The countdown to Burning Man 2013 began a long time ago, but as of March 2nd we are officially halfway there. The celebration of the Burnal Equinox in San Francisco may not have involved burning effigies, and El Pulpo was nowhere to be seen, but the spirit of the playa was very much there. And for many burners the significance of the day is real: We’re six months closer to Home.
I arrived, friend in tow, brimming with nervous excitement. Upon walking inside I was immediately struck with a smile, and I had that same expression plastered on my face just about all night. Truth be told I had no idea what to expect from the evening, but I knew it would be unlike anything I could imagine.
As we walked in we were welcomed by LED costumes, brightly colored art, and bodies swimming with energy. Some were dancing, many were talking (whether meeting for the first time or reuniting after years apart, it was impossible to tell) and then there were the wallflowers, taking it all in. I’m still new to this community, but my favorite thing is that you never have to be afraid that you won’t fit in. There was nothing to “fit into” at this party, there were just people being together and having a good time, whatever that meant for them– and everyone was sharing their excitement and inspiration for this year’s burn.
One of the first things I discovered after exploring my way to the second floor was a room off to the left, which contained a huge wooden wall. It was the makings of a community art-piece already well on its way. Some people were crouching or stretching up to paint it, others were gluing cut-out paper phrases like “Civic Responsibility” and “Communal Effort” all over it. In the center of the room was a table absolutely covered with dozens of bowls of the most deliciously vibrant paint and a small collection of paper plates to use as makeshift art palettes. This was no last-minute, hand-me-down art setup; this was a well-oiled machine the likes of which creative types dream about. I wasted no time; I picked up a palette, scooped some colors onto it and went straight to the drawing board.
There were already the usual suspects on the wall: likenesses of the Man, images about love and phrases referencing to the 10 Principles, and as the night evolved more and more of the white space was covered with flowers and hearts and paint mushed over paint. I spoke to Richard Felix, who brought the wall to the Equinox as part of Artismobilus, a mobile public art project in conjunction with the Burning Man Project.
“It’s a wall about how people are participating in the world, and how that relates to Burning Man,” he told me. He said he wants to make art happen everywhere, and that the bus takes art to people. The bus launched its “Participation” tour in April of last year.
Tearing myself away from the wall, I shuffled into the crowd that engulfed the other side of the room, which revealed a photo shoot. Equally well-organized and full of positive energy, the photoshoot was brought to the event by KSA Candyland who documented the night with the help of oversized lollipops, fake mustaches, and a love for circus-themed play.
Outside the painting/photography wonderland was a balcony overlooking the main stage, where Ghost Town Gospel, a ‘folk punk’ group from Oakland, was performing with, among other things, an accordion. CelloJoe was inspiring the crowd upstairs, while C SkwaReD did live airbrush painting in the hallway. I caught a few minutes of Nick Black’s music after CelloJoe, then headed back downstairs. The lineup on the Techno-Singularity stage had the crowd dancing all night, punctuated, naturally, by a robot dance party! Robots in truly impressive blue and red costumes took over, cleared the floor and alternatively dueled and danced to a room full of people cheering them on.
The entertainment for the night was eclectic and fantastic, and similar to on the playa I wanted to be everywhere at once. With two stages, two bars, a patio out front and art filling every hallway and room in between, Public Works made for a beautiful venue for the event. Everywhere I turned there was something interesting or someone inspiring doing something I wanted to be a part of, and the participatory nature of the night was something I really appreciated– from what I heard many other people felt the same way. I left with my brain spilling over with good vibes, excitement for the future, and a giant sigh of relief to be halfway Home.