. They felt like short films without a narrative. I felt like I was watching art that happened to be accompanied by music instead of the other way around. I also loved learning about their artist in residence, Hannah Yata.

Tipper actually reminded me of the thing that I miss the most about New York: the inimitable sensation of running into 30+ people at a show—a sensation that’s easy to forget when I feel isolated in San Francisco. I remember one of the first times I felt this sensation, and I wish I hadn’t took for granted the community I had in New York. A friend from college who works for a music representation company put me on the guest list with a plus one for Opiuo with his live band at Irving Plaza. Although I’m completely over his DJ sets, I highly recommend seeing Opiuo with his live band. He had a singer at this event, and recently played with an orchestra at Red Rocks. Anyway, I remember constantly running into people and linking up with at least three different crews, and feeling so happy. I miss the positive stress of rolling into a show with 11 people, meeting up with eight more, and trying to save seats for everyone.

To be honest, the values of Thanksgiving resonated with me more on Tippsgiving than it did on the actual holiday (but don't get me wrong, I loved spending time with my partner's family). I hate most American holidays, and I usually claim that Thanksgiving is my least favorite. However, as much as I hate the food and the forced narrative, I can’t help but relish the opportunity to get together with family and friends that I barely get to see. I just love that a mutual appreciation for music was the impetus for bringing people from around the country together in one place for a shared experience. I have a small family, and the friends that I have made through this community are my extended family, and I think the way we have built strong friendships in such a short period of time due to shared emotional experiences through music is rather unique.

I’ve been reading non-fiction more than ever this year (usually my go-to is sci-fi and fantasy), and my most recent read was Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages.” Chapman suggests that people communicate love in five different ways: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. In my relationship, I’m fairly certain that my language is a combination of acts of service and quality time. If you can get over the underlying Christian agenda, Chapman addresses some fundamental issues in relationships, and its rather insipid language makes for a quick and easy read.

During Tipper, I began to wonder whether there might be a sixth love language: friendship. While you could make the argument that friendship falls under the quality time category, I have to imagine that there are different love languages for platonic relationships than there are for intimate ones (with some crossover, I’m sure). Chapman often used the metaphor of a “love tank” when describing how unhappy relationships might be fixed by recognizing and intentionally speaking a partner’s love language. Although my weekend was anything but relaxing, I realized during the show that my proverbial love tank felt full, and I always feel this way after spending a weekend attending a music event with these people. I felt the same way after Bassnectar in San Francisco, Pretty Lights at Red Rocks, and Lightning in a Bottle (I literally smiled for two weeks straight). This isn’t to say that my partner doesn’t fill my love tank, but rather that my platonic love tank is comparatively lacking in San Francisco. At the very least, these experiences give me something to look forward to and punctuate my years with opportunities for reflection and unprecedented emotional growth.