Wook hunters bag and tag our smelliest invasive species

Wook hunters bag and tag our smelliest invasive species

CultureSeptember 01, 2017 By Reilly Capps

Wooks are on the loose, and dedicated wook trackers are on their tails.

Academic Christina Allaback, PhD, even studies them.

"A wook is someone who mooches," Allaback says by phone from her home in Eugene, Oregon. "They do too many drugs, and they want some money and a free ticket."

They are now the ostracized, demonized, socially unacceptable subspecies of hippie; because wooks are like hippies — but even filthier, hairier, more doped up and more unemployed.

Hippies will puff lightly on your joint; wooks will borrow your dab rig and never return it.

Hippies will bum a ride in your Vanagon; wooks will live in it.

Hippies will give you their Phish ticket; wooks will scalp it for three times face value.

See how much nicer "hippie" sounds all of a sudden?

Wooks generally hang out in the parking lots of three-day music festivals, pleading for a ticket. They are often also "heads," as in Deadheads. They can also be found hustling for dollars on streetcorners in Oakland, Lawrence, Kansas, and Boulder, Colorado.

Wooks first came to the world's attention at jamband music concerts around the turn of the century. They were first described, academically, by Allaback in her 2009 paper Theater of Jambands: Performance of Resistance

"Fans use it quite often when referring to anyone who tours with bands for reasons besides the music-either for money, excessive abuse of drugs or alcohol, or for free tickets or goods," she writes. "The wookie sees jamband shows as a chance to make money or get something for free."

The term comes from wookiee, like Chewbacca. A wook is dreaded, beaded and bearded. A wook is goalless and directionless. They moan like Chewey when they're lifted on DMT. Their only permanent home is a K-hole. They sell molly that's 80 percent bunk.

Allaback remembers her first encounters with wooks, at Bonnaroo in the early 2000s, when two wooks slouched up to her campsite trying to sell ecstasy and then, without asking, because they were hot and sweaty, stripped off their shirts and dipped them in Allaback's cooler and put them back on their sweaty bodies. 

"When the tour is done, most fans return to the norms of society regarding hygiene and sobriety," Allaback continues in her dissertation, "whereas fans depict the wookie as always dirty and drunk."

No academic since Allaback has studied wooks. But folks, especially hippies, are still keeping an eye on them. WookWars keeps tabs. There's a subreddit called WookStories. And a Phish satire site called The Phunion pokes phun at them. Maybe the most successful is a secret Facebook group and website called Colorado Big Game Trophy Wook Hunters, which photographs them and ridicules them.

[A wook in slumber. From Colorado Big Game Trophy Wook Hunters.]

The joke on Colorado Big Game Trophy Wook Hunters is that wooks are like deer or raccoons, an indigenous species that can become disruptive if their populations get out of control — they'll dig up your garden and rifle your trash.

The site was born a couple of years ago around a campsite at Sonic Bloom, a hippie-type jamband and electronic dance music festival in south central Colorado. Denver's Derek Barnes, a 36-year-old graphic artist and self-described Bro, was with his friends once while laughing at a guy in the next campsite, who was basically the human version of the hair clog in the shower drain of the Boulder YMCA on drugs.

Barnes photographs wooks for fun.

[A certified wook, letching at hippies. From Colorado Big Game Trophy Wook Hunters.]

They joked that while hippies are more about "free spirit and love, we should be tagging wooks and watching them," Barnes says by phone. So, they started the FB page and started "tagging" them — on Facebook.

On the page, readers do most of the mocking: posting photos of wooks so rank and spun no self-respecting hippie would let them sleep on their compost pile. Readers joke that they set out wook traps — bear traps laid with American Spirits, PBR and wook drugs like meow meow. They joke that no wook has ever been able to resist free stuff.

Their private Facebook page now has more than 100,000 followers, and their public page — with less wook nudity — has 32,000. Their website sells hats and t-shirts and pins.

[The most famous wook, #17.]

Barnes isn't quitting his day job for this, and he's careful to say that it's all in good fun; nobody is allowed to fire hate speech at anyone. "We're celebrating unique character," Barnes says.

Others say it's more than just good fun, it's a form of cultural criticism, it's the festival subculture calling out the non-contributing zeroes who sully the hippie name.

"Wooks are frowned upon because they have ulterior motives besides the music," says Allaback. "They're disrespectful to the scene."

As long as there are concert parking lots full of nice hippies willing to share free stuff, wooks will never die. But neither will wook mockery. The ecosystem will stay in balance. Unless the world runs out of ketamine.