Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

August 10th, 2009

The Fashions of Nowhere

It’s summertime and Burning Man is approaching shortly. Unlike most years for the past decade, I will not be attending this year’s festival of acid and sunshine in the Nevada desert. But I remain fascinated, fixated upon its circumstances and its fashions.

Today’s post is about the European Burning Man, called “Nowhere.” It occurs annually in Spain for the last five years or so. One of my best friends, Ruby May, is one of the organizing forces behind nowhere and herein lies our short interview.



Sam: Let’s talk about the attendees. Burning Man is so big that you tend to get a nice mix: dirty, glassy-eyed, traditional-style hippies, San Francisco technology geeks with plenty of money to burn, rednecks from Nevada with a sixer of michelob never far from their hands, parents with their kids, and college-aged guys who are there basically because they like looking at tits. What kind of people come to Nowhere?

Ruby: Well, until this year (as Nowhere just celebrated it’s 6th year)  it was basically just our friends and friends of friends… we are a group of burners from Europe, the hub of which live in U.K but also includes France, Italy, Norway, Switzerland and Spain amongst others and our ages range mostly from early twenties to mid thirties.

Seeing as to get to Burning Man and cross the Atlantic you have to have a certain degree of dough, I’d say the vast majority of us are professionals with o.k incomes however as Nowhere grows (we crossed the 500 mark this year), our diversity naturally grows… this year we had 2 babies, 2 teenagers,  several grandparents and a wandering x-priest we adopted. I’d say the vast majority are there because they are attracted to the ethos of the event which rests on the same principles as Burning Man i.e radical self expression, self-reliance, leave no trace etc, there’s definitely fewer or any ‘tourists’ and to be honest I’d say the people there are more  into the partying aspects rather than other aspects of Burner culture that might attract people like healing, education etc.


Nowhere 2009

How about fashion? Is the overall style different at Nowhere compared to its american counterpart? After seven years at Burning Man, I am so fucking tired of cowboy hats, pink wigs, funky sunglasses and furry boots that I could kill someone. I need to know if this tradition has supplanted itself o’er the pond, or if you guys are doing something different and cool.

Yeah, the stereotype playa-wear thang does induce a degree of misanthropy. Although you see glimpses of it at Nowhere, it’s definitely not as established as at Burning Man. We provide ‘costume camp’ - a structure with a catwalk and over 500 costumes in it which are available to wear and people obviously bring their own too. Unlike in the U.S, we don’t have a Haight Street which milks the pre-playa frenzy through selling all the stereotypcial costumey bits and pieces so I think there may well be higher levels of creativity at Nowhere?


Ruby at Nowhere, 2009


Ruby and friend at Burning Man, 2008. Note the subtle differences.

Drugs. What´s exciting about Euros and the way they do drugs, or are you on the American schedule, or what? And do you drink more in the Spanish desert? And by the way - why Spain? Is Spain for some reason constitutionally better suited for hosting a sort of Burning Man event? Could it happen in England and if so would it be all lager, all the time, and ranting about football?

Hhmmmmm…… obviously we have our fair share of intoxicants at Nowhere, which differ from the States as drugs do from place to place. Apparently we had a Ketamine Thursday, Acid Friday and MDMA Saturday at Nowhere this year but that kinda slipped me by and there are plenty of people who don’t partake in recreational drugs. I have to say though, there is a silly amount of booze that’s drunk, which combined in the Spanish heat can be kinda disastrous.

Why Spain?

Because it’s hot and we can rely on good weather, because laws are a little more lax and we can get away with more, because in the area we are in (Los Monegros) there is a lot of space far away from civilisation which allows us to create our alternative reality and forget about the rest of the world, which would not be so possible in over-populated England.


Ruby and Hippie Tim, Nowhere

Fucking. Do you think the fucking is more or less at Nowhere? From what i´ve seen in my 2000 to 2007 journey at Burning Man, despite the prevalence of sandstorms, dust storms, cold weather, and collective psychic new age madness, there´s a hell of a lot of free love going on at Burning Man. You mentioned the Kiwi Burn (New Zealand) being a lot more conservative than the US counterpart (with even nudity being mildly avoided) … what about Nowhere? Do people fuck a lot there? Is it even allowed?

We have a policy against public copulation at Nowhere which is strictly enforced…. nah…just kidding. Yeah, things can get pretty wild… We create a completely free environment, an alternate reality where usual norms do not apply and everyone gets so beautiful and sexy after running around in the dirt for weeks so yeah… bring on the free love! Some of my favourtie memories are of our traditional naked mud wrestling on the odd occasion it does rain and the site turns into a writhing mass of naked dirty hippies…


I should have asked this question first, cuz it´s a nuts-and-bolts type of thing. How many people are at Nowhere, how long does it take, and how the hell do you communicate .. is everyone glomming through a mucky spanish, or is the universal language British .. how does this whole thing work?

Nowhere has pretty much doubled in size since it’s beginnings in 2004 and we sold just over 500 tickets this year. It’s usually from a Wednesday to a Sunday in the middle of July about an hour and half from Zaragoza in Spain. Because most of us who organize are based in London most communication is in English but we have really started to try and diversify our languages and make Nowhere feel more European so this year all our newsletters were translated into different languages, we had translators on site and workshops and signs and information in languages other than English. I think we had around 150 French people this year, which was pretty epic..

Like Burning Man we have a DPW - ‘werkhaus’ who arrive several weeks before the event starts and stay until the bitter end. I think this year we had about 90 volunteers at our peak, from all over the world, doing everything form constructing the Middle of Nowhere (our centre camp) to making signs, working in the kitchen, fluffing teams etc.

We also have art grants to give away each year and are in the middle of organizing an artists retreat in Spain later this year which will serve to connect artists and members of the local Spanish community.

Nowhere is a pretty amazing little event because it has all the same prinicples as Burning Man but is still so small and intimate… it’s small enough that we really feel like a family and you also have the feeling of being able to really create an impact on the dynamic of the event by what you choose to do and the ways you choose to give. And although Nowhere was initially inspired by Burning Man, and will always stick to those core principles, I think most of us feel like we’d rather not look at it  as an offical regional burn but let it follow it’s own path, whatever it may be and it’s still very much in that early undefined stage where it’s future is unknown and could unfold in so many different ways, depending on what we choose to create….

For more info on any of this, check out


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July 24th, 2009

Summer Festival Edition: The New Age of New Age Hippies

It’s summer, and when summer comes, the youth will organize. And when they do, it’s not just about fucking. No, the children of the sun and the dirt prefer to organize around music, and yummy drugs, and rank costumes. Nothing’s changed, and it never will. Yet even so, the trappings are unique, unique enough to inspire comment.

Look: Let me tell you about Emergnsee, a festival which takes place annually in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, a festival three hundred fifty strong, set on a farm near Salem, Oregon, about an hour outside of Portland, a bizarre and momentous event that took me back to my Santa Cruz hippie roots and made me feel at once an old troll, an outcast, a spiritualized dancehall follower, and an angry Jew who no one understands or worse, even notices.

I present my notes on the 2008 event to you, in their raw form – so you can feel like you were there too, at a toothless sort of Burning Man, deep in the dank Oregon hippie woods: stonerrific, bland, sweaty, vegetarianesque, and intensely cruel.

The patchwork pants are available . . .
The hemp hats are available . . .
The mohawks are available . . .
The faux-hawks are available . . .


Agave SYRUP. What is it? And why is it so prevalent? They’re selling Mate and Peanut Butter Bombs, rolled in nuts and dipped in chocolate and Jared, the kid in charge, has a card saying he sells “edible art” and he wants to have a show for his food. Let’s instead have some Organic Free Trade Coffee (sweetened by Agave) (there is no regular sugar anywhere at this festival)(put your coffee in your own Nalgene – please), then swim in a swimming hole in a common spiritual field solo-style praying to the sun, with holotropic breathing. Then it’s down to the “V-Spot” for a quick Organic salad (lettuce from Ralph’s will be summarily shot) and a quick 20 minute massage ($1 per min! Standard!) from “Celestial Bodywork,” which is being vended by a Callie, a curly-headed girl who loves FreqNasty who drove up here with 500 pills of “Molly” that she scored for $12 a pop (sell em for $20!) and what with the booth costing her $300, combined with the drug money that’s nine bills, a chunky chunk a’ change to lay down, but it’s okay because she works four days a week at the airport doing chair massage on tired stressed out Alaskan businessmen with a roll of tired flab coating their greater omentums and unerringly slim upper trapeziuses, twisted with flaring, persistent trigger points.


In between clients, Callie’s hula-hooping (they can be made collapsible! $15) (from Spinsterz!) (find them next to the Chakra-colored tapestry that’s orange and blue and says “Black Sheep” on it). Her athleticism consitutes an admirable feat considering that only last night she was roiling drunk, ecstatic, nearly falling down, on tins of cheap beer. But she is young, and she rebounds. Callie may be a talented massage therapist yet, though mildly egotistical about her own talents: “I wish I could massage myself. That would be, so cool.” Her giant purplized amethyst crystals surround a Fred Meyer-bought Buddha – they look like giant speakers, beautiful and stupid. And speaking of big-ass speakers, there are no less than three separate sound systems here (one is a geodesic dome, natch), all blaring their own agenda-laden music, music of the left, of the young, of the high, of the beautiful.


Those with good cheekbones and blonde-girl dreads and, on the male side, charisma, beards, small kicky hats (or fedoras that have been spraypainted, and adorned with feathers/bells). A good body is not all that necessary for the guys; yet, it doesn’t hurt and there’s a kid with his hair in one long pigtail braided like an Indian who has a flat sexual belly and his pants slung low on his ass who is getting major drool time from Lola, hailing from Seattle and knitting Red Riding Hood hats with plastic darning needles as she smokes a drum or occasionally mint tobacco from a hookah: “I just drooled . . . I think we all did . . . I’m so proud of us.”


The mildly rotund Lola is sexy (she’s 22 and eats only New Zealand butter, how could she not be) but she is basically below the bar for male worship; most of the girls here are instead highly fuckable and in fact truly beautiful girls, a bit dirty about the face and hairy about the underarm but that’s how we like them; at a festival, there are almost always a disproportionate number of absurdly gorgeous women, and it prompts this ex-pornographer to at least consider the parallels between here and San Fernando’s Valley . . . Callie again coming to mind (from a broken home, displaying an evident taste for cheap booze, plenty of “Molly,” being out of control, and, one might assume, a steady influx of male attention), but this observation is not limited to Callie. For a guy with a blazing hard-on, he’s seeing twins, body doubles: porn and the ultra-hippies, just that these women in the forest of Salem are dressed up in Elf Wear, big old boots (mocassin boots for Callie), knitted hats that come to a point and have long, long, long, long trails, halter tops betraying flat stomachs, nose rings, tribalesque tattoos, tattoos stolen from other traditions, bizarre coats that look medieval yet are made out of a flexible foam-like fabric, necklaces with burnished pendants that show engraved mandalas.


Mostly mandalas are circular, pointless, lovely things to look at while on drugs. Blown-glass earrings, giant holes in their ears, pieces of wood in their ears, clean dreadlocks, little tie-dyed batik shirts worn over tights worn over boots, babies with elfin eyes, babies that are good, babies wearing floppy pants with some shit in them, bell-bottoms, silver bracelets with emerald stones, tattoos of suns smiling, meaningless black arm circles (tribal), tats on the lower back, a tree blossoming into a field of raisins (that’s what it looks like!) , but the point is to look good while you’re getting fucked – even psychedelia bows to the lords of wanting to look good while naked and taking on an eleven-inch cock. But perhaps I am . . . cynical?


A suitcase full of glass-blown pipes. Swirling colors, lots of purples, pinks, orange pipes. They make clinking sounds as they are dropped by Samuel, a jeweler-glassblower from 82nd and Killingsworth, who’s got a brown hand-painted trucker cap with a peacock feather sticking out, he is shirtless and has a big cross tattoo that covers his entire back, slightly flabby belly, and a spooked, friendly, open eyed surprised smile, although nothing’s surprising or even really happening right now.

The vendors are sellling:
-Fake hair wraps (dreadlocks that look like moss)
-Peacock feathers/ tooth bling
-Hula-hooping (around your knees while wearing slave sandals)
-Elfin hats, fabric-like corsets, the sexual-medieval inside the forest, another time and an other culture
-The MACA – energy without caffeine! Hormone free Rejuvenating therapy (this is basically just chocolate), Adrenal Balance, Enhances Sexual Function, Super Food of the Inca, (er, they got killed by Pizarro, Maca or not) (And that reminds me, as I scrawl this on top of an open stump – the absurd fascination with the year 2012, an anti-intellectualism , the world as run by non-Jews, these are Christians gone Pagan . . this is the playground of the 20 year olds.)
    “Anti-Viral Honey”
−    All cigarettes are American Spirit. There are no Marlboros allowed.
−    Baton, ie, “Furry Staff”
−    “Heathen” is the name of one booth . . . more clothing . .
Basically, we have four categories:
−    Fashion
−    Food (Nori Veggie Wraps and the latest in pickled kraut)
−    Pipes (some made out of Quartz crystals)
−    Crystals themselves (gathered by Nepalis, bought by dreadie white people, in this particular case, from New Zealand.)

“I think in some simultaneous lifetime, I’m like a massive, like, amethyst geode - just, y’know, chillin.”

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