Monday, 12 September 2011

Down Underground

Every day I was inebriated. Burning Man is the easiest excuse for a boozer to justify his addiction. Alcohol is offered up by hundreds of bars throughout Black Rock City. All you need to do is pedal down the back streets with an empty cup clipped to your belt loop and you will be offered libation. My favorite of them all was the Distrikt Bar, located on 9:00 o'clock, between Funeral and Graduation, on the far side of town. This bar occupied almost a quarter of a city block, had a massive sound-system, a Titanic dance floor, and was staffed by a rebellious crew of San Francisco deviants. It was a modern Sodom and Gomorrah–the kind of place evangelical Christians would pray for God to strike down.

Naturally, I felt right at home.

If you were there, you know what I’m talking about. If not, try to imagine the end of a city street demarcated by thousands of the world’s most freaky, feeling liberated, and getting down. There were strippers in sequined hot pants, pole dancers in silver thongs, fags with their butts hanging out of leather chaps, people in dog collars with leashes attached to their necks, carpet munchers in full feast, hedonists in day glow getting all grindy, and other indescribable savages waiting their turn to swing in a giant cage, 20 feet in the air, above an undulating throng of the aberrant.

Girls lined up to have their butts struck by a man in a cowboy hat cracking a leather whip, old wrinkled couples in G-strings boogied with each other like they used to do in the 1960’s, and every body knew in their bones that by being there, they were participating in something that was unprecedented for being so unabashedly outlandish in this uptight 21st century. One didn’t have to subscribe to a particular sub-culture or sexual orientation to be welcomed, but everybody there was gay in the truest sense of the word.

At Distrikt, the participants unfurled their inner freak flags and let them blow any which they wanted to.

The scene at the bar was mythological, something out of a Kenneth Anger movie, where a black man built like Conan went groin to booty with a tiny white girl in lacey panties up on the counter, and a man in sex change transition flaunted his new boobs like a kid presenting a fresh toy to his classmates during show and tell. As I waited for another free Vodka and Redbull to be poured into my bottomless cup, I shook my head in wonder and disbelief. Nowhere else could you find so many responsible rule breakers all wriggling against one another in a single place, garishly made up and fabulously adorned (or wearing nothing at all), as they pushed against the boundaries of gender roles and societal norms, while simultaneously giving the finger to the status quo just for the good clean fun of it.

The music was high and four on the floor, always over a hundred and twenty beats per minute so that you moved, felt alive, and got really hot. Unlike the doom and gloom dubstep stages, the people here were in constant motion, dancing the mess of the outside world around like Indians at some primordial Pow Wow. Fired up during the hottest part of the day, Distrikt was not for the faint of heart. Those who ventured there risked heat stroke, hang over, and early evening burn out for the rare opportunity to help build a kind of energetic fervor that can only exist when a couple thousand humans collectively engage in the act of seriously getting down.

video: mike reigle