Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The regional Wickerman Burn took place at Four Quarters, a rural Middle Earth-esque wonderland in Artemas, Pa. near the Pennsylvania/Maryland border, and happened this month from June 13th to the 20th. Over the course of seven days, the campground was transformed from an area speckled with semi-permanent campsites to a fleshed-out town full of art and music. All of the labor – planning, organizing, building – was done out of love, and while that sounds like a pie-in-they-sky hippie conceit, it actually worked.
The provisional town included a free clothing store, free coffee shop, and a bar where the homebrews cost nothing more than an exchange of words with the barkeep. There were crafts for kids, a sweat lodge for cleansing, and non-stop music.
Wickerman kept sonic strokes of the traditional with hand drum circles at the top of Four Quarters but wander down the hill to Sound Town and you entered a 24-hour party-zone. Three camps had sophisticated sound systems and no shortage of both amateur and professional DJs who spun freewheeling sets brimming with track choices that ranged from lazy daytime jazz to heady dubstep to psy-trance.
Poi fire spinners roamed the campgrounds with their arsenal of flaming toys. Led by one of the Wickerman organizers, Aerial Alexander, a team of poi performers flanked the Wickerman structure during the ceremonial burn that happened on Saturday night. Their acrobatics were impressive enough in the daylight as they spun hula-hoops and balls on chains, when the sun went down and fire was incorporated into their dance, their act become Cirque de Soleil stunts turned tribal. They ate fire and beat matched their spinning to the hand drummers and the DJ's, painting the air around them with curvilinear flame designs.
Luminescent art took a pixilated form as the Levitation Theory multimedia production and performance crew set up a large dome and had some six odd projectors to incorporate live visuals with the DJ sets. On the last night the crew moved their visual equipment to project onto the trees turning the forest into a magical boundless club-space, dance floor slightly muddy from the incessant rainfall but still peppered with die-hard Wickerman attendees who held on 'til the concluding hours.
The final day of the fest required the last gasp of teamwork for a tired crew of festival-goers and true to their ideals they left nothing behind. Muddy, exhausted and bug bitten everyone packed up the miraculously unscathed sound equipment, deconstructed tents and gathered any and all garbage. Every aspect of the festival, whether it was turning a vehicle into a work of art, cooking a meal, building shelter or throwing a dance party, was done by sheer teamwork. Ultimately, Wickerman was a celebration of the collective's ability to turn any creative idea into a reality and it was a beautiful experience.