Burning Man is one of the most extreme and iconic festivals in the world. Although a holy grail for hedonists, at its core it’s more than just a session. Burners aren’t into the festival buzz just to get out of their bins; theirs is a community complete with guiding principles and beliefs.
Radical self-expression takes shape through all those attending becoming performers, collaborating and contributing to the overall event. There are no spectators.
One of the key elements of Burning Man is the lack of commercial sponsorship and advertising, barter and communal living is preferable to cash changing hands.
For a little while in Black Rock Desert Nevada, a brave new festival world is born, inhabited by monsters, fire-breathers, stilt walkers, cabaret acts, minstrels and misfits.
Try to imagine Galway with Dr. Seuss as town planner and one year of compulsory Macnas service for all citizens. Now multiply that by 10 to the power of Gerry Garcia and you’re getting close to what this bash is about. A week spent in a hot hippy Hy-Brasil may sound hellish to some, but it stands out as prime Zion for devout of party pilgrims.
It’s understandable that when the cohort of crazies trek back to the humdrum “default world” after what might just be the best session on the planet, they feel a bit bummed out. It’d be like your Auntie Maggie coming back from Lourdes and not having the prospect of a pray or a lit candle ’til the following year. She wouldn’t like it and neither do the Burners.
In countries all over the world, Burners have “decompression” gigs; the poor divils would get The Bends otherwise. The events are much smaller but harness the same spirit, bringing a little Black Rock back to their home place; a small shot of Shangri-la to get them through the dark winter.
Charleville Castle in Tullamore was the venue for the Irish wing of the Burning Man posse to set up shop for their soiree. It was touch and go as to whether I’d be allowed attend, they don’t seek out publicity.
When faced with a festival that strives to steer people away from capitalism and also didn’t really want me as a member, I ended up with a double dose of Marxist driven enthusiasm; more Groucho than Karl. Thankfully one of the tenets of Burning Man is to welcome the stranger. There were some prize strangers knocking around the castle grounds. Music, fire, costumes, art, light, and some of the friendliest freaks you’re likely to meet this side of the Mississippi.
Paul Daly captured the mood of the event nicely with his Reuben’s Tube. This is a perforated pipe that is filled with gas and music, the gas leaving through the perforations is lit and it becomes a flame throwing graphic equalizer. Techno, physics and fire make for a savage combination in night-time November woods. There was no camping at this event; they weren’t planning on sleeping.
As if Burners in Offaly weren’t enough to make a weekend rock, the spectacle at Dublin Burlesque Festival was even hotter than the flaming wicker dude in the grounds of Charleville Castle. I have a new- found and deep appreciation of tassels. The ladies and gentlemen who attached the frilly caruncles to their curvaceous carbuncles had me hypnotised and google-eyed.
The diversity and distraction afforded by the quality of festivaling last weekend lead me back to the teachings of Marx – “If youre not having fun, you’re doing something wrong!”. True that, Groucho.
Keeping that spirit rolling into this weekend, The National Circus Festival of Ireland tumbles into Tralee, they’ll be cackling in the aisles of O’Keefe’s at Clonmel Comedy Festival, while in Kilkenny the silver screen takes on a European flavour at Subtitle Film Festival.
The moustachio’d cigar chewer would be in his element and I’ve become a fervent Marxist.
Safe travels, don’t die.