Never thought we’d make it (all things considered), and the Light Fandango came out about 9 times as lush-looking as we could ever hope for.
There’s nothing so thrilling and rewarding as crawling through the inspection line at the Department of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man, and realizing you’re surrounded by hundreds of other
deluded crackpot engineers hard-working creative mutant-vehicle builders who are also transitioning from the hardest part of the journey to the most wonderful reward: Driving an art car on open playa, bringing your madness into the world.
Inspection went swiftly and painlessly – and sent us off into the wild night with full permission to drive no faster than 5mph completely sober with lasers, high-watt floodlights, strobes and propane bombs flashing in ones eyes – while simultaneously avoiding running down all the drunks, darkwads and overly-enthusiastic hippies who seem to delight in suddenly flinging themselves in front of our four-ton vehicle.
Last time (when we built Janus) the build crew was, um, me. I had a few hours help on setup, but I worked mostly solo for 2-1/2 18-hour days and by the end I was exhausted, cooked, a mess.
This time around, I had an excellent build crew – Thanks to Sam Hiatt, Julie Demsey, Lindsay VanVoorhis, Anna Metcalf and Jeremiah Peisert, as well as my kids, Biomass and Hitgirl – and the mutation from XyloVan to The Light Fandango took just 10-1/2 hours.
We bolted the pre-cut 1-inch EMT tubing frame together atop the already-assembled passenger cage with U-clamps. Then we installed the front wheel covers.
We sleeved the theatrical lighting-scrim panels onto the three sections of pre-bent conduit (thanks for the bend-expertise, Bender!), and used long poles with plywood hooks at the end to hoist the sections into the air and bolt them to the ends of the 14 struts sticking out from the framework.
At this point, a massive storm system came in – shutting down the playa to traffic, and shutting down our work party for a good 18 hours. We left the sleeved halo in place, but kept the fabric all furled up, which was a good move because the 50-60-mph winds would have thrashed it to pieces.
Once the storm passed and things dried out a bit, we unfurled and draped the fabric, installed the 10 carefully-tailored shrouds to hide the Ford ClubWagon XLT’s gorgeously brutish 1985 bodywork, and tied everything down with a Frankensteinian mess of cord and used Rob DeHart’s genius-magic trick of bunching the fabric around tennis balls tied to the frame.
We plugged in the 14 chandeliers and hung them from the strut tips with carabiners (thanks to Kristina, Christo and Lee for their tireless assembly work a few weeks earlier!)
And then we plugged in the LED strips – which promptly showed some kind of electrical fault by glowing all red, and only red. Our genius Arduino expert Spencer Hochberg quickly isolated the fault, we rerouted some power, and gorgeousness ensued. (thanks, Spencer!)
And we had fun and managed to avoid heatstroke while doing it. The miracle of playa teamwork and good friends.
The dust has settled. XyloVan and crew have made a truly epic appearance at Burning Man in late August. And we have survived.
It’s only now – after taking time to unpack, clean up, de-stress, re-enter the default world and process all the wild stuff that we experienced – that I have the strength to share the nasty, hair-raising saga of our stagger-step journey from Los Angeles to the playa.
But most of you missed out on the panic, noise, danger and gnarliness that ensued. Here, at last, are all the gory details … Continue reading
$5 gets you: a XyloVan sticker.
$10: A XyloVan crew patch (plus sticker!)
$35: A hand-machined aluminum slice amulet (plus patch and sticker!)
$85: A hand-machined aluminum block amulet and dowel chime (plus slice amulet, patch and sticker!)
$150: A hand-machined, disc gong (seen here in the video), custom-inscribed with your choice of slogan, quote or mighty call to arms! (plus dowel chime, block amulet, slice amulet, patch and sticker!)
$300: A hand-engraved, mounted XyloVan xylophone key AND a private playa tour for you and 5 friends at Burning Man 2014 (*does not include Burning Man tickets – plus disc gong, dowel chime, block amulet, slice amulet, patch and sticker)
$750: A hand-built, 5-key xylophone and personal 4-hour appearance by XyloVan anywhere within 40 miles of Los Angeles (plus private Burning Man playa tour, disc gong, dowel chime, block amulet, slice amulet, patch and sticker)
$2,500: This is pretty damn awesome, so we’ll let our Indiegogo description say it:
You are THE ULTIMATE XYLOVAN PATRON – you’re pushing us a long way towards our goal, and we’re massively grateful and fortunate to have you support us. So we’re building you a FLOOR-STANDING, FULL-OCTAVE 13-KEY CHROMATIC XYLOPHONE. Each key is hand-cut, carefully tuned to A-440 (Western) scale and mounted in a handsomely-finished, laminated-wood sound-box / case with handles for carrying. The instrument is set atop detachable hairpin-steel legs, which make it elegant for a spot in your music room or parlor, yet completely portable for special events, trips abroad or visits to the home of your exotically musical friends and collaborators. The instrument is fitted with a pressure-zone microphone, allowing it to be plugged in and AMPLIFIED, which will surely lead to all sorts of amazing adventures in music.
Extra bonus! You get two board-any-time PLAYA RIDE TICKETS for XyloVan at Burning Man 2014. If you see us there, hail XyloVan and hop on board ANY TIME – we’ll stop for you even if we’re overloaded – and we’ll drive you anywhere you like on-playa for a couple hours – hang out, play, tell us of your adventures and bang on the van!
Commuter special! You’ll be able to schedule XyloVan for any 4-hour window for yourself and your crew – up to 14 people – any time between Monday and Friday, and we’ll drive you anywhere you’d like to go on-playa – set up any place you’d like, and turn up the amp as loud (or as softly) as you like.
Excellent Patron Bonus: A 1-DAY XYLOVAN COMMAND APPEARANCE Because you believe in us, we’ll bring XyloVan to you – anywhere within 50 miles of Los Angeles. We’ll set up the instruments, sound and lights for a morning, an afternoon or an evening, and you and your guest/students/family/co-conspirators can make any kind of music storm you like. You’ll also have full access to our mixing panel, in case you want to bring other instruments into the mix, or pipe XyloVan’s four channels out to your own mixer for recording purposes.
Beloved Patron Bonus: A 2-DAY XYLOVAN COMMAND APPEARANCE – Because you’ve given so much, we want to give back to you. We will drive XyloVan to you – anywhere within 400 miles of Los Angeles – for a two-day gig. Do with us what you will. We’re there for you, body, soul and amplified, illuminated, motorized instruments.
True Burner Enjoyment: If you’re already on-playa for Burning Man 2014, you’ll get two seats atop XyloVan’s observation deck for the night the Man burns! No sitting in the dust shouting “Down in front!” and trying to keep your butt from falling asleep – you’ll see everything from our deck 8 feet off the ground in the ring of mutant vehicles for the burn!
Donation level: $2500 (and above!)
Give us a hand, and help us bring This amazing project to Burning Man 2014.
A $150 donation to our big Burning Man project nets you a hand-engraved gong with your slogan Or inspirational quote of choice, a dowel chime, machined aluminum block pendant and slice pendant, crew patch and sticker. Just Paypal us at email@example.com and tell us your inscription in the comment field and we’ll get right to work on it for you! Thanks so much to all our gong-level Indiegogo supporters!
Check out the demo video!
Oscar and the crew at JP pulled off the heads of our brutish 7.5-liter V8, machined them, and reinstalled them with fresh gaskets. They rebuilt the front end, with brand-new kingpins and bushings, a rebuilt steering box and repairs to a leaking steering pump. They replaced much of the faulty ignition system (coil, alternator and battery). And they replaced belts and hoses all around.
Less than $2300 later, XyloVan runs like a champ, steers like a fine sailboat (c’mon, it’s still a 25-foot-long 15-passenger van!), stops when it’s told and promises to carry us wherever we want to take it.
So, onward to some wonderful new work. Keep an eye on us as we give
XyloVan a much-needed paint job and aesthetic spruce-up (I’m thinking MoonEyes wheel covers) and some little “trick” accents here and there), design the superstructure and skin for our Burning Man mutation, build some new instruments and create the computer-controlled light system that will give it a visual heartbeat on playa at night.
Stay tuned – and if you contributed to this work in any way – or plan to help in the future – know that we’ll start shipping out our Indiegogo perks to supporters in the next two weeks, and that XyloVan’s crew has a huge vanload of gratitude for you.
You are good souls who have pumped new life into our hearts that will resonate deeply every time a child, musician or random adventurous soul picks up a stick and discovers how to play.
Meantime, the engine shop called to say they finished heart surgery. Our big, fat V8 is running nice and smooth once again. They had to replace the battery, ignition coil and a bunch of belts and hoses, and next they’re tackling the steering repairs.
We’re looking forward to a sweet, low-cost build for “Light Fandango” of just a couple weeks. And ownership of the Brooklyn Bridge. And flying cars. And peace in our time. ONWARD!
DMV Registration Acceptance Letter 2014
PRINT AND BRING THIS LETTER WITH YOU!!
Mutant Vehicle: XyloVan
Registration #: (redacted)
Owner: mack reed
This is an invitation to bring your Mutant Vehicle to Burning Man 2014 for on-playa inspection; however your invitation is CONDITIONAL upon certain conditions being met.
During the review of your vehicle, the committee felt:
The review team had concerns as to how much of the base vehicle would be visible in your completed project.
You will need to ensure that the base vehicle will be well-obscured/hidden in the completed vehicle when presented for it’s on-playa inspection.
THIS IS NOT YOUR LICENSE, NOR DOES IT GRANT YOU ONE.
Actual licenses are granted in Black Rock City when, and if, you pass the on-playa inspection.
This letter confirms that you passed the first level of inspection;
PLEASE READ this entire letter for important information about next steps in bringing your vehicle to the playa.
You MUST bring a printout of this letter with you to Black Rock City. Gate personnel will not allow any towed vehicle into the event site without a copy of this letter. If you do not have this letter when you get to the Gate, you will have to leave the vehicle in the lot at the gate before entering the city. In this case, come to the DMV between noon and 5pm and ask for help getting your vehicle into the event. Because those that brought their letter get serviced first, and because it is a taxing endeavor to get a towed vehicle through the gate without this letter, it may take hours or even days to get your vehicle in. Please remember this and be patient if you find yourself in this position.
GETTING TO THE DMV/LOCATION/HOURS
This letter allows you to drive your Mutant Vehicle from your camp to the DMV.
This letter should be in your vehicle (and available) during this short trip directly to the DMV. If you are stopped by Law Enforcement, the Black Rock Rangers, or any other authority, this letter shows you are in compliance with the rules of BRC. This only applies for the trip directly to the DMV from your camp.
The DMV is located on the Esplanade near center camp. Check your BRC map for our specific location this year.
We will open at 11:00 am and process Mutant Vehicles until sunset. We will then close until it is dark enough to process night vehicles, around a half hour, and then remain open until 10:30 pm. You must be in line by 6:30 for day licensing and by 10:30pm for night licenses or you’ll have to wait until the next day to get processed. We close at 3:00 pm our last day, Saturday, the day of the Burn.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are applying for a night license, whether you are getting a day license or not, you will need to make TWO trips to the DMV: a first trip during the day (before 6:30) for initial inspections and to complete paperwork, and then again after dusk to have your lighting inspected and to receive your night license.
LICENSE LOCATION/SIZE NEEDED
At the DMV your vehicle will be photographed and inspected. If your vehicle passes inspection, it will be issued a license. Licenses are a 12″ long by 3″ high bumper sticker. Licenses must be affixed to the back of your vehicle on the lower-left (drivers) side and you should make allowances for this on your vehicle. If your vehicle is approved for a day and night license, you will need a 12″ by 6″ space for two stickers. The placement on the rear left side is MANDATORY. This applies to each trailer segment as well.
When you submitted your DMV applications, you agreed to adhere to Black Rock City driving protocols. See http://www.burningman.com/on_the_playa/playa_vehicles/no_driving.html. These regulations and protocols will be enforced. Violations will result in impound, fine and/or ejection from the event for you and/or your vehicle.
If you have provided information for Early Admission (EAs) in your Mutant Vehicle Application we will contact you in June with additional information regarding your EA request.
If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for applying. We wish the best for you and your Mutant Vehicle. See you on the Playa!
– The DMV Hotties
Thanks again to all our fantastic Indiegogo supporters for making this application possible. Stay tuned for updates!
Mutant Vehicle Name
Mutant Short Vehicle Description
A rolling ballroom ceiling with amplified xylophones and gongs for everyone to play
Mutant Vehicle URL
Previously on the Playa?
Years at Burning Man
Previous Mutant Vehicle Names
Full day/night DMV permit in 2011 as “Janus” – the double-headed player piano
Prior Mutant Vehicle
Prior Mutant Vehicle Information
ARTery placed XyloVan as a playa installation in 2010. We earned full DMV privileges in 2011. In 2012, the vehicle remained unmutated, parked in camp at Swing City, but fully interactive.
Other Mutant Vehicles Created?
About the Vehicles Mutation
Xylovan (a successful and much-loved veteran of the playa and Los Angeles regional events for the past 4 years) is fitted with amplified 8-foot-long xylphones and an array of other instruments and gongs that invite people to play music with each other. For 2014, we are transforming it into “The Light Fandango” – a roving ballroom ceiling – by shrouding it entirely in backlit, translucent, billowing fabric suspended from a round armature and hung with brightly-lit brass-tone chandeliers. People will be able to climb atop the ceiling (the vehicle’s roof) and ride 10 at a time aboard a rooftop observation deck fitted with a variety of gongs and percussion instruments to play while in motion or they can jam with those and the ground-level xylophones and other instruments when it is stopped.
The vehicle’s translucent fabric shell will be radically illuminated from within by THREE 360-degree arrays of controllable RGB LED strips (at the crown, midpoint and base of the skin) and by RGB arrays casting light on the playa beneath the vehicle. Additionally we will mount 8-10 yard-sale chandeliers around the crown of the vehicle, lit with the brightest white LEDs available, to cast light on the outside of the vehicle, and on the people and playa below. The effect will be a traveling pool of light piloted by a thousand pinpoints of white light all the way around the vehicle. Think the Duke of New York’s cadillac – only much, much, MUCH brighter and friendlier.
Mutant Vehicle Intent
XyloVan has given thousands of people at Burning Man and beyond an extraordinary experience exploring the music within themselves. On-playa, people constantly mob the van when it’s stopped and flag us down and beg us to stop when we’re moving so they have a chance to play the instruments. We want to extend this, through this mutation design – so that we can bring this experience to people all over the playa, as well as transporting people who want to join the roving party and jump into the spontaneous jams that pop up whenever we stop. We created this specific design with Caravansary in mind – to bring the experience of a nomadic, interactive, moveable musical feast to every single person we can reach on-playa. To see in greater detail what we have planned, please take a look at our Indiegogo video (about 5 mins): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLGhKN_0_f0
Vehicle License Number
State of license
30′ 6″ (with mutation deployed)
22′ 0″ (with mutation deployed)
12′ 0″ (with mutation deployed)
Ford ClubWagon XLT (Econoline 350)
Art Tour Contact Info
Number of Trailers
The base vehicle accommodates up to 8 passengers. The rooftop deck – reached by means of a well-lit, bolted-on ladder – carries 10 to 12 more, and is surrounded by a sturdy, 4’6″ steel guardrail with vertical bars that prevent someone from falling to the ground below.
Sound System Wattage
How big is your system?
Normal car stereo or Average living room (under 90 db at 30 ft)
Sound System Description
Pressure-zone microphones gather sound from the three large xylophones on the vehicle’s flanks, feeding it to a digital-delay mixer, which in turn sends the signal to a 200W Kickr amp. The amp feeds a living-room-grade (small) subwoofer and four bookshelf speakers, which point out over open playa so as to avoid feeding back to the mikes below.
Sound Impact Remediation
The mixer is mounted right next to the driver’s seat so volume can be controlled instantly by the driver. We always turn volume down when approaching the temple or quiet areas of the playa, when driving in streets after midnight or before 9 a.m., and we and remain constantly sensitive to people’s requests to moderate the volume. The feedback problem tends to force us to keep the volume at living-room levels anyway. 😉
The armature is fully bolted to the guardrail, which is bolted to the rooftop cargo rack, which is in turn bolted to the vehicle itself. We have had large men lunge at the rail repeatedly trying to break it, and it holds up perfectly. The chandeliers will be hung above 7 feet, and safety-cabled as well as clipped to hardware fittings in the armature. All wiring and cables are run through conduits well out of the way of passengers. We limit the rooftop to 10 people (or 12 when stationary) and keep an overall vehicle-population balance within limits of the vehicle’s originally designed capacity as a 15-passenger van. Our operating procedures (described below) prohibit people who are too inebriated from boarding.
In accordance with DMV rules, the driver is always sober and well-rested before getting behind the wheel – and remains so for the duration of any run. The driver always travels with a crewmate who:
– Stands outside the vehicle to guide it when necessary (backing up, navigating tight spots)
– Remains vigilant for hazards on playa (obstacles, darkwads, flame installations, etc.)
– Helps conduct people to and from the rooftop deck
– Evaluates the ability (age, agility, sobriety) of rooftop passengers before they board and screens out those who might get hurt boarding or debarking
– Knows where the first aid kit and fire extinguisher are and how to use them
The vehicle takes on and offloads passengers only when completely stopped. Passengers may climb in through the passenger door or the rear doors (although that opening is sometimes stacked with bikes inside). Passengers may board the rooftop deck only by means of the rear ladder, and only when cleared by either the crewmate or by another rooftop passenger who agrees to be the “designated grownup” – to aid the driver in politely refusing admittance to anyone who might be too high, drunk, young, old or simply infirm to safely climb up and down the ladder.
2-4 people 15 hours
– Assemble roof-deck guardrail (2 people, 1.5 hrs)
– Assemble crown armature (2 people, 2 hrs)
– Attach front-wheel shape armatures (30 mins, 2 people or 60 mins 1 person)
– Attach fabric to crown armature and various attachment points on the vehicle (2 people, 2 hours)
– Install and connect light bars (2 people, 1 hour)
– Deploy xylophones, microphones, resonators and speakers (2 people, 1 hour)
– Install safety lights, walkaround and final check (2 people, 1/2 hour)
Number of EA passes
Stock 7.5-L V8 gas engine – recently rebuilt, so about as green as a big gas engine can be. We will be burning approx 6-10 gals.
Does your Mutant Vehicle have a steam boiler of any type?
Data Listed Publicly?