Review & Photos | Burning Man 2013 | Black Rock City

We ventured out on the Abraxas dragon with a krewe of freaks and Bay Area ALIA (formerly BombGoddess) on the decks, and the ‘Sonic Shamaness’ took to the sky with bravura! As the sun rose from beneath the mountains in the distance, ALIA unlocked the lush, dreamlike state that comes alive on the Playa after 6 a.m. People ran after the Dragon with reckless abandon, and our dance massive grew exponentially with every track. She gracefully worked yoga-esque poses into dynamic and amatory elegance. It would be the first of five consecutive mystical mornings greeting Mother Sun. Along with the likes of Kaminanda, ALIA worked delectable dub-step into melodic glitch, with her signature serpentine Goddess spark. The dragon paused, and directly in front of our séance, a marriage proposal unfolded before us. Nary a dry eye, we reveled in the enthralling triumph.

[Photo by Kyer Wiltshire]

Also on Abraxas, the morning after the Man Burn, Oaktown’s illest Lafa Taylor took to the decks and consecrated a set that was unequivocal deliverance for a Playa sunrise, and grandiose new tradition to greet our new year. Just before we embarked, I witnessed Taylor climb onto the dragon and assume the decks; intrinsically I knew that Rab would have to wait a few minutes. And so it began, with a basshead take on En Vogue’s timeless chorale “You’re Never Gonna Get It,” Lafa provided a set drenched in the best of ‘90s Hip Hop and R&B - an hour that was basically my high school mixtape on subwoofer steroids! Reworking countless classics, from Aaliyah and Timberland, Missy Elliot, Beastie Boys, Dilla-fied bangers and beyond; Lafa later allowed aspiring emcees on deck to take a turn on the mic. At the moment the sun reared her head, my man cued up the ragga-horns and organized the noise with a straight-up spin on Outkast’s everlasting ode to dopeness “SpottieOttieDopaliciousAngel,” and at that juncture, everything was just exactly perfect! Winding it down with a fueled and funkafied mix of the omnipresent Blackstreet “No Diggity,” we gave thanks and praises, then did the Carl Lewis straight to Random Rab’s Fractal Planet hallucination station. Only in Black Rock City y’all!

On the heels of prodigious sets from Random Rab, Beats Antique, Low Riderz, Freq Nasty and PhuturePrimitive at Camp Question Mark, it would be Fractal Planet’s massif environs that hosted one of the most anticipated sets of the week, Emancipator’s sunrise Saturday morning devotional. Despite being plagued by a clipping low end and some sound issues during the first thirty minutes, Doug Appling (producer) and Ilya Goldberg (violin) braved the cacophony and trusted the Playa Gods. And were we ever rewarded for patience and virtue as Emancipator, flanked by a myriad of dancers, fire spinners, acrobats and other performance artists, offered gratitude, peace, and astonishing reverence through the modus operandi of ill communication.

Enhanced and entranced by Goldberg’s sweet, long and harrowing melodies, Appling delivered atypical harmony through modern technology and mining the registers from music of all mode and manner. A banjo raced against the violin, harnessing Appalachian flavor on “Old Devil.” A classically-studied Portlandia shaman of sonics, Emancipator found and channeled The Balance. He deployed huge, raw drum breaks underneath a chopped up stuffing of samples and sounds. Per usual he favored minor chords and meditative tempos, and the swollen Fractal massive continued to grow, grasp and transmit his variety of styles. Goldberg wove his playing into melodic elements like pianos, guitars, flutes and horns that rang atop the wall of sound; his violin followed multi-segued transitions throughout the nearly two hours of music that rarely stopped. Somehow, just before any segment would grow to precious or peak too pretty, Appling would seamlessly introduce enough grit - a rugged Moog line, a passionate percussion layer, to steer the song away from easy listening or new-age monotony. Burners kept bobbing, Empresses struck vogue poses galore, and that was motion enough, as IT was written.

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