14 years ago, during my Road Trip Across America, I attended “Synorgy,” the 3rd annual Utah Regional burn. In 2015, I returned to Utah for “Under The Stars,” which was hosted by Element 11. WHAT IS ELEMENT 11? “el·e·ment 11 (ˈeləmənt/) noun 1. Sodium – salt: The eleventh element on the periodic table; the sixth most abundant element on earth. A regional characteristic of Utah, given the Bonneville Salt Flats and the Great Salt Lake. 2. A volunteer-based, non-profit organization with the mission to ignite a culture of creativity and self-expression! We provide a canvas for our community to play, dance, evolve, create & ignite. 3. A sanctioned regional Burning Man festival event dedicated to the Ten Principles and ethos of Burning Man. The Element 11 (E11) Arts Festival (Utah Regional Burn) is held the second weekend of July each year. 4. A community of radically, self-expressive artists, creators, innovators, do-ers, and participants who see art in all forms, in all ways, and in all people.”
I have decided that UTAH is just like the rest of the United States… but with a bi-polar disorder. Utah has an interesting history, which is largely influenced by a religion founded in 1823 by a 17-year old boy obsessed with angelic visions, magic eyeglasses, a smart rock, and gold plates inscribed with secret hieroglyphics. And it’s not surprising that underwear and polygamy would be an important part of a young mans career choice at that time. This was the frontier religion that dominated the Utah Territory until it was invaded by the United States Army in 1857, which resulted in a year-long period where plowshares were turned into swords. Finally, in 1861, the Utah Territory was divided into Colorado, Nevada and Utah.
After a 45-minute drive on a dirt road in a remote part of western Utah, I arrived at the Stargazer Ranch, which is the new home for the Utah Regional burn. I set up my camp between a polyamorous family and a gay anti-goverment pro-gun survivalist. They were all really nice people. They were all burners. We are members of the same global tribe. A great thing about being a burner is that I might have weird neighbors, but I don’t have to kill them because they offended my god. Stargazer Ranch is located in a vast sagebrush basin with beautiful views. It could be a training ground for Black Rock; a little dust, a little heat, a little wind. There were about 1200 participants at “Under The Stars.” It reminded me of the early days of Burning Man out on the playa. This is what a post-apocalyptic community would look like before the gas & water runs out on Fury Road.
I was camped across the street from Cosmic Recess and on same block as the School of Safe Sex. In addition to the art, a handfull of theme camps and a few art cars, there were a variety of amusements, including a swing set, a teeter totter and a big slide. The day before the gate opened, the slide had fallen over, but now it was back up with more braces welded on.
There were 2 representatives from the home office in San Francisco: myself, and Megs, manager of the Burning Man Regional Network. She took the center camp stage a couple of times, and also did a talk about the Global Network and another time for her MegaFlame Cabaret show. She also spoke on the pirate radio station.
I did my “Coyote Goes to Burning Man” talk in the early afternoon, which was a real challenge because it needs to be pretty dark for anyone to see what comes out of the projector. We threw some additional tarps over the shade structure and with the loan of an industrial size projector, the talk was experienced by a full house.
There are lampposts here just like Black Rock City, but these have been modernized with low maintenance solar lights. I also note that they don’t steal the street signs at Element 11, at least not yet.
My favorite bar was the Crypster Saloon, a wild west styled trailer that was kinda like the Front Porch, but stationary.
Inside was a wonderfully decorated bar with hundreds of tiny lights in the ceiling. The bartender was dispensing whiskey lemonade punch from a huge container sitting on the bar. The story is that several gallons of whiskey had been harvested from a large collection of antique Jim Bean collectable bottles that had decorated the walls of a brothel in Elko. With each drink the bartender poured, he would announce: “Whiskey straight from the pussy of the Virgin Mary!”
Music was provided by a BRC PG&E veteran, who was spinning some of the best dance music in town, which had most patrons in motion. Out behind the saloon, standing on the dirt, was a vintage pinball machine and an equally old PacMan video game. When I ordered my first drink, it was evident that the bartender had been indulging in the holy sacrament all day long, and at one point, late in the evening, he crawled out from behind the bar on his hands and knees and I moved in to take his place behind the bar.
One of the high points that night at the Crypster was when a rhinestone cowboy came in after hunting scorpions with a UV flashlight and a camera. He displayed photos from his venture into the new sport of ‘scorpion watching’. The Burn took a while to get started. At this new location, the fire crew was overly cautious about having a large, hot fire on the scale of previous years.
Music and entertainment could be found throughout the night at camps like Ballin’ Oats, Hail Satan, Disco Trolley and Adults Behaving Badly.
Morning after with Ranger Lushus. I was quite impressed by all the Element 11 crew members and volunteers. There was a strong sense of community. I was honored to be presented with a Ranger shirt and an honorary Element 11 Ranger laminate.
At E11, the soundscape is not yet out of control.
Less than 5 art cars, 2 ultralights, 1 hover drone, and no lasers.
Someday, I’m going back to the Utah burn.
The kids are alright.