I worked two delightful shifts for BMIR, Black Rock City’s official radio station (props to the 20 pirate stations, btw), but by the end of shift two, I was feeling kind of frazzled. The very idea of operating computer and radio equipment in the insane Black Rock desert climates is nothing less than absurd. So it’s no surprise that things break. In fact, the production machine had just imploded on me, about a half-hour before my shift (and the day) ended.
I was in this air-conditioned trailer (definitely a BRC luxury), scratching my head, wondering “how did I manage to get myself into a work-like frenzy at Burning Man?”
It was kind of bothering me.
I was stressed in a work way and, thus far, Burning Man had been a complete reversal of that daily condition.
I had a few things on my mind: The broken computer, the two people that were currently standing there, wanting me to record public service announcements for their camp’s events or what-have-you, and the fact that I was missing the Sparkle Pony Corral’s Yacht Rock cocktail party, an event that I had been anticipating so much as to have arrived at Burning Man with my very own “skipper” hat.
Into the dark trailer, through this mental haze comes Grey Anne, with the calm and tenacity of woodland vines. Calm, quiet, and self-assured, Anne introduced herself and said she wanted to record a PSA for her performance… tonight at 4:30am. Now — this is Burning Man, which never sleeps, but I still was thinking: “Huh?!” 4:30am??
Anyway, I wanted to help but couldn’t. Equipment: busted. Mick’s Mind: at Yacht Rock. And I had one of those “conversations” with Grey Anne that I hate being responsible for, the kind where the other person is saying perfectly reasonable things, engaging things, and I’m … not really there, glancing this way and that, headful of other things and replying with “uh-huh” and “sure” and wishing my brain was just bigger so I could multitask more, which is the problem in the first place.
Anne was persistent, and determined and I felt that I finally offered some semblence of help by sending her directly to the live on-air studio to make an announcement about her (4:30?!) show.
But I remembered something: This very night was the one where, with the devoted help of Miss Kakie and Mr. Manke, I was going to attempt to deliver my Live From Burning Man report to my radio show in Lexington. At, when? At 5:00 am. Therefore, I told Anne that I would come to her show, though — keep in mind — “It’s Burning Man,” as they say — which means, you just never really know what’s going to happen next, and certainly not 12 hours later.
Eleven hours later, I found myself in Center Camp, the giant festival-like heartbeat of Burning Man, really pretty pooped but needing to stay up until 5am to do (“to attempt,” is more like it) my call-in to the great WRFL-FM Lexington KY. And that’s when I remembered it: Grey Anne. She should be performing any minute.
I wandered over to Center Stage, a place festooned with dusty couches and too often populated by mediocre poetry or “sad clowns,” as Chris has coined. At 4:30am, the atmosphere was very weird and sonambulant. The couches were about 2/3 full, with mostly sleeping dust-covered BRC citizens of all makes and models. But about 2 dozen were awake, too.
And those of us with our eyes open were treated to a singular delight.
And then? And then? Anne played our dreams to us.
At least that’s what it sounded like to me. It was so very surreal. Her little wispy songs, looped with hypnotic taps, clips and claps.
I kept looking around, when I could tear my attention away from this dust-laden, surreal dream-thing. I heard facets of some of my lifelong faves — Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush, Joanna Newsom — but those are just reference points for something that I cannot communicate with written words. I looked around to see if anybody else was catching this — and those that were awake were also mesmerized… and grinning dreamily.
For all these words, I can’t describe Grey Anne. She sounds like a bent-wheeled bicycle covered in moss. Maybe you’ll get it from the photo or from listening to a song. Seeing Grey Anne was one of my private delights of Burning Man 2009. I’m sorry you weren’t there, but maybe I’m glad you weren’t there, too. Of all the things at Burning Man, this was a treasured sonambulant reverie.