Soak humans in art and the playa’s environmental extremes (harsh wind, high heat, relentless dust) and you bring out something significant in them: happiness. They’re working their tails off to be here, to create something meaningful (if temporary), and to delight and shock each other.
Black Rock City is populated by some of the most beautiful souls you’ll ever meet. That said, sailor guy here drummed so fiercely on Keyboard 2 that he actually snapped a fiberglass mallet. Ah, well – there are 20 more. That ought to hold us until the next burn.
Children loved XyloVan – this dude (probably barely 20 months old) banged away on the tubular bells for quite a while …
For us, delight came in simply letting others play. We had a constantly random but ineffably gorgeous soundtrack for our activities around XyloVan, whether we were in camp …
… or out on the open playa.
The daily cruise out to our site gave the rooftop crew the sort of view that Imperial invaders probably had from the backs of elephants 150 years ago.
We’d site the van, hang out and play a bit with burners who stopped by, then bike out to explore for a few hours, only to return, see what people had written in our Visitor Log (“Vantastic!”) and retire to the roof for cocktail hour beneath the canopy if the dust wasn’t too thick.
The children would engage in fisticuffs …
and we’d enjoy snacks of chips and mango salsa, chee-tos, and fresh apples washed down with enough water to dilute all the alkaline dust we had inhaled.
We’d bike around to see what we could see, (at least that went well until I backed XyloVan over Hitgirl’s bike and murdered its front end (dooming myself to carrying her on the back of my thrashed old Schwinn for the rest of the week) …
… return to camp for dinner (steak this evening) …
… and bike back out into the LED-flambeed playa night to be reminded again of the beauty of Black Rock City.
The real beauty – again – lies in the faces of the burners who enjoyed playing.
Time and again, we watched them undergo a transformation – from random, hummingbird interest in all the playa’s distractions to a hushed, deeply focused intimacy with the van.
When people play XyloVan, they seem to enter a quiet, intensely personal space. They connect to something primal by striking the keys and listening to what comes out. They’d play for a few seconds – or half an hour – and time and again, they thanked us for building it.
For every drop of blood, sweat and stress that we went through in creating XyloVan, every dollar we overspent, every hour of sleep we skipped – this was the reward:
Bonus: Exotic playa insects, drawn by our lights: