Burning Man 2011 de la Tiki

...because everything burns...
The Temple burns, Burning Man 2011
You can't just start off by talking about the steampunk octopus that breathes fire, or how you saw an airship dock above a wooden pier that was built in the middle of the desert. Peeps just don't understand it unless they were there. So... well... you've gotta give 'em something they can understand. And that's where I'll start. At Burning Man this year, there were portapotties, drugs, sex, and music. There you go. If you weren't there, your chances of understanding all the rest are rather goddamned slim. And, as the desert was completely sold out this year, your chances of actually being "there" don't run that high either. Hope you made it, because it was one frakking hellova ride!

Care to join me? I'll be gentle. Pinkie swear! Let's start easy, with music...

Dusty Beats: Beats Antique, burners for quite a few years, returned to the playa in 2011... and they just didn't hold anything back. It's useless to post videos or photos, as none of them capture Zoe Jakes belly dancing, the fire dancers, dancers swinging from cranes and suspended above the audience. None of them capture Sidecar Tommy climbing on the dome and yelling, "It's so good to be back in the dust again and dirty!" You just have to accept that bass-heavy belly dancing music that pulls from every corner of the world is frakking "where it's at"! Period! I caught their show at Fractal Nation, as well as at Temple of Boom after the Man burned on Saturday. Both shows were very different, and both were completely amazing and unique! They played early versions of "The Porch", "Skytalk", and "Cat Skillz" (from the new album "ELEKTRAFONE") at both shows. At the same time, I need to give Mochipet and Minnesota props for their amazing shows this year also. I wanted to have a version of my own sets online from Playa Pail Kids and the Mystic Intentheon before writing this, but that hasn't happened yet. For anyone who hasn't heard Beats Antique before, here are two of their free downloads. Clicky, clicky...

"Cat Skillz" by Beats Antique
[Click to Download]

"Miss Levine" by Beats Antique
[Click to Download]


The Temple of Transition at dawn, Burning Man 2011
The Temple of Transition: Monolithic, yet elegant, the Temple's central spire (out of 6) rose 120ft above the playa. You could see it from anywhere, and with almost no storms at all this year, the Temple was more of a central figure on the playa this year than the Man. Fitting, as this year's theme was "Rites of Passage". I spent most of my time this year at the Temple, visiting at least once every day, and carrying many messages and symbols from people around the world. Again, nothing can truly describe the place, not without actually showing you every single carved plaque on the outer walls, or taking you into the central spire where automated gongs rang together to create a synchronous cacophony of sound. Unless you heard the Earth Harp being played at sunset, with it's cords stretching from the entrance all the way to the central spire, then there is nothing and no video to describe it. Unless you were at the Temple at midnight, when the world's largest clock struck midnight and lit the Temple's central chandelier with green laser light, then there are no amount of words that will ever replace the experience.. . and across every surface of the temple were written millions of words, charged with one emotion after another. When it burned, my sister Gaea and I were at the very front. The sheer size of the fire sent people moving farther back. The pea coat I was wearing to protect me from the cold, only minutes earlier, became my shield to protect me from the heat. And the most beautiful building in the entire world burned to ashes, carrying millions of cindery stars into the darkness of the sky above. Because, in the end, everything burns.

"El Pulpo Mechanico" by Duane Flatmo: It is that time.. . time to break out the steampunk octopus. Duane Flatmo's firebreathing bike-powered dragon [YouTube] has already become famous on the playa. In 2011, the good Mr. Flatmo brought a giant metal octopus to the playa that created parties wherever it went. 8 metal arms, 3 sets of bulging eyes, 3 mouths, and a crown of fire, towering well above the burners who flocked all around it. The video speaks for itself!

"Charon" by Peter Hudson: Another long-term artist in the desert, Peter Hudson specializes in bringing sculptures to life... and when I saw what he brought to the desert this year, I couldn't believe my eyes. I walked nearer and nearer, until I was standing next to the boat itself, and I was looking into the eyes of the river-man Charon. He was larger than myself, and rowing back and forth.. . and I was fresh out of coins. There would be no passage across the River Styx for me that night. Gaea and I went looking for Charon on another night, but we couldn't find him. When we gave up looking, Charon found us.. . and again on another night. The video doesn't do the true experience justice, but you at least need to SEE what Hudson brought to life here.

The Pier: Why the hell has no one ever built a pier on the playa before? And they didn't just build a pier, they went all-out on it! They nailed wooden boards together, roping off areas, and they ran lighting over the top of it. This was an actual pier. There were boats down in the dust of the desert, and you could hear seagulls singing. There were many boats on the playa in 2011, and the Pier became the natural place for all of them to come dock. On one night, almost all of the boats on the playa came to dock at the pier, bringing the parties that were happening on each boat with them. The hovercraft known as The Airship Victoria joined the party, pulling over the top of the pier and mooring itself to watch the crowd below. If I had anything to say about it, I would demand the Pier be built every year on the playa! Check it!

The People - Burners: And there's no way I am going to list more than 100 frakking amazing beautiful faces, nor would telling about every one of them actually convey their presence to a random reader. So many amazing members of my tribe returned to the desert this year, making for one powerful and beautiful reunion after another, with conversations going deep into every night and starting early every morning (if they ended at all). I triangulated my days between three camps: Indie Rogue Burners, Playa Pail Kids, and Camp Mystic.. . . and slept very very little. So many new faces joined us in the desert this year, and with many heartfelt goodbyes. I'll see you again. The dust calls us all back in the end.

And, as always, I've covered less than 1% of the actual experience. There's just no describing the desert! ...but there's just no stopping us fools who keep trying!

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