HIGH NOTES: People Share Their Favorite Music-Drug Pairings

Just as some wines are meant to be paired with certain cheeses and some shoes look perfect with particular outfits, some drugs go inexplicably well with certain kinds of music. Many report that drugs enhance their music-listening experience by drawing out the meaning of the song or helping them get lost in the sound. These effects are different but equally fascinating for everyone. To get an idea of the vast array of strange and compelling drug-induced musical experiences, I asked people for their favorite music-drug combinations. Here are some of their responses.

“When I was first getting to know who and what I wanted to be, I would drop acid occasionally to meditate on it. I would almost exclusively listen to the songs my dad and I would listen to on his old turntable: Joplin, anyone from the British Invasion, anyone who played at Woodstock. While I was tripping on acid and listening to an oldies soundtrack, I felt comfortable in the familiar while able to focus on the visions and creativity flashing before my eyes. I grew up reliving the ’60s through music, movies, and documentaries, so taking acid in that setting makes me feel so much deeper than just popping a tab, but really understanding where we, it, and everything came from. It’s a super therapeutic and connecting experience.” — Melissa, 25

“I smoke weed daily and usually run through full albums while enjoying it, often ones I’ve heard hundreds of times. Top of the list for me are anything by Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean, J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, or The Knocks. I’ll mix these in with Broadway musical soundtracks and a Disney playlist. I’m obsessed with Disney and like that cannabis calms my mind and allows me to memorize much of what I’m listening to. Mushrooms are usually reserved for more outdoor activities, but I’ve found a small dosage is perfect before a party.
While I’d like to say I go for more earthy sounds while on mushrooms, for me it’s more about melodic deep house beats, playlists that have limited words and great bass. I like feeling my body reverberate with the sound on mushrooms and feel the deeper the bass, the better the high. LSD gives you a major energy boost, so I usually find myself dancing when on it. The mix of sounds for my trips I prefer are usually in the synth/techno house/tropical house variety. Morning sets from Burning man are great for LSD, especially mixes by Lee Burridge, NSR, Bedouin.
I rarely find sassafras, but when I do, my sound goes more the direction of sexy, sultry vocals. Kat Cunning is currently a favorite, but I also love Bob Moses and will listen to them whenever I’m rolling. For ketamine, the mixes I prefer fall under a category I call sex house. It’s similar to deep house but with song choices that include sexually provocative lyrics and beats that are just perfect for getting sexy or just cuddling.” — Daniel Saynt, 35, founder of NSFW

“Though there have been many songs that I’ve enjoyed while under the influence of marijuana, here are a few that stand out as particularly gratifying for me. When I was younger and in college, a few that I remember really standing out in that mindset were ‘Dark Matter’ by Porcupine Tree, ‘3 a.m./Voices in the Fan’ by Devin Townsend, and the second movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Later, when I experienced smoking marijuana years later again, a couple that stood out were ‘Love Letters to the Soul’ by Entheogenic and ‘All That Makes Us Human Continues’ by BT.” — Jason, 30

“Lemon haze / sour tangie / blue crack for the drug, paired with the Young and Free Spotify playlist.” — Steve, 29
“I like a lot of combinations with drugs and songs, but I made the best memory with the combination acid and Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond.’ Acid makes your brain very active, and for that reason, you will hear sounds in this song you never had heard before. The whole song is a big fantastic journey in a fantastic beautiful world.” — Patrick, 24

“Carbon Based Lifeforms. I feel very peaceful and loving when listening to them. Combining it with mushrooms is amazing for me.” — Marianna, 29

“‘Cups’ by Underworld with MDMA and LSD. LSD demands music with long, sustained tones that is packed with subtle sound events. The song starts with electronically-generated violin sounds but very quickly a bass line drops. That is where the synergy kicks in with the MDMA, which wants fast and exciting music you can move to. In combination, you get an explosion of excitement and joy while flying in psychedelic space, forgetting the world completely and finding a unity, blurring of lines between yourself, the music, the space your body occupies, and the universe beyond the physical real.” — Dutch, 43

“It wasn’t until I was 21 that I first tried cocaine, but was instantly hooked. I was in Minneapolis at a SYSTEM party submerged in techno and the genuine community that comes with it. Rather than dancing and enjoying the music, friendly desire consumed me. Towards the end, James Patrick was closing out the night. I remember conversing with a lovely pink haired woman and out of nowhere, I turned against her abruptly ending the conversation. JP was mixing in the track ‘Doin Ya Thang’ by Oliver $, and it was that track that had me getting down for the remainder of the night.” — Brayden, 26

“MDMA — house/techno. Been loving the Cityfox Foxcast 26: Anja Schneider (September 2018) track. Would love to roll to that. Cannabis — seriously that’s too hard. Everything sounds better on weed. A favorite entire album is Nightmares on Wax’s Smokers Delight (top song: ‘Nights Interlude’). I love a good dreamy indie rock song like Blouse ‘Fountain in Rewind’ or Japanese Breakfast ‘Road Head,’ or something more upbeat like Bonobo ‘Kerala’ or ‘Samurai.’ Shrooms I like actually being outside and listening to the sounds of nature. I did do it at a Six Flags Adventure Park… I probably won’t likely do that again, but you never know. Ketamine — music doesn’t sound so good compared to the other drugs to me, but usually it’s an at an afterparty after a night of rolling so the chiller house/techno.” — Phillia, 40


Whether you think Columbus is as cold as I do (@ me, midwesterners) or not, shorter days and darker skies can drag at anyone’s energy. And for those estranged from family or friends, this time of year is especially hard.

If the holiday festivities are draining you, fear not! Check out our Playing Columbus-approved activity guide to have *actual* fun and beat the Christmas blues. In true testament to Columbus’ burgeoning music and art scene, we’ve chosen something to do for each day this week. Grab a cocoa, strap into a sled, and find something new.

Thursday, 12/21

The Columbus Queer Open Mic featuring Tatum Michelle Maura of TTUM

Wild Goose Creative’s last open mic of 2017 will feature TTUM, the musical project of Tatum Margot, a Columbus-based multi-instrumentalist, singer, song-writer, and producer. Margot’s first electronic album, Flawless Ruby, came out in October of 2017. Along with TTUM’s performance, the community is invited to bring art, music, poetry, comedy, and story-telling to share. Sign up for a 5 minute slot at the door to bring your act onstage.

8PM, 2491 Summit St., Columbus OH

Suggested donation $5

Friday, 12/22

Jingle Jam Skate

This event is clearly marketed towards children, but I love ice skating, and I love glow sticks. Plus – it’s early! Skate to some holiday tunes in the early evening, with plenty of time to catch a later event.

7pm, Skate Zone 71

$8 (this includes skate rental *and* a glowstick!)

Saturday, 12/23

Nina West Christmas Pageant

This Saturday, local drag superstar Nina West will present her “sassiest, singiest series ever” at the Gateway. The event begins with a mixer, and is followed by a sing-along program featuring West’s comedy and performances by the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus.

4:30pm mixer, 6pm show, Gateway Film Center

$20, including a $5 donation to Kaleidoscope Youth Center

Sunday, 12/24

Christmas Eve Karaoke

Honestly…who could miss this? Excess Karaoke is hosting their weekly Sunday karaoke at Ace of Cups (that means you get to perform on a real stage!) immediately after the 9th annual “gathering of people not celebrating xmas.” Ugly sweaters are optional.

10pm – 2am, Ace of Cups

FREE 21+

Monday, 12/25

Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) in 35mm

Well, my Gateway-employee roommate isn’t happy the film center is open on Christmas, but you might be! Check out their showing of Roger Waters’ 1982 film The Wall, showing in its original 35mm.

9:30pm, Gateway Film Center


Tuesday, 12/26

Jazz Jam

If you’re wiped out from the holiday festivities, recharge at Park Street Tavern’s Tuesday Jazz Jam, which features both their own house band and rotating local musicians.

8:30pm Park Street Tavern

FREE, 21+

Wednesday, 12/27

Sad Boyz “Sad Years Eve”

Dance to pop punk, emo, hardcore and alternative all night long at Skully’s to ring in the new year. If you’d like to get the night started early, head to Bodega from 6pm-9pm; $1 of every PBR purchased will be donated to mental health advocacy and suicide prevention organizations.

Skully’s Music Diner

FREE before 10pm, $5 after 10pm, 21+

Thursday, 12/28

Co-release show with Maza Blaska and Sweet Teeth


Local bands Maza Blaska and Sweet Teeth are both celebrating new releases on Thursday night at Ace of Cups. They’ll be joined by another Columbus favorite, Corbezzolo.

8pm, Ace of Cups

$5, 18+

HIGH NOTES: How LSD Changed Music as We Know It

In 1965, at 2 Strathearn Place in London, John and Cynthia Lennon, George Harrison, and Pattie Boyd sat at their dentist John Riley’s dinner table sipping coffee. A few minutes prior, Riley’s girlfriend Cindy Bury had placed sugar cubes laced with LSD in their cups.

Back then, the drug was just beginning to leave labs and doctors’ offices. Riley didn’t even know what it was. “It was just, ‘It’s all the thing,’ with the middle-class London swingers,” John Lennon told Rolling Stone. “He was saying, ‘I advise you not to leave,’ and we thought he was trying to keep us for an orgy in his house and we didn’t want to know.”

Despite Riley’s request, the group headed out to the Pickwick Club. “We’d just sat down and ordered our drinks when suddenly I feel the most incredible feeling come over me,” George Harrison recalled. “One thing led to another, then suddenly it felt as if a bomb had made a direct hit on the nightclub and the roof had been blown off: ‘What’s going on here?’ I pulled my senses together and I realised that the club had actually closed.”

After that, they headed to another club called Ad Lib, where they screamed after mistaking the elevator light for a fire. “We were cackling in the street, and then people were shouting, ‘Let’s break a window.’ We were just insane. We were just out of our heads,” Lennon remembered.

That night would change music history forever. Arguably, it’s why “Tomorrow Never Knows” sounds so different from “A Hard Day’s Night” — and why many songs started sounding different in the 60s, Chris Rice, founder of the Psychedelic Society of New England and author of On Culture: Small minds, big business, and the psychedelic solution, tells me.

Acid “expands one’s mind to things that they could not imagine being possible before its use,” Rice explains. “Sonically, this results in increased experimentation of sound. This lead to things like lead guitar recorded backwards by numerous artists, The Grateful Dead recording air in different locations (dry air, humid air, etc.) because they thought it would add depth and texture to their music, and The Beach Boys recruiting The Beatles’ Paul McCartney to chew celery in the track ‘Vegetables’ to add percussive sound to that track. Clearly, these examples are a far cry from the simple ‘guitar bass drums vocals’ setup that was comfortable and familiar in earlier rock and roll.”

While The Beatles were tripping in London, The Grateful Dead was performing in Northern California’s “Acid Tests,” festivals that combined dance, art, and (of course) drugs, Philip Auslander, a Professor at the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Institute of Technology, tells me. Their sound engineer was chemist Augustus Owsley Stanley III, also known as Bear, who manufactured LSD and sold it to John Lennon, Pete Townsend, and other musicians. The Grateful Dead’s music was partially funded by the sale of this “Monterey Purple” and “White Lightning” acid. 

The Dead and likeminded bands and artists like The Beach Boys, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Pink Floyd became known for their improvisational approach and “trippy” sound, which Sheila Whiteley defines in The Space Between the Notes as including “manipulation of timbres (blurred, bright, overlapping), upward movement (and its comparison with psychedelic flight), harmonies (lurching, oscillating), rhythms (regular, irregular), relationships (foreground, background), and collages.”

The distortion and Wah-Wah effects used by these bands mimicked the way acid distorts sound, Ido Hartogsohn, a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow with Harvard’s Program on Science, Technology & Society, tells me. Layered studio arrangements like those in The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper and The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds similarly brought out the sound’s details and arrangements the way LSD might.

Against the backdrop of these cutting-edge instrumentals and production techniques, a new style of lyric writing emerged. Phrases ceased rhyming, and images ceased making sense. The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus,” for example, is rife with LSD imagery, from “sitting on a cornflake” to the “elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna.”

Even the band names became nonsensical, Richard Goldstein, who was a rock critic for The Village Voice in the 60s and used to drop acid with The Beach Boys, points out. Instead of carrying clear, simple meanings like The Penguins, The Crickets, The Animals, or even The Beatles, names like Jefferson Airplane, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, and 13th Floor Elevator appeared to be selected purely for their aesthetic properties.

“It’s a very aesthetic drug,” Goldstein explains. Rather than perceiving sounds and images through the lens of a culturally prescribed meaning, people on acid interface more directly with sensory stimuli. This can lead to more universal, culture-transcending experiences with music. “We’re all connected through the subconscious, so when we listen to music on acid, it makes us have more of a tribal feeling,” says Goldstein. “It’s less intellectual more emotional and visceral.”

This shift from the intellectual to the visceral, from order to chaos, from logic to aesthetics, left an indelible mark on music, spawning other genres like pop psych, acid punk, and psychedelic trance and influencing folk, soul, and jazz, says Auslander. You can even hear their influence in modern rock bands like Tame Impala and Of Montreal, Hartogsohn points out. But psychedelic rock’s impact reaches beyond music to culture at large and even politics. It was a contributor, for example, to the counterculture and antiwar movements.

“LSD alters a user’s perception of what is important in life. As a result, the act of war seems entirely ludicrous,” says Rice. “Much of the elements of our culture constructed by our predecessors seem curious if not downright silly when viewed from the outside, as acid is prone to make people do. As a result, people’s worldviews shifted dramatically in the direction of peace and of love and of harmony, which seems, under the influence, to be the true meaning of incarnation in this realm.”

That’s the sentiment behind songs like “Love Is All You Need” and “Give Peace a Chance,” which John Lennon wrote after he became a regular (sometime daily) acid user. “[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][We now] assume by default that popular music artists are socially aware and politically committed, a pure legacy of the psychedelic era,” says Auslander.

So, not only can we credit much of the past 50 years of music history to acid; we can also credit it for the spirit of the era this music helped usher in. The effects of LSD are environment-specific, Goldstein explains, but what it pretty reliably does is open people’s minds. Whatever happens to be around us as our minds open up may then get incorporated into our music and our worldview (which could also explain why there are so many stories about people who think they’re orange juice on LSD). And during the hippie era, which was already taking root by the time LSD entered the mainstream, people were tripping amid a call for peace and movement toward globalization.

Though LSD’s history is still palpable in today’s music, Goldstein laments that it isn’t more present. People today are “more interested in the solo cup than they were in the tab,” leaving music devoid of spirituality, he says. Kansas’s “Dust in the Wind” embodies the values Goldstein is nostalgic for with the line, “don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.” He looks back fondly on the “naïveté” that brought people to festivals with karma meters and mood rings. Acid “makes it easier to have that kind of reasoning,” he recalls. “Or lack of reasoning. But life is more than reason.” [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

NEWS ROUNDUP: Allegations Against PWR BTTM, ACLU’s Rockstar & More

  • PWR BTTM Cancel Release Show Following Allegations

    Over the past few days, allegations of predatory behavior and sexual abuse were made against Ben Hopkins of PWR BTTM, and an anti-semitic photo of Hopkins from 2011 has again resurfaced. While the former was previously addressed by the band, many fans were taken by complete surprise regarding the allegations of violated consent, despite the fact that some of their peers state they were warned about this behavior months ago. The Brooklyn band T-Rextasy is one of them, and has cancelled their July tour with PWR BTTM. Tonight’s Rough Trade release show for Pageant has also been cancelled.

    While the band has not outright confirmed or denied these allegations, they’ve released a statement that includes the offer for victims to send an email to an account that will allegedly only be accessible by an as-yet unidentified mediator. This has sparked further criticism as well as a discussion about accountability; Jes Skolnik does an amazing job of breaking it down via Medium.

  • Meet The ACLU Employee Who Is Also A Rockstar

    Pinky Weitzman is the deputy director of the ACLU, in charge of helping the organization adapt to the modern age. She’s been described as one of its “greatest digital minds.” She’s also a touring member of the Magnetic Fields, and performs with other big-name musicians and in musicals. Instead of taking a break from the ACLU to go on a Magnetic Fields tour, after the election, she decided to take on both roles simultaneously. Read the NBC feature on Weitzman here.

  • Pink Floyd’s Animals Inspires Protest Art

    A Chicago architect wants to relieve the city- at least for a day- of seeing the Trump Tower logo. Jeffrey Roberts is still seeking the city’s approval for his “Flying Pigs on Parade,” which entails tethering several huge, gold, inflatable pigs to a barge to block the letters of Trump’s name. The project was inspired by Pink Floyd’s use of a pig balloon for their 1997 album Animals, and Roger Waters has given Roberts his approval and permission. 

NEWS ROUNDUP: Tokyo’s Octogenarian DJ, Killer Pink Floyd Shrimp & More

  • Coming Soon: The Creative Independent’s 7-Inches For Planned Parenthood

    Brandon Stusoy of The Creative Independent has curated a boxset of 7” singles with all proceeds going to Planned Parenthood. Artists that contributed tracks include Chvrches, Mitski, Foo Fighters, St. Vincent, Laurie Anderson, Sleater-Kinney, author Margaret Atwood and much more. A statement on the set’s Facebook page reads, “This curated series of 7-inch vinyl records is being made by a group of people who believe that access to health care is a public good that should be fiercely protected. Do we know there’s a joke in the name? We do. We hope the title evokes the rich history of 7-inch vinyl records as a medium for protest music and resistance.” Check out pre-order information here.

  • The Seriously Inspiring “Dumpling DJ”

    Sumiko Iwamuro is 82 years old. By day, she runs a Tokyo restaurant, making dumplings. By night, she’s a hit DJ in the city’s red light district, proving that someone’s age or day job has nothing to do with their musical taste or talents. Check a mini documentary on Sumiko, via Al Jazeera, here!

  • Meet The New Killer, Classic Rock Shrimp Species

    Last year brought us a tarantula named after Johnny Cash; now, let us introduce you to 2017’s Synalpheus pinkfloydi, a shrimp that can kill (fish, at least) with a pink claw that, when it snaps, produces super loud  and deadly sounds. According to rock mythology, Pink Floyd once performed loudly enough to kill the fish in a lake near London’s Crystal Palace. And according to The Washington Post, this shrimp’s snaps are 210 decibels loud(for context, a thunderclap is around  110 decibels). Check out a video of a Pistol Shrimp below, which has a similar attack method: