Thursday, September 4, 2008

Music on the Playa

If there's one definitive thing I can say about music on the playa this year, it's that I've now heard all the James Brown I need to hear for an entire year. Every day, several times a day, I would hear The Godfather testifying from somewhere, and even saw him being towed in effigy around the Esplanade behind a bicycle one day.

The aural omipresence of James Brown was an indication of what seemed like the general musical mood; breaks and big electronic thumps certainly had their place at 10 O'clock and along the Esplanade, but when you got into the small soundsystems the vibe was much more about easygoing party pop 'n' rock. On Thursday night, trying to find my way among various pathways of the mind, the dance party at a camp down Allante made me think I had stumbled back into Drunk and Horny, while during the day I had happened into a Rolling Stones party at the Solar Snow Cone camp.

There were of course plenty of big whoo-whoo parties with electronic music, but distance and the difficulty of getting around on bikes due to the sand traps kept me from really going out to the big dance camps like Opulent Temple. There's something about the scale of those camps, too, that I find a bit off-putting; if being around a thousand fucked-up people at 1015 seems a little much to deal with, try adding a couple thousand more people to the mix. Just think about the amount of dust generated by all those stomping feet.

My best musical moment came on Friday at the Deep End, where Worthy of Dirty Bird fame had the opening set. I had been up for a pretty intense twenty-four hours at that point, and had become even more doggie than usual, but Worthy's set sparked me back to life for a few more hours. After that, though, I was basically done with dancing at Burning Man; I checked into the Honey Sound System party at Comfort and Joy after midnight that night, deemed it too hot and reeking of sweaty faeries for my physical condition, and soon after was passed out in my tent (J, though, later told me that Pee Play laid out a fun set).

I did play a set at Camp Zoom on Wednesday night, but it was Lord Kook who can lay claim to two truly awesome sets, both at Glitter Camp on the Esplanade. On Tuesday, after struggling through a dust storm on Monday and then spending all day Tuesday working on our camp art project, we were ready to party, and so, it seemed, was everyone else there. LK held that space for a solid two hours that night, drawing in lots of wandering gay boys, including Pee Play, who was drawn in by the whoops that went up when LK dropped Lindstrom's "Another Station." LK returned on Wednesday to play a tag-team with Jovino that lasted a full five hours, until both of them were just too exhausted to play another track.

On the Burning Man census this year there was a section to check off the things that brought you to the playa, and one of them was "the music scene." I ticked this off as one of my attractions, but I really think that the version of the Burning Man music scene that I experience here, through Opulent Temple, Space Cowboys, and the host of fundraisers is a lot more interesting for me than what I've encountered on the playa. In many ways, the sound of the playa has become pretty predictable, and the scale of the event makes it both very difficult to find things that are more off the beaten path, and to get to them when you do find them. I know, though, that all these things move in cycles, and just as breaks superseded trance as the sound of the playa, something else new will eventually come along; I just wish it would hurry up and happen already.

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