LoveBomb Go-Go just returned from its first-ever trip to Burning Man as a band. We caught up with LBGG founders, Mars Ponte and Bhajan Kester, to see how this journey into the Playa at Black Rock City, Nevada compares with travel into the darkest regions of Outer Space! Could it possibly be as exciting?
LBGG: This year there has been a lot of press about how “Burning Man is ruined” by all of those Billionaires and their private planes, and their luxury accommodations, catering, etc. What’s your take on this?
Bhajan: Oh, they’ve been saying something like that since Year 2. There’s always some thing—or some new regulation that has “ruined” everything! But the first year I went to Burning Man, Mars and I met a guy who was in the middle of setting up a camp comprised of 30-odd teepees. We asked him how this huge camp was financed and his response was, “Well, everyone pitched in a little bit, but honestly, I’ve done pretty well, and mostly this is my gift. I could be out there on a white yacht, but this is how I’ve chosen to spend my vacation.”
LBGG: And your first year was...?
Bhajan: Mine was 2006 and Mars’ first time was 2004. The billionaires have been coming to Burning man for a long time, and I've not noticed any big difference this year. From our standpoint it's better that affluent people do participate in Burning Man where they can be exposed to a diverse array of art and culture, where they can have some kind of real learning and perhaps make a contribution- and in the process help to decrease the cost of tickets for others.
LBGG: What happens at Burning Man that is of benefit to those billionaires—or anyone else?
Bhajan: There are some really powerful lessons to be learned in the desert. First of all, it is a complete “gift economy” for the whole week. That means that you can’t buy your way into anything. You have to learn how to survive and thrive in the heat and with the bare necessities that you've brought with you for yourself.
LBGG: And what does that do for a person?
Bhajan: It comes down to feeling empowered to take control of myself in any given moment and take responsibility for my experience and basic needs like food, water and shelter. We don’t normally have to deal with this as Westerners.
LBGG: Why is that important?
Bhajan: Somehow this empowerment makes me dream big! The very existence of LoveBomb Go-Go, and many other parts of our lives as well, is directly informed by our experiences at Burning Man. We don’t live traditionally—we’ve chosen to devote our time and energy to create things, rather than filling someone else’s pocketbooks and I think that is directly as a result of coming to Burning Man!
LBGG: Speaking of dreaming big--one of the most compelling things that outsiders see about Burning Man are the amazing sculptures and the travelling Art Cars. It seems that you became a part of that this year. How did that come about?
Mars: Well, it became apparent right away that our drum sculpture, Major Tom, was going to have some troubles keeping up with the hardened mud on the Playa after the major rains that occurred in the beginning of the week. Jeremy Barron was staying in our camp, The Dump, and he has a 50's era fire truck with him. I don’t know if it was his idea or Richard Cawley’s, one of our percussionists, to put Major Tom on top of the fire truck along with the whole marching band. However, the next thing I knew we were pushing the sculpture through the sand to the DPW (Department of Public Work’s) camp and welding it on top of the truck. In Portland earlier this summer we had joked back and forth about motorizing Major Tom so it could be self-powered for parades.
LBGG: But don’t you have to have permission to drive a vehicle through the Playa at Burning Man?
Mars: Yes! There is a big line-up of art cars on Sunday, before Burning Man is even officially open. Art cars have to get approved by the division of mutant vehicles, presided over by Lady B., before they can be allowed to travel around the Playa. Otherwise, no one is permitted to drive in Burning Man-- other than to get to your camp when you first arrive. When we got in line to get Major Tom approved as an Art Car, it was so spontaneous that we did not actually get there in time.
LBGG: So, what happened?
Mars: Well, apparently Lady B. caught sight of our rig and said, “That’s the best thing I’ve seen in 20 years!” We were told that if we came back the next day, she would approve it. And she did!
LBGG: So, as a result you were able to actually perform with the notorious DPW?
Mars: Yes! The DPW (Department of Public Works) is the group that really makes Burning Man happen. They are responsible for the mechanics of the Burn. They are known for their heavy-metal, black-booted appearance, rough guys and gals tooling around in bombed out mat black, Mad-Max cars that are missing their doors. They invited us to perform with them in a Burning Man-wide parade, which ended at the DPW depot near the BM airport; we did a private performance for them and they were super cool.
LBGG: DPW is pretty scary!
Mars: Yes, they are the evil twins to LBGG! Kind of like our Mirror-Mirror—we are the Supernova to their Black Hole!
LBGG: All in all, it sounds like this trip to Burning Man was an Interstellar Success!
Bhajan: Yes! This was really the other side of the coin for us! When I go to Burning Man on my own, my one goal is to have my mind blown. This time we were one of the factors in blowing the minds of others. It was something more than what I imagined!
LBGG: Did you think you would win the annual Burning Man March-Off?
Mars: It’s a lot of work and planning to get so many Spacemen and Space Kittens ready for a trip like this! It’s almost as hard as deep-space travel! We didn’t really think about it—but we are deeply grateful to have been recognized!