Posts Tagged ‘Burning Man


Coachella, For the Record, is Nothing Like Burning Man

On Friday, an acquaintance of mine who looks to have never been to anything edgier than a smooth jazz brunch was like, “Oh you’re at Coachella–the Southern Cal version of Burning Man.”

Uh. No. Let’s get it straight please. Burning Man is essentially an annual party/performance art gathering / electronic music mega-marathon / grownup getaway / highly evolved uber-rave that’s been going for gosh I dunno must be nearly 20 years now. Most of the longtime attendees are at least loosely affiliated with an artists’ collective and/or mixed media space and/or DJ crew back in the Bay Area (and now in LA and New York too, I guess), and these collectives are responsible for building all the amazing installations and throwing the best parties at Burning Man, because (at least up till recent years and maybe still; I stopped paying attention) there was never organized entertainment there, and nobody was paid to play. Also up till recent years there was little law enforcement and almost zero regulation of substances, which was what drew a lot of people out there to the desert–apparently there’s something oddly compelling about taking way more drugs than you can handle, wearing sparkly fairy wings and nipple tassles and/or a Muppet costume, and acting like a 3 year old in 120-degree heat.

For me, it’s not compelling b/c there is nothing I hate more than watching a bunch of grownups acting like 3 year olds and/or stumbling around in Muppet costumes being unable to handle their drugs. Don’t get me wrong, I love electronic music–prog house, breakbeat, electro-pop, and almost anything that comes out of Scandinavia or Iceland. I have for decades. However. I also love air-conditioning, running water, and fellow partiers who are okay with me not owning a tutu & wings.

Which brings me back to Coachella. Apart from the fact that it, too, is in the desert (a TOTALLY different one, in a completely different state), it has very little in common with Burning Man. First of all, it’s organized by GoldenVoice, which is one of the best concert promoters in the business. It gets the most amazing musical lineup of any festival in the country. And HELL YES, that musical talent gets paid!! (Rumor has it, in fact, that Prince got upward of $4 million. But I cannot substantiate that, nor do I really care all that much.) Not only that, but the people who do the art installations also get paid. There was some Burning Man art in the mix this year, but not a lot, and it was specifically selected…and those ppl got cash I do believe.

As for the substances–well, they were heavily, heavily regulated. You couldn’t drink alcohol, nor were you supposed to smoke, anywhere except in a couple designated areas. I heard–though did not see for myself–that there was no alcohol in general camping. I stayed in the artists’ quarters, and there was some there Thank Gawd! And you know, I think there was, throughout the place, a general waft of weed & maybe a few bug-eyed folks, but really it was soooo mild. I didn’t see a single tutu, not even on a dude.

And at least on Friday, almost everyone was asleep by 2AM. Thousands of early-to-bed fuddy-duddies we were. Even the serious Burner crew next door had, like, a little tiny mellow party that fizzled by sunrise. Shocking!

So why were we all there? To see the music. Which, as I said, was incredible. A lot of people bitched about the lineup this year, but I must say that Goldfrapp ruled my universe, and Adam Freeland brought the bass admirably for a a 5PM set, and Aphex Twin kept his insanity to a minimum, and the Verve sounded just like they do on the radio…though I didn’t actually watch a second of the show. Oh, and I heard Pendulum was awesome. Spankrock chicks were badassed-yummy and sizzling. Datarock had a hilarious audience of 17 year old hipsters doing the seizure dance in between looking around self-consciously to see if their neighbors were okay/impressed with it.

I did not see Jack Johnson, sorry. And Fatboy Slim (AKA Norman Cook) just downright SUCKED. He was bored and boring, totally phoned in the set, and was disinterested in the audience to the point of being rude. Damn he’s terrible. Why is he famous again?

Back onto a positive note, I heeeaard that on Saturday Portishead stole the show. This doesn’t surprise me; they sounded as good as their album at the soundcheck. Beth Gibbons is a bit of a weirdo, but she’s beautiful to listen to.

Anyway, so that was Coachella. Nothing like Burning Man. Also not exactly the transcendental cultural experience people have started purporting it to be. But a damn good music festival–and I hope it stays around a while.

Oh, and yes I did see a couple SNOWBIRDS but nothing to cause undue panic. Thanks for remembering.


“Boob soup”!

img_5908.jpgThe other end of the pool was barely visible through the steam rising off the surface of the water. A battered orange tarp was draped over the yard, which was behind a bungalow in suburban Vancouver. On this Saturday night in early February, drops of freezing rain leaked through the holes and spattered the swimmers and water-treaders. The water had been heated, with propane, to hot tub temperatures. Rubber duckies, air mattresses and buoyant Styrofoam “noodles” floated by. Nearly everyone was naked, and lithe, beautiful women were everywhere. I, who grew up with a swimming pool in the backyard but had never been witness to something like this, should’ve been in heaven.

So why was I so anxious?

Well, for one thing, I didn’t really know anyone, except for my date. For another, many of the guests, and definitely the hosts, were veterans of Burning Man, the six-day annual event held in the Nevada desert devoted to freedom of expression, wild behaviour, and (in my wildest dreams) unparalleled sexual debauchery. What if people started asking me what my favourite part of last year’s Burning Man was? What if they discovered I wasn’t One of Them—would they run me out of the pool, chasing me down the suburban street with poi? I also fretted over looking too long in the wrong place(s) and/or giving off the wrong vibe, like the guy who’d approached my date with the line, “You look just like this other really beautiful girl that’s here—you could be sisters.” Sheesh!

Fortunately, I was there with J., who was not only familiar with this crowd but, from the amount of nude, wetly glistening hugs I witnessed, one of the most popular players in the scene. While her re-acquaintancing left me to cool my jets for the first part of the evening, after an hour or so I began to relax and get in the rhythm of meeting new nudes. J. certainly smoothed the way by introducing me to friends like Allison, with a flower tiara in her hair and Meredith, who shared her frozen mango and Jameson’s Irish. More than once I brought my male energy over to where J. was with a couple or trio of girls, only to find them discussing their breasts and nipples—someone by then had even coined the term, relative to the pool, “boob soup.” Meanwhile, with everyone as excited as kids on the eve of the release of a new Harry Potter tome, voices rose and fell, and a cycle of “Shhhhhhh!” continuously spread as a reminder to keep the noise to a minimum to avoid the neighbours’ wrath.

I didn’t spend all my time in the water—there were other areas to explore.  On the living room in the main floor, a massage table was set up; people relaxed on the couch or on the floor. In the kitchen, a Russian girl tended to a pot of pea soup and tray of latkes. In the basement, one room was set up as a dancefloor, complete with a bar, a DJ booth, and a stripper pole. In one corner of the “chill and art” room, a guy in coveralls painted an East Van cityscape that included the orange dock cranes visible from my apartment, a detail I found significant at the time. On the art room’s floor, partygoers lay on futons, some having a sexytime. Those feeling especially frisky could avail themselves of the nearby “play room”, which was a barely curtained off nook. All in all, it was undeniably the wildest party I’d ever been to. I mean, there was that lingerie party back in the ’90s—that was pretty hot. And then last year I was at a “half-off” party, where people were either topless (black duct tape covering naughty bits) or pantless. That had been fun. But this was like being at the Playboy Mansion but with more dreadlocks and fire sculptures.


Finally, by the time we left, I felt completely comfortable. It helped that I’d relaxed enough to make small talk—no one even asked about Burning Man. Having J.’s seal of approval was a huge benefit, and I’d even known more people as the evening wore on, including a former music industry pal now with his own travel show on OLN (check it at, as well as another popular member of the community and two people I recognized from my gym. The party was still in full-ish swing by the time J. and I left, somewhere before daylight, while the music still played but after the rain had ceased, and the water had cooled off. 


Monday Morning Quarterback

First of all, let me just say, Wow! What a weekend! A birthday party, a burlesque Hallowe’en party, a “Bollyween” party, a “Monster Mash” party, a pagan party for Burning Man survivors, and a huge street parade that brought out thousands of partygoers. And I missed all of it!

Okay, that’s not exactly true. However, I did miss a lot, either entirely or by a hair. For instance, the Bollyween party. Held in a loft near downtown on Friday night, the soiree encouraged guests to dress a la Bollywood, i.e., Indian movie musical style. I don’t even want to get into the stress when I realized, after work Friday, I didn’t have the appropriate Bolly-wear, and that the nearby thrift store didn’t have what I needed. Compounding my anxiety, my wingman had visited the party site on Facebook. “All these girls are going!” Wingy said excitedly. “Hundreds! And only seven guys!” Anyway, all my stress was for naught, for by the time we arrived the party was down to the seven guys and only a few of the girls, and no one cared I wasn’t wearing a brightly coloured cotton shirt studded with rhinestones.

We were late for two reasons: a book launch and a birthday party. Of the former, there is nothing much to say, since book launches aren’t exactly hotbeds of singles activity. As for the latter, the celebration–at a once-trendy, now slightly frayed, restaurant/bar–was for the lovely Nat, a friendly bartender and girl-about-town. She was in the company of a few of her hot single friends, so I took the gathering as an opportunity to test out The Contract (see previous blog), specifically codicil #4: Thou shalt not seek to impress.

Normally, when I am surrounded by comely lasses, my automatic response is to crack jokes only I think are funny or tell stories no one is interested in hearing. This time, I did none of that. Instead, I basically sat there, back against banquette, like a lump, while the drinking and laughter raged about me. I did get one email address, though—from a potential interview subject, a guy who claims to be a stockbroker, DJ, and an adult filmmaker. In this day and age, you have to diversify.

Saturday night was more or less a write-off.* Sunday afternoon, however, featured a coffee date. Well, not a date, really, since I no longer “date”. It was a business meeting. Or was it? It felt like a date, at least to me. Sally** and I had had met once before, but only briefly, and this time, over coffee, we talked more about our personal lives than business. Anyway, she’s devilishly cute. So now the question is, what do I do? The Contract also states, “Thou shalt not pursue.” (The idea being that chasing women has gotten me nowhere.) But what if I just happened to drop a hint about an upcoming event she might be interested in? Or is that the beginning of the slippery slope?

*Comments my friend, MBK, with whom I went to the Halloween parade on Saturday night:

“I think it would been funny to mention how we ended up on the couch, a Blue Man and a purple-tressed alien, watching a Bruce Lee movie, at 10 pm Sat night, no?” Well, I dunno–I’m not really sure if that’s the image I want to project…

**Name changed in case anyone reads this.

August 2020

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