Inside the Nitrous Mafia, an East Coast Hippie-Crack Ring

Interesting article in the Village Voice.
Philly makes a few prominent appearances too…

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.


The Philadelphia ring is larger and split up into several sub-crews who know each other but operate independently, says Sean. “The Philly guys are more reckless,” he says, and more prone to violence and intimidation. “They operate without a code of honor. They were the first kids I saw bringing guns to the lots and putting fuckin’ shit to people’s heads.” The Philadelphia don, who owns his own nitrous supply store and has several workers underneath him, is less apt to show up at festivals himself, says Sean. “He’s a fucking nut job,” he adds, noting that even Dmitri is deferential to him.

Plus a scene outside of the Electric Factory covered.

“Mad adrenaline, mad money, mad pussy,” says a Philadelphia nitrous dealer named Beef, explaining why he got into the business. He’s standing outside the Electric Factory, in the club-cluttered Northern Liberties section of the city, near the end of a Wilco show on a Saturday night. Beef is with five of his gang mates; together, they have three watermelon-size tanks stored in Nike gym bags, with reserves stowed inside the trunks of their cars. One of the dealers, an older man who looks to be in his fifties, sits in an illegally parked SUV—a hiding place for tanks in case cops come.

A meter-reader approaches—a black woman, who notices the tanks. Immediately, a tall dealer named Jimmy, who wears a baggy gray sweatsuit and looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, diverts her attention. “Damn, what’s a fine-lookin’ girl like you doing as a parking lady?” he asks, approaching her. She smiles, charmed, and leans against the wall next to him. “I just gave out my last ticket,” she says, letting the gang off the hook. Later, Jimmy notices an Electric Factory security director pulling into the parking lot. He is asked whether the director ever puts the kibosh on the nitrous parties. “He works both sides of the fence,” he explains. “Most of the time, he’s cool, but just like women, he wakes up every once in a while with PMS.” (At a later show, on a blisteringly hot day in Baltimore, Jimmy cooled down by emptying the contents of two nitrous balloons directly onto his face. Then he hoisted a clump of black balloons into the air and barked his sales pitch: “Once you go black, you never go back!”)All of the nitrous dealers are civil, with the exception of the older man, who warns against taking photographs. Beef, a husky Italian-American from South Philly, has a tongue ring, a lazy layer of facial scruff, and a pair of young daughters at home. Twenty-four years old, Beef says he operates independently with a couple of associates, who together pocket about $50,000 a weekend in the summertime. He offers a handshake and a free balloon. It produces a pleasant sensation from head to toe.

Nice to see the author of the piece, John H. Tucker, imbibed in the activities to really get an understanding of what all the hype was about. You know, for journalistic purposes…

Here is the YouTube video referred to: