Category Archives: Homo sapiens

Gong Fights at Burning Man 2022

I wanted to bring something fast, loud, and stupid to the playa this year. Something that was portable, easy to make and use, and memorable. (photo gallery below!)

You know the sound a steel mixing bowl makes when you strike its edge? I love the round, BONGing resonance of it. So:

Equipment: I built two sets of armor from raw materials found at Goodwill and our local hardware store:

  • Two sets of old football or hockey shoulder pads
  • Two old bike helmets
  • About 14-16 steel bowls
  • Assorted bolts, washers, nuts, wingnuts, and bushings
  • About 6 feet of light chain
  • Two superball-tipped, vinyl-dipped, fiberglass pairs of mallets
  • The Septagon – seven linked lengths of painted 1×2 pine on the playa floor to contain the fights.
  • 1 overhead scoop light for atmosphere
  • 1 amazing camp tower at OKNOTOK, the legs of which were roped off as the ring.

Safety gear:

  • Goggles
  • Gauntlets made of polycarbonate sheet
  • Earplugs for all fighters! (that shit gets loud, even in testing)


  • Overall:
    • No intentional blows to the face
    • No intentional blows to the ‘nads
    • If you step outside the Septagon (or you’re pushed), you lose
  • Fight with Violence (see video):
    • Strike the chest or head gong (fitted with chains, to make a distinct noise) to earn points
    • 15 points takes the round
    • 3 rounds wins the fight
  • OR fight with Art (see video):
    • Fighters must strike each other’s armor as musically, creatively, uniquely, balletically as possible
    • You have 60 seconds
    • The crowd judges the winner.

Gong Fights exceeded my wildest dreams! The ferocity of the Violence Fighters, the grace of the Art Fighters, and the the idiot noise and chaos overran all rational concerns, and a kind of animal fervor took over.

It was stupidly magnificent, and magnificently stupid. Thank you especially to Mr. OK, Michelle, Lydia, Dakota, Thor, Sumit, Dandelion, Drift, Jackson, TwoNames, HoneyBear, Mike, Special Snowflake, and everyone else who armored and scored and assisted and fought and danced and hooted and lost and won.

13/10, will do it again.

(photos by Sumit Jamuar, video by @brian_huy_mac and @z_antibeersnob)


R.I.P. XyloVan – 2010-2019

XyloVan began its life nearly 10 years ago as an idea: Let’s build a mutant vehicle so our young kids can ride around even after bedtime and we can all enjoy Burning Man safely together after dark.

The van’s full, rich and musical life ended last month – after so many adventures, mishaps and miracles that I never could have dreamed of – with me stripping off the xylophones and gongs and putting the vehicle up for sale.

It was like building it all over again – but in reverse. (see photos below after the jump)

Deeply bittersweet.

I peeled off the magic, wrenching the hand-made instruments from the 3/8-inch mounting bolts where they had ridden ever since 2010, when my wife and kids and I began transforming a 1985 Ford 350 ClubWagon XLT into the only musically-playable art car I’ve ever met.

I unwired the control pod carrying the digital-delay mixer and Arduino control box, and stowed the electronics and cables for future projects. I put the instruments into long-term storage against the day when I might bee foolish enough to build another musical mutant vehicle. And I turned the van over to … Continue reading R.I.P. XyloVan – 2010-2019

Xylovan’s neighbors – and our coming Indiegogo campaign!

photoSo – a little background:

a) We live on a narrow, hilly street, but most of the neighbors are cool.
b) We’re almost ready to kick off our IndieGogo campaign to give Xylovan a badly-needed new engine
c) Not all the neighbors are cool, it seems
d) We just jumpstarted it (had to use both my car and an auxiliary power pack and a lot of prayer), moved it 10 feet and posted this note on it:

A Note to Our Neighbors!


We’re the family that built Xylovan 4 years ago, and it has delighted thousands of people who have had a chance to play on it wherever it goes.

Please know that the vehicle is not abandoned. It’s just awaiting a heart transplant that we can’t yet afford.

The engine blew a head gasket last year, so we cannot move it more than a few feet until we can raise the money to buy a new engine.

As it turns out – just as we were preparing an online fundraising campaign this month at to raise the $5,000 we need – one of you complained to the Parking Authority, and we got a ticket and narrowly avoided having it towed from the street today at even greater cost.

It seems we owe you an apology for not having moved it sooner – and perhaps for not talking with you directly about our handmade musical instrument.

All of our direct neighbors have told us they are comfortable with its parking place and they enjoy having it around. But we did not reach you – and for that, we are sorry.

Please do feel comfortable contacting us directly – we don’t bite – and let us understand your concerns so we can work to address them directly.

Xylovan *is* here to stay – it’s part of our lives and the lives of more of your other neighbors than you may realize – and we hope that we can work with you to make you feel more at ease with it as part of our neighborhood together.

Here’s the good news – We expect to raise the money within about 30 days and repair the engine soon thereafter. and we will be working all spring to get the van cleaned up, repainted and ready to bring music to more people. So while Xylovan will always be big and a little weird-looking, at least it will look more attractive and move a lot more often.

In the meantime, we will try to keep the van parked closer to the neighbors who appreciate it (and farther from your door) – and we hope you will take a little time to learn more about us, and about our musical art car.


The Reeds | 310.722.3392 (and)

We really hope they contact us so we can do right by them. We can’t keep paying tickets, and we really can’t park it anywhere substantially different.

Lucidity Festival 2013

Lucidity Festival was a much needed calm in the storm of our lives. Lately, it’s seemed like the plates we’re spinning are spinning us, and someone keeps adding more plates! At some point, your realize your life is living you, and you need to re-center, to find peace and solidity among solid souls with good intent.

So you came to the Lucidity Festival (again) , and you lose yourself in play and art and noise, and embrace old friends and make new ones and then you remember what it was you were up to before you got too busy to smile.

And then you smile.

We were so glad to bring the van out again and invite you all to play. Thank you all for the lovely sounds you made with us. We hope you found your peace, too. Maybe we’ll see you on the playa, if not sooner.

Fun at Caine’s Arcade – The Cardboard Challenge Day of Play

XyloVan was thrilled and tickled to be invited to join hundreds of kids (and grownups indulging their inner children) at the Caine’s Arcade Cardboard Challenge DAY OF PLAY.

Kids in Boyle Heights (and at Cardboard Challenge events all over the world) built wild, amazing toys, games and masks out of cardboard, tape and a little paint. And they reminded a lot of grownups about something we often forget: Making things is a joy and an adventure.

We’ll have more photos up shortly – stay tuned. And if you’re not already familiar with the kid whose imagination sparked a worldwide movement of child empowerment – well, check out their Facebook page, watch the video below and consider donating to the Caine’s Arcade Scholarship Fund:

Caine’s Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.