Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A Wacky Day Out at LA Burning Man Decompression in Photos & Video (14 October 2017)

I heard about the Burning Man LA Decompression event about a couple of weeks ago through Facebook. Some buds from the Venice Beach Drum Circle who also happen to be ‘Burners’ told me that it’s something not to miss. They have been telling the same about Burning Man for the last three years, but it just didn’t happen yet. In fact, if I got a dollar for every time I heard “YOU would love it!”, I’d still need a few hundreds more to make it. 

Truth to be told, I was still contemplating the Decompression idea. After all, Saturday is the day I drum on the beach while the event takes place at the L.A State Historical Park Downtown. Fortunately I ended up going and had a smashing time. This may actually be the first time to drum to the beats of electronic music and really enjoy it, which is the chief reason why I’m sharing the experience with you herein.

What is different with this photo-article is that along the captures I took, I am also sharing those by three other photographer friends. Most shots are by Oliver Rossberg with his D750 Nikon, several are by Magma, plus the single surreal and illuminating long-exposure featured photo of Steve, Magma, and a lady friend by Reid Godshaw. There is also a short video clip.

Usually I’m either behind the drum or the lens, or simply just partying, which naturally makes it almost impossible to capture everything or to even have a good photo or two of myself. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is called division of labour: Problem solved. Enjoy the following photographic storytelling.

A suitable opportunity to unicorn AF
On Saturday morning the guys and I began texting each other. The event was set from 12 or 1 pm to 11 pm. However, apparently after 6 pm there will be long lines to get in. I thought to myself that I could go by 4 or even 5. But down deep inside, I knew there was a possibility that I could just skip it and go to the beach. I mean, taking an Uber all by yourself to go “party” may sometimes seem not worth it — particularly for someone who had “partied” nonstop for over a decade.

A new friend who has a photographic memory
Then at around 2 pm a buddy, Magma, texted me saying that he can pass by since he’s in the area with another friend. But in 10 minutes. Hm. I was reluctant at first because I like to get ready, especially before going to a festival for eight hours. I first replied that it’s too soon; even added a crying emoticon 😢, probably for the first time in my life. However, the crying face on the phone is shedding many tears and not just one. But yeah, I guess I was trying to infer that I love the idea of the ride but I’m somewhat of a lazy ass so I need more time.

Grab your drum…let’s go!” he encouragingly wrote back. And it worked. Something I’ve noticed about myself throughout the years is that sometimes I need that bluntness. Usually about stuff I know I will enjoy yet still hesitant for some reason or the other. And when I listen I almost always have a great time. But there is a catch: The blunt encouragement has to come from someone I trust; someone who knows me well and knows that I will enjoy such and such.

Even though we only met a couple of years ago through the Venice Beach Drum Circle, Magma happens to become one of those I trust. Besides, the whole tribe was going; so 

I was convinced and even before the 10 minutes he texted again saying they are outside. 

The Venice Beach Drum Circle fully-equipped tent
It took us about 45 minutes to get there. This was around 3 pm and there wasn’t many people. 

To my surprise, however, there was a Venice Beach Drum Circle tent already set up with everything. Located on the northwestern corner of the park by the Fire Stage, it had chairs, towels, blankets, lights, drums, water, and a flag; even a fire extinguisher which you could see in the above photo. It felt like a VIP treatment that younger me never had the chance to experience during the “raves & festivals” days. Many of those free spirits are in their 40s and 50s and of course there is the Godfather Steve Engel who is 73 years young. So it makes sense to have a little comfort around. 

Some of the VBDC crew; Tom (left), Alec, Fran, and Joseph. You can also spot Steve in a hat and
carrying a drum on the far right
— by Magma
Half an hour later and the rest of the Venice Beach crew arrived. I was then able to leave the drum and chair to go wander around the area. I must say, this is a major perk for having a camp ground. I took some fun photos then had a couple of beers at the designated area, the Playa Saloon — which you can’t leave with alcohol. Also coolers or booze were not allowed into the event. 

Indeed, Alice

I first checked out all five stages and the DJs to know what kind of music is being played in each. When one made sense to my mind I started dancing for a while. Only then I was sure that this is where I could drum. After a short while I went to our tent to get the djembe and chair and headed back.

 All the shimmering lights were glowing by then as it was already dark.

The early view
Now, it isn’t easy to drum while music is being played — even unenjoyable sometimes. Let alone music you are not familiar with and listening to for the first time. However, if you synchronise your beats with the tempo of the tunes the DJ is playing — in terms of BPM (beats per minute), you can end up contributing greatly to the overall sound. It just needs some mind “hacking”, because you have to always anticipate the next beat you’re hearing and then drum accordingly. 

This is precisely why not any kind of music works. But once you are in-sync, it becomes an entrancing, almost psychedelic experience.

That said, I placed my chair a bit further than the ‘floor’, closed my eyes, and zoned out. It wasn’t long before some people gathered around and started dancing. A lot of stuff happened the next couple of hours. 

The stage that resonated with me the most — by Magma
What I specifically remember is this 20-something years old girl coming right in front of me and began grooving and shaking. There was a guy waiting for her, but she kept going to the point that her behind was almost touching my djembe. We shared a few smiles until the boyfriend tried to call her, but she ignored him. Looking slightly embarrassed, he then came and sort of carried her away towards the stage. I just smiled and closed my eyes again and kept going.

About a few minutes later, I found the same girl coming back to the same spot, almost running. She had that cheeky look on her face, that gave the impression that she might have escaped from her date. She then began dancing again — even more seductively this time. A few more minutes and the guy came back. He first tried to take her away again, but then when he failed, he just stood there helplessly watching the spectacle. I could only smile and keep playing. 

If interested to know why music or drumming in particular has that effect on us, you can check these earlier pieces of mine: How Drumming Changed The Way My Brain Processes Music, and The Intertwining of Music and Sexuality ― A Djembefola’s Tale.

Same stage

The other notable memory is the four different people who came to share their smoke with me. One was a 60-year-old man who said: “I hope it inspires you to play even better.”

During that time I was joined by two other drummers; Paul whom I knew from the Venice Beach Drum Circle, and another new acquaintance. 

Even more people gathered around us and it was pure bliss. Eventually they both left and I was again alone, flowing and zoning to the electronic beats.

There was also a few photographers and videographers as I recall seeing a flash multiple times. I wonder where the photos and videos are. Fortunately, Oliver captured a glimpse of the magic in the photo below.

Finally, a 20-year old girl came to sit on the ground right by my chair. She was too calm and quite, that after 10 minutes of playing I asked if she was alright. She explained that the drumming calms her down and asked if I mind if she just lay there. Obviously I didn’t. 

Paul and myself jamming to the electronic beats — by Oliver Rossberg
When done by 10 pm I was soaked, thirsty and beginning to get hungry. With all the rush, I ended up having a banana and a half for lunch, so by that time I was slowly receding. There was some food trucks, but the long lines made me drop the idea.

Back to camp to chill a bit with the band who were lightly drumming. There I met a few girls and women who, lured by the drum sounds, would come and go. But there was this one stunning woman, D, who came to chill with us for a bit. She had daring eyes, a beautiful figure, and happens to also be an author — something which does not occur often. She mentioned that we remind of her of Renaissance folks and festivals. And I took that as a compliment.

By that time someone from the park had come to inform us that by 11 we have to leave. So for those last 15-20 minutes we played again, though smoothly and not too loud.

Pot melting earlier with Joseph and Oliver
D was heading to a party afterwards and asked if we would like to join her. Again, the woman was highly attractive. Even though we were bonding pretty well, but I was totally swamped after 8 hours; dusty feet since I was wearing flip-flops which I would sometimes take off, sweaty shirt, and overall physically exhausted. What I badly needed to come back to life was a shower and some food.

On the way to the car, Magma tried again to give me that push, mentioning how D is so fine, to which I certainly agreed. But I sincerely just couldn’t do it. I would rather meet her again when I’m clean and have more energy. We ended up taking her to that club, exchanged contacts, then he took me home almost around midnight.

What a Phun day that was. Successfully decompressed. Now enjoy the rest of the story with the following photos. Other than the ones captioned “by Magma” (towards the end) and the sole shot by Reid Godshaw (the featured one), all the photos below are by Oliver Rossberg ― except the colourful universe lady. A big warm SHOUT OUT to all three artists for allowing me to share their creative juices and enhance this piece.

Now enjoy the Magick!


Colourful Universe

I remember her. the dress keeps changing colours.

Fire show — by Magma
More fire play — by Magma
Even more fire — by Magma
Light and Colours — by Magma

L.A State Historical Park in a state of illumination — by Magma
Vantage view of the Decompression — by Magma
"Weeeee" — by Magma
Burning Man ice sculpture — by Magma


A Year at the Venice Beach Drum Circle in Photos & Videos (2014-’15)

Another Year at the Venice Beach Drum Circle in Photos & Videos (2016-’17)

One More Year at the Venice Beach Drum Circle in Photos & Videos (2017-’18)

The Phenomenal Getty Villa in Photos

World Art Through My Lens

Tripping Through Venice Beach Art 

More Tripping Through Venice Beach Art

Echoes From The Past — Alexandria in Photos

How Drumming Changed The Way My Brain Processes Music

The Intertwining of Music and Sexuality ― A Djembefola’s Tale

Photos I Shot That Brought Tears To My Eyes

Some People I Shot

More People I Shot
Some More People I Shot

Some Animals I Shot

Drum Circle Etiquette — The Do’s and Don’ts
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