Friday, October 6, 2017

Burning Man 2017: Photos and Stories, Part 2 (of 2)

Burning Man 2017:
Neighborhood Stroll and
Marching Band March-Off 

Part 1 here.

My little neighborhood of Black Rock City is my haven of peace and familiarity, dearer to me than the amazing and inspiring open playa with its massive interactive art pieces and dreamlike quality.  I tend to make friends among my neighbors during the pre-event setup, and some of those connections end up being the most rewarding.

It sounds like I'm exaggerating, but no.

My fourth year, I remember my across-the-street neighbors, Moose and Bruce, from Texas stayed in their camp the whole week, as far as I could tell. They just got drunk and pranked passers-by with the old wallet-on-a-string trick. I couldn't believe they would pay all that money just to hang out in camp, sometimes watching the fires over the city from on top of their RV.

But now I get it. It is just as valid to stay in camp and set up an experience for others to come in and enjoy. My experience now, as contrasted to my earlier years, is about service, as opposed to receiving. I have no doubt received gifts of incalculable value in my years at the event. At some point, my cup did runneth over, and I had to spill my own gifts back into the community which had given me so much.

So now, if I get out of my camp to see some art on the playa, a few neighboring camps, I count myself lucky.

\Monday, post-burn: taking a break during camp take-down to grab some iced coffee from my neighbor.  Stripes abound.
A sunset stroll at Burning Man 2017.

My Laughter Yoga class commences at 5:00 every evening, which anchors me to my camp at that time, barring some extreme emergency.

So, about 6:00, I have time to wander out of my camp and get some good pictures of my neighborhood in the waning sunlight.

I have very little knowledge of what these camps hold, other than what is obvious. Any one of them could be the very paradise that any particular Burning Man attendee may seek.

The Burning Man Marching Band, aka the Burning Band, has been marching around the playa playing Dixieland classics for almost the entire history of Burning Man. There are no auditions or requirements for participation; you just grab an instrument and march along. In this tradition, other bands have emerged on the Burning Man stage. And for the last several years, they have competed in the Center Camp Cafe's central performance area, on Thursday night. Hosted by Burning Man mini-celeb, artist Stephen Ra$pa, this event is raucous and wild.

There were four bands this year. The highlight was Axon, a new contender. They were an octet, playing gypsy klesmer music. Klesmer is Yiddish jazz. Axon was amazing, and were certainly the best band as far as the tightness of their performance. The quieter instruments were electrified, with amps mounted on backpacks, lit up to spell out "Axon."

Gamelan X is a perennial favorite, who I believe won last year. As everyone knows, a gamelan is an Eastern instrument, consisting of many brass bells and gongs, played by a large group. Gamelan X is this, but incorporating a Western sound, with a guy on drum kit, and with choreography that tells a story in pantomime. Their sound is otherworldly, but still somehow familiar. I always enjoy their performances, but they might have been a bit short-handed this time around. I didn't see their giant bell which has to be wheeled out on a cart. Regardless, they played well, pleasing the crowd.

Finally, the Burning Band played their folk standards, like "Little Brown Jug." They had a massive group, probably around eighty people.  They sing as well as play. Some have matching uniforms, some not. There is no conductor, and everyone is pretty much doing their own thing. A few furries and a mime provided extra hype. They ended up taking the prize, based on their enthusiasm, and respect for their long commitment to the art.

A fourth marching band was more forgettable, and I hate to leave them unmentioned, though I took no pictures of them. They were chaotic and abrasive, using sex appeal and innuendo as their main attraction. Their performances made it seem a little like they were playing a prank on the audience. Their claim to being a marching band was a bit frail, but who am I to judge? If anything, it inspires me to try to create my own unique flavor of traveling musical act.

Back home to Pepperland. Here, the back of the camp, a great sunset and my camp mate, Craig, who took the shots of me by my dome. 

Some more of my campmates on Sunday, midway through the camp tear-down.

Big Daddy, Twinsaboy, Gerflash

Nostrildamus, Monica, Russell

Craig and Ronit

Nostrildamus and Sgt Pepper

Fred, aka Twinsaboy

Showing some leg

Me, scruffy and somber, at some burn or other.

Something burning. Does it really matter what?

Til next year!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Burning Man 2017: Photos and Stories, Part 1 (of 2)

I'm back from Burning Man!
I know, but like, no duh, right? I mean, wasn't that like three weeks ago?
Ok, yes it was. But I am now recovered enough to want to talk about it and shove my hands right back into my alkali-dust-filled gear!

Standing next to the Dave Dome, in my shower-curtain baggy pants, and my cape. Perfect desert wear, to keep the sun off me, and keep my moisture in. I got this playa living down!
Want to try it? Come with me, I can show you how!

My camp was amazing this year!  Thirty-camper strong Pepperland with its posh dining facility, gourmet meals, private shower with platform, drainage and evap pond. Just all the luxuries of dry lake bed living! Within reason, of course! I mean we're not oil tycoons! The biggest and best camp I've ever been part of, where I never wanted for food, water, shelter, comfort, nor the company of trusted friends. My camp mates are like family to me, and some are literally my family members. Over the week of Burning Man, we form a tight bond. Pepperland, I love you.

Photos and stories follow. Enjoy.

the free radical
Pepperland in the background, with its posh dining area.

Pepperland's back alley, Dave dome in center left.

Pepperland frontage, with the Yellow Submarine plus Octopus' Garden, not quite in the shade.

Our main road, 6:30, with the tower of the AEZ, Alternative Energy Zone

Our corner, a short walk to the blue rooms.

The Dave Dome: Cavelike, comfortable, commodious. Extra layers of cloth block out the sun, and vents on the sides allow for a cooling cross-breeze. I can siesta in here in the heat of the day.
Those thin nylon tents don't hold up to the noonday sunlight; they're unlivable without another layer of shade.

Our eventual neighbors, Tour Bus Company, Green Tortoise, more or less a plug-and-play style camp, for the busier and wealthier burners, that I remember seeing on my second or third burn.

Our local portal to the open playa at, 6:30 and Esplanade, held down by theme camp Sextant with their shade dome, elevated pub, "Wunderbar," and observation tower, all in one structure.

Double Tesla Coil that guests could play music on, using an electronic keyboard, across from Sextant. In the background, the tall dome of Automatic Subconscious, and the Pier leading off to the right.

Freestyle Palace is somewhere I have played music a few times in past years, and had some great impromptu jams with perfect strangers. This year they had some trouble getting off the ground, and their offering was mostly a dusty drum set. Some other instruments lay nearby but were having problems with dust in their electronic circuits.
The open playa draws you. Which distant point of interest will you pursue? Your decision will have tremendous impact on your eventual experience. You have only one week to see it all. You can never see it all, and even if you could, seeing any one part is not experiencing it in depth, with all its layers of interactivity and connection.

Photo along the Esplanade, with the boxy shade structure of Everywhere and the Artery.

The Pier, with its bait shop. Cool sacred geometry art on the right. The lighthouse at the end of the Pier is an art car. Typically, nautically-themed art cars would convene on the Pier, like pirate ships and fishes.

The other way along the Esplanade. Big villages, and Sound Camps.

The Pier from the other side.

Riding up to this one, you think, "Oh cool, some colorful art, out on the deep playa. What are those, cloth blankets? They look textured like cloth." Then you look closer, and you see, every pixel of color you see is actually a gummy bear. All different colors of gummy bears are arranged in a mosaic to make this art piece. And you just wouldn't know that unless you brought your eyes to within a foot of the piece.  If you just rode by it, in your quest to see it all, you would just say, "Yeah, I saw some nice art, big whup."

Just another little complex of artistic interactive structures. I don't recall what surprises all these little pieces held, but suffice to say, they all had something. It was like an unexpected little playground of wacky adult-sized toys and games.

Cropped from the larger photo below, a perfect playa post card.

"Golden Hour" on the playa, the time right before sunset. With its dramatic side-lighting, it's perfect for photography.

This one really gives the feeling of that lazy playa sunset. Biking back to camp with your group to chow down and get ready for a long night of partying.  That unmistakable Black Rock City skyline, with its staggered domes, tipis, PVC arches, boxy structures and of course the rolling mountains of Black Rock Canyon.

The dust captures everyone's tracks, a tapestry of,... ok you get the idea.

When the sun sets, the citizens of Black Rock City howl like wolves. Not everyone is aware of the tradition, but once it starts, it spreads across the city like a virus.

These wooden sculptures would animate when you turned a crank on the front.

This little church had a confessional booth inside.

The big pink flamingo was a great landmark to site off of at night.

This is Red Lightning. In case anyone is wondering, they are not appropriating First Nations styles. They are the real deal. Red Lightning showed up to protest and lend a hand at Standing Rock, against the oil pipeline. Their public shade space is a great haven of calm and comfort, with many smaller meditation and rest spaces. Across the Esplanade, their sacred fire was warm and welcoming.
More to come!
Update: More right here!