Category Archives: Vehicle

Indiegogo sends XyloVan to the shop!

thankyouWow. Color us thrilled – and supremely grateful.

Thanks to all of our 101 supporters on Indiegogo, the XyloVan resurrection campaign raised $5,040. That’s about half what we were shooting for, but it should be enough for us to repair the engine (rather than just swapping in a new engine and transmission) and steering – and still leave enough room to dress it up for a full DMV permit at Burning Man 2014.

towedThis morning, Romeo showed up with his flatbed, he wedged all 5,000 pounds and 25 feet of it onboard, and we dropped it off less than an hour later at JP Engine in Irwindale.

I filled in shop owner Oscar on all of XyloVan’s trials and travails, and he said he’d dig into it and let us know what we’re looking at.

Stay tuned, friends … and thank you!

The soul of music – the heart of XyloVan’s Indiegogo campaign

XyloVan coaxes all flavors of music out of the people who play it: Jazz, TV themes, happy heedless drumming and wild, intricate improvisation. That’s why we’re raising funds to resurrect it – because it empowers creativity and brings happiness to everyone who grabs a pair of sticks to play – Check out this short video and then Contribute what you can!

Please give us a hand by sharing this link on your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr – anywhere you think people might see it and be moved to help. Just 10 days left!

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.

What happened … And what’s next for XyloVan

IMG_8513So here we were, all ready for Burning Man 2013.

We were gonna drive up there, set up XyloVan for all the Swing City visitors to play, get re-married on Tuesday, volunteer at Gate and Cafe again – just have a total ball.


Look! Here’s Xylovan all stuffed to the gills with gear, ready (or so it seemed) for the 12-hour drive to Black Rock City, NV! Continue reading What happened … And what’s next for XyloVan

Xylovan down, but crew will make it to BRC

imageSad news, friends.

Xylovan suffered a mysterious overheating problem en route to the playa. After toiling 12 hours to replace the thermostat and water pump in a gas station in one of the sketchier parts of Pacoima, we were heartbroken to discover that the problem still wasn’t cured, so we made the best decision we could.

Xylovan is being towed home to Silver Lake, and we’re offloading everything to a rental van for the big drive to Black Rock City.

We have important business there – renewing our wedding vows after 19 marvelous years together!

We’ll see you all in the dust very soon.

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.

Only one way to skin this art car

Playa armor for mutant vehicles comes in mad variety: weathered clapboard, diffraction-foil paneling, lycra skin over bent-steel skeleton, fur.

Back when we first dreamed up JANUS, I was thinking it could be a pipe-steel skeleton with some sort of canvas draping.

But David’s design turned out to be a lot lighter and tighter – and it required a different approach to the skin.

To keep the surface close to the original curves in the design, I started draping the material – 8-ounce coarse-weave canvas dropcloths from Home Depot – over the profiles that make up the pianos’ “shoulders.” I clamped them in place at the top …

Continue reading Only one way to skin this art car

Connecting the dots

Once I re-hung all the profiles, I realized (yet again) that I am a complete idiot.

The saying goes “measure twice, cut once” but it does NOT say “measure three times, taking into account three-dimensional design, the fact that you’re not on level ground and that you’re a complete numbskull, cut once.”

I had failed to take into consideration the … aw, hell, I won’t bore you with the details. Anyway, the top-line `1x4s were misaligned by a good 4.5 inches.

Suffice to say, I trimmed the tops of the front profiles on both sides to bring them into line with the rear profiles, then kludged together the 1x4s – the whole line will be hidden somewhat by the cloud shapes that we’re attaching later to the top of the piano lid, so all’s well … Continue reading Connecting the dots

XyloVan at BarCamp

(image courtesy of Jory Felice)
I had the supreme privilege of taking XyloVan to BarCampLA 8, an ad-hoc un-conference that I like to think of as an intellectual mosh pit, where tech, art, community and strategy thrash and get sweaty.

I set up in the upper lot, and told the stories of how I built it (one of these days I have to arrange all the posts on this blog into a single stack of step-by-step links), and gave helpful instruction on how to not get killed at Burning Man.

Many thanks to everyone who listened kindly and played energetically. You’re an inspiring community of fertile minds.

Can’t wait for the next BarCamp.

More pictures here, courtesy of Jane Lee: