Friday, September 16, 2011

When there is nothing left to Burn you must set yourself on fire.

An entry to the abyss,

It has been a little under a week since I got back from my latest travels and I feel that I have had ample time to reflect on what has transpired over the past couple weeks. In the Springtime near the end of the Ski Season I purchased my Burning Man ticket to ensure that my summer adventures were complete. I had heard numerous accounts of how intense a week in Black Rock City could be but really did not know what I was getting myself into.

It was somewhat of a process finding a ride to Burning Man and I was quite worried that I would have to rally the Subaru down there which had seen enough adventures this summer. With some persistence I found a ride share online from an amazing Canadian, Jen, who picked me up on Monday afternoon. We drove all night and arrived in Gerlach, NV, the closest town to the event, just after sunrise the next morning.

I was humbled and astonished upon arriving to Black Rock City, it was easy to pick up my will call ticket and the lineup was next to nothing since it opened up over 24 hours before. We were greeted with hugs and a friendly "Welcome Home" from the people at the gate. The address that Patrick gave me for the campsite was inaccurate and I was unable to locate him initially. So for the first day we decided to not set up camp anywhere and proceeded to adventure around the playa on bicycle. I was absolutely blown away by the intricacy of the artwork put into this event. Every instillation, especially the Temple, was designed with such grace and creativity. It is truly astonishing the amount of time and effort put into this event for only a week's worth of enjoyment.

The week proceeded as I would have imagined with so much more thrown in along the way. Eventually I ended finding Patrick who was with Camp No Fun and Camp Warlock, with who I spent a significant amount of time with. They constructed a 3 story tall scaffolding structure which a couch and hammock on top. This became one of my favorite places to relax and watch the madness of the city ensue.  Thanks to all in the camps who provided so much hospitality, Dan O, T-Funk, Tara, Leslie, Rennee, Billy, Cookie and all the other I forgot.

Over the course of the week I attended workshops, hit up as many bars as I could, watched people destroy each other in the Thunderdome, enjoyed the spectacle of flaming art cars, played my accordion at open mics and honestly interacted with everyone I encountered. At Burning Man manifest destiny is the law and you can really be whoever you want. A lot of people adopt "Playa Names" and evolve personalities to fit the situation. Occasionally I went by "Taters" (seeing as I brought a lot of potatoes for sustenance) but most often gave my real name and tried to remain true to my identity. The costumes and charades are somewhat of spectacle but really the true self is revealed if necessary.

I enjoyed the no money economy and didn't touch my wallet the entire week. I had brought a significant amount of calcite quartz that I had rock hounded on my journeys this summer. Some people gave away stickers, small trinkets or whatever they could to give away. Even though it costs a significant amount to get in the gate and to prepare for, knowing that this type of non monetary society can function is reassuring.

It was quite humbling watching the art pieces burn over the course of the weekend. On Friday camp Troy burned their Trojan Horse in a spectacular display of fireworks and freedom. On Saturday I got rather close to the burning of the Man and was blown away at the spectacle that ensued. At the moment it all collapsed I felt an assurance that all is right and in a way it helped me accept my own demise. Jen and I packed up her car on Sunday and watched the Temple Burn from a distance and left right after in collapsed. It was sentimental feeling watching the beautiful structure fall and knowing all the love that had been put into it. It was an excellent reminder of how fleeting beauty is.

The decompression travels after the better part of a week in Black Rock City was interesting. We encountered a long line and dust storm on our way out so it made it somewhat of stressful situation. Jen is an excellent road trip partner and we powered through and got out of Nevada fast. We decided that going to the Bay Area was a great idea and the next day we found our selves in Berkeley, CA. I reconnected with a friend a made through Clean Vibes after Outside Lands. I attended a lecture at the University and a Yoga Class downtown. It was a nice transition back to the default world. Thank you to Erica, Pia and Joia for taking us in, I spent part of the week busking with my accordion once more in San Fransisco along the Fisherman's Wharf and in Golden Gate Park. Jen found San Fransisco to cold and frantic for her tastes and we decided to travel northwards. We crashed one night near Mt. Shasta and the next day booked it to Portland Oregon. We made a brief stop to visit my cousin Gretchen and her amazing family who I hadn't seen since her wedding last fall. Ended up staying with another friend made over the summer, Laura from String Summit. I was grateful for her hospitality and she showed us an interesting side of her neighborhood in NE Portland. We drove up though Washington the next day and I felt back at home. A million thanks to Jen the best road trip partner ever.

Again I find myself back in Whatcom County, jumping back between Bellingham and where I used to live off highway 542. I have been song writing and pedicabbing a good amount when I can. Mainly I am searching for some sort of stability. This nomadic lifestyle has worn down on me physically, mentally and spiritually. The Burn really does take a special type and I feel for my first time I did it just right. I used a quote from a song for the title of this post from the band "Stars" and the album/song "Set Yourself on Fire." It is gorgeous music and I thought it appropriate for once reason or another.

I don't know what the future holds, for now I am thinking about winter a lot and considering whether I should work back at Mt. Baker or find more profitable employment. Although I am still a lost soul and a tiny functioning cog in a giant machine, I feel that I am perfectly happy with my current existence. I work hard when and where I can, contributing to whatever situation I am currently involved in. An old neighbor reassured me that my choices were validated "Do it while your young" she said and I couldn't agree more. There will be a time when I settle down and have a home base again but for now the gypsy lifestyle is too alluring. Thank you for reading this and I hope to post again once I pick up my traveling feet. Until then Peace & Love



Sunday, August 28, 2011

Everything Up to the Burn

To whomever might read this,

I have not been diligent about updating this blog as I should have this summer. However seeing as that really few people actually read this and it is more of a mental release for me I will update it as I see fit. These events will be summarized for now but hopefully expanded upon at a later date.

This time next week hopefully I will be a resident of Black Rock City in Nevada while attending my first Burning Man which coincidentally is celebrating it's 25th year not unlike myself. I am going to fill in briefly all the gaps from Sasquatch at then end of May until the current moment.

After leaving the Gorge after what I concluded was indubitably the best Sasquatch! ever I returned to Whatcom County and visited with friends. The next weekend I traveled with my friend Sparkle Sam down to Seattle and attended the Moody Blues at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, WA. With us were other friends Morgan & Bekah to enjoy the experience. The concert was fantastic and was a good send off for Sam before she had to fly to Alaska the next morning.

Again I returned to Bellingham and enjoyed time spent with the Alternative Library Crew and adventures with my Pedicab. The Naked Bike Ride took place the next weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed taking the tricycle taxi around town in the buff with some enthusiastic passengers.

The next weekend I went down to Seattle again for the Fremont Solstice parade. The night before the event I was out seeing my friends band Rise n' Shine at the Nectar Lounge and came back to my car only to find it broken into. One window was smashed and the only things they took were my Accordion and a hiking backpack with my camping stove. These things were essential materials in my summer adventures but I put the misfortune behind me and pressed on. The Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade were rather enjoyable with more naked bikers. Thanks to the guys in Acorn Project for playing an awesome show and the hospitality of all my friends in that area.

That next week I spent living in a cave outside of Leavenworth, WA. On the solstice which happened to be my 25th birthday some friends and I arranged a large party in the cave which went until sunrise. I have a lot of respect and fondness for that area of Washington, as well as the people who call it home. Thanks to Jared a.k.a. Rooster, Dustin, Sweeny and everyone who made that week especially memorable.

I returned to Seattle for my friend Beth's birthday that Friday and enjoyed catching up with her and other friends. I ended up busking with my guitar for quite sometime that weekend during the Pride Parade in Seattle. On Sunday I got a free ticket from an awesome acquaintance to see My Morning Jacket at the Paramount, which was an amazing, epic and life changing show. Thank you Adam.

The next weekend my friend Patrick and I booked it down to Quincy, CA for the 21st annual High Sierra Music Festival. We were volunteers with an organization called Clean Vibes that is involved with responsible waste management for Festivals. The experience at this place was what I would deem pure magic. The music was off the charts, the Clean Vibes crew was incredibly kind and over all I had one of the best weekends of my life. I will never forget playing music during sunrise while watching the silent disco and eventually being overtaken by a kickball game. Thanks a lot to Julie Ann, Justin, Laura Squared and Rainbow for providing some lifelong memories.

On our way back up to Whatcom County Patrick and I were obliged to stop at the 40th annual National Rainbow Gathering being held in Washington just south of Mt. St. Helens. The experience was enlightening to say the least and it was humbling to see so many people interacting in a beautiful landscape on a no money economy. I have a lot of stories from our brief time spent there but they need not be elaborated upon. Thanks to the Sushi Tribe for being so hospitable.

Got back to Whatcom County and caught March Forth Marching Band for the Bellingham Street Sounds series. That band has more live energy than an atom bomb that just flew into the sun, really fun stuff. Spent a little time the next week back out in Eastern Whatcom County connecting with that community and what I had left behind. I rolled the Pedicab when I could and made enough money to get by while still thoroughly enjoying my experience.

My travels then brought me down to the Northwest String Summit outside of Portland Oregon. I had heard about this event and knew that I belonged there this summer. Not only did I witness some of the most amazing live bluegrass one can imagine but I remain humbled by the entire experience. I was a volunteer and helped out with whatever they needed me to. Basically it was an avenue for meeting incredible people. Thanks to Patrick, Cristal, Amber, Matt and Laura for all the kind interactions throughout the weekend. I cherish my time spent at Horning's Hideout and can't wait to go back.

An awesome by-product of the String Summit was meeting an incredible woman who offered to straight up trade her full sized Accordion for my small Concertina. I met up with her a couple days after the weekend and it was a beautiful interaction in which we both ended up with what we wanted with no monetary value attached.

I spent some time with an old friend who I met when we volunteered in Australia together. Kim invited me to come to an open mic she had her about and I got the chance to play music and listen to others with some really great people. Portland Oregon is a city that ends up feeling like a community and I can appreciate that. Thanks to Ratboy, Kim and Mercedes.

The next stop on the tour was up to Kethcum, ID and some quality time with my brother Kyle. I got out there and we attended a concert in the town of Ketchum with Bruce Hornsby and Bela Fleck & his Flecktones. I was familiar with both of the artists but seeing them live was absolutely astounding. The instrumentation and spontaneity of the show was out of this world. It remains one of my favorite live acts I have eve witnessed.

We traveled to the town of Stanley for the Sawtooth Music Festival the next day. I again volunteered and got to meet a lot of amazing people coming in doing Parking Duty. The setting of the venue is absolutely spectacular with the ridges of the Sawtooth Mountains in the background. The music was great on the first night and all seemed in the right place. The next day was shaping up to be another great one until after the second act the thunder clouds started clouding the horizon. That evening and night we witnessed one of the most intense performances put on by Mother Nature. Lightning Strikes were plenty and the rain fell pretty hard for a good amount of time. The music was canceled but the experience lives on. We hit up some hidden hot springs the next day and spent the next couple days relaxing in Ketchum. Thanks to my brother Kyle, Kathryn, Coil, Nickster and Jill for all the memories.

I spent a little time with my family in Spokane. A brief trip out to lake Coeur d'Alene was a nice place to cool off in the hot inland heat. It is necessary to thank all of my immediate family for all their continued support. So PJ, Mom, Freena Bean, T.A. and cousin Jason please know I love you with all of my being.

The next weekend was spent with my good friend Morgan traveling to Phish at the Gorge in his newly acquired Volkswagen Camping EuroVan. I had never seen Phish and really got my fill with two nights at my favorite place to see live music. We camped next to the Bellingham crew and were delightfully treated to having Acorn Project play in the campground after the Phish sets. The times that were spent that weekend really reverberate magic with me still. Thanks to Morgan for driving and being such an amazing honest friend.

After some brief time spent in Bellingham over the next week and a little rolling on the Tricycle Taxi, I picked up again and booked it down to San Fransisco with a ride share on Craigslist. The ride was interesting but it worked out and I got there on Friday morning. Again with my friend Morgan, his girlfriend Bekah and other people I knew from college.

The reason I was down in the Bay Area was to volunteer again with the Clean Vibes crew at the Outside Lands Festival at Golden Gate Park. I ended up in a little bit of a conundrum not having enough money to put down my deposit for after-show clean-up. That night I ended up walking around the perimeter of the concert listening to Phish again but not seeing them it ended up being a humbling occasion. The next day I raised the necessary money for the deposit by busking around the city with my somewhat newly acquired accordion. The show for the second two days was absolutely insane and I was surprised at how well it was ran. Some highlight shows were definitely Muse, Tune-Yards, STS9, Deigo's Umbrella and Beirut The park is incredibly scenic, especially in a city setting, so having a festival crowd has a big impact. I spent the two days following the event doing sweeps of the grounds with dozens of others cleaning up every cigarette butt and pistachio shell in our path. It was dirty work but rewarding for the experience of the entire weekend. I saw some of the crew from High Sierra again and meet a lot of new people. Thanks a lot to Axel & Alyscia, Morgan & Bekah, Detectives Dave & Dan and Erica from Clean Vibes for the amazing time spent in San Fran.

I took the Greyhound back to Seattle to spend some with an old friend who was in town for a wedding and to attend the 20th annual Hempfest. The weekend was spent between West Seattle, Downtown & Myrtle Edwards Park. There was a significant amount of busking with the accordion and lots of reminiscing of summers past. It was good to find a ride back to Whatcom County on Sunday from good friends and get out of a big city environment for a while. Thanks to Chris, Steak O, P@Trix, Robbie and Volpone.

This past week was spent again in my favorite county, Whatcom. I have been working and preparing for the Burn. Life seems endlessly complicated but at the same time the contentment in my actions is clear.  There is a lot of things that I do not know about myself and my potential seems to be restricted. One of my mantras has always been "Life is a journey, not a destination." This is the longest time that I have been nomadic and it has worn on my body and mind. There is much that needs to be figured out during the Burn and I want to leave Black Rock City with a purpose. The ritual of spending a week in the desert is what my compatriot Patrick thinks of as a metaphoric cleanse of soul. I lead a very privileged and blessed existence. Thank you to whomever I encounter because it is truly the people who help guide my way. There will be another post sometime after Burning Man and hopefully elaboration on it all.

Peace & Love,


Friday, July 8, 2011

An Open Forum Letter to all Participants in the SASQUATCH! Music Festival

To everyone who was involved in any way,

It has been over a month since SASQUATCH! went down and people have transitioned in the summer season.  I am still thinking about my experience this year at the Festival and want input from other people on what they saw. If we communicate and work together we can possible remedy some of the flaws of what is a Beast of a Fest. Please circulate this message to all people you know that attended SASQUATCH! this year because with some more input from all angles (employees, artists, volunteers, media & attendees) we can get the bigger picture.

I have been attending the Sasquatch! for what is now 9 years strong (every year but the very first). I have watched it grow into the Monster that is has become and this year I was extra observant and critical.

I am very satisfied as far as my quality of experience with the Music is concerned and couldn't be more happy with all the amazing performances of artists that I love dearly. Adam Zacks and the SASQUATCH! crew do their best to make sure that everything on the Festival side of things runs on time, sounds great and transitions smoothly. I can elaborate on how much of an amazing experience I had enjoying the incredible music over the course of the weekend but this letter has a different purpose. At the least I will confirm as I do every year, BEST SASQUATCH! EVER.

I know that Live Nation goes far beyond the Gorge as a concert venue and HOB is only loosely involved somehow. My main problems with my experience this year are directly related to how the Amphitheater and Campground is run. This is more than just inflation of cheap booze and food, these problems are essential to understanding the very nature of humanity, NO JOKE.

As with everyone who comes to Gorge on Memorial Day weekend, people expect a lot things. Many people go there as employees with the potential to make money as a seasonal event worker. These people are an quintessential part to making sure things run smoothly. I am sure they expect to work hard and be treated fairly but the system in which they are entangled is terrible.

I will openly communicate with everyone and be as honest as I can. (hence the writing of this letter) Every time I had the chance to communicate with a Gorge Employee that was low on the chain of command and actually ask "How're you doing?" The ugly truth came out.
Here's some examples of what I heard

People had to stand for 6 hours in the sun, no bathroom break, no food or water provided

Numerous accounts of verbal abuse from upper management

Discrimination based on race, gender and socioeconomic background

These are just some prime and intense examples of the mistreatment of some of the employees that I had the chance to interact with. I can only fathom the amount of labor laws being violated. If anyone else saw examples of this please elaborate.

The issue with how the management treats its employees is one of grave concern I think for Live Nation and the Gorge in general. To foster such a negative work environment for so many people really takes a toll on the experience for everyone involved. No matter the pay rate, position or person all people should be treated with the respect as human beings that they deserve. I would love to see the low level employees of the Amphitheater petition for a better work atmosphere because they deserve it from what I saw. I hope Live Nation reads my concerns seriously and addresses some of the serious problems that do exist. I think some of the key issues with the main problems could be solved with boosting employee moral. I have e-mailed them with my thoughts and only received back automated responses.

I was also directly harassed by some security staff in the fact that I was dancing on the path and told to sit down or I would be kicked out, I was not getting in any bodies way besides the lady who got on my case. Tell me again what is wrong with dancing at a Festival?

Another issue that I am passionate about is the waste that is created. The Gorge is without a doubt my favorite place to see live music because it is set in such an amazing setting. Watching people come to one of my favorite places and treat is like a trash can is unacceptable.

I remember there used to be more of push to make people a little bit more conscious about properly disposing of their garbage. In previous years trash bags where distributed in the campgrounds.  It would be a simple change and save a lot of money in the long run. Giving people different colored bags for trash and recycle at the campground, having neatly labeled things inside the festival, making announcements on stage about proper disposal.

I am volunteering with an organization called Clean Vibes this summer. This weekend previous (the end of June beginning of July) I was at the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California. It was my first experience with them and I can only say amazing things. Participating with the during festival clean up crew was an honor and a pleasure. We took four hours out of day each day to sort mad amounts of garbage into trash, compost and various recyclables. We also made sure the vendors and attendees knew how to take care of their waste. The care for the waste made during festivals that Clean Vibes instills could benefit SASQUATCH! greatly. I know everybody wants to have a good time and "party" but absolutely trashing the Columbia Gorge in the name of a good time is ludicrous. I am volunteering with Clean Vibes again at Outside Lands in San Fransisco during the second weekend in August. I will continue to document my experience on this blog.

If Sasquatch, the actual big footed creature, attended this festival the main thing I can imagine would be shock at the sheer amount of environmental degradation that it is causing. The Gorge is set amongst an amazing landscape over looking one of the most important river systems in the North West. It needs to be treated with copious amounts of respect instead of so much constant neglect. I did my best to make sure I properly disposed of or packed out everything that I packed in, including my stuff in the festival and campground. I hope people begin to realize in the future that this Festival is special. We get to use that space for such an amazing event and in turn we should treat it with the respect that is deserves.

The campground is a whole different Animal from the Concert and needs to be treated as such.

I want to have a lot of faith in the people who come to the festival and I attempt trust everyone there but this is should indubitably not be the case. Our campsite got raided while we were all in the concert on Friday and two of my friends lost of lot of valuable personable items from their tents.

After that we made sure to lock everything up in the car, but alas after getting back from the concert the next day, the crooks didn't even take time to open the tent zippers. They simply took knives and slit almost everyone's tent at our site looking for stuff to steal. I had to deal with a giant hole in my tent window the next two nights. For a guy who is living out a car, having his tent slashed open is like knocking down wall of somebodies house.

I know security exists at the campground but this year I did not see a single one of them around my campsite only near the entrance taking away booze. This is rather disappointing. No one should come to a festival and have to worry so much about their materials possessions when they are just trying to have a good time like 99.999% of the other attendees. If any body else experienced theft at the campground please speak reply. Safety and Security should be the number one and two concern respectively, not confiscation of alcohol/drugs.

One other thing I can think that is very necessary is a much more efficient and larger security check at the entrance of the festival, it should not take any more than 1/2 an hour to stand in line, have your things checked, ticket scanned and get it. The organization was far less than what was needed and the people always seemed confused (both employees and concert goers). The gates where not far enough back to form distinct lines and it ended up more like a mob. There was a significant amount of people sneaking in front of others creating delays.

On that note, I can understand being poor and not being able to afford an expensive ticket to large festival. But please if you can buy your ticket to SASQUATCH! and do not sneak in. The money goes to the hard working artists who you are enjoying to see live, the employees of the Gorge or the Festival and to all the resources it takes to put on a party this big. By not contributing and only mooching people who sneak in contribute nothing to the Festival community besides another warm body. Please contribute when and if you can in some way.

O yeah, there needs to be way more water stations inside the festival. I don't want to wait more than a couple minutes to fill up my water bottles, and last year it seemed there were a lot of more than this one. One of my favorite things to say over the course of the weekend is always "A hydrated Sasquatch!, is a happy Sasquatch!"

The wristband idea is logical and makes a lot of sense in the long run but from my experience I think it needs some revamping. My band personally fell off in my tent saturday night/sunday morning good thing i found it had some white medical tape i discreetly reattached it. A sturdier model of wristband is needed if this is repeated next year. A lot of people lost there band or had it ripped off in gnarly crowds by stupid people. These wristbands are too important and cost too much money to have them feel like a dispensable item.

I appreciate anybody for reading this all because it is long and sporadic. What I am basically trying to convey is I love SASQUATCH! for so many reasons but would really love to see things run with a little but more LOVE & MERCY and not so much GREED & WASTE. Please respond and circulate this amongst people who were there and want to make SASQUATCH! 2012 the best one ever.


Taylor Livingston