Root (n.): an essential part or element; the basic core; a primary source; an origin.
Society (n.): a voluntary associate of individuals for common ends;
especially: an organized group working together or periodically meeting because of common interests, beliefs, or profession; a part of a community that is a unit distinguishable by particular aims or standards of living or conduct.
Root Society (as defined by Sky Walker): a network of people who become stakeholders in an idea, thus cultivating a “delicious experience.” It is exactly these pockets of delight and joy- these ideas- that offset the challenges of the world. And the celebration of these said ideas through the ancient practice of singing, dancing and music is the tangible result of the creative impulse that spawned the idea to begin with.
He has a way with words, Sky Walker does. It was a pure delight to “interview” him only a few hectic days pre-Burn, and I use the term “interview” quite loosely, as we spoke fluidly and rambled on passionately about Burning Man and Judaism. But alas, he had to run to a meeting an hour after our morning (Mountain Standard time versus Boston time had me up quite a bit earlier than usual) chat, giving me no chance to ask him whether or not Bassnectar would be headlining their stage this year.
However I did learn that this self-proclaimed academic junky, and one-half of the big brains behind Root Society, once won a lottery to have tea with Tony Blair. The majority of the information in this article is inspired by our cheery confabulation and will strive to express the viewpoints of the velvety voice from the other line.
The founder of Root Society is Jeff Taylor, more commonly recognized as Jefr. Sky Walker and Jefr have been friends for over twenty years, but establishing the Root Society allowed them to really unite through their mutual passion of celebrating the arts and acting on creative impulse. This deep and profound connection, combined with the mutual investment of energy, planning, and networking has snowballed into what we now know as the Root Society. Creating these unique bonds through collaboration on such a massive effort is what carries them through the default world experience and keeps them coming back each year…for you! For us! Plus, they like to make people dance. Fueling that contagious, reciprocal excitement is a crucial common thread for the Root Society guys.
In 2011, Root Society took a brief Playa hiatus due to some of the eventual inherent conflicts that come about in regard to facilitating such a huge project. Most importantly though, Jefr became a dad and Sky Walker began a new business venture! All signs pointed towards the time-out button for that year, allowing space for other new and exciting life events.
The previous year, 2010, was my first year on the Playa and I camped right around 10 o’clock and B- across from the Root Society domes. Permanently ingrained on my eardrums is the pounding, retina-vibrating bass that rattled me from toes to tits upon entering one of the speaker-lined structures. Turning to my friend, who had been the one to suggest coming to Burning Man in the first place, I gasped, “When we’re old and deaf, this will be why.” And who can forget that screen! The screen with the DJ booth in the center and the most visually stimulating graphic barrage of beauty taking place around them with slots for dancers, hoopers and girls with wings and fans, twirling and fluttering like rave fairies in sequins and gold. Swoon. Needless to say, I was much looking forward to Root Society’s triumphant return in 2012.
The sprawling sound camp turned nine this year. Now they are sitting on the brink of the big double-digit birthday. The last year of innocence before hitting a big, bad decade. You know how kids get once they’re ten: all entitled and snarky.
Root Society’s home this year, on the cornerstone of 2 o’clock and Esplanade was in the deep end of the playa, literally. If you didn’t have the great pleasure of visiting this arena, you missed out on the ankle deep sand trap that engulfed this arm of our home. Perhaps the swarms of party people in their dancing boots shaking their buttcheeks between Root Society, Fractal Nation, Alex Grey’s dome of majestic paintings, and the dirty punk rock camp on the outskirts attributed to this dusty swamp, but sloughing through sand certainly didn’t keep us down! No. Park the trike near something lit up and let’s go dance!
This year, Root Society’s three-piece ensemble was comprised of Erectus, the Womb, and the Inner Sanctum. Erectus was the big-daddy coliseum set up with towers of LEDs and an array of visual elements. Over one hundred DJs had the honor of spinning here this year. Jefr’s idea was that the symmetry of the architecture would be intimate, warm, and inclusive. The Womb was a dome mounted on top of a structure inspired by Vatican mosques: breathtaking. The Inner Sanctum was a 60-foot dome with a dark and dirty psychedelic element.
But the real question is: Why? Why do we bother with all of the unconventional investments of time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears year after year? Is it all worth it… just for fun?
I believe it is because sharing space and human experience is exciting. We invent these ephemeral connections to something that is real. That is what it is all about.
Sky Walker says, when you are immersed in a community that celebrates the creative impulse, you are rejuvenated because you are reassured of what is possible. Problems can actually be solved. When putting up a video tower in 70 mph winds, you have to come up with solutions. Reaffirmation. Innovation. Restoration. We are reminded of the positive forces in the world because they aren’t always evident in Fox news. Subliminal injection of the sentiment that people are good and want to be kind to each other infuses us with hope. Proof that what you see on the outside is almost never reflective of what is on the inside.
When social change takes place, there is always- without exception- the support of art and creativity to help fuel that movement forward. And change is growth. Evolution. As William Butler Yeats once said, “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” Burning Man fuels the momentum behind change and growth and therefore, happiness. So thank you to Sky Walker and Jefr and the Root Society crew for caring. Thanks for helping us to grow and to play and for allowing us the experience of being a part of your dazzling society.