October 5, 2009

Burning Man, Three Years Ago. ~ via Scott Rodwin

Burning Man 2006 II- It All Comes Full Circle

 It was 3am, September 1 st , 2006. A grizzled older man, dressed like Mad Max, sat on the corner of an ornate, softly glowing obelisk. On the walls of this alien sculpture, hundreds of people had written farewells, messages and memories. Giant cacophonous techno music beats & overlapping yells of excitement wove a distant muffled net from every direction. In the midst of the din, The Temple where he sat was a subtle island of calm. The old man then picked up a silver flute and blew passionately. A spell-bindingly beautiful and poignantmelody washed over everyone around him. It spoke of loss. The dozen people around him froze and listened. Even those of us who had not come to mourn at the Temple of Remembrance could resonate with his keening. Time slowed.

We watched people drift into the sphere of his unfamiliar song, and stop to stay a while. In the near distance, dozens of other visitors wandered among a field of other varied obelisks. Occasionally one would stop to add their own inscription. Flashing lights and explosions beckoned in every direction of the dark desert. Whisper-quiet Art Cars (vehicles transmogrified into floats), and shooting stars, glowing bicycles glided by, just out of reach. The man played. We listened. He offered his gift. Just like everyone else at Burning Man.

An hour earlier, my friend Lee and I rode in the cold black out to the remote, but compelling outpost dubbed the Belgian Waffle House. For some reason known only to its builders, a small group of Belgians solicited and were granted $300,000 by their government in order to build a giant rave cave in the desert a couple of hours outside of Reno. They built it over the previous three weeks from nothing but 2×4’s and nails. I imagine the grant read, “We’re not sure what it will look like because we have no plans. We’ll use it for four nights to host huge, outrageous parties for thousands of crazed Americans who we don’t know, and then …we’ll burn it to the ground.” Wacky Belgians. The Waffle House was the most amazing structure I have ever seen; an amorphous, impossibly complex, translucent, ecstatic collection of pickup sticks. I watched the volunteer carpenters as they improvised and sweated in the blazing sun, armed with nothing but nail guns, brazen recklessness and fifty foot tall hydraulic lifts.

Inside, assuming you could label the walls and halls of this undulating cave sculpture “inside”, a DJ and live band played pounding Euro Rave music. The crowd throbbed. The lighting morphed and gave kaleidoscopic depth to the walls.

We wandered outside – even the best techno, the staple audio food of Burning Man, gets old after a few songs. We flitted around the Art Cars for a bit looking for an open bar. Eventually we were drawn to a large flame – we are as predicable as moths. The flame was a large deep-desert art installation (there are over a hundred of them). With the help of a dozen industrial fans, two fuel wielding humans clad in silver flame resistant suits created twenty foot tall, flame tornado sculptures. The humans swarmed and applauded, with mouths wide open.

Read the rest of Scott Rodwin’s 2nd  Burning Man Experience of 2006.

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