burning man is everywhere here

There is a large Burning Man community in Los Angeles.

By this, I mean the people that religiously attend the event itself, and then throw parties, maintain costumes, and keep the cult alive from one year to the next.

So I wasn’t terribly surprised when I found myself in the middle of a crowd of quasi-freaks in Venice yesterday. It was Carnivale, after all. Day One of the Venice Centennial celebration. And Venice is still very much what one would expect it to be: one of the pockets of Alternative America, the Haight-Ashbury of Los Angeles, crossed with Coney Island. Since its founding a hundred years ago, it’s gone to hell and back, from a whimsical resort town to Dogtown to the re-gentrified artist community it is today. It’s home to a half-dozen homes I know of that have been transformed into pieces of art, murals and mosaics galore, coffeeshops, dive bars, and the headquarters of projects like SPARC and Code Pink L.A..

(I know I talk about how much I love my hometown-within-hometown of Venice, within Los Angeles, but I really, really love being someplace just outside the ordinary like this. I love the color and chaos of the boardwalk, the graffiti walls, the quiet fairy-tale quality of the canals, the Americana of the pier. All of it.)

So the Carnivale yesterday had multiple stages of live music, booths of homeopathic medicine, and dozens of Harley Davidsons. Pretty much what you’d expect for Carnivale here. There were hippies and yuppies all over the place. I stopped to look at the classic cars, and to hear a band dressed in extreme Burning Man wear, and then headed home, because I was going out to the Electric Daisy Carnival with Wendy, and we had to get going to San Bernadino.

The EDC is something between a rave and Lollapalooza. They had a rock/rap stage, and five dance stages, plus carnival rides and freak shows. So we were able to see acts on all stages, ride a flying machine, watch firedancers, and dance for hours to trance and breakbeat. The condition I hadn’t accounted for was the FIFTEEN THOUSAND TEENAGERS ON X. I think Wendy and I, at 27, were some of the oldest people there. There were fourteen year olds covered in beads and glowsticks everywhere. And, of course, a massive contingent of extreme Burning Man style costumes, something between rave wear and freak show.

We still had a wonderful time dancing. We watched the Donnas play, which is disconcerting, like seeing a quartet of high school talent show winners possessed by the spirits of AC/DC. We saw Ozomatli, in all their tribal glory – a dozen people, with all kinds of instruments, representing almost every ethnic group in L.A. We danced to DJ Dan and Crystal Method and Ferry Corsten. But, even though I love the music, I think that will be the last time I go to that sort of event. I’m not too old for the artists and the event, I’m just too old for its audience.

I did have an amusing image moment mid-day though. The venue was an old Orange County event center, with multiple exhibition buildings – sort of a late 1960s World’s Fair inspired grounds. I could only imagine the designers of, say, 1965, if they were suddenly transported forty years forward, into a mass of thousands of extreme-rave-wear teenagers. They’d think they’d fallen into an extreme science fiction movie. And it kind of was – even for me, still well under thirty, I felt like I’d fallen into a rave-cult Logan’s Run.

Oh, and Ferry Corsten is wonderful, and I really want to see him in a smaller, 21+ venue now. I hadn’t heard him spin before. I like finding new wonderful trance artists to listen to.

Today, I got up and went to the Farmer’s Market, and to the library. But I’m tired now – still recovering from the damn Vancouver plague that got brought into my home last week – so I’m going to try to nap. And then go for a bike ride. And then catch up with the crew at the Kings Head. I have had enough alternative culture for a while now.

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