Year of the Mexicans

A guest post from Terbo Ted, the first DJ at Burning Man (1992) and first Mayor of the Techno Ghetto.


Burning Man 2016: Year of the Mexicans

TERBO TED TERBOLIZARD·FRIDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2016

.
“Make America Mexico Again” – overheard in Black Rock City

.
Whether they were contributing by financing, creating, designing, building, staffing or populating Black Rock City, 2016 was a year noteworthy for outstanding input from Mexican nationals.

2016-mayan-warrior-1

Mayan Warrior’s historic link up with Robot Heart in the Deep Playa, photo from Alexandra Höglund | Instagram

Mexico City’s Mayan Warrior art car  returned to the playa with millions of dollars worth of mind blowing improvements.  Their blend of music, form, sound and light was unprecedented and sets a global standard for art cars.  Whenever it would slowly enter the playa playing solemn processional music, dozens of bicycles would dutifully follow along in anticipation of the festivities to come.  The night Mayan Warrior linked systems with playa veterans Robot Heart set an unbelievable benchmark for sound in the desert and attracted an enormous crowd of thousands that danced well past sunrise.  Equally impressive was watching the Mayan Warrior return to their large, well organized camp to go through the vehicle’s round the clock daily servicing; it was like watching a pit crew at the 24 hours of Le Mans automobile endurance event.

2016-mayan2photo from Burning Man Festival at https://www.instagram.com/p/BKDwqYDgxeS/

Burning Man has become an international jet set destination and along with some very impressive camps from Mexico lining Billionaire’s Alley- such as Humano The Tribe-, there were other high end luxury Spanish language camps in that area as well, including Ibiza camp from Spain.  All day long at the end of Lorenzo one could witness beautiful young people talking in Spanish strolling or riding by while modeling designer swimwear, tall boots and disco ball bedazzled military officer caps, which were very much in fashion this year.  I’m glad I speak Spanish; I found myself having several conversations a day en Español on the playa.

.
Many of the Mexicans had elaborate feather costumes or wardrobe items, which was quite interesting in the wake of all of the strong social media dialog before the event regarding respect for Native American and First Nation traditions, especially the donning of Plains Indian style war bonnet headdresses.  Mexicans, of course, may be descended from- or not- a range of indigenous civilizations that have long made use of feathers in ceremonial costumes and headgear, which might be influenced by Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, Toltec or other American cultures.  To directly address the war bonnet controversy, while I never saw an authentic, actual Plains Indian Eagle Feather Headdress on the playa this year, I certainly did see one wasted, sunburned and pale beer-bellied white bro with his shirt off, wearing unfortunate Spring Break styled swim trunks and a low-cost child-sized neon green faux feather war bonnet headdress that looked like it came from the Spirit Halloween store.  This poor fella looked like the only guy on the playa who couldn’t actually get laid, and I don’t think we should take his costume choices too seriously, he obviously doesn’t.
.

Black Rock City has all of the cultural sensitivity of an owl vomiting up a frog carcass it has recently devoured.  Countless booths and kiosks line the city offering ‘Bad Advice.’  Ironically, these are usually unstaffed.  While traveling around BRC, it is inevitable that some drunken clown, prankster or provocateur will yell at you through a bullhorn or distorted microphone with a message as succinct as ‘Fuck You!’ or ‘Fuck Your Burn!’  Which is usually followed with a sturdy hug and an offering of a drink. This is how a society built on ritualized destruction of a male effigy conducts itself on a normal day to day basis.  If you are new to BRC, the culture is very likely to rudely invade your personal comfort zone and via ‘transformation’ help you redefine your own boundaries.
.

It seems that well over half of the population of Black Rock City are virgins now.  What is remarkable is how all of the shared cultural history, knowledge and information has been of great use in preparing these people for their first visit.  Sometimes virgins might even be over indoctrinated before they arrive these days. We should be reminded that in the early years of Burning Man on the playa, people were NOT good at it.  Over 20 years ago people would routinely show up in the desert with no goggles, no mask, no sunscreen, no hat, no shade, no water.  Back in those days, you’d find someone passed out on the ground, intoxicated, with a blistering sunburn and desperately in need of help.  Now virgins show up in designer outfits tailored to the desert lifestyle.  In conversation with virgins this year, I’d inevitably ask them how does being at BRC differ from all of the impressions they had beforehand, from all of the wealth of pictures, videos and stories they had experienced prior the event.  Most people answer that they are surprised at how friendly everyone is in Black Rock City, and by how indescribable the desert environment is, including scale and conditions.  You have to be there on the playa to truly understand.

2016-on-bikes

Image: Alazne Bilbao | Instagram

Bicycles are an integral part of Black Rock City, but that has not always been the case.  In the early 90s, BRC was small enough to easily traverse on foot, and you could drive your car in any direction you chose at any speed.  Times have changed.  A great deal of difficulties face bicyclists on the playa.  LOCK YOUR BICYCLE or it will be ‘gifted’ from you and become a ‘playa bike.’  While literal bike theft seems to be down in BRC- in previous years people would actually throw bikes en masse into trucks to steal them- ‘borrowing’ or ‘appropriating’ of bikes is rampant in BRC.  This is especially common around turn key camps that provide a fleet of bicycles to their guests.  A turn key guest probably doesn’t have much attachment to their provided playa bike, and it is understandable that they would not lock it up, but once their allocated bike disappears, the consternation of this situation is generally inspiring enough to motivate their borrowing of someone else’s bike, which has an impressive cascading effect.  LOCK YOUR BIKE OR YOU WILL LOSE IT.  The amount of discarded bicycles strewn about after the city begins to fade away is heart breaking.  If you do not want to take your bike home, please take it off the playa and donate it to any one of the local groups along Highway 447 who specialize in restoring and renting playa bikes to future guests.

2016-girl-on-bike

Image: Polinanikova | Instagram

Further bicycle notes: If you spend any time at all in the busy bike repair shops around the city, you will notice that one of the most common repairs is eliminating a derailleur and shortening the chain to transform it into a one speed bike.  The playa is completely flat and the roads are rutted.  Derailleurs fail regularly from all of the bouncing, dust and falls a bike encounters.  If you are putting together or purchasing a new playa bike, one speed beach cruisers work fine.  Consider avoiding multi-speed bikes to eliminate yourself some hassle.  Also, while people are great at illuminating their bikes to avoid ‘darking’ at night, it seems more people could use bells or horns to notify other pedestrians, vehicles and bikes.  It is remarkable how many people ride their bikes while not looking where they are going, there are many distractions in Black Rock City.
“Communities are not produced by sentiment.  They grow out of a shared struggle.” – Larry Harvey

.

It was great to see ecstatic good vibes from the old timers in attendance this year.  The recent purchase of Fly Ranch leading up to the burn warmed many hearts.  But the path to this year’s joy has not been an easy one.  Burning Man has faced much adversity over the decades.  The festival almost collapsed after the deadly HellCo chaos of 1996.  For every single one of the early years in the desert the festival only lost money, which seemed like a lot in that era, even insurmountable at times.  Their have been countless lawsuits over the years against various government agencies.  Early stalwarts such as John Law (who designed the man’s neon) quit long ago and vowed never to return.  Others have passed away, such as Pepe Ozan, who helped pioneer large-scale ritualized spectacle in the earlier years.  But every single time this year I ran across folks such as Larry Harvey, Crimson Rose, Will Roger, Maid Marian, Steven Raspa and more, they seemed to be in the greatest of spirits.  Que vaya bien.
¡Hasta luego!

.

About the storyteller:
Terbo Ted Terbolizard first visited the Black Rock Desert in 1992 when there was no gate, no perimeter, no road, no trash fence and you could drive your car as fast as you wanted in any direction.  Terbo was the first DJ to play in Black Rock City, with no one there to hear his set on a dusty Friday afternoon.  Later, in the early years he was the only one ever to be called “Mayor of the Techno Ghetto.”  His playa self and default world self can be remarkably similar these days.

.
Header image photo by Craig Ellenwood

#burningman #playa #artcar #mayanwarrior #robotheart

Why We Burn: Kevin Bracken

(As the East Coast begins its preparation to head West for Burning Man, I’m deeply honored to bring you an interview with Kevin Bracken, one of the low-key legends of the Brooklyn & Toronto party scenes. While the name isn’t familiar, if you partied in Brooklyn in the later oughts, Newmindspace & their dope Bushwick loft was a storied institution not to be missed. A member of Opulent Temple, he’s moved up to massive Pillow Fights, Bubble Battles, tangling with the Empire With Ears & bringing a big metal swan to the playa! He’s friends with Ryan & Erika from our first Why We Burn as well, so I hope you enjoy the chat!)

Brack1

By Terry Gotham

1. What’s your favorite Burning Man memory?
My favorite memory was the first sunrise I spent with my wife Marie at the burn, a.k.a. the moment we started dating. I’m pretty sure we both knew even then it was going to turn into something magical 🙂

Not my favorite memory, but my most unforgettable moment: It would be hard to top Paul Addis burning the man early in 2007 while most people were distracted by a lunar eclipse. For those who don’t remember, that was the year that Burning Man allowed Tesla to put an unmarked prototype in the Green Man “Corporate Pavilion.” It was an unmitigated PR disaster that was magically swept away by the deranged actions of a sick man. And even though I do think what Addis did was dangerous and pretty messed up, a tiny part of me does think it was the final chaotic, anarchic action of a Burning Man most people will never experience.

Continue reading

Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: Stefanie Jones of The Drug Policy Alliance

(This week, it is my privilege to bring you a conversation with one of the hardest working women at the intersection between nightlife & safety, and a dear friend, Stefanie Jones, Director of Audience Development  at the Drug Policy Alliance. Her #SaferPartying initiative & MusicFan programs are crucial to for harm reduction, drug policy activism and global dance population at large. Interview by Terry Gotham)

Stefanie Jones_Music Industry session_Nov 2015

1. How was Burning Man 2015? Did you go to any other transformational festivals that actually didn’t suck when it came to harm reduction & forward thinking drug policy?
Burning Man 2015 was a definite revelation. As I like to tell people, I’ve been invited to it by various friends and people I know practically every year since 2002 but for a lot of reasons never went. It was nice because all that time let me develop a theory around what it would be like for me to go and what the best approach was, and without feeling totally wrong about what I thought, during the preparation process and the actual experience of course it’s all out the window. Even if you know, it’s not the same as when you actually do a thing, right?

Burning Man is making some strides when it comes to integrating harm reduction. In 2015 they went further than they ever had before by giving the Zendo Project two locations on the playa – two safe spaces for people who are feeling overwhelmed for whatever reason, to stop by or be brought to and be cared for by trained volunteers and therapists. Burning Man Org also listed Zendo ahead of time in the JackRabbit Speaks newsletter and in their entry materials. I volunteered with Zendo and it was incredibly rewarding, as it always is. It’s a start but there’s certainly more they could do. They have a huge challenge because the event is on federal land and there are MANY enforcement and health agencies in the mix the organizers have to keep happy. A lot of people are surprised Burning Man isn’t leading when it comes to drug policy and harm reduction, but quite honestly, given the nature and location of the event, it would be hard for them to lead.

The gold standard is actually the Boom Festival in Portugal. They have an unfair advantage maybe, because all drugs are decriminalized in that country and it really clears the way for comprehensive harm reduction to take place. Nonetheless they do it all: onsite drug education and drug checking (testing drugs for adulterants), as well as a Zendo-equivalent compassionate care service called Kosmicare. All harm reduction groups are fully supported by and integrated into the event.

In the US the clear leader is Lightning in a Bottle. We have a little harm reduction coalition working with them, and the work is summarized here.

Also, it’s not a transformational festival, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Backwoods Festival in Oklahoma. Last year they invited DanceSafe onsite and not only let them do drug checking, but integrated an early alert system if dangerous or misrepresented substances were found. In Oklahoma!! Giant respect for this scrappy event.

Continue reading

Vogue Profiles Robot Heart

Hey, they don’t publish their DJ lineups. So this is fine.


 

re-blogged from Vogue.com:

Image: @rosiehw

Burners Candice Swanepoel and Rosie Huntington-Whitely. Image: @rosiehw

Robot Heart, the Ultra-Exclusive East Coast Answer to Burning Man, Is Happening This Weekend

Didn’t get your beat-dropping bacchanal fix at Burning Man this year? Well, you’re in luck: Robot Heart, the cold-weather answer to the pumped-up festival, has arrived. Known for hosting the most hotly anticipated gatherings during the weeklong festival in Black Rock City (performers this year included Major Lazer and Diplo), the traveling spinoff collective “of doers and dreamers, artists and entrepreneurs” is bringing those same let-loose, beat-first vibes to New York City this Halloween, and the entirely non-advertised Robot Heart is proving to be a lot more exclusive than its predecessor. Sure, there’s still that tech-infused, barely there–raver-meets–Mad Max vibe, but for one, you’d better think asphalt, rather than sand, and for another, you’ll need to buy a ticket via a person in the know (and a secret invite-only code) to access the hidden venue rather than a camper van and a big checkbook. (Not in the know, or in-the-know adjacent? We’d advise you to wait for the Instagram geotags.) One thing is for sure: the most awaited party of the year promises to put any previous Halloween bash you had planned to shame. Meaning only one thing: You’d better dress to impress.

So what do you wear once you get past whatever the uber-hip-raver version of velvet ropes is? “You have to dress up in something crazy,” says Vogue.com Market Editor Chelsea Zalopany, “so go insane.” Time to put all that Burner FOMO to good use: curve-skimming body suits with eye-catching thigh-high boots in whatever hue you please, or a tiny feathered bra and cheeky stay-ups can do the trick nicely. (Ravers don’t get cold.) As for the best part? Unlike Burning Man, there’s no chance of catching the desert affliction of “playa foot,” at the stomping grounds of Robot Heart, plus, the evening promises to afford steady access to both plumbing and running water. (At least within walking distance. . . . We think.

]Read the rest and see the fashion tips at Vogue]

Why We Burn: Aaron & Honeybee

(After seeing the success of our first Why We Burn segment, I’m delighted to have spoken to Aaron & Honeybee. One a department head at a tech company here in NYC, the other a heart surgeon, they’re two people I look up to. Consumate professionals who work hard & play hard, I was able to get their thoughts on what it takes to venture out from the East Coast and why they keep coming back.) By Terry Gotham

AH11. How many years have you gone to Burning Man & how did you get into the scene?
Honeybee: 9 years in a row. In 2007 I realized I was really bored with my social life, I wanted to be thrilled by it. So I jumped on the computer, searching through Google, throwing in random terms committed to finding a group of people, a community that inspired me. That scared the living shit out of me. After hours of searching, I came across a photo of a guy sitting on a red velvet couch in the middle of the open desert and the floor was scorched black. In an instant the photo brought so much curiosity, I began searching for “Man Burning with Couch” ,”Man Burning Desert”, finally I came across Burning Man. My search was over, I found the community that I so desperately wanted. I immediately signed up to every list I could find, read every bit of information I could read and purchased my tickets a month later. I ended up going by myself and have been going back ever since. I was a main contributor to the art from 2008 – 2013, building large interactive art installations for Burning Man with an arts collective I started with two others, called the Animus Arts Collective.

Aaron: Although not as seasoned as Honeybee, I have been fortunate enough to make it out to the Playa the last two years. We all know that Burning Man is so much more than music but what actually got me into the scene was the music in the first place. Well, that and Honeybee herself. I was always really into the warehouse music/party scene in NYC and had been frequenting many over most of my 20s. I didn’t even really know that the crowd was so full of Burners and how heavily the culture influenced the scene.

Then, Honeybee and I met and started dating in early 2014 and she brought in the Burner culture and sense of community that I had mostly lacked. She was so surprised how much I knew about the music and I was surprised how little I did know about the community at large. Within a few months of us dating, she said to me that we were going to go to Burning Man that year and I immediately said ‘Let’s do it’. This is actually quite funny in hindsight because I remember saying in my early 20s that I would never go to Burning Man. Honeybee opened up a whole new world to me. We had so much fun planning and getting ready for the 2014 Burn and our love for each other blossomed as a result.

2. Do you have default world jobs? How do you earn the funds to make it to the playa?
Honeybee: Absolutely, I am the Head of Developer Relations for an amazing tech company which allows me to afford the trek to the playa from the East Coast.

Aaron: I’m a doctor finishing up my last couple years of training to be a heart surgeon. As a fellow, especially in NYC, the pay/work hour ratio is ridiculously low. But thats okay because I got myself a sugar momma (I just nudged her on the couch). So funding going to BM each year involves planning well ahead and saving accordingly.

Continue reading