Playa Future Past, Part I

With Black Rock City looming in our future, the Black Rock Beacon presents a weekly column that looks at life on the Playa, to whet the appetite of returning citizens and wisen up the newbies.

By Dust Bunny

Photo by Taymar

On the Playa there is nothing.. not a bug, not a plant, not a drop of water.

What we have plenty of is grime, dirt, dust, Playa graduals, dirt, and more dust. You will notice that the wind blows from the Southwest, the Southeast, Northeast and from the Northwest. Often it blows from all directions at once.

So you want to live there for a week? If you don’t like what we have lots of, don’t bother. What we don’t need is you new idiots kicking up all our precious surpluses. I am talking about our ample supply of dirt.

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Frogs and Forth

By Deb Prothero

Photo by Caleb Ahnefeld/Swamp Monster

Most Burners don’t have the fortune of visiting Frog Pond nor the potential misfortune of traveling the Jungo Road. But as America celebrated Independence Day this year, about 100 Burners observed the Fourth of Juplaya in the steamy environs of the hot springs near the mysterious desert thoroughfare not far from Black Rock City.

Meanwhile, about 300 other Burners braved the dusty Playa proper to try out different aspects of their art for the 2009 Evolution theme.

For several weeks leading up to the 4th, Bob Noxious’s Duck project was the subject of scorn on, a social-networking site popular with the Burning Man community. Upon arrival at Frog Pond, each vehicle drove past a larger-than-life Duck sculpture crafted from scrap metal. The purple Duck’s tail feathers were large pipes serving as fireworks launch pads for the whole weekend. Suffice to say the word ‘duck’ will never be quite the same among Burners.


Burners drove into Frog Pond over a few days with a full house by late Friday in preparation for the big day on Saturday. Some fireworks were ignited Friday evening but the most excitement was left for Saturday’s celebration after the elimination of Frogbat for the sixth straight year.

Frogbat is an endearingly hideous metal amalgam of a frog and a bat. It was created by Otto Von Danger and filled with various explosives and fireworks, with a couple of propane tanks thrown in for good measure. Once set up, the artwork is destroyed by firing squad. This year, it was more like a whole company, with about 75 participants taking aim.

Risky brought her Bushmaster Carbine 223 and was inundated by those who would partake of the special weapon. Compared with the rat-a-tat-tat of the hunting shotgun or long arm rifle, the Bushmaster’s concussion was persuasive.

Frog Pond is off limits to Burners during Black Rock City’s fleeing existence, since the ecosystem is considered too fragile to accommodate hoards of dusty Burners. Nevada is home to many hot springs, often, like Frog Pond, in relatively remote locations.

The springs are north of Nevada Highway 447 on Jungo Road, that tire-eating short cut from Winnemucca to Gerlach that Burners are warned to avoid. Yet Frog Pond is only 12 miles away from 447, and the road there is passable if you pay sufficient attention to the road’s washboard effect.

Over in the coolest pond, a reported sighting of the Swamp Monster was confirmed by several participants. Various other fauna were also spotted including many bats, a rattle snake and at least one scorpion. The bull frogs sang us to sleep in the early hours just before dawn.

Some say 4th of Juplaya is much like the old days of Burning Man. Smaller crowds, lots of guns and fewer rules than modern Black Rock City, but the 10 principles hold the community together. Many from the Playa wandered over for a dip in Frog Pond when they were departing on Sunday so it was a lazy day surrounding the ponds for visits.

Naturally, excessive quantities of bacon were consumed.

Mutaytor Changes Its Mind

By Pulpracer

 Without stating the bleeding obvious, LNT stands for Leave No Trace. Enough said, I say. However here are some LNT practices to consider:

After uncertainty with the arrest and departure of its founding member Matty Nash, The Mutaytor, Black Rock City’s own house band, is planning a return to the Playa in 2007. Having declared after its 2004 show that it would never play Burning Man again, the drum-heavy performance group is coming home with new members, new music and three shows culminating in a collaborative performance with Dan Das Mann’s and Karen Cusolito’s art installation “Crude Awakening.”

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The Thinking Burner’s LNT

By Howeird

07_04_the_thinking_burner1Without stating the bleeding obvious, LNT stands for Leave No Trace. Enough said, I say. However here are some LNT practices to consider:

Glass weighs a lot and bottles take up more space than cans. Think about boxed wines – you can get some pretty good ones these days. And beverages in cans, which can be crushed, are the obvious choice of the thinking Burner. If your favorite tipple ONLY comes in glass – please indulge yourself – you are on vacation after all. But first see this blog post for some reasons why you your next favorite foamy may come in cans.

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Burning Man: This Place Sucks and I Want to Go Home!

By Doxie

Burner Doxie penned these thoughts shortly after returning from her first trip to Black Rock City in 2006.

Finally after three long years of wanting to go, I made it to Burning Man in 2006. Now, mind you, I had camped on the Playa two years earlier, after graduate school one amazing night under a full moon. I even got to enjoy the often-off-limits hot springs. That was — bar none — the most special night of my life, as the Playa is magical whether Black Rock City is there or not.


That said, I just spent the last seven days of my life living in harsh desert conditions, eating a quarter of the food I normally do — and for a hypoglycemic that is a huge feat — showering only twice in seven days and not brushing my hair even once. All the while covered in a fine dust, I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven.

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Howeird’s Positively Playa!


“Pen! Paper! The muse is upon me! Just as well considering there are less than 100 days until the Burn.

To the newcomer, welcome. You are the most important person on the Playa. You won’t get your virgin ass whacked on the way in to embarrass you. It’s just so we can get to know you better. If you wear green solar powered undies you’re golden.

If you want a list of Do’s and Don’t’s, they are few, and are more suggestions than rules. The only thing you need to do 100% is to be Radically Self-Reliant. Anyone may be part of Burning Man if they have a desire to participate.

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Bacon in Bacon

07_1_Bacon_in_Bacon1There is no Bacon in Bacon, Indiana. This reporter travelled 200 miles out of the way enroute to Burning Man on an intrepid search for Bacon from BACON. About 40 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky, just off Indiana Highway 37 and about 15 miles north of Interstate 64, you will find Bacon Road, which the locals call Bacon Ridge Road. Along this unimproved road, there are only four residences; two custom-built beauties, one modular unit and one mobile home that hasn’t moved in a couple of decades.

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Flames and Beats

By Tony Tohono
There were forecasts of heavy rain, and, indeed, several interludes of fire’s dreaded adversary showered the event, but in the end the third annual FireDrums went on, more intimate for the threat of a deluge.

Perhaps the rain kept the spectators away. Last year, there seemed to be a lot of people who were there more for the party. This time, it was all about fire and the drumming.

FireDrums was first held at Pismo Beach in Oceanside in 2004. The year following it was moved to Red, White and Blue Beach just outside of Santa Cruz where it was also held this year, from April 14 to 16. About 250 people attended, camping in tents over the weekend. The event’s promoter, Sky, has talked of moving it again next year and also of the possibility of making it biannual as interest grows.

Sky is quick to point out that FireDrums is its own unique event, not one of the regional Burns that recreate, in a smaller way, Burning Man. “The vision of FireDrums was—and is—to bring together both fire artists and drummers to share knowledge in a place dedicated to that and only that,” he said. Black Rock City “has been a very inspirational place for so many, but there is so much going on there that it’s difficult to gather a solid core of fire artists and drummers for any length of time. Also there are many who haven’t yet made it to Burning Man.”

We arrived Friday afternoon during the second day of the event. After helping build a dome with the rest of my campmates from Sacramento’s fire troupe, SaDa Fuego, I put up my tent and then took a walk down to the beach.

For those of you who have not been to Red, White and Blue beach, the site of the local monthly beach Burn for San Francisco Bay Area Burners, the place is a paradise. The small valley foots a freshwater creek that ebbs out onto a large crescent-shaped beach snuggled between flora- and fauna-fringed cliffs with breakers rising up between them.

I walked past the staging area where most of the fire performances would occur and watched as a few volunteers filled a wheelbarrow with sand to fill in the puddles that marred most of one side. Within moments I was recruited, and even though it was hard work I found it fulfilling and fun. When the last puddle was filled I turned my attention to the beach.

Small knots of people were scattered to each end, some with a more playful aura, while others seemed nearly as formal as a specialized training course at a trade convention, albeit with a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean rolling up behind them and somewhat more colorful attire beneath the occasional beaded dreadlocks and oft-pierced visages. The fire dancers worked out intricate moves with the passion and determination of any serious athlete. These sessions filled the daylight hours throughout the weekend.

The sense of community was just as warm as at any other Burn-like gathering and there were plenty of hugs to go around. It’s always amazing when you realize you recognize someone from some completely obscure moment in time lost at the edges of your memory and then they remind you it was laughing together at some band of traveling zombies out on the playa last August. “Oh yeah . . . That was it!”

Things kicked up a notch when night fell. Everywhere you looked people carried their gear toward the sound of the drums and the glow of center camp. At the performance area, groups of fire dancers gathered around the burn barrels to discuss moves and techniques while awaiting their turns. Groups of drummers talked shop while peeking up at the sky from beneath temporary shade structures. Every few minutes someone would light up out on the beach and glowing reflections would illuminate the estuary.

Sometime after midnight the clouds opened up and the rain fell hard. Fortunately, it lasted only a few minutes and once it was over, although the crowd had thinned, the drumming and the fire dancing resumed. It was during these late hours that some of the more intimate and breathtaking performances took place. Around 4:30 on Saturday morning I happened to be sitting to the side of the circle with a group of my campmates.

Our mostly whispered conversation was a conflict of beauty and silence. Someone pointed up the fierce light of a full moon as it peeked through ominous clouds. “No, it was full last night,” a barely audible voice insisted. Tired or burnt and sleep were often alluded to and then shushed away. I glanced over at the fuel dump and wondered if anyone else was going to light up.

Over on a makeshift bench a group crowded around a burn barrel. I was about to call it a night when someone dipped wicks over the edge of the barrel and pulled out two lanterns of fire swinging from the ends of two lengths of distinctively complacent chain. The individual who looked up from behind these swaying vials of light looked part alien and part magician. There was a sense that something special was about to happen.

got up, walked over and stood behind those seated on the bench as this creature started doing his thing. I have a feeling everyone watching would have been mesmerized into oblivion had Vatra, leader of the San Francisco-area fire troupe the Pyronauts, not been present to banter throughout the spin. “No one is going to believe that Arashi actually spun,” he claimed.

At times Arashi looked entirely in control and at other times he looked entirely under the control of his poi. Part juggler circus freak, part martial artist, part break dancer, part Texas bull whipping rope swinging desert dreaming shaman, he moved in the most poetic herky jerky momentous on the verge of inert fashion I had ever seen—incorporated into fire dancing. He continually stepped into his performance only to stand back and watch it unfold before him as if he were just another spectator who just happened to be attached to the ends of his arms.

His wicks burned for a long time and when it was finally over there was a collective “Wow.” And then we were left in a stunned silence. With no cameras or video cameras present it was as if, as someone would later say, it didn’t happen. I headed back to camp to call it a night.

When I look back on FireDrums I think Arashi’s performance exemplifies the significance of the event. The best parts of it are what were shared on an intimate level, between individual components of the community. There are of course the larger parts going on the entire time that everyone shares together, but it’s those unique little secrets found out on the periphery or when everyone else has gone in that made it a special experience.

“In comparison to last year,” Sky said, “though the numbers were a little less, due to Mother Nature, the vibe was still very positive and we had some amazing fire artists and the drummers added a really awesome vibe.”

And that is what FireDrums is all about.

Supracompression Rocks London

By Wanda

For Burners in and around Britain, it was costumes ’a go-go’ at Supacompression, an event organized by the Euroburners in London on May 6.

Visually, it was a real treat. Overall, the atmosphere and great friendliness made the night a success. The event was a fundraiser for Nowhere, an annual summer weekend Burner event held in Spain, this year from July 6 to July 9. It brought together an assortment of brethren out to parrrrrrrdy. Fashionistas frolicked with “French waiters” in a night full of freaks and geeks. About 350 people attended, raising £1,300 ($2,400) for Nowhere and Quixotes Cabaret Camp Bar.

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Art Appreciation 2005

By Tony Tohono

Wednesday night I was invited on an art appreciation walk. I arrived at my friend Tracy’s camp sometime after dark, and she introduced me to most of her friends as they congregated in the main camp area. 20 names I knew were going to be difficult, if not impossible to remember. When we finally got off the corner of Fetish and hit the road there were 22 of us; 21 Canadians and one Californian; We made a quick stop at the porta potties and one dude, I can’t remember his name, but he insisted it was something Greek God-like, possibly Narcissist suggested we all pick a partner to be responsible for. I clung to the hand of the beautiful woman who had pressed me into the fold.

Walking down 5:30 one rule was made: “Stay off the Esplanade”. I felt strange as we crossed it, and I made a point to tread lightly on the hard-packed surface. Off to one side I looked over to where I knew Mardi Storm’s Twilight Amina Rising, was located. I wanted to suggest we stop and look at the unicorn climbing out of the playa, at the bright and shiny psychedelic eyes that were watching us pass, but I was in fear of its proximity to the Esplanade. I kept looking back over my shoulder, wanting to go back, wanting to peer up at that translucent horn, wanting to slip between those clawing hooves.

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