Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Devil Makes Three 10.24.17 (Photos)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Highly Suspect 10.24.17 (Photos)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Keller Williams & Friends 10.21.17 (Photos)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Lettuce & RDGLDGRN 10.21.17 (Photos)

The Fillmore Auditorium
Denver, CO

Photos by Blake Barit (Direct Attention)

View Blake's Full Photo Gallery Here!



Thursday, October 26, 2017

Greensky Bluegrass & Fruition 10.19.17 (Photos)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Twiddle & Spyn Reset 10.19.17

Nectar Lounge
Seattle, Washington

Words & Photos by Erica Garvey

“When it rains it pours,” so goes the Twiddle standard, and so went the show when Seattleites packed Nectar Lounge on a remarkably dreary October school-night to see the just-shy-of-mainstream jammers deliver two fiery sets of crowd-pleasers.

Local group Spyn Reset perfectly complemented the main act with their opening performance of electronic rock. The band sounds like a metal-tinged Juno What?!: traditional rock drums with heavy guitar, centered around synth keys and altered vocals of the lead, YASU. Late in the set, YASU stood alone on the stage for an outstanding solo of looping keys that, against all odds, momentarily caused the restless audience to forget how eagerly they were waiting for Twiddle.

This was no small feat considering the absolute devotion the “Frends” have for Twiddle (there “ain’t no ‘i’ in ‘frends,’” so say those of the Twiddle universe). By the time the band took the stage, the rail-riders had formed a sort of hierarchy based on Twiddle loyalty. A mild-mannered gentleman with the words “JamFlowMan Don’t Give a Damn” emblazoned on the back of his shirt was allowed the front center position for the entire first set. The stage was littered with unexplained kitsch: a Yoda doll, a plush raccoon, a small statue of Buddha holding a crystal ball, and the like. No one questioned the collection, we just admired it.

If you have heard anything about Twiddle, you know the band often draws comparisons to that other band* from Vermont: four dudes with a very decent light rig, heavy on guitar jams and thumping bass lines. Mihali Savoulidis has an incredible command of the guitar, making his instruments’ melodies really sing, slightly overshadowing his actual unique and engaging singing voice. Ryan Dempsey (keys), Zdenek Gubb (bass), and Brook Jordan (drums) provide weighty backup and intermittent solos. This was only my second time seeing Twiddle live, and I felt like the three non-guitarists were shining just a little brighter this time. Though Savoulidis is entertaining on his own, I am sure many fans would be thrilled to hear the other members featured more prominently as the band continues evolving and producing new music.

Over the course of the evening, I was constantly hearing influences from other bands and genres, sometimes only for a measure or two, though Twiddle never strayed from the core makeup of that particular song or from their overall sound. Aside from the typical jam band sounds, there were influences of reggae and metal, a few Dopapod-worthy sections, and bass lines that were in the range of Red Hot Chili Peppers all the way to Ott. Perhaps some credit is due to the sound engineers/instrument technicians that Twiddle brought on tour (definitely a plus), but the songs are crafted in a way that allows ample room for emulation of a wide range of musical styles while staying true to the Twiddle feel.

The Frends are definitely onto something here. Twiddle’s sunshiny live show is a welcome cure for a dark rainy night, whether you are at Nectar’s in Burlington, Vermont, or that other Nectar in Seattle, Washington.

*It’s Phish. You know this one!



Set One: Amydst The Myst, Gatsby The Great, Second Wind, Cabbage Face

Set Two: Nicodemus Portulay, Fire On High, Every Soul, Carter Candlestick> Too Many Puppies> Carter Candlestick, When It Rains It Pours, Garden Grove> Ganja Medley

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park
Live Oak, FL

Words by Ashley Marie Downing

It’s hard to ignore the fact we are only a few days away from the best Halloween Party in the world… Now that fall is in full force and the regular “festival season” has ended for many, anticipation is at an all time high for the 5th Annual Suwannee Hulaween. This extraordinary event will soon bring thousands of music enthusiasts from all walks of life to Northern Florida for an unforgettable festival experience that is comparable to none.

Hulaween’s dense and eclectic musical lineup has been nothing short of incredible every year, and 2017 is no different. They announced the initial lineup back in June and have continued to add to it heavily ever since. Last week, for the first time ever, the festival officially announced it was SOLD OUT! The amount of utterly outstanding music here this year is almost unbelievable, and I’m pretty sure that I am not the only one who gets goosebumps of excitement just by glancing at the schedule!

It is very safe to say that Hulaween would not be what it is without the atmosphere and ambiance of it’s legendary location; The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Tucked away and set in the midst of 800 acres of Spanish moss-draped oak and cypress along the Suwannee River, The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park (SOSMP) is one of the most beautiful live music venues in the country. Suwannee is a very special, almost sacred place, and it is without a doubt my favorite spot in the country for a Festival of any kind for a multitude of reasons. They say “Music Lives There” and it’s true. Personally, Suwannee feels like A second home to me and many others. You can’t help but feel it when you’re there. The entire place is also open year round and the property regularly hosts a wide range of events and other festivals onsite.

While music is definitely a focal point of the event, it is important to note that Hulaween is much more than just a typical music festival. Festival curators (Silver Wrapper and Purple Hat Productions) continue to raise the bar each year to create a truly unique and interactive artistic experience that can only be described as magical. Outside of the music, costumes and campsites, they transform the whole place into a giant, beautiful piece of art filled with all kinds of jaw dropping installations. On top of all that, there are also endless amounts of activities available onsite. By going above and beyond on so many levels, Hulaween thrives by making everyone feel connected within a comfortable, thought provoking and inspiring atmosphere.

In his own words, festival co-producer / talent buyer, Michael Harrison Berg, talks about Hulaween’s fifth year:

“Suwannee Hulaween, our flagship event, turns 5 years old this year and feels like it's finally flowered into a grown up. Between the ever evolving and diverse musical line up with a curated blend of Jam, Dance Music, Rock, and Hip Hop, along with the experiential art experience of the Spirit Lake installation, back dropped by the natural beauty of the Spanish Moss laden oak tree forest at Spirit of the Suwannee, there is no better Halloween party in the world.”

“Five years ago, we set out to take The String Cheese Incident's annual Halloween bash, and grow it into a full scale festival. Now, we have the honor of producing an event that we'd personally want to be at. We've watched the process come and go full circle as we've grown together with the most loyal and dedicated fanbase we've ever witnessed in our collective career. For our 5th anniversary in 2017, we plan to level up across the board.”

For more information head on over to www.SuwanneeHulaween.com!

Monday, October 23, 2017


Words by Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)

After 2014’s Grammy Award winning, Morning Phase, Beck’s fan base has eagerly awaited his follow-up. Falling in the more energetic, dance-driven position in Beck’s dualist creative cycle, expectations were for an audio dance party. As the years passed by, the rumor mill lit up with everything from release dates to the title, Night Phase. Beck even mentioned seeing a performance where the crowd was throwing their hands in the air, fist pumping, and generally partying at a rap show. He felt he could create a similar experience and set out to produce an album of bangers.

With expectations so clearly defined, living up to them was lofty to say the least. As the album began with the title track, there was an immediate element of dj beats, heavily produced vocals, and fringe-pop. Much like his other work, this album deftly swirls various styles betwixt the pop sensibilities that land his art on the radio and the outrageous creativity that sets him apart. As with almost all of his previous tracks, the genre-bending, style blending approach touched on all things contemporary. While some of those sounds were a bit over-produced, they fit with Beck’s influential diversity, incorporating elements of pop that I didn’t particularly like, but that were undeniably part of the modern musical landscape.

“Seventh Heaven” was like a song from Phoenix’s newest effort, with Uber-smooth production and ethereal vocals that seem to have been broadcast through angelic reverb. Given Beck’s involvement in Scientology, I wondered if there was a correlation to his religious beliefs. At present Leah Remini was unavailable for comment.

From there the album teetered between cutting edge and stale. Once again I found myself wondering how much of my own expectations for this album had impacted my feelings about Colors.

My personal favorite track on the release, “Dear Life,” utilizes some of my favorite elements of his songwriting. The piano has a honky-tonk vibe, mashed into a groovy dance beat with guitars that were raw like The Velvet Underground/Lou Reed. This track is destined to be an earworm, and to a large extent, saved the album for me. Not that I didn’t like where it was headed, but I was scratching my noggin on a few of his choices. “Dear Life,” reminded me that I was still listening to an artist I love.

“No Distraction” harkened to some of his edgier stuff (barely), but the bridge dipped back into top-40 pop noise that lessened my interest. But much like everything else, he still added in disparate and contradictory ideas that lead to a creative output his contemporaries can rarely match.

“Dreams” fit nicely into the box I was expecting. If I had imagined this album before I heard it, this track comes closest to what I anticipated. From the hip-hop influenced keyboards, driving rhythms, distorted guitars, floating vocals, and overall energy of the song, this is quintessential Beck.

“Wow” might be the farthest Beck has ever ventured into the world of bizarro bangers. While some elements of the song are minimalist and fit with Beck’s catalogue, some other aspects are like terrible crunk rap. I like it, but more for its quirky side than as a genuine example of this style of music.

“Up All Night” was shockingly pop-oriented. The production could have been at home on a Nicky Minaj or Katy Perry effort. Granted, I’d still listen to Beck’s worst song a thousand times before I’d pop on “Firework.”

“Square One” served to cleanse the palate after the clubby number. While it still focused on elements of popular music, it utilized a wide variety of aspects that coalesced in a sort of patch-worked harmony.

“Fix Me” was a bit of a drag within the context of such an upbeat album, but also added a new flavor to the mix. I felt the song would have been more appropriate on “Morning Phase,” or whatever Beck does next. His cycle of alternating between mellow and energetic releases, indicates this track was out of step with his artistic flow.

The album ends with another take on “Dreams.” The earlier one was labeled “The Colors Mix” and this one stands on it’s own. I didn’t notice a whole lot of variables between the two, but still enjoyed them both, even while occupying the same release.

On the whole, this release exceeded and fell short of the hype on an individual track basis. While some of it is on par with the rest of his genius, some of it left me disappointed. I don’t know that this indicates a failure on Beck’s part, or just that his encyclopedic usage of styles borrowed from genres I just don’t particularly like. Either way, Beck has continued to produce music that showcases an extraordinary ability to combine musical ideas in ways never previously considered. His mother was a resident artist in Andy Warhol’s warehouse, and Beck’s creative output shares a certain aesthetic with Warhol. Big. Colorful. Unique, but with extremely relatable components. Colors is just the latest effort in an unusually cohesive and wildly diverse repertoire Beck comfortably holds up his sleeve.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Keller Williams & The Accidentals 10.20.17 (Photos)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Thievery Corporation & Zach Deputy 10.12.17 (Photos)

Flash Mountain Flood & The Jauntee 10.18.17 (Photos)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Arcade Fire & Phantogram 10.15.17

Seattle, Washington

Words and Photos by Erica Garvey

Starting from a literal ring of the bell, Arcade Fire’s performance at KeyArena in Seattle was a series of imaginative contrasts and anomalies, engaging yet subtle by arena show standards.

From a square stage in the middle of the arena floor, dreamy-pop favorites Phantogram opened to a small but enthusiastic fanbase as the tardy Sunday night concert-goers trickled in. Characterized by slow drawn-out vocals over dancy, driving guitar riffs, the songs laid out by the four touring members had a slightly more down-to-earth sound than the recorded versions. Phantogram closed with “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” before turning the room over to the headliner.

Ropes popped up at edges of the stage, converting the space into a boxing ring (hence the previously mentioned bell to start the “fight”). While a pre-recorded track of “Everything Now (Continued)” played, Arcade Fire’s nine touring members strutted out to images flashing on large overhead screens highlighting their mostly successful stats (“Wins: Non-stop,” “One shocking Oscar loss”...). This would be off-putting, except the band’s five studio albums have all been nominated for the Grammy Awards’ Alternative Album of the Year, along with their Album of the Year win for 2010’s The Suburbs. They are allowed a little conceit.

The musicians took their positions, mostly on all edges of the stage facing outward to the crowd 360 degrees around. Essentially each band member looked as though they were having their own private party with the audience. At any given time, one to three people were playing from a round rotating dais at the center of the stage that had two full drum sets and a plain old piano (the piano being perhaps the greatest example of the aforementioned anomalies).

Arcade Fire launched into two songs from their newest album, Everything Now (“Everything Now” and “Signs of Life”) and then followed up with two fan favorites, “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Here Comes the Night Time.” The boxing ring ropes came down as the band segued into “Haiti,” amid a very brief diatribe against the U.S. president from frontman Win Butler, quickly followed by praise for Seattle as “such a music town.” In contrast to the boxing theme, Butler periodically interrupted the music to talk about peaceful subjects: welcoming immigrants; support for the non-profit Partners in Health; and, prior to playing “The Suburbs,” his appreciation for Prince and David Bowie “reaching us out in the suburbs.”

The sound of the songs was generally in line with the album versions, but the live performance was still worth a trip to the somewhat sound-challenged KeyArena. These talented, trained musicians seem perfectly in sync with each other, though the number of humans and instruments moving rapidly around stage gives a constant sense of impending chaos. Blink mid-song and nearly everyone is on a new instrument: all of the usual rock instruments, plus things like xylophone, keytar...even a collection of wine and Absolut bottles during “We Don’t Deserve Love” in the encore.

The disco-influenced sounds of the eight Everything Now tracks played is a welcome addition to the band’s setlist. Nearly every song, old and new, builds one layer at a time, sometimes taking up to two minutes to get all the instruments fired up. Arcade Fire plays alternative rock and roll, but it is difficult to keep them squarely in that category given the quasi-orchestral song arrangements and a small museum’s worth of instruments they employ in any given song. The band that is so tough to put into a box roped themselves into a boxing ring. It is unclear exactly who or what they are fighting, but I’ll put my money on Arcade Fire every time.



Setlist: Everything Now, Signs of Life, Rebellion (Lies), Here Comes the Night Time, Haïti, No Cars Go, Electric Blue, Put Your Money on Me, Neon Bible, Infinite Content, My Body Is a Cage, Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), The Suburbs, The Suburbs (Continued), Ready to Start, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Reflektor, Afterlife, Creature Comfort, Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)

Encore: We Don’t Deserve Love, Everything Now (Continued), Wake Up

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wake Up & Live 10.13.17 (Photos)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Luna Melt & Acovado 10.13.17 (Photos)

MusicMarauders Spotify Playlist - Volume 39 (10.18.17)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mike Gordon 10.13 & 10.14.17 (Photos)

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Photos by Blake Barit (Direct Attention)

View Blake's Full Photo Gallery Here!


Monday, October 16, 2017

Run The Jewels 10.11.17 (Photos)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Analog Son, PHO & We's Us 10.11.17 (Photos)

Hodi's Half Note
Fort Collins, CO

Photos by Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)

View Nick's Full Photo Gallery Here!


Friday, October 13, 2017

Marcus King Family Reunion 10.6 & 10.7.17 (Photos)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Victor Wooten Trio 10.1.17

Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley
Seattle, WA

Words & Photos by Erica Garvey

“We all have dreams. One day I’m going to be an adult.” – Victor Wooten

The overwhelming impression emanating from the first few notes of the Victor Wooten Trio’s performance was the sparse band’s mighty sound. Not sparse in the sense of talent, but a trio of bass, drums, and saxophone is not the most common instrumentation used to bring down the house. Performing six consecutive shows at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle, the Victor Wooten Trio brought together Dennis Chambers on drums, Bob Franceschini on saxophone, and the one and only Victor Wooten on bass.

I attended the final performance of the group’s Jazz Alley run on Sunday, October 1, 2017. The evening’s performance was characterized by effortless transitions from full-throttled energetic bass/sax duets to slow Miles Davis-esque jams, with many a creative drum solo thrown in. The collection of drums and five cymbals was large enough to keep one-and-a-half drummers busy, but Chambers’ drumming style is the opposite of frantic. Naturally, Wooten had his own library of instruments on stage, including a beautiful fretless bass that evoked a penetratingly sad feel when Wooten deployed a bow toward the end of the performance.

Songs included “Liz & Opie,” “A Little Rice and Beans,” a sort of mash-up of “My Life” and “Quimbara,” “Zenergy” (which started out sounding like massage music, but evolved into classic Flecktone territory with some actual “Brick House” mixed in!), “Dc10” (which had a time signature of 10/4, and a “Flight of the Bumblebees”-style bass part so complicated that utilizing a loop pedal was the only way its composer could keep it going for a full song), and an encore showcasing “The Lesson.”

I am always fascinated watching bass players hold down the bottom rungs of a song while filling in riffs and solos normally reserved for guitar players. To my amateur ears, half of the songs felt unstructured. But it was obvious that I was surrounded by unapologetic music nerds and super fans who certainly “got it.” Even if some moments were above the average patron’s understanding, it is difficult to resist the charms of Wooten’s cheeseball smile and his circus-act maneuvers in which he flips his bass around his midsection and shoulders so fast I literally did not know what was happening.

Please keep having fun, Victor, and never grow into an adult.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thundercat 10.3.17 (Photos)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Floozies & Boombox 10.1.17 (Photos)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Dark Star Orchestra 9.30.17 (Photos)

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Photos by Blake Barit (Direct Attention)

View Blake's Full Photo Gallery Here!


A Conversation With Scott Pemberton 9.22.17

Interview by Eric Willacker

I got to sit down with Scott Pemberton of the Scott Pemberton Band before he made the trip up to Olympia, WA for his show on September 22, 2017, and ask him some questions about music, music festivals and how he got to where he is now...

EW: So anyone who has seen you perform knows you have a very distinctive playing style, for example not using a guitar strap or laying the guitar down on a stool and tapping strings like you are playing a piano. Can you tell me how you developed this style of playing?

SP: Sure, so I came from a jazz background you know, like before I was doing this more rock and funk and dance thing, I was playing a lot of jazz and jazz as a side job with a lot of other Portland musicians, but often I would have a stool and be sitting. So when I started touring I would have a stool, well you know even playing in Portland I would have a stool with me, but then I found that I wasn't ever sitting on it. Maybe I would sit on it for like one song or something as the music was developing. So I just had this stool there. I was using stools from the bars actually at that time, wherever I was playing. I started using my strap where I would ride the strap really low, sorta like a rock guy would more than a jazz guy. But then when I was playing jazzier things, I would lift my guitar up and then the strap would fall off my back and I would struggle with it.

You've probably seen shows with a band where the guitarist has lost his strap and then finishes the song and then just continues to go. It was starting to happen like every song. I don't think the strap is a bad deal, it's just that it was starting to constantly be a hassle, and more of a hassle than not having a strap. So I was just like, 'Oh, I'm giving it up,' you know? And then I had a stool there. I found when I was singing and such, I would lay my guitar on the stool and just sing. Then I would just start, when I went back to the guitar, playing it that way. But I had never worked on playing it that way. So, it was really... crusty. You know I was just doing my best and I was attacking it and having fun. Then after, I don't know, a year maybe of just kind of dabbling with it, (it was before I think maybe the second time I went to High Sierra) where I was like, this is something I should just take the time to develop rather than constantly just sort of going for it without ever working anything out. So I started organizing that technique, which has been really fun. Um, just showing me the guitar in a different way, even when I'm playing the guitar not that way. It looks different now that I've studied it. It's like you look at it more globally when it's laying flat like that. Which is cool to bring that to the, you know, the more traditional stuff.

EW: So playing it laying it down tapping, it gave you a whole new world of inspiration is what your saying? A new way of looking at the guitar?

SP: Yeah, I think you could put it that way. It's also like I'm a life student of the guitar and I always enjoy finding areas of the guitar or things that feel foggy, or smoky,  I don't really see them or know what to do. Flipping the guitar that way... it's like looking at the valley from down in the valley to looking at it from a mountain. You see everything totally different. It caused me to remap things and such.

EW: Can you tell me about the guitar you play and the magical little red button you have installed on it?

SP: Yeah, so that guitar was like my first real guitar. I got it when I was a late teen, shortly after I started guitar. So I got it when I was like 19 and it had the red button there. Where it has the red button, there was a toggle switch that would turn the pick ups into more like Stratocaster pickups. It flipped from Humbuckers to single coils, but they sounded horrible that way. It just sounded like a really crappy, bad Stratocaster. It was not a good sound, so the guitar just had this suck switch built into it that's in a bad spot. When you're jamming out, you can easily just hit it and suddenly your guitar is half as loud and sounds terrible. So I just wanted to just have it disconnected and then I thought, 'I could put something in there that would be useful.' So, there's a guitar trick where you turn the volume all the way down on the neck pickup and all the way up on the bridge pickup. Then if you tap your pickup selector down to the,  bridge pick up, it will make stuttery sounds as it kind of engages and then disengages. If that makes any sense? I just basically installed a button to do that, so it engages the guitar when I push it and disengages when I let it go, so I can play the guitar percussively like a drum.

EW: Interesting. Is that your favorite guitar to play, because that's usually the one I see you using at shows?

SP: Yeah, yeah it is. I mean that's like my old friend. It's the guitar I've been playing primarily since I was a teenager, so I just know that guitar well.  Especially since I have not been using a strap, its kinda been molded to me. I've eroded away the wood in places and stuff to make it particularly comfortable for me. And it's my guitar.

EW: And what kind of guitar is it?

SP: It's a Gibson 335, the year 1972 and it's a pretty tough guitar. I'm pretty physical when I'm playing, so far it can withstand most of what I do.

EW: Yeah, that's definitely good seeing how you play live.

SP: Yes, it's not a collector piece. Most everything in there has been either replaced because I wanted something different or broken and replaced multiple times. It's kind of like an old classic car or something. You just keep it going and gradually change the things out, like a Ford mustang or something. You get some new tires, get some wheels, every once in a while you gotta put a new engine in it. That type of thing. Actually I have two, but I really only play one.

EW: Are they both set up the same way?

SP: As close as you can, yeah. It's interesting how they're the same guitar from the same year, from the same company and they're substantially different.

EW: Well, I'm assuming there's differences in the wood... minute differences.

SP: The other one's practically brand new. It really wasn't played very much so it doesn't have any of my erosion, and it just doesn't fit me as well. It's less comfortable to play, but that being said it's also really crisp, sort of like a new skateboard deck. So it's really fun to play. The idea was, we were starting to play some bigger festival stages and just showing up with only one guitar is just too risky. If something were to happen and it were to break or whatever, the show would be shot. That's why I got another one and set it up. And then if I have to have a guitar in the shop or something, I have one that I can still play. But I'm not one of those guys so far, that tours with eight different guitars with different styles and sounds and things like that. I don't even have much of a guitar collection at home. I pretty much have those two and a few other loose ends, but nothing else professional really.

EW: Yeah, so you're not the big time guitar collector, where you have to have one of everything?

SP: No. I'm more like that with other instruments. Like I have quite a collection at home, but it's not guitars. I have a piano and pedal steel and a Hammond organ, clarinet and a saxophone. And pretty much everything that I know how to play.

EW: Do you ever play any of the other instruments in shows, like the pedal steel or anything like that?

SP: Well, I used to play pedal steel a lot. It was a passion, the pedal steel particularly, and that instrument was just like crack or something. I couldn't think about anything else. It's all I wanted to think about, it was almost overbearing how much I liked it. I just decided at some point I could be pretty good at that, and pretty good at Hammond organ, which was another obsession I had, but playing it with the keyboard bass, organ trio style Hammond. I spent quite a bit of time with that too. Then I just decided maybe I should focus on guitar, for a while at least. I could be an exceptional guitarist, or pretty good at all those things.

EW: Well, you're definitely an exceptional guitarist.

SP: Well, thank you. And I think those other things, like some of the chord voicings that I use or chord movements have come from what the soul and church organists would do. And a lot of the peddle steel had a lot to do with why I play the guitar flat. I like the way that it looks and it sort of plugs into that receptor that I love so much about peddle steel. Its like the other instruments I've learned I definitely bring to the guitar.

EW: That's always good.

SP: I play keys sometimes, especially when we've had various musicians in the band and somebody has a bigger keyboard rig. I'll go over to play the keys, or I play drums sometimes during shows. Some tours I bring the saxophone.

EW: Now, do you play the saxophone?

SP: I do, yeah. I'm actually pretty reasonable. I'm thinking I might bring it this weekend.

EW: That would be interesting, I'd like to see that.

SP: Yes, it's pretty fun. The beginning of my level of music was the saxophone and when I was a kid I played it through high school.

EW: Was that your first instrument?

SP: Piano was my first instrument, but I was forced to do it by my parents and I hated it. I was like 5 or 6 and I absolutely did not want to play piano. Or be forced to practice. I quit piano when I was 7 or 8 or something like that and I found the saxophone in like elementary school and was like 'Ok, this is cool.' Then I put it down entirely when I was like 18 and I never played it again until recently.

EW: Interesting.

SP: Can still play it, so like, it's there.

EW: Yeah, was your family musical too, or was it just you?

SP: Well, my mother, nah. My dad is very much. When I was little, my folks were kinda Footloose style. They were conservative Christians and there was no music... like music was the devil's tool type of thing. If you played a Beatles record backwards, they're giving you Satan messages. That type of thing. And so there wasn't much music in our house, but my dad is very musical and really is a very natural musician. He would play the banjo sometimes and those were special glimpses. And I think that they were always very supportive of my music. They never tried to encourage me to not do it in any way. And I think that when I was taking sax lessons, it helped me to get some more exposure to music that wasn't church music. Because of jazz, I could go to the library and check out jazz records and stuff as a kid.

EW: You mentioned festivals when we were talking a minute ago, and you've been playing a lot of them in the last few years. Is there one particular festival that stands out for you?

SP: I think I if I had to pick one festival, they're almost like people. They all have their own personalities and every single of them is so unique, but I'd say High Sierra. It's the organization. It's so well organized that you can go and have a really fun time and you're not spending too much with details of when it's time to show up or where you're camping, or how you feed your band. And then the artists that they bring are always really fun. They specifically build into the festival collaborations. I'll find myself playing with people I've never met, like me and Fareed Haque and Stanley Jordan on stage together or something. Where we didn't even know that we were gonna do that until like an hour before. I just think that's really fun and cool. It's set up in a way where it doesn't feel like, 'Oh gosh I've got this show tomorrow with Stanley Jordan, I better get ready.' Because, I didn't even really know I was doing it and you're just like, 'Hey Stanley, you wanna come do this thing?' I don't know, I just think that's really cool.

EW: I'm sure that takes a lot of the stress out of it, if it's just a spur of the moment thing where you're just like, 'Oh, I'm just gonna play.'

SP: Yeah, that's fun. It's not like performances are a stress, but it doesn't even feel like work when you didn't know you were gonna do it. It's just like if a friend came over to your house and you decide to jam. The festival is just really set up well to create those situations. And then if you're camping at the festival, which I usually do, all the artists are camped right next to each other. The last couple of years, we've been camped next to California Honeydrops, so it ends up with late night jams, just us and them. It's just set up for some good fun community building and jamming. Also, if I could mention another festival; The Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland.

EW: Yeah?

SP: The thing that's so cool about that is it's huge. The biggest crowds that we've played for. Like 15,000 people at our stage. Then at the end of the day, they raised more than a million dollars for our local food bank. I think that's pretty neat that the bands can get paid, the production is good, everything is good and they're donating a huge amount of money to a local charity that I care about. I think that's cool.

EW: Yeah, and its close to home, so that's gotta make it really nice for you.

SP: Absolutely, absolutely.

EW: Are there any festivals that you haven't played yet, that you really want to play?

SP: Well, I'm sure there are. I feel like Bumbershoot would be fun, we haven't done that. There's I think Pickathon, they have bands kind of more our style, but not really. I've just heard that festival is really fun and I've never been or played. So festivals, like I was saying, to me are kind of like people. Sometimes the tiny little festival in central Pennsylvania is going to be the one that really stands out. So I don't even know which ones I want to play. I'm going to get there and be like, 'Wow this is amazing!'

EW: You recently released a new live CD called, Game Tapes Vol. 1, can you tell me a little about the CD, where was it recorded and why you chose to do a live CD?

SP: Yeah, I... I don't really know. It just felt like, kind of like my intuition, it felt like the right thing to do. It was what I wanted to do and I feel like a lot of the music we play different at every show. We're doing some different forms and different mash-ups of various songs and things like that and I thought it would be cool to document some of it. And then there's things that we've been doing regularly that I'm ready to not do anymore, to kind of document them and kind of be like, 'Ok let's move on with that, that is really cool, but let's do something different now.'

EW: Do you feel like live recordings capture the energy of your music better?

SP: I'm not sure if "better" is the term I would use. I think its just different. It's a different way to capture it, because like a live performance, of course, you have an audience. Now I say for a music goer, a lot of times we go to shows for reasons more than just the music, like hanging out with your friends. Maybe you're checking out a new venue. There's a lot of reasons you go to shows as well as the music and so like a show has all of that with it, there's some of that you just can't capture. It can't be recorded. You can't stand there and see the light show in your headphones you know. But that being said, all of those things push the music various ways and it inspires me just to take different directions and elevate in different ways that I think are really cool and special. But in the studio you can create things in a more controlled way. Like when you hear it back, you're like, 'Ok, this is what the listener is going to hear exactly,' and 'What kind of mood is that going to create?' Then the live situation, you're just playing to the crowd and playing with the crowd. I always think when a crowd or and audience gets moving....

At this point, Scott's phone died, literally. He called me back from his home phone, and we continued.

EW: Yeah, we were just talking about your live CD, and I think I missed some good stuff there, because you probably kept talking after the phone disconnected, huh?

SP: No, it beeped at me when it disconnected. We were talking about why a live album and the audience, as they get into it and are participating, give us feedback on how this music should go. Different things affect the music, in effect the audience plays with us, you know?

EW: Yeah, so you play off the audience a little bit.

SP: Yeah, oh absolutely. Or just even what songs we're going to play. People request songs, or certain songs may be resonating with the audience more. I don't write set lists, so it is the audience that really establishes the set. If things are moving a certain direction, I'll call certain songs. I thought that's why a live album would be cool. My first album was live and I consider us to be a live band, almost primarily maybe I should say, but I feel like live albums are natural. I think I will continue, that's why I called it Game Tapes Vol. 1. I'm planning to continue to do live albums. So far I have two live albums and two studio albums. Even if you listen to the two live albums, they sound a lot different. And I think that's cool. Two or three years from now, hopefully, it will sound a lot different still. And then we'll have another live album.

EW: So was this album all recorded in one spot, or did you use different recordings from different locations?

SP: I used recordings from different locations. I initially did it so that I wouldn't necessarily know what locations or what show, recording and storing all the data in a hard drive that would keep all the shows together, but I wouldn't always know which show's from where. Then I'd go back with some vibes of the numbers of what show I thought were super sick. We did it on one west coast tour, including Olympia. It was the tour that that poster is the same as the album art. I think we did it in spring, this spring. Then, I went home and selected the tracks I thought were the best and then sent them to a local engineer to mix. We were touring with the recording equipment.

EW: Do you do that still, record all of your shows?

SP: We do. Not all of our shows, we record most of our shows. So it's not always time appropriate or location appropriate to set up our recording stuff, but if it is, we do it., even just for our own personal reference so we can check out what we do. We'll bring it, we're planning to record Olympia tonight. Then next, maybe we can set up some type of thing where we can get people the show that they just heard, right then.

EW: Yeah?

SP: We're not geared up for that right now. We have all the equipment to do it, we just have to organize it that way.

EW: So earlier you mentioned something about brain damage and I know you were involved in a pretty serious accident that almost ended your musical career. Can you tell me what happened and how you managed to come back from that?

SP: Sure. I was hit by a car while I was riding my bicycle. I wasn't wearing a helmet, which is super stupid. You should always wear a helmet, and I do now., but that caused what would have been a trip to the emergency room with a couple of broken bones to a near death because I actually cracked my skull and gave me a traumatic brain injury. I was in the ICU in a coma for like a week or something. In the MRIs, my brain looked like it was in really bad shape, like they were preparing my family for the worst. If I were to come out of my coma, I most likely would not be able to speak or walk or anything. And then one day, in my mind... well this is what happened, I just kinda woke up from my coma and I could talk and I was just there. My brain rewired itself somehow and there I was. And then from there, I still was like, my brain was pretty damaged and it wasn't a super long recovery, but months, maybe six months or something like that. It was a year before my brain was back to its normal size from the swelling. They really did not understand why I was in as good of a condition as I was. And apparently sometimes people have that, but then they will suddenly revert to more of where their brain should be. So they thought that at any moment I might just suddenly start having seizures and potentially just die or revert to a vegetable state. So I had to have 24 hour care like all the time, it was just really hard for my family, because I didn't have people to watch me if that were to happen.

I couldn't play the guitar or anything for quite a while. It was like the whole thing for me wasn't really all that traumatic, it was like being reverted to a child-like state. I didn't really care that much, it was sort of like I had a child-like naivety or something. So it was fine for me, really, mostly. I mean it had it's moments that were very hard, but then when I could play the guitar again, when they allowed me to play the guitar again, I couldn't hold more than like three or four pounds. My brain swelling was to a certain point that they were worried it would start hemorrhaging and bleeding again. Then when I could play the guitar again, I had almost forgotten that I even played the guitar. But it was all there, like all the skill that I had developed over the years was just there and I could just play the shit out of a guitar. I think the good thing about it is that I could really appreciate, maybe for the first time, how much hard work I put in and how good I was actually. Because before I would always hear what I wanted to improve and where I could get better and not just be like, 'Wow that's amazing!' It's like if you suddenly woke up and you knew kung fu or something and didn't realize you knew it. And forgetting the path I had to take to get there and do all the work.

EW: So it gave you a whole new appreciation for your guitar skills?

SP: Yes and music in general. Yeah, a new appreciation for many things. It's almost like being reborn or something. I was happy to write, like some of my songs are pretty simple, a couple chords or one bass line... and I liked that. That was fine with me, I was like, 'Oh, this is a song.' It's taken some of the complexity out of the music I was writing or wanting to play. Which I think was a benefit. And it is what it is, you know?

EW: How long ago was the accident?

SP: I think it was just before I started this touring outfit. Like, that was the next thing that I did, so it was like 2010.

EW: 2010, so it wasn't too long ago.

SP: No. Although I feel pretty much healed, at this point. I don't feel any real repercussions.

EW: That's good.

SP: Yeah, we all have our deck of cards we're dealt. Whatever I have now I learned to just accept who I am and I don't feel diminished, I just feel changed. I really don't think I would be leading a touring band without that. I was a professional musician, but I was playing those instruments, I was doing sessions, I was also teaching a bunch of lessons and I was in four bands, or more. I was running a project recording studio, doing sessions for singer/songwriters and such. I had a really full, diverse musical plate. I think that's like a lot of the modern professional musicians, a lot of what they do is what I just described. Teaching lessons, doing sessions, playing in a lot of bands, but it makes it really hard to focus your efforts on one thing. They develop, get a band out on the road, to where you actually can survive with a touring band. I guess some people have referred to it as 'the golden handcuffs.' You just need too much money to be able to do that. So having my whole work just be erased and having to gradually start working again gave me the ability to just sort of restructure the way that I work entirely, from having not worked for so long.

EW: So was that kind of an inspiration for you? Near death experience, you're like 'I'm gonna go out and do it my way and you know, my band and...'

SP: No, I never... Yeah. I think it was more like erasing my schedule and my work responsibilities entirely, then rebuilding my work career the way I would want it to be. Now I never had the intention to, well I shouldn't say 'never'... Like when I first started playing a bar in Portland called the Goodfoot and we had other bands and I was a well established Portland musician when the accident happened. They heard that I was starting to kind of play a little bit, like when I started and I played bass in an Afro-beat band and I was being a guest musician. I was starting to do some stuff and they offered me a residency playing Tuesdays at their bar, which was closed previously on Tuesdays. I actually called them and worked some stuff out to get things going and I had a band name and a band. Conanza was our band name. But they didn't want me to use some band name no one had heard of. They wanted me to use my name, because people would know what that was in Portland and it would be easier to draw a crowd on Tuesdays. I never liked being in the 'Some Guy' band. I didn't really want to lead the 'Some Guy' band, but that's how it works out. Now ironically, for the last six years, I'v been leading the 'Some Guy' band. I think the result is good. Where in the band, people can be in the band while it feels fun and natural to them, and then when they want to do something else, they can do something else. It's not like you have to be married to the band to be in the band. I think that's one nice thing with it, as long as I'm there it's Scott Pemberton Band.

EW: Yes.

SP: Then that gives it the ability for people to be able to do, you know as other musicians have. It had to be a fun positive thing for them while they're in the band and when the need to do something else, they can do something else. I think that's ok. Then sometimes they come back to the band and that's ok too.

EW: I know you've had a few songs used in movies and commercials. Can you tell me a little bit about how that process works?

SP: Yeah, so far in my experience with it, it's like a lot of things in art and music where there isn't necessarily a process. There's a lot of different ways that it can happen. Some of the bigger ads like Coke, Nike, Jaguar, Jeep, The Gap, that type of thing, would be with another songwriter that I would work with and he would get the job and then call me and I'd go over and help with stuff. We were writing stuff specifically for ads. Before touring I could do that a lot because in that industry it all happens really fast. There is no, 'Ok, in two months we need this.' It's almost always like, 'Tomorrow we need this,' or 'the next day.' So when I was not on tour it could be the kind of thing where I could get a call and be like, 'Hey we gotta go in the studio like now and write this thing.' You just kind of stop what you're doing, you go and you write, record and then, like I said previously, just go to somebody's studio and bang it out. It was really super fun. Then you see it on TV and that's pretty cool.

EW: So these weren't Scott Pemberton Band songs, these were just things you wrote?

SP: No, no. We were writing stuff specifically for those ads. Which is really fun and anonymous. You could write in all sorts of different styles. You don't have to think, 'Does this fit what we're doing?' Just like, 'does it fit the ad?' We could write something that was ukulele and accordion or something and then there's also some movie companies or ad companies that will just call me and ask for permission to use something. We would work out an arrangement and that would be a Scott Pemberton thing.

EW: So have you had stuff like that happen, where they called up and were just like, 'Hey, we really want to use... whatever song?'

SP: Yeah, absolutely. That would be the other way that it happens for me. Where they'll just contact me and they want to use, you know an instrumental original or they want to use an instrumental version of a vocal tune. Those are usually not the huge business stuff. That will be like a local butcher shop wants to use a song, or a documentary movie, or sometimes movies. The Gap's not calling me for a song. We did have Vasque shoes use “Let's Play House” last summer, that was maybe a bigger one for that. And I don't know, it's cool. Just more recently, I actually made an agreement with a licensing company, then their job is they actually go out and do that, theoretically. So that will be a new chapter for all that neat stuff.

EW: And that's going to be licensing your Scott Pemberton music, or just anything you do in general?

SP: Well, I guess the agreement right now is the Scott Pemberton music. Which I guess would be anything I do in general, because that's mostly all I do right now is I write music for this. I think its actually a pretty important aspect of being able to make a living. Like I was talking about the diversified musicians, with teaching lessons and playing in a lot of bands and studio sessions. If you're a band leader or a songwriter, this is one of the important aspects of being able to make some money to help you piece together a living.

EW: Yeah.

SP: These are like other aspects where your music can help make money. Because unfortunately, to be a professional musician, there's a professional part, where you actually do have to make money.

EW: Yes.

SP: So it's finding the ways that you can actually do that, that suit your art.

EW: Especially if you're a touring musician, because there's a lot of other requirements for money. Traveling, fixing your van and that kind of stuff.

SP: Yeah, that's so true. The expenses are not for the faint of heart, or if money is a big part of your motivation, you're probably not going to do good in this line of work. I think if life is a game, people play for different types of points and on different point systems to see who's winning. Not a musician, touring musician or a professional artist. There's money and commercials, or like, belongings and material things are usually not the point systems artists and musicians are generally playing for. So I really enjoy the adventure. I like making music with my friends. If I can make enough money to live and feel like things are growing, I'm stoked.

EW: Well, we're stoked to have you out there touring.

SP: Hey thanks.

EW: What are you most looking forward to upcoming for the Scott Pemberton Band?

SP: I would say the sustainability of just being out and doing stuff. I'm in for the long game, you know? I feel like I'm really looking forward to the future. Almost, continuing to do this and what will we be. The sustainability and the long game is what I'm into.

EW: So you're thinking, like 10 years down the line or 20 years down the line kind of thing?

SP: Yeah and I have no idea what's going to be going on at that point, really. But I'm excited about that, and seeing how this life is quite an adventure and I'm really looking forward to it. I feel like I'm relatively motivated and I try to be organized and keep things growing and moving. And things are growing and moving, so we'll just see what comes. In the shorter term, I've got a new studio album that I'm writing. I'm looking forward to that, getting that thing up and expressing new thoughts and ideas surrounding a new album. Got Hangtown Halloween Ball coming up in just a few weeks, so that's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to that!

EW: You play that one quite often don't you?

SP: We've played that twice before. This will be our third time, so I guess so, yeah. I think that we only maybe missed one year. I think we did it twice, then we didn't do it once, now we're doing it again. But that will be fun, we're doing a late night set with the Polyrhythmics.

EW: Do you like late night sets, as opposed to regular sets?

SP: Yes, I think I do. I think that I like both, but the nice thing with the late night is you generally have a longer set. Where the way we play, you'll see us in Olympia, where if we don't have support, it's just us for like three or even four hours. Where we get to really get into some stuff and explore and that's fun. In a festival situation, it's usually like a 90 minute set would be as long as you get to play. Late night sets are generally longer than that. We might get to play two hours or even three hours, especially being the last band of a late night set.

EW: Yeah, that's kind of like, 'Play until you're done?'

SP: Sometimes yeah. Some festivals are literally like that and that is a lot of fun! We'll do some of those on the east coast, where you really just play until you don't want to play anymore. We've played from 2:00 to like 7:00 in the morning. One set.

EW: No break?

SP: No break.

EW: Do you feel like late night sets give you more leeway and more freedom to explore?

SP: In some ways yes, and in other ways, I feel like I'm getting more used to being able to feel free and being able to explore in a regular festival set. Because sometimes you might feel a little bit more pressure or excitement, or something, playing a late night set. I think bands can sometimes stick to what they know is going to work and not take the same exploration and risk that they might, say at their home town bar. Or where they feel really comfortable and at home. And that's one thing I really enjoyed learning as I'm touring, is starting to feel that if I was playing that bar I played every Tuesday, the type of exploring and jamming we would get into, to be able to feel like I can do that anywhere. So I think, in that instance, I think it depends on the festival set.

EW: Depending on how the crowd is going, and what they're thinking?

SP: Yeah and sometimes, if it's a really large festival set, it can be a little bit harder to vibe into 10,000 people, then it is 200. What are the people in the back feeling? I know that a lot of the times like that, you just vibe into the front that you can see and usually those people are pretty psyched, or they wouldn't be right up front. I don't know if I'm making sense.

EW: You're totally making sense.

SP: I think that getting the festival and the club starting to feel like you can make music just anywhere. But I do feel like the late night sets, sometimes people are there. Or like this one is ticketed outside the festival, so everybody that is there is there because they want to be there. They're not just sort of stepping over to the stage to see what's up. They bought a ticket for the event and they're ready to get down.

EW: Where a lot of times at a festival, they will just be walking by and be like, 'Oh what's going on at this stage, let me check it out.'

SP: Yeah, which is awesome and those things are priceless for helping people, know you, exist. Which at least in my music industry world, people coming to shows and buying tickets is really what keeps the wheels on the road. More than record sales and all those other things. Just playing shows and selling tickets; That helps us eat. And all that festival exposure helps people know you exist and come see your show when you're in their town. The people that go to Hangtown or High Sierra, some of the more like jamband festivals, those people go to shows. So getting them, helping them know you exist is super great, because then they want to come see you play and have fun at your shows and that's what keeps us moving. Some of those blues festivals that we play, or jazz festivals, those people are more like they go to the festivals and they're not going to be like, 'Ok what shows are we going to this week.' They'll go to the festival next year when it happens. That's what I think I appreciate more from the jamband community.

EW: Yeah, they're more willing to be like, 'Let's go out and see him again and again.'

SP: Yeah. Another thing is just the diversity of music that community supports. From what I do to something jazzy and avant garde like Mike Dillon, to proggy fusion like Snarky Puppy, to the Grateful Dead. Its like, the vastness of the styles that community enjoys and supports it's just great! It helps support new and diverse music, I think. A blues festival... it's a little more like it has to be blues kind of. There isn't a box that things have to fit into.

EW: Yeah, the jamband community seems more like, 'Just play music and we'll be into it.'

SP: It's not like they just like anything, but they can like anything if it's what meets their taste. And their tastes are so diverse, I just think that's awesome. I don't feel like, 'Ok... when I'm writing I can really just write and be like this is cool, I like this.' Not be like, 'Is this blues or does this fit into our hard rock box?' Or whatever. There is no box and I think that's part of why the jamband community has embraced the band, and I appreciate it.

EW: Well, we appreciate you and I appreciate you taking the time out today Scott!

SP: Yes, thank you Eric.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Turkuaz 9.30.17 (Photos)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Dark Star Orchestra 9.29.17 (Photos)

Henhouse Prowlers 9.28.17

Swing Station
Laporte, CO

Words & Photos by Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)

The Swing Station is an out of the way dive that doubles as a honky-tonk most nights of the week. It’s a local's gem that is tucked away in the sleepy little burg of Laporte, Colorado. Best known as a haven for active hate group Scriptures for America, Laporte is not a shining beacon of culture on the Colorado landscape. Nonetheless, the Swing Station has become our defacto Town Hall, watering hole, meeting place and more. The venue hosts an array of authentic, original music performed by nationally touring and locally based acts alike. If you live in Northern Colorado, take a few to follow what’s happening at The Swing Station, you may be pleasantly surprised.

The Henhouse Prowlers have made regular stops at The Swing Station over the years. It's an alternative to the limited options available in Fort Collins proper. The band’s lineup has solidified with founding members Ben Wright on banjo and Jon Goldfine on bass still driving the bus. Last year when they moseyed through Colorado, mandolin and fiddle player Kyle O’Brien was a newly anointed member of the group with a gleam in his eye. Now a year later he has trotted the globe performing bluegrass on multiple continents with the Prowlers. The group is rounded out by guitarist and singer, Andrew Dorfman.

They got the show going early with a perfect rendition of the lovelorn original “Why Is The Night So Long.” For those that don’t know, The Henhouse Prowlers are a modern band wrapped in tradition and nostalgia. Their sound is reminiscent of the great bluegrass bands of yesteryear while their writing is utterly current. Their blend of traditional bluegrass, contemporary covers, and authentic writing is why fans get hooked early. They went into the call and answer song “Hey Boys / Hey Dorfman,” which got the crowd warmed up quickly. Banjo extraordinaire, Ben Wright, took the lead on “Caroline” while Jon Goldfine took on vocal duties for the song. Newcomer, Kyle O’Brien, treated us to the cavity inducing love song “Honey Bee.” The band exploded with a grass-tastic version of The Grateful Dead’s “Mr. Charlie” which got everyone’s attention. The Henhouse Prowlers would be remiss if they didn’t regale us with tales from their jaunts to Africa, Europe and beyond. They talked of travels before ripping up the Nigerian pop classic “Chop My Money.” Dorfman treated us to some spectacular yodeling before Jon shut down the first set with a beautiful rendition of “Lonesome Road.”

These ambassadors of bluegrass returned to the modest stage at The Swing Station for one more set before heading back home. They got things going with the lightning fast “Soul Saver” followed by the banjo-heavy “Slippery When Wet.” They invited WhiteWater Ramble’s Patrick Sites up to join in on the fun with his mandolin on “Home Grown Tomatoes” and Doc Watson’s “Sitting on Top Of The World.” A fan in the audience was celebrating a birthday and politely asked they band to play “Syracuse” which they obliged. In total, the band was firing on all cylinders. Any trepidation on the part of the young fiddler, Kyle, was long gone by the time they took the stage.

This band is an ever-evolving experience and you may not see the same members perform in the band twice. However, they always come prepared and following their travels through social media is simply awe-inspiring. They are truly musical envoys bouncing around all parts of the globe at any given moment spreading their love of folk, Americana, and bluegrass. Their dedication to touring is why they have so many fans from so many places. They ended the show as they do most nights, on the floor with the rest of the crowd. Without any amplification, these four troubadours got down on our level and just jammed. They treated us to the spiritual “Ain’t It a Shame” before calling it a night. The Henhouse Prowlers have been sharing their love of music for almost a decade and a half with no sign of slowing down. If they come to your town, make it a point to go and find out what the lyrics to “Chop My Money” are about. You won’t be disappointed!

Nick’s Photo Gallery


Friday, October 6, 2017

Burning Man 8.29 - 9.3.17

Black Rock City
Gerlach, NV

Words by J. Picard
Photos by Carly & J. Picard

We stood at the gates of Black Rock City where more than half of the group we were entering the city with had never experienced the enormous, uncharted chaos. Dust blew across cracked earth as a man called "Jason" greeted us in blue booty shorts. Carly (eight time Burner) and I (five time burner) knew to step back and let the nonsense unfold. As new-comers Megan and Sky leaned in, Rob looked back and gave me a sideways glance to which I closed my eyes and nodded. Rob isn't much of the participation type, though with my nod, he was face down with the group participating fully in a "playa angel," front and back. The girls dove head first into the dust and our welcoming to the "choose-your-own-adventure in real time" was official.

Tuesday, August 29:

We coasted into the camps and made our first decision to veer to the right towards our typical corner of the burbs at 5:00 and J, where things seemed a bit more packed than previous adventures. We maintained our course and found ample open space closer to 4:00 and L that would allow for us to hold a bit of an area for additional members of our camp who would be arriving later in the week. We erected our common space, which was a ten by twenty carport made of Chinese plastic and sold by a local retailer. We positioned the girls' motor home rental, as well as our tents, and enclosed the space by parking our rented truck next to the Zoltar machine placed by our new neighbors. We introduced ourselves to the camps next to us and popped our first beers of the weekend as we hung up tapestries and positioned aesthetic embellishments. Our camp came together quickly and strategic thoughts of setup and orientation quickly turned towards getting our bearings straight in a perceivably bearing-less landscape.

We aired up our tires and began to wrap the bikes in fur and other wild decor. Just as I pulled the air pump off of my tire stem, the tube burst. I looked up at Carly and Rob, and we all had a look of "uh-oh" on our faces. In all of the years of our friends attending Burning Man, not one person in our camp has had any serious bike issues. That being said, I'm pretty sure at some point I turned down the option of buying a bike repair kit and tubes that my wife tried to purchase. I took a deep breath and reflected. "There must be a place in the city that works on bikes (the main mode of transportation). What about the bike camps I've heard about?" I grabbed the map and booklet that were given to us at the gates and searched under "B" for "bikes" in the index. "Bike Gods" popped up and off Rob and I went in the pick-up, with my half-decorated out-of-commission bike in back, at five miles per hour towards the opposite direction of the camps. In the distance, a wall of darkness came at us. I rolled up the windows, pulled over and hit on my hazards, as day turned to night at the mercy of the dust. Rob laughed hysterically and I thought of the girls in camp getting wrecked by the dust, with a smile.

We arrived at Bike Gods, which appeared to be roped off. A couple of gents worked on bikes as a sarcastic man and woman who were hard to read, informed me that they had closed just minutes prior at 6:00 PM. They pointed me in the direction just a couple of blocks away towards another bike camp that was apparently open until 7:00 PM. Off we went and arrived at a larger camp that also looked as if they were closing up. I jumped out of the truck and ran over to a young lady who informed me that they had closed just six minutes prior. "Is there any way you could just take a look at it?" I asked. "No. Come back tomorrow," she said as other folks with bike issues rolled up to the same reaction. "I may be on foot tonight," I thought, bumming about how I would slow the group down on their first night in paradise. In my head, I came up with one last solution. "I can fix it myself, if you happen to have an extra tube," I said to the woman, which I didn't actually believe. The young lady looked at me for a second... "What size tube?" she said. I ran to the bike and frantically tried to find the size. I came back with a number sequence which I was sure would be of no help and off she went and returned with a tube, handing it to me on the sly so that other folks wouldn't see and ask her for additional assistance. I slid her some prayer flags and shifted focus to the task at hand. Rob and I got the chain off, followed by the tire and put the new tube in, only to find that the stem was a size that we had never seen. Just as I thought "this may not work" a guy in red booty shorts from the camp jogged over with the proper pump and assisted in airing up the tire!

Rob and I high-fived and returned to camp to find the girls no worse for wear and ready for our first ride of the week! Just prior to mounting our bikes, a military fighter jet buzzed Black Rock City and then headed straight up into the sky. Our group laughed uncomfortably. The jet continued crazy maneuvers over the city for about ten or fifteen minutes before continuing on. With little daylight remaining, we hopped on our bikes and headed down 4:00 for Esplanade, the inner road of the city. The eb and flow of traffic at each intersection was entertaining and took some getting used to, even during the light of day. Our new-comers looked around in complete delight, with wide-eyed expressions of excitement as we passed chaotic and expressive situations under the cloak of art in real time. We passed Barbie Death Camp, which may have been a little much to start with. Hundreds of Barbies were being slaughtered, hung and were marching towards ovens. It's quite a sight, but a lot to take in at the beginning of the experience. As is the case in life, the highs were contrasted with lows and before we could even make it to the open playa, a young lady on our starboard went up and down a foot tall wooden bike roller coaster that ended with her going head first over the handlebars and face planting on the playa, triggering folks to rush to her aid. We continued riding towards the insanity.

Across Esplanade, Megan turned to me almost looking like she was going to cry and before she said a word, I said, "Right? Where to?" Her and Skye looked so happy and unable to decide which way to ride, a feeling that I could relate to greatly. I encouraged everyone to ride off to our right, knowing that we were working our way towards the event's centerpiece. We stopped at a fifteen foot tall Chinese carryout box that was supposed to turn "MOOP" (matter out of place) into something, or smash it like a can crusher, though it didn't seem to be functioning. We continued on towards an incredible site; Euterpe, a massive marionette of a girl who moves around the playa via a sort of crane vehicle, as she interacts with burners. My mind was blown and the group laughed in disbelief.

"Shall we head to the Man?" I inquired to the group. We all agreed and rode towards the enclosed effigy. We parked, locked up our bikes at a bike rack and headed up the stairs to the second level that overlooked the Playa and the yellow glowing Man. Bells rang from the interior of the structure as beats spilled across the Playa. We looked around and took it all in for the first time as the sun set, creating an incredibly euphoric moment amidst the randomness. We exited down the stairs and entered the courtyard on the ground level. It was a much different vibe inside of the structure, with people from all over the world leaning against the walls and hanging out in rooms within' the pagoda itself.

We returned to our bikes and headed ninety degrees to our left down the 6:00 road towards Center Camp. My mind started to melt and my vision shimmered as the sun set lower in the sky over the surrounding mountains. We stopped at a large bear structure that was made of pennies. In the background, a long line of art cars extended out from the Department of Mutant Vehicles awaiting eventual approval to participate. It was quite a sight. I stayed with the bikes as the group climbed up into "Bloom," a massive glowing Jellyfish the contained multiple levels and ladders to view from above. We continued through the keyhole to Burning Man's municipal district, the circle road around Center Camp that contained Playa Info, Census, Arctic Camp (ice), the Jazz Cafe and more. We rode through the large rainbow entrance and locked up our bikes before heading into the flag covered enclosure that makes up Center Camp. We wandered around listening to poets and checked out what felt like randomly placed art and sculptures. I stopped at a stand with a notebook hanging from it. In large letters atop the wood stand it read, "Missed Connections." I indulged in some humorous reading. The line for coffee was still decent given the late hour, though everyone needed fuel of some sort. The group made a full lap and acquired a couple of items including a BRC Weekly, Burning Man's newspaper, formerly "Piss Clear."

We headed back to the bikes, then back to camp as the blue sky turned black as night. Megan, who brought thirty something corndogs to survive off for the week, hesitantly offered some up to the group with a smile. Rob, the Canadian of the group, had never tried a corndog, and I, as a fat person, couldn't pass up the offer. We dined on the disgusting American delicacy, grabbed a few drinks, illuminated our bikes and returned to the Playa. What followed was an hour or two of aimless riding, dancing to art cars and drinking red wine from a box. We returned to camp at a decent hour and melted into our chairs before climbing into our tents. It felt good to be back in Black Rock...

Wednesday, August 30:

I opened my eyes and stared at the roof of the tent. I realized that I was at Burning Man and that I didn't have a hang over and smiled. I unzipped the tent and stepped out into the cool morning air, noticing that Rob was at the same stage in his morning. I opened one of our two large bags of coffee and got our tea kettle going, as I hydrated rapidly and encouraged Robert to do the same. Rob reflected on what he had witnessed the night prior and was amazed at the enormity of the city and everything that was taking place all at once. He referred to it as a "celebration of China," referencing all of the plastics and glow toys. Breakfast burritos followed as the rest of the camp came to life with solid energy and motivation. Rob and I headed over to the Center Camp ring to hit Arctic Camp for ice. We locked up our bikes and jumped in a reasonable line that meandered back and forth then into the cooled igloo enclosure. Multiple semis loaded with ice were backed in to one side of the structure, with a row of cash registers and friendly staff there to assist for $4.00 per bag. The price point didn't seem unreasonable given that we were in a desert. We loaded our cooler backpack full of our purchased ice and off we went back to camp.

We dumped bag after bag into the coolers which were holding pretty well given the high temperatures. The girls geared up in the mid-day sun and headed off to see what sort of action they could get into, while Rob, Carly and I relaxed in the shade. We were saving our energy, which was limited in those conditions, for the evening. We drank sweet alcohol tea, as well as electrolytes and as the afternoon grew later, I fired up the grill for some burgers. All day art cars drove past blasting music and featuring multiple decks of partiers. There were stage coaches, dragons, pirate ships and all sorts of creative vehicles that felt sort of like a mobile art gallery. Megan, who we began to affectionately call "Corndog," and Skye returned to camp with frozen liquor drinks and free chochskies from the many camps and bars that they stopped into. The girls fired up the AC in their RV and laid down for an afternoon nap.

We noticed smoke in the skies to the south of the city, which were followed by rumors of a fire on the then closed road into the event. The sun began to set and the heat subsided, triggering our group to stretch out and board our crafts. My ass was sore from the extensive bike riding the night prior, though I was excited to get back into the thick of it! We rode back down 4:00, crossed Esplanade and this time headed to our left into the madness. We stopped for a minute and admired the bright lights exploding towards the darkness on a stimulating LED firework piece. We continued past the Pier, a long rickety looking structure that extended out towards the Playa and featured all sorts of thematic items that we would return to explore. We rode past Slut Garden where the party had yet to take shape, past the massive pyramid that was still being constructed and landed at Kalliope on 10:00 and Esplanade. Across the street was DiVinci's Tank, which glowed in an array of colors. Tolerable electronic music from the Kaliope camp kept our attention for a bit before we wanted down the 10:00 face of the camps, expecting to find craziness and forgetting that it was Wednesday at 9:30 PM.

We made a left into the camps in search of nonsense and thought that if we didn't find it, that we would instead create some of our own. Down the dusty trail we came to an upright piano in a bad state of disrepair, as well as a rickety drum set. Corndog sat down and showed us her chops, which were questionable at best. Further along, Corndog also spun the Booty Wheel, which yielded a result that none of the group understood. In and out of camps we went, some featuring chill environments including hammocks, some screening movies, some offering free drinks (with ID) and then there was a dodge ball camp which had yet to kick off the evening's tournaments. We made a couple of lefts and returned to Esplanade and back to Kalliope where our bikes were parked. We noticed a large fire out towards the deep Playa and made haste towards our first burn of the week!

Flames reached for the darkness of space as the remaining pieces of what looked like a small pyramid structure burned and eventually collapsed. We were late to the burn, but it was still energizing none-the-less. Off towards the Flower Tower the group went laughing and giggling along the way. The impressive tower was a forty or fifty foot tall cathedral covered in thousands of hand painted metal flowers and blew fire from it's spire. Mayan Warrior, one of the most spectacular art cars on the Playa, drove past us on our right boasting incredible lights and sound. The girls dismounted their bikes as I hung back and starred up at the lasers, lights and explosions in the increasingly smokey darkness above. The Temple was next on the imaginary list and as we arrived, the changed energy was palpable. We wandered though the wooden fencing into the Temple's outer yard and then in and out of the wooden structure, before entering the main room. The walls of the entire Temple were covered in photos and messages to lost loved ones. People were mourning and connecting in the space, as we headed back to our bikes one by one.

We returned to home base for a breather, then headed back out to Camp Reverbia at the end of our road on Esplanade for Five Alarm Funk, a Canadian band that Rob and I hosted a few weeks prior at Element Music Festival. We arrived to a large seated group near the stage singing "O, Canada," the Canadian National Anthem. I smiled and followed Rob towards the stage to banter with the guys before their performance. What followed was an incredible hour of Funk output by guys who I would have thought were dressed for the occasion if I had not seen them for the first time just weeks before. Their energy was high and the camp was packed for their set, which featured blowup sharks, fire spinners and a whole lot of fucking Funk. I drank red wine out of a plastic chalice and danced heavily, deciding after the set to return to our camp for a sit and a smoke. Back at 4:00 and L we laughed wildly and solved the world's problems until our minds shut down...

Thursday, August 31:

I coughed and came to with dust around my eyes and my throat feeling sore. I stepped out into Black Rock City from the sovereignty of my tent abode to find a haze had overtaken the city. It looked as though fires were burning on the other side of the mountains surrounding the Playa. Rob came to with a Turkish accent and a desire for coffee, which soon followed with Irish Cream. We got into the chorizo breakfast burritos before paying another visit to Arctic Camp for ice. A man the row over from us got the attention of a guy standing in front of us in line and informed him that he looked just like their family practitioner. He asked the gentleman his last name as he could swear they were brothers and the man in front of me replied with "Picard." I turned towards the conversation and said, "That's my last name too." We all had a good laugh before purchasing our ice and heading back to our bikes. Outside of Arctic Camp the man said to me, "They don't call you 'Captain' do they?" "They do," I replied with a smile.

Rob and I walked the coolers along the Playa at camp, emptying the clean melted ice onto the ground and making room for frozen "gold." I grabbed a rinse, utilizing our elevated shower tent, solar shower bag and tarp basin, which evaporated the water under hot sun. With the smoke and haze came cooler weather and the possibility of a day time ride to view the art! We applied sunscreen, grabbed our bandannas and goggles and rode out. We made a right onto Esplanade and then a left on the 3:00 road then veering off towards the Tree of Tenure, which was surrounded by people. It felt like an oasis in the desert and people were reading and telling stories in the tree's shade, while others chose to climb among the branches. On we went, passing a large gold monkey head on a female bust, past a washing machine, to a large wheel of skeletons with oars. It was meant mainly to be enjoyed at night accompanied by a strobe light to make it look like the skeleton was rowing. That aside, people were working hard under the mid-day sun, pulling large ropes to keep the wheel spinning. A couple of the participants were wearing head to toe body suits and I wondered how they were not overtaken by the heat.

Just a bit further we found the Black Rock Observatory, which appeared to be closed. On our right there was a massive can of Campbell's Soup and Saltine Crackers, and beyond that a large structure with heavy rock slabs hanging from large arched poles. People sat on the slabs which must have weighed a ton and I thought of what it would have taken to get the materials to such a remote location. In the distance we could make out the outline of the trash fence, with a couple of two story structures. We had made it that far, so we decided to continue on to explore it. I was surprised at how many people were out and about in the deep playa. As we got closer, ladders, slides and a tin roof atop the building took shape. Surprisingly, we recognized a couple of our friends from Colorado, Jason and Jill! We said hello and Jason offered us ice cold drinks from his badass industrial cooler! Jill posed for a couple of photos in a bathtub with some goofy Europeans, while Rob and I wandered off to climb up the rickety outpost. From the top we could see an upright piano a mere twenty feet away and a sign on the orange construction style trash fence that read "this fence paid for by Mexico!"

Beyond the fence was complete vastness and nothingness that butted up against purple mountains. We hopped back on our bikes and rode inward across the playa, passing all sorts of creative art and output. It was a beautiful day with a couple of my favorite people in such a magical place! We rode past a sound camp that was blasting beats and had a big crowd and continued on towards the 10:00 face where we found Funky Town, a camp we hung out at a bit the year prior. We passed Kalliope and turned onto Esplanade where we stopped at the massive pyramid that had some sort of talk going on, with people spread out listening and relaxing in beanbags. The speaker spoke about the cosmos and energy before we faded back onto Esplanade. A little further down the dusty trail we stopped at Tiki Bar that had the words "Party" and "Naked" on the front of their bar. I rode closer to the enclosure and read the white board out front.



On we rode passing Pink Heart, who had a long line out front of their camp to receive ice cream! A woman stood in the road in all pink, holding a pink box of heart cookies. Being the fat guy that I am, I stopped and engaged her, receiving a delicious cookie. Our next stop was Black Rock's Roller Disco followed by the Skate Park, which hosted a couple of guys getting after the half pipe. We circled back to The Pier, locked up our bikes and headed up the incline. On our left was "Stuff-N-Such: Pappy's Master Bait Shoppe," which appeared to have someone climbing around inside and the sounds of an acoustic guitar atop the shack. At the end of The Pier there were cannons and fishing poles and below was a great white shark coming out of the Playa. We rubbed shoulders with other Burners enjoying The Pier as we climbed down and returned to our bikes and headed towards Center Camp, passing a ton of infrastructure in the massive city.

The colorful Center Camp received us with open arms, as well as the rest of the Playa. It was packed! Partner yoga was taking place in the middle under the open sky, while activists from the stages made calls to action, rallying small groups of attentive listeners. We exited the crowded canopy and crossed the street to Arctic Camp for ice. The ride back to camp took us down roads lined with burners trying to get folks into their camps to drink, participate and share in a moment, even if brief. At one point, a gentleman on a bullhorn inquired if I was a Hasidic Jew, to which I replied, "Oy!" At camp we iced down the coolers and then parked in the shade for a few hours of shut eye before the evening. The sun set and we experienced the first cool down of the day, though the smoke was still thick in the air. We ate dinner and began to illuminate our common space with LED lights. Camp members changed into their evening attire, which for Rob meant a fur moose hat, a mask that looked like it was for a masquerade and glowing raver dreadlock looking lights that Carly gave him, as well as a shiny aqua coat that I passed along. He looked ridiculous, but he looked great!

I tossed on my brown velvet Mad Hatter coat with the lace cuffs, lit up my bike's EL-Wire and checked my tires which were holding up well! I turned to Rob and informed him that I was going to scare the shit out of the girls who were getting ready. He laughed and said "ok," and off I went. I crept closer and closer to the door of their motor home where Megan, Skye and Carly were all inside mixing drinks and I screamed loudly, but abruptly. The girls leaped and all looked at me with irritated looks. I heard Rob giggle behind me and I smiled. A short time later we rode on toward Reverbia, laughing and preparing for a great night ahead! Upon our arrival, we realized that we were nearly forty five minutes early for Ayla Nereo's set. We split up with the girls who headed along Esplanade and we made haste out to the open playa to find a dance party. We notice the Fucking Unicorn art car parked in front of a fire garden that contained some incredible metal dragon fly sculptures outputting flames.

We dismounted and got loose dancing to some tolerable electronic music in the shadows of the fire. The two story art car had a large unicorn head with a green rope lit horn and featured a DJ booth on the second story. The bottom level was an open dance floor with stripper poles and all sorts of people getting down. Carly wandered in and out of the fire art while Rob and I danced wildly. Carly returned and we headed back over to Reverbia where we found Megan and Skye. A short time later Ayla began her performance, which was slow and went the opposite direction that our group was looking to go energy-wise.

We headed along the Playa and then made a b-line to Death Guild's Thunderdome. It felt chaotic as we approached. The crowd surrounding the dome was larger than I had ever seen, with flatbed trucks and people perched in costume all over the vehicles. I filled up my chalice with red wine from the box in my backpack and motioned for Rob to follow me. I looked behind us and the girls had been lost in the sea of people, so we ducked under one of the flatbeds and came out the other side just five feet from the dome and the evening's action. Rob and I shared the glass of red as we watched two warriors suspended from bungees battle it out with pillow bats! I yelled "Get him," loudly and Rob started cracking up at the insanity of the moment. It was pure chaos and all I could do was smile.

After the match, we climbed back out of the circle under the truck and ran into the girls who had big smiles on their faces. The group decided to head towards an Electro-Swing party and off we went into the camps which were full of life! While we rode, Corndog's pedal from her bike came off leaving us miffed and laughing. We tried to fix it, to no success and she made due for time being. At some point I guided the group a block past our turn so we made a late left and came upon the massive 747 airplane. We'd kept our eyes peeled for the craft over the past couple of days on Esplanade and were surprised to find it so far out in the camps. Without the error in my navigation, that massive plane would have been an easy miss for our group among the enormity of the city. I often describe to people that even though we spend almost a week at Black Rock City, we may not see ten or twenty percent of it. I filled up my blue plastic wine glass at the plane's bike racks and then we headed towards the open door, through which colorful LEDs spilled onto the Playa.

Inside of the 747 there was a DJ and dance party with color changing lights from floor to ceiling among the craft's shell. Unlike last year, there were no interior stairs to the second story, so after wandering around on the ground level, passed the "Insecurity Checkpoing" and "Personal Baggage Check," we headed out the opposite side and up a set of stairs to the next level. The second story was packed and hot. Skye and I took a seat on a furry bench as the rest of the group wandered around and the line to get into the cockpit got longer and longer. Outside, the cool evening air felt amazing and we re-focused on locating the party at Spanky's Wine Bar. No sooner than I said "I'm not sure exactly where this place is," I heard electro-swing in the distance and called to the team.

This is where the evening took a delightfully weird turn. Though I am not into the super sexual aspect of the city, it was fun to dip our toes into that realm. We arrived at Spanky's about a block down from the 747 and were welcomed by a groping booth, which was essentially a rectangular box with doors on each side and holes cut out at arm level along the corridor's walls so that people can reach in and grope the participant. Our group walked around the booth and continued into the camp. People were dancing throughout the large tent and off to the sides were rooms that featured different "activities" for a lack of a better term. One side room had a DJ, one featured a large wine bar, one room had massage tables set up and a buffer with a soft head which appeared to be used sexually. Across the way there was another room with people hanging out and a room that featured the Sybian, a straddle-able vibrator, behind a curtain. I chuckled to myself and then stopped laughing when I saw a woman, being helped by someone, come out from behind the curtain who looked like she could barely walk, but had a huge smile on her face.

Initially I thought "that's crazy," but after further reflection, she seemed to have enjoyed herself and who was I to judge?

I returned to the group who were watching a middle-aged chick and presumed camp representative, absolutely rail on this guy's ass with a paddle. With every wind up the surrounding group held their breath and with every delivery, the group gasped and yelled as the man took it like a champ and asked for more. It was hilarious and when she concluded she looked my way and I basically stared at the ground. When I looked up after a lengthy moment, she was still looking at me and our eyes locked. She motioned towards me and said, "Hmmm?" as a sort of question. I quickly shook my head "no" and backed away, never exposing my ass to her. After dancing for a bit, enjoying the crazy vibe and reading some of the humorous signs around the space, we headed out of the camp. Carly passed through the grope booth and our group laughed. I peered around the other side and an old man wandered up and put his hands in just seconds after Carly came out. Carly is relatively shy, so it was a funny moment.

With our energy drained following the weird evening of experiences, we returned to the 747 to grab our bikes and ride into the darkness towards our camp. Along the way there were some of the fabled plug and play camps that many of the celebrities and wealthy folks occupied. Back at our corner of the city, we sat under our car port tent cracking up and rambling wildly into the wee hours of the morning. Eventually, we made the grown man and woman decision of climbing into our tents for a few hours of sleep and recharging.

Friday, September 1:

There was sweat on my brow, which meant the sun had to be higher in the sky than the previous mornings. I felt rested and again, free of a hangover. I opened up the doors of the tent and got what was left of the morning breeze flowing through for Carly. Stretching followed as coffee brewed. I had ceased wearing shoes while at camp by that point in the week and the dry cracked ground felt good on the soles of my feet. As was the case every morning, Rob popped out of his tent, then the girls emerged from their motorhome, which at mid-experience seemed to have no hope of a return of the security deposit. Coffee and breakfast flowed like a river and a short time later I was ready to tackle my morning duty.

One of the harsh realities of Burning Man is that you have to relieve yourself in porto potties. It's unfortunate, but it's a part of the experience. Luckily for us, we camped a half block over from walk-in camping, which was a large, mainly unoccupied area where vehicles were not allowed. On the day we arrived, we took notice of the portos across the vast landscape. This meant that every morning a delightful ride through the wide open area to those far portos, which were consequently pristine, unlike many thrones across the Playa, was essential. While at the portos, planes were landing and taking off on the cracked earth runways on the other side of the trash fence.

I arrived back at camp to find Carly awake and excited. She had been waiting for that day for years, as her parents would be arriving in Black Rock City with their new trailer in tow. Carly has always wanted to share in the experience of Burning Man with her folks and on that Friday, it would become a reality. We showered and straightened up camp in preparation for their arrival, along with some of their friends and Carly's cousin and boyfriend. Corndog rode over to a bike camp, only a block or two away and returned with a new pedal for her bike! Early afternoon the first of the group rolled in! Mike, a conservative man who loves techno, appeared in our camp and dropped off a couple of bags of ice for us! His wife was with him and they had already pulled into a spot just up the road to camp. A short time later Carly's parents and their friends all pulled up with large trailers. We moved our truck, bikes and carefully placed solar lights blocking off the space, and they pulled in perfectly without issue.

The setup was quick and efficient and before long everyone was into drinks and partying! Carly's father Darin wandered into our camp with an arm full of flashy glass jewelry that he gave out to everyone as a gift, in addition to glow-in-the-dark Ceelo Green shirts that he obtained in bulk at an auction. We ate and drank as the sun got lower and lower in the sky and disappeared behind the mountains. The energy was high in camp as it would be all of the new-comers' first time out and about at night in Black Rock City! As the group prepared I found myself saying things like "be sure to bring your bandannas, goggles, IDs, water bottles and lights!" After extensive preparation we were off on 4:00 towards Esplanade and the open Playa. It was Friday night in Black Rock and the city was alive! Earlier in the week I mentioned to Rob that the city grew exponentially in energy leading up to Saturday, and in that moment Rob turned to me laughing and said, "I see what you were saying about the energy growing. Holy shit, eh?!"

The fleet crossed Esplanade and made sure that everyone was still along for the ride. We headed towards Center Camp to start where we hopped off of our bikes, locked them up and arrived just in time for a performance that involved a large group in the middle of Center Camp playing bells and singing bowls. We were down a couple of members of the group, which is common in such a wild environment. Everyone who was present from our camp was excited and wandering around while enjoying the performance. Back at our bikes the group headed to The Man while Rob and I went off in search of the 3:00 portos on the Playa. At The Man, we quickly located the group and we collectively headed up the steps to the upper level of the pagoda surrounding the effigy. We wandered around taking in all of the activity, flashing lights, lasers, explosions, art cars and madness in the distance. I stood next to Darin and said to him "crazy, huh?" He turned to me with a shocked expression on his face. "I have seen Burning Man during the day, but not at night..." and he just stood there looking out over the open Playa. The group took pictures together and laughed amid the dust. Downstairs we stood in the main room surrounded by the colorful lights and ringing bells as time stood still. Margaret, Carly's mother was so excited and kept hugging Carly.

We agreed that we wanted to dance so we headed back over to the 10:00 corner of the keyhole to Kalliope, where we know we would find some decent electronic music for the group. With the bikes parked and locked up safely across the street, we grabbed our cups and headed in. Carly's cousin, Steven, laid down on a large inflatable chair and the rest of the group headed towards the bar, while Rob and I had our minds blown by one of the most intense and vibrant lasers that either of us had ever seen. Everyone returned to the dance floor and danced for a bit before a fire grew in the distance. We mounted up and rode towards the flames! A mass of people and art cars rode in the same direction and we stopped just a little ways out in time to watch the structure quickly fall. To our right we noticed the illuminated Tree of Tenere, so it was the obvious choice for the next experience.

Under the LED tree people gathered and hung out in the glow which extended a decent distance out. Unlike the majority of the rest of the city, there was beautiful live piano music being performed. Upon the conclusion of the arrangement the crowd cheered, before the young man treated everyone to another. I wandered around a bit listening to blips of languages from all over the globe. It was a beautiful twenty minutes or so before we refocused towards camp. We stopped at Euterpe, the large puppet, on our way back. This time she was in a nightgown and sitting upright in he large bed and inactive. We continued on dodging art cars, ran into Megan and Skye, and eventually landed at Thunderdome once again. Rob and I watched the bikes as the group headed in and Steven made haste to a giant swing. We were in a snow globe of wildness and though the new-comers of our camp were turning in for the night, the original campers were just getting started!

We headed out into the night and though my memory doesn't serve me as well as it should, I recall laughing and dancing, drinking wine and celebrating! I have a vivid memory of the girls standing inside of a cylindrical LED chamber that spun around them. That moment was very euphoric for me and though everything faded from there, I awoke the next morning in the comfort of my bed...

Saturday, September 2:

The sun was shining, the weather was sweet... minus the smoke. I rolled over and Carly was wearing sunglasses while she was sleeping, prompting me to laugh. I stepped outside and it felt like day five. Rob rubbed his eyes and sighed climbing out of his tent and I could completely relate. Skye came out and joined us for coffee asking if we were still awake from the night prior. I laughed and said "no," as if it were a ridiculous notion, feeling old in the moment. Breakfast went on and Carly's parents came over for coffee and to hang out. I headed over to the portos and following my morning routine, I decided to ride over to the nearby airport. A helicopter landed and out came a few folks in fur with carry on luggage. It was Saturday and they were arriving by helicopter. Rough life. Back at home base Mike wandered into our camp and offered us a "bag of peaches" and handed over a ziplock full of apples. We looked at each other puzzled and off he went as quickly as he came.

The day was spent relaxing in the shade, moving every hour or so to avoid the sun as it crossed the skies. Later in the afternoon we rode off to purchase ice at one of the plaza ice camps and arrived to find a line more than a block long, triggering us to bail. Our coolers were still cold and had a little bit of ice, so we jumped back into a heavy dose of sitting and drinking the last of the sweet tea, as well as a bunch of water. I grabbed my last shower in BRC and felt amazing! A short time later, one of Darin's contacts at Burning Man, Ray, joined us for a steak dinner at our camp. It was by far the meal of the week and featured several delicious items. I enjoyed getting to know Ray, someone that we had corresponded with for years and gain his perspective of the event. It was a perfect start to what would be the main event evening!

With our bellies full and the sun gone from the sky, we suited up in our Saturday best. With the cats herded, we glided down 4:00 to kick off one last night in the city! Bike traffic was thick on the roads making it challenging to keep track of everyone. Across Esplanade the group veered to the right and landed near a stationary piece of art along the 3:00 road near the excitement where we secured our bikes. We had lost Darin in the mix and after quite a bit of searching, continued into the circle perimeter of art cars surrounding The Man. Fire spinners and dancers poured into the defensible space between the crowd and the center of the BRC universe. The Man's arms raised into the air and a waterfall of sparks poured down from the pagoda, while fireworks exploded in the night sky. Then all of a sudden there were multiple explosions that rattled our rib cages! I yelled as did many in the crowd. It was an extremely impressive display of pyrotechnics and the structure was fully engulfed in flames.

Pieces of the structure collapsed, ashes rained down on us and after some time, we turned and headed back towards our bikes while still sort of watching the burn. A couple of minutes later the structure fell and the massive crowd erupted. On our way back to our bikes a guy said to me, "I want to show you something." Of course I wondered over and to the group's delight he gave us a pair of paper glasses, much like 3D glasses, that made these amazing prisms in the lights. We were easily amused, as was the guy given the circumstances. People flooded the Playa in every direction, peaking. Back at camp we found Darin and witnessed cars in stand still lines all of the way past our camp to exit the event. The girls decided to delay their departure and head out in the early morning to decrease the pulse time to the highway. We hugged them and said our good byes to two fantastic campmates, that would hopefully return next year. They closed the door on their Burn and we shifted gears.

We gathered a couple of important items, some wine, refilled our water bottles and me, Carly and Rob rode towards the Temple. Beats were blasting in every direction and to our surprise, there wasn't much burning on the Playa. The circle perimeter around the still burning fire of the Man was smaller, but a plethora of art cars and a large crowd were still engaged in that scene. Over at the Temple we parked, I filled up my wine glass and in we went. We looked around in search of photos of a friend we recently lost, as we had some items that we wanted to leave in remembrance of him as well. As we walked through the structure we could hear belting screams from the rafters, and as we came around a corner it appeared as though Black Rock safety staff was already tending to the scene, which grew in intensity as we continued on with our intended task. After twenty minutes or so, and the screams from the young lady above continuing in the background, we found a suitable spot and hung a t-shirt which featured a picture of our friend Bruce, a sticker that read "Moose B" and a little mouse with moose antlers.

We hugged Rob and shared a moment, returning to our bikes where Steven located us. The quartet rode toward the 2:00 edge of the keyhole where a lot of the less desirable electronic music (noises) is output, in my opinion. We parked and wandered through massive sound camps with lasers painting the sky above us. I stopped and took a breath looking around realizing that though I was happy to return to reality the following day, I would miss the city of dreams. I grew more and more tired as we arrived at Android Jones' dome featuring his Samskara art show, which had a huge line. I decided to turn back and opt for camp with Robert, while Carly and Steven decided to keep riding. The last I saw of Carly that night she was riding on the bicycle roller coaster track and I took a deep breath trying to forget her propensity for clumsiness.

Rob and I rode silently down 4:00 towards the outer edge of the camps for the last time. Our bike chains creaked loudly in the still silence of the suburbs and we laughed. "That more than any other sound reminds me of Burning Man," I said fondly. Back at camp we hung out until our eyes closed. I climbed into bed without Carly and thought about what nonsense she was getting into. Sleep came quickly as if I had been in the desert for almost a week...

Sunday, September 3:

I awoke to feeling fucking great! Outside Rob was alive and alert, already packing up camp! I made coffee and thought about the arduous task ahead of tearing down camp and putting away all of the pieces of our experiences into bins for the following year. It was over one hundred degrees fahrenheit, so we took our time packing up the tents, canopy, tables and trinkets. We drank a ton of water and misted ourselves throughout the process. Little by little our camp came down and fit into the bed of a pick-up truck. Inside Darin and Margaret's air-conditioned trailer we said good-bye to Carly's parents, Steven and his boyfriend, Eli. I was not looking forward to our exodus either as in past years it had taken us four to six hours, while hearing rumors of nine. We tuned into Burning Man Information Radio, then to Burning Man traffic and as we drove along Gate Road without stopping the voice on the tube claimed that there was no wait to exit. Carly and I couldn't believe it. We drove along through whiteout dust on choppy Playa roads coming to a stop a pulse or two away from the highway. We relaxed for about thirty minutes, pulsed, relaxed for a few more and were on our way out of Black Rock City!

We drove the two lane desert highway through huge burn scars from the surrounding fires, which were started by lightning. We passed huge trailers and pieces of art cars on flat bed trucks, past RVs with bikes strapped to the back, through tiny blips of town on an ever growing map. As we drove farther and farther away from BRC I reflected on another year of spending a week in the fucking desert. It was a lot of fun to watch our entire group enjoy something for the first time that we are so fond of. It meant a lot to me to spend time with Rob and get to know him outside of our working relationship at Snug Lake. We hung with him for two weeks, from the mountains of Colorado to the desert of Nevada. I enjoyed spending time with Corndog and getting to know her better, as well as meeting Skye and watching her blossom over the week! All of that said, I felt we opted for a lot of down time in the intense heat and I wished that we had more energy to put into the experience. I was drained.

It's incredible that a place like Black Rock City, a temporary artistic paradise, exists in the middle of nowhere. Annually. The experience and the people always leave me with a renewed hope for what human interaction and output could look like. I always leave Black Rock feeling that almost anything is possible and that people are inherently friendly when they let their guard down and accept themselves and those around them. I was also reminded that everything is temporary and concluded that we may as well enjoy the time we have on this planet and be good to our neighbors. Basically, we'll continue... because "this is what we do."