I never slept so well, at least not in a tent. It seemed like the past day has been more eventful than all my previous life. My head was buzzing and I needed to perform some kind of mental hygiene. Already. A lot needs to happen today, including getting my very first burner bike and playing my very first DJ gig at Black Rock City.
My mattress is done, and flat, and shit my back hurts. I’m sitting down, taking a sharpie and a notebook. I desperately need to get all those thoughts on paper and free up some mental capacity. We have couple of new arrivals in the camp and I love them already. It’s official: fried bacon is love at Burning Man.
Getting my Burner bike
Bikes are the way to move in Black Rock City. If you can’t get one pre-event, can’t get one to the event, or just don’t care enough – you can always rent. It’s actually for a good thing, even. By renting a bike, you are funding a repair shop. You never know when you’ll need one. Playa dust is unforgiving, especially to bikes.
It’s 10:30 and I’m making my way to the camp that is renting out burner bikes. It’s my first morning here, I don’t know what temperature or feelings to expect. I have no idea how much more water to drink, how much water I need to take with me. I have no idea how much of a hike it’s going to be. So I drink until I piss clear™ and go along the C-street. It took me about 30 minutes to get to Hammer and Cyclery.
Some types of people don’t really get Burning Man
Burning Man is a predominantly analog world. So I came in, showed a paper confirmation, and they found my name in a paper catalogue. After that, I was supposed to wait with a bunch of others. Now that’s ok – waiting gives you an opportunity to talk to others, to participate. Some of the folks around didn’t see it that way, tho.
There was no queue. Everybody of us was supposed to wait until their name would be called. Guys at the camp need to take care of about 1000 bikes each day, so all unnecessary drama is, well, unnecessary. But there was a guy (who even checked in after me), looking like Peter Sagan, who didn’t really feel like waiting. He started to demand to get his burner bike “because he was here waiting for already half an hour and some guys who came in after him did already get their bikes”. Another two or three people came forward to him to join his cause, which made the staff look for their cards. It took unnecessary time, and created unnecessary tension. They were bumped to the front of a line that didn’t exist, got their bikes, and were gone.
The Burner bike that chose me
I think, this was actually a very neat mitigation. The rest of us didn’t really care about waiting, and troublemakers were now gone. My name suddenly got called up, and after about 50 minutes, I got to choose my bike.
The rack I was heading to had just this one bike inside. So the staff guy who was assigned to take care of me went heading towards it. It was a blue rustbucket with blue tires and solid tubes. It seems, that the burner bike actually chose me.
I feel thirsty, but now having a burner bike means I am home in the next 5 minutes. It’s a very interesting sensation to ride on the playa, one needs to experience it.
Some few minutes later, I’m back in my tent, rehydrating. It’s indeed my last time experiencing thirst this year. I feel like now is a good time to go and stroll around. Test how much I can roll on a burner bike in one go.
Oh, all the sweet and painful distractions
You can run, but can’t hide. From the desert sun, I mean… Even though you don’t perceive it in the spur of the moment, it’s searing hot down there. One thing I learned the hard way is to be thorough about applying sunscreen, multiple times per day. Otherwise, you’ll get to experience the annoyance of having a 1 cm thin sunburn strip in places you never thought are reachable by sunlight.
There’s also a lot to enjoy while rolling. You’ll get used to drunk-driving (or drunk-rolling), but you’ll find hours of entertainment en route to wherever you are going. And, of course, the tremendous amount of fun, and some reasonable amount of suffering that comes with it.
What I mean by suffering? “Oh hey, look at that U-ramp, I always wanted try this!” My brain is on standby only and a minute later, my head hurts while I get back on my feet with people who seemed to enjoy my hilarious performance. Of course I smashed my head quite hard, but with that amount of Adrenaline, Oxytocin, Dopamine and Endorphin, it’s no big deal.
“Hey buddy, be immediate, try our jump!” – A minute afterwards, I’m getting to know, that the easiest way to kill pain is… having a sip of hot sauce! When your mouth is burning, you don’t feel any other pain. How awesome is that?!
When it’s time to go take an afternoon nap, I’m passing through a structure during something that resembles a sound check. It’s a giant pyramid and its name is Playalchemist. It’s also the place that is going to become very dear to my heart in the coming days.
Along with Playa Skool and Opulent Temple, these are the superclubs of the 10-ish side of Black Rock City. The lineups are impressive and I’d love to be everywhere. Iconic art cars such as Robot Heart and Headspace are also around. Is this heaven? I’m sorting my thoughts while passing a space with pumping techno. There’s a fair share of ravers already dancing, and of course, this is Distrikt.
I expected to be overwhelmed? Ok, here’s my overwhelm, just 10x stronger than anything I ever saw before.
The subtle fun
You know what’s more fun than rolling around on a burner bike at Burning man? It’s rolling with your gang. Why? Cause you basically stop at every bar 😀
After couple of drinks along the way, seeing a 747 Jumbo rolling on the Playa is less surreal. People in bars are creative and the drinks are tasty. There’s still a lot of camps unpacking slowly. The air is densing up and suddenly, it’s a short whiteout.
We opt in to have a look at camp Best Butt and their neighbors at camp NoRegretzky’s give us a taste of their nipple dips. All 10 of us are into it. We dip our nipples into ice water while we get a cold mist at the back, and follow through with a shot of whiskey.
Before our first camp dinner, we do one more stop by for a quick daiquiri fix in a camp that’s Hawaii themed – today. We also do a brief stop at the iconic Barbie Death Camp.
The evening fun
I kind of did come here to try to see what my real “persona” is. It’s day 2 and I know that the DJ part of me is definitely not dominant. Only 3 people from the camp know that I’ll be playing tonight, but all of them are very eager to see me, while I’m still very reluctant to create unnecessary hype around it.
We are leaving for an evening in the stylish Leopard Martini Lounge, which is a camp run by the mom of our camp daddy. Yes, Black Rock City is run by dynasties. And it’s run very well indeed.
There’s no shortage of alcohol in Black Rock City. The drinks are russian-strong. I’m one of the few around that didn’t get the dress code memo, but all the leopard-people are very tolerant. As is everybody at Burning Man. The conversations run deep, when we suddenly spot (or better, hear) karaoke across the street. The gang gifts perhaps the most entertaining version of Toto – Africa to the whole neighborhood. Last time I sung was perhaps during my wedding, and it was so much fun…
…until someone from the gang realized I am expected to DJ in about 15 minutes.
I’m giving it my all, but camp Lip Bomb is pretty much on the other side of the city. In a normal setting, I’d already sip some drink backstage, meditate, think about the first track. Oh, yeah, I have no f…g idea what to play tonight.
The camp is small, but it’s jam-packed. It’s pretty groovy already for this early in the night, but well – folks do have a lot of fun here, so why not. “Housey” house is playing, while the stage manager (and DJ, because the previous guy didn’t show up) greets me with a hug. I feel anxious, so he relieves me with a “no worries man, as long as you are having fun, all the people will, too”.
One of my USBs is not working, but the backup one does. My headphones are not working as well. What a day to be alive! There’s a pair of headphones in the DJ booth (an old RV remodeled to a booth with backstage) that works, though. I can use those. I decide to go down from current 125 BPM, but add some more groove. I’m mixing in Monkey Safari – Epilogue (Guy J Remix) and it blends perfectly just in the moment when the gang arrives.
Suddenly, there’s a lot of traffic in the DJ booth. Photographers, camera guys, random entourage. I occasionally see my campmates in front of the booth and they seem to enjoy it. People are having fun and so am I. Orkidea – Nana almost blows the roof. Time flies. The DJ after me is on time and is unpacking his giant controller. The mixing gets funny, cause I’m helping with the set up, and my fingers have almost no physical space to turn knobs. My 90 minutes are over and I have no idea how fast it went.
A walk of fame
After a couple of very hearty goodbyes, I try to make my way out of the club. The camp headed out to Ego Trip and I intend to join them. Seems like I played well, because people are stopping and hugging me on the way out. There’s going to be occasions of people recognizing me for the next couple of days (all the way to L.A. airport).
As I reach Ego Trip, I realize it’s freezing cold. I’m also pretty tired. I stop by to listen to the music for a few seconds until I am pretty sure I don’t feel like staying. I’m heading back to the camp, hoping to warm up a bit on the bike. Not happening. There’s still a lot of darkwads, so speeding is not an option tonight.
We have a new fellow campmate setting up shop while I arrive. We were virtually collaborating on the bar setup prior to the event, so I am very happy that he could make it at last. He was looking for a ticket for several days after he got scammed. Yes kids, don’t buy tickets from random strangers, they are fake 99% times.
Couple of minutes after me, all campmates are back. I am not considering time anymore, so I don’t know when I passed out in my tent into yet another enjoyable sleep. Score!