Monday, September 17, 2012

The Gift of Music - Burning Man

Burning Man: Gifting

"There's no money, right?  It's all a barter system?" This is one of the most standard queries by curious folk who ask about Burning Man.  A world without money, commodification and commerce seems absurd, and the idea of giving without expecting anything in return?  Preposterous.  But it's Gifting, not bartering, that is a pillar of the Burner community and one of the ten guiding principles of the festival. A gift is anything you have to offer to the community, and is given in love without any expectation of reciprication.  Burning Man may be the only week of the year you will spend without being advertised to.  Gifts are offered, not sold, and gratitude  & joy are the only price. DJs, artcars and music camps all offered up the gift of music in diverse packages throughout the week.  Gatsby got a taste of both new fresh up&coming acts and some favorite classic acts, rounded out with scattered smatterings of sensory overload.

One of the great things about Burning Man is that virtually whatever you are looking for, you are likely to find it represented somewhere on the playa...and another is that some of the best things you find will be the ones you never  went looking for at all.  You might miss your favorite DJs headliner set at one of the main camps but fall in love with a new sound in a neighbor's chill-out yurt.  The Rockstar Librarian Music Guide, an unofficial guide to the tunes of the playa--which features set-lists from all of the major music camps as well as some art cars, comes with the disclaimer to "be sure to set this thing down and follow first and foremost that which makes your booty shake"

The Rockstar Librarian

Gonzo Gatsby got that booty shakin' with OG acts like Aphrodite, a veteran BM act and one of the fathers of Drum n Bass.  Aphrodite took his style current with a fiesty drum-step set at the Opulent Temple Tuesday night.  While we really wanted some skanky old school DnB, the set did have the booty in full-force shake mode. "Home"town heroes The Crystal Method, did deliver exactly that 90s sound we were looking for.  The Crystal Method was some of the first electronic we heard in our adolescence, appropriately gifted to use by our Burner older brother, who insisted we listen to something better than Ace of Base.  We caught their set at Fractal 51, though they had sets at Opulent Temple and Roots Society as well. It felt good to get down to music that helped give birth to  today's EDM scene as well as our own journey through music and to the playa.   Legendary house DJ Carl Cox, however, was a fairly big let-down. His set felt manipulated, like he was trying to play a "burning man sound" rather than rock his own style.  

While classic has its appeal, for that NewNew the Gatsby got to stepping down the boulevard to "The Couch Prophecy" And we mean way down it, the BassCouch crew installs their camp at the farthest possible corner of Black Rock City.  Probably because they were being considerate neighbors and didn't want to knock down your tepee with their thundering bass.   The trek was well worth it though, and this camp was the obvious home of the playa's deepest bass and dirtiest drops.  GG Family member Coult-45 murdered his Wednesday night set there. One long time fan commented that Coult was "[rocking] the basscouch system how it's meant to be rocked: heavy sub-bass and playa magic...all just new banger after banger that no one's heard before".   That's another great thing about Burning Man: 
Everyone brings the hottest shit they've got and [the crowd] gets down and dusty and (in some instances) naked".   We got down and dusty (but not naked) to ill.Gates at The Couch Prophecy Thursday night, too.  There was certainly no couch-sitting for this one....just pure dancefloor action and celebration of bass music.  From the ill.Gates set we headed to Opulent Temple for the rapid fire break beats of DJ and Producer duo Stanton Warriors. Good thing we had our dancing shoes on because talk about a can't stop, won't stop dance party.  That grimey london sound was detonating on the dance floor in explosions of energy and movement. 

From deep bass to frenetic beats to mystical melodies, the Playa provides.  Fractal 51, the joint music stage of the Area 51 and Fractal Nation camps, played host to some breath-taking sunrise sets that were the perfect balance to nights of high-energy dance music.  Random Rab took his audience on of the the auditory journeys he's adept at captaining (not going to lie, we were feeling a tad envious of those aboard artcars that got to ride his waves of sound across the playa that morning).  But it was the epic crescendos and delicate stylings of Emancipator, twinkling out across the playa as the sun crested the horizon....that, that was the set with the magic in it.  

All these sets are just the tip of the musical iceberg when it comes to a Burning Man experience. We can't forget to mention the afternoon spent riding around on a hookah-equipped magic carpet that bumped old school West Coast hip-hop, or the night spent out on Deep Playa where four artcars linked their sound systems to create a 50,000 Watt dance party.    Spontaneity, diversity and freshness...these are the ingredients to one great musical adventure, and they're all to be found in abundance at Burning Man.  That's why acts old and new, big and small come to Black Rock City.  They come not for fame or press coverage or revenue. They come to embrace their passion and to share their gift.....oh, and to make you DANCE!!!

Robot Heart, one of the largest portable systems on Playa, 
and a major player in that 50,000 Watt get-down

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