Hello Burners, Happy New Year, and welcome to Burning Man season, 2019 edition! To kick off the year, I've got an interview with Eggchairsteve, who is a very long-time burner and the head of Eggs Bar, the best bar on the playa that's never open.
Dr. Yes: What got you out to the playa the first time and when? Sounds like you were first there in ’94 or ’95?
Eggchair: Indeed, 1995 was the first time I attended, which makes 2019 my 25th consecutive Burn....holy shit!
In the early 90's I had begun hearing mentions of Burning Man in various magazines as well as on the radio, but I hadn't really given it very much thought at all. In particular, there was a morning radio talk show hosted by Alex Bennett. This had to have been '93-'94, listening to his morning show, he would mention it often, which is where I first got a real idea of what this mysterious anarchist-party-in-the desert was all about. But I guess you could say what really go me to first go out to the playa was the early SF rave scene. Though I didn't really consider myself a "club goer" at the time, I was particularly fond of the Wicked Soundsystem crew, and their legendary Full Moon parties. These monthly all-night dance celebrations were always held outdoors, and quite often at Bonny Dunes beach near Santa Cruz. Something about hearing booming dance music while outside in Nature, dancing all night under a full moon, sparked feelings that to this day still give me goosebumps. Fast-forward to the summer of 1995, and I hear that Wicked is planning to bring their sound system out the the Nevada desert to this Burning Man, and it just seemed like the perfect excuse to go, so that was all it took. With a ticket price of a whopping $35 (!), a spur of the moment decision to attend could easily be made. That first year I went with my best friend and my girlfriend, with all of our minuscule amount of gear for our 4-day weekend fitting into my tiny Isuzu pick-up truck. Absolutely anyone who attended that year in 1995, can recall with great fondness and awe the quick and powerful storm that hit us that year, followed by the largest double-rainbow we had ever seen. It even hailed! Having our tiny camp instantly destroyed somehow exhilarated us and made us want to return.
Dr. Yes: Holy shit indeed! And to never have missed a year is kind of incredible too. So what year did EGGs bar first manifest?
Eggchair: Well, EGGS Bar proper didn't actually manifest under that name until 2012, but you're jumping way ahead. We need to go back to Eggchair Camp which first happened in 1997 (with Fertility 1.0) for the origin story.
Dr. Yes: Let's hear it! And why EGGS? I mean, I like eggs, but...
As I started to talk with them, they shared that if I looked closely, the surface of the table was covered with pocketknife carved graffiti, they explained some of the markings were from their older brothers in the 70's, and that, holy shit, this was the ACTUAL picnic table they all first started drinking and partying on back in their day in their local park. It profoundly blew my mind, NOT at all that this was a motorized picnic table (which is cool, but c'mon we are at Burning Man, something so simple barely registers), but the fact that this object held meaningful juju for them, and they had this absurd idea to not only swipe it from their local park, motorize it, and give it a whole new history. To me this is just the coolest. I like to hope that to this day, if you take the time to scratch beneath the surface, you can continue to find amazing original stories from everyone, really about everything. I mean we are all moving through life, with all these material objects floating around us. They only matter if we say they do.
So there we are in '97, the theme is Fertility... Eggs seem like fertility objects, sure that makes sense. We create Eggchair camp and we get placed on the very first officially mapped Espalande! Yes, it was simply a chair, sitting along Esplanade, but hey, people seemed to love it! I'm not sure people truly understood what the chair actually meant to US, (Yes, Eggchair really was placed on Esplanade through 2003!) but I do think there was something about sitting alone, with just yourself, cut off from this cacophonous city filled with distractions and sensory overload, that people connected with. I began to dread that it somehow became a photo-op with literally lines of people getting their pictures taken sitting in the eggchair. It was because of those years that I earned my playa name, Eggchairsteve.
But by 2003 it had fully run its course and it all became a bit embarrassing. "Hey why do they always get Esplande placement? It's just a fucking chair."
But here's a word to the wise: a lesson I learned the hard way that year was about variety, be it musically, or thematically. No matter what your theme or schtick is, it's going to get really old, really fast on 24/7 repeat. Maddening even. One year I was camped directly across from Black Rock Roller Disco (and please do not get me wrong, I fucking LOVE them, I actually LOVE the music) and the constant 24/7 repeat, often the same playlist played on repeat, was literally annoying.
2005-6 I took off from planning any theme camps, and just camped in the back streets. I found it profoundly boring and passive to just go out into the city as a spectator. So we returned in 2007 with a bar-themed camp, still with the old-world facade out front, but much more variety in music and experiences and events, sometimes live bands would play, having variety and not being pigeonholed into one schtick, is everything. For years we would riff off of the years them for our bar name; Metropolis became EGGchtroplos, Rites of Passage became Left of PassEGGch....so when 2012 rolled around with Fertility 2.0 being the theme for the year (at the same time a good friend of mine humorously proclaimed that he was tired of calling me Eggchairsteve, and from henceforth I would be known as simply EGGS) It seemed like a perfect opportunity to shorten the the bar's name to just EGGS, especially since we initially brought the eggchair out for Fertility1.0 and now we would be simply EGGS for Fertility 2.0!
Dr. Yes: What was your infrastructure like its first year and how as it evolved over time?
Eggchair: Having run theme camp for so many years, I what works and what doesn't. I've seen evaporation ponds turn into disgusting swamps. I've seen kitchen setups turn into shambles. I think the two most important lessons of Burning Man are Radical Self Reliance and Communal Effort. So for our camp we have always expected everyone to pull their own weight. And you have to have solid campmates. In the early years when we were such a smaller bar, it didn't take much to just ask everyone to contribute booze and mixers to stock the bar. Our structure was so much smaller that it all fit in a trailer, and we all chipped in to pay for it.
In 2016 we built the current iteration of EGGS Bar, which is much bigger than ever before. We now have to throw fundraisers, as well as crowdsource funding, to pay for everything. We now own a trailer, which now means yearly storage costs. We also serve way more folks.
Dr. Yes: How big is your camp population-wise now?
Eggchair: I personally feel that anything over 30 members starts to fall apart, so we try to keep the camp population around 30.
Dr. Yes: Same here. So what’s the leadership structure of the camp like? How many formal or quasi-formal positions do you have and what are they?
Eggchair: With our big jump in camp presence in 2016, it required a lot more leadership structure. I am the first to admit that I suck at leadership, and I have been blessed to somehow be surrounded with people who support my vision of having one of the best bar experiences on playa. I had to learn to let go of doing everything myself, because it is simply impossible for one person. So we now have several formal positions, Camp Lead, Financial Lead, Build Lead, Bar Lead, LNT Lead, but again, everyone is expected to pull their own weight.
Dr. Yes: How often is EGGS open during the week…even though we all know it’s never open?
Eggchair: Always Closed! Yes, that actually has a funny origin. I made that sign years ago, one side saying Closed, the other saying Open, and for some reason one year it just stayed on the Closed side. It never ceases to amuse me that we can be in the midst of a raging party, and you can point up to the Closed sign, and a patron will be "oh, I'm sorry" and actually walk away! And you have to say, "no, of course you can have a drink!" and it really breaks the ice, and you can begin to have a conversation with a stranger.
Conversely if they are being rude (you can sort of always tell the type that just want to get a drink and continue on their way) and they loudly bang their cup on the bartop, you can always point up to the Closed sign, and they will leave. EGGS Bar strives to be friendly and welcoming to everyone, but we are NOT there to just serve the masses. We truly want patrons to sit down and talk with us, that is the whole point.
To answer your question, we are technically "open" whenever we feel like it, which seems to be all day every day. I really I would like to see it as more of a late afternoon in to evening sort of space, but the last few years have become more of a round the clock bar.
Dr. Yes: You guys have been at 6 in the Center Camp ring for a bit now – when were you first placed there?
Eggs: Actually we have only been placed at that spot 2017 and 2018, and I kind of enjoy having slightly different spots every year. Before that we were in various spots within the Center Camp Plaza, and even earlier in various spots on Rod's Road. We have been part of Center Camp proper since 2007.
Dr. Yes: How much booze do you guys go through during the week and how many people do you estimate you serve?
Eggchair: This is a question that a lot of people ask, and it is hard to accurately answer. We fundraise throughout the year to buy booze, but we also get bottle and mixer donations (PLEASE DO!!) The truth is, no matter how much or how little booze you ever bring, you will always go through it all. We've got a pretty good system going now, of two premixed drinks in 5-gallon containers that we restock as needed, as well as beers, but we also have a stock of special or unusual shots going too. As for many estimated served, I really couldn't even guess, but it is quite a few. But again, encouraging patrons to sit down and talk with us, fills the stools, and discourages the masses of folks that just want a drink and run.
And as a bit of advice to every Burner out there, if you get a drink at ANY bar in Black Rock City, and you DON'T stay and hang out with the bartenders or camp experience, you're being fucking rude!
Dr. Yes: What's the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in your own bar?
Eggchair: That's a hard one to answer, I just love everything about it. Spontaneous things happen all the time. Bands show up to play, etc.
I guess having Bryan Cranston as a patron was pretty cool....
Eggchair: If you are ridiculously drunk (as happens often in BRC!) it's time to head back to your tent. If you are being rude and obnoxious, you can get yourself the fuck out of EGGS Bar - there are a million other bars.
Dr. Yes: What’s your favorite thing about Burning Man generally? What’s kept you coming back two dozen times?
Eggchair: Oh my god, it's EVERYTHING! After all these years it still continues to blow my mind. I think people tend to forget that literally everything you see out there, someone brought out to the middle of the fucking desert, just for us, just for a week! I can't believe that it even happens every year. The art you get to see and interact with out there, you simply cannot do anywhere else, at least on that scale. And music! One of the unique things about dancing in the desert to large scale sound is literally having endless space to dance any way you wish. I hate the feeling of being constricted into a tiny personal space in a dance club. Dancing in the open desert is simply magic.
Dr. Yes: You were there in ’96. That year seemed like kind of peak crazy between the Satan theme, John Law riding the zipline off the burning tower, the existence (though last year of) the shooting range and high speed driving on the playa. How has Burning Man changed for the better and worse since then in your view?
Eggchair: Yes, I was there in '96, sitting on a hay bale, watching the Helco tower burn. I saw the infamous zipline. I did also drive out to watch the shooting range, I'm not at all a gun person, it didn't excite me, but driving out off the playa exploring the outlying areas DID spark a lifelong love of the Black Rock Desert area. |
The questions most often asked after going for over 20 years are "What was it like back then?", "How has it changed?", "Was it better, or worse?" And I don't want to sound cliche, but because I've gone EVERY year, I've seen every incremental change, I've experienced the reasons for every new rule that came along, its truly hard to compare what it was like back then as opposed to now. What I mean by this is, I think of "Burning Man" as one long ever-evolving 25 year long experience that I've been involved with. I can't really separate back then from now. Of course it has gotten bigger, but along with that came bigger and better everything. People tend to look back at those early years as anarchic and wild-west, but there was never the scale of beautiful art and music and theme camp experiences as there are now. So, yes, it's only getting better!
This last year, one night I rode my bike randomly on way back streets, and I was blown away at all the elaborate, amazing camps that I had never even heard of, and I just love that. I truly think that eventually the entirety of Black Rock City should be as interactive as Esplanade. Too many people is not the problem, a lack of participation is the only potential problem.
Dr. Yes: Yeah! Give it up for the back streets!
If you could wave a magic wand and change anything about Burning Man, what would it be?
Eggchair: Hard to say... I guess I'm upset by the new influx of supermodels posing in front of art so that they can post that perfect cool shot on their instagram feed - they just seem to be missing the point of attending the Burn, and because they have an audience of fans, they are inadvertently sending out a very inaccurate image to the world at large of what Burning Man really is.
The whole millionaire/plug and play/sherpa/curated faction of the burn I feel are also fundamentally missing what it IS to attend the Burn....the reason everyone in the world wants to go, is to EXPERIENCE that magic, and that only comes through participation and passion, and collective effort. I think the Org is struggling with this issue a lot, they see all these wealthy and influential people, but are failing to see that THEY are all passively missing the whole point with these curated experiences.
If I had a magic wand, I would use it to wack some common sense into all the federal law enforcement officials who are illegally pulling us over and infringing on our civil liberties. That shit has got to stop!
Dr. Yes: Yeah, it does need to stop! Nice to see that many of the prosecutions were dropped, but it was still unwarranted harassment. Thanks for taking the time and for your verbosity!
Note: If you'd like to support EGGS, they would love your donation here - https://www.paypal.me/eggsbar
Like the title says! You can check out the history section here, or in the menu above.
I've spent quite a bit of time working on it over the last few years, so if you have any interest in how Burning Man has evolved, I hope you'll check it out!
Last year (2017), a campmate - Ran - and I spontaneously decided Wednesday morning that we'd play the Hamilton soundtrack later that day. Because we're also big fans of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and because the mighty Rum Ham is an object of desire and worship to all of Friendgasm, serving rum and calling the event Rum-Hamilton seemed appropriate. He wrote some shit on a whiteboard advertising it, and put it by Arctica, and 15-20 people showed up for what proved to be a really good time.
This year, we put the event in the event guide, and a lot more people showed up! Not too shabby for a backstreet camp. The below video is about 20 minutes long, and if you're not either a big Hamilton fan or someone who was there, it's probably waaaay too long to hold your interest. That said, multiple people told me after or later that it was their favorite thing they did at Burning Man all week, which made me pretty happy!
Couldn't host it on YouTube, Facebook, or other usual suspects because the rights holder for the Hamilton music is quite strict, and upon trying, I was blocked from using those, so I'm just sharing it from my google drive.
You're also going to have to trust that I'm linking you to a video here, and not something that will give your device a virus. I may be Dr. Yes, but I say no to viruses!
Link to Rum-Hamilton video.
It'll play in 720p. You might want to switch it to 1080p. If you want to view it in all its 4k glory, you'll have to download all 6.6 gigs of it and watch that way.
5:22 – Hamilton’s duel against Lee.
5:46 – Hercules Mulligan incoming!
7:36 – Crowd starts going crazy in Battle of Yorktown.
14:57 – Washington dies, crowdsurfs.
19:42 – Hamilton’s son dies – big group circle with arms around each other.
22:16 – people start eating dead Hamilton’s red vine entrails.
We're going to do this again next year, so if you loved it or missed it, don't throw away your shot and you'll be back. You will be helpless before its sonic glory, and you will be satisfied, because, wait for it.... we just happen to be in the greatest city in the motherfucking world. You'll be in the dome where it happens, right in the eye of the hurricane, and while it may be quiet uptown, it sure as shit isn't going to be quiet at Rum-Hamilton 2019!
Your obedient servant,
Burning Man is many things to many people, but one of the aspects of it that I personally enjoy quite a bit are things that challenge convention or are just unexpected. Of course, the beautiful and epic, like last year's Tree of Ténéré, or this year's Hexatron (the forest of 20' tall LED poles), are mind-blowing, but I really love the weird, personal shit out there.
Whether it's watching an inestimable gentleman suck his own dick at Eggs bar while we cheered him on, or watching two guys in a tricked-out golf cart dressed like law enforcement roll up to people with headdresses and write out a citation, or the even more innocuous like Camp Sharkcage, devoted to the decidedly excellent combination of Nicholas Cage and sharks ("You can cage the shark, but can you shark the Cage?"), I love it!
Sadly, although I have no measurement for it, or even a proxy by which to fake a measure, I feel like the weird factor at Burning Man has slowly been going down, while there's been a commensurate rise in folks for whom looking and feeling 'cool' is a primary drive. You know of whom I speak. You see them dressed in multi-thousand dollar miraculously clean outfits with a photographer with pro-level gear nearby, frequently stopping to preen and pose. Their natural watering holes are places like Robot Heart and Mayan Warrior (both of which are pretty amazing, don't get me wrong) or wherever Diplo (not at all amazing) is playing.
And, I get it - it's fun to dress up and look sexy, and Burning Man is an awesome background for photos, but goddam people, don't you just want to ditch the fashion show and let your freak flag fly? Black Rock City is a great place for it. Burning Man != Coachella or whatever. Let's get fucking weird!
In that spirit, about a dozen of us in our camp Friendgasm declared Wednesday daytime would be Weirdout Wednesday going forward.
(You can follow the - as of this writing - brand new Weirdout Wednesday FB page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/weirdoutwednesday/ )
For Weirdout Wednesday this year, we did a thing one of my campmates - Ginger - has long dreamed about. We made signs saying things like Can't Stop, Won't Stop or Nvr Stop, got some of those dual beer-can helmet holders, put on adult diapers, wrote some stuff on them, and rolled out.
First stop, Duck Pond, where we took over the dance floor to lots of stares by pretty, clean people, and a lot of laughs from others. Excitingly, one guy we didn't know also showed up in diapers, saying he'd seen us, and went back to camp to change into diapers. (He happened to have adult diapers in camp? This guy prepares.)
He went even more hardcore than I did. I hadn't worn shoes, feeling that socks-only seemed even more ridiculous, but this guy eschewed even socks, rocking his diaper and only his diaper. I salute you, unknown diaper soldier.
Other shenanigans ensued, including loudly encouraging people to stop supporting the USS corporate pooper monopoly. Stop using the portas, people! Shit where you dance - in your pants!
Finally we headed over to Distrikt, where we rolled up onto the elevated stage and proceeded to irritate a group of women of the aforementioned Instagram type, trying to get a pristine picture of themselves in their pristine outfits without a bunch of idiots in diapers in the way. They kept asking us to move out of the way so they could get pics of just them, but I mean, can't stop won't stop, so obviously that wasn't happening. Nothing wrong with taking pics of yourselves, but if you can't handle a little Burning Man in your Burning Man, you're in the wrong place.
Then, one of their ladies laid a hand on one of our ladies to kind of lightly shove her out of the way, which was a classic mistake. No photos were taken from then on that didn't have a diapered ass in it! The frustrated gnashing of their teeth was music to our ears.
That was the end of Weirdout Wednesday for us, as it was time to head back to camp for our Rum-Hamilton singalong, because as a camp we do a weird variety of things.
Other Instamodel Shenanigans
Because it makes me laugh, I have to relate another similar incident from our camp. A group was at Sharkey's - an excellent bar - when an Instamodel was spotted in the wild, out in the street, accompanied by a sole photog.
The prey was cleaning herself carefully of any dust, preparing to display her plumage, presumably in order to attract a mate, when Carmen spotted her.
Carmen is a campmate whom I have compared favorably to my sort of fancy, cuddly, but also rip-your-face-off-fierce chihuahua, Chairman Mao. She hadn't eaten yet that day, and was hungry for prey.
In the distance, a ritual warning call was heard, "Hey, I haven't showered in a week!"
The prey was as of yet unaware of her danger, and continued to groom herself.
Carmen swung into motion, suddenly dropping down to do frantic face-down dust angels in order to coat herself in playa.
Up she sprung, making straight for the Instamodel, who was still oblivious to the doom rapidly descending upon her.
"You're so pretty! Can I have a hug?!" said Carmen arriving and baiting the trap.
"Yes," said the prey tentatively, sealing her fate.
The prey leaned in for the barest possible hug, but Carmen was ready to feed, and went for the full koala (that's a bear hug where you wrap your legs around too). Then it was over, and the prey slumped to the ground, defeated while Carmen roared in triumph (ok, the roar didn't happen, but I like the image, so work with me here.)
Thus, the circle of life was fulfilled. Dust to dust, forever unclean. There was cheering from Sharkeys, and disorder was returned to the streets of Black Rock City once more.
Seriously, let's make Weirdout Wednesday a thing.
I'll definitely write about this again next summer before the Burn, but I'd love any help anyone interested can lend in promoting this idea. I mean no presumption with this call to action - I just think it'd be cool if a bunch of people devoted Wednesday daytime to letting their freak roam free. Do the unexpected, the weird, especially in places people go to be 'cool'. Mess with people determined to 'be cool.' Set an example and help bring some Cacophony into burners' lives.
I've read of a couple going to Distrikt this year fully nude with markers to let people write stuff on them, just to keep it weird.
I read of another few people that brought a propane grill to Distrikt and were grilling up food in the middle of the dance floor. I love it! (I don't mean to pick on Distrikt here - it's pure coincidence these all involved that camp.)
What are you going to do for Weirdout Wednesday next year? This is an opportunity for a lot more creativity than the more narrowly-defined days out there, like Tutu Tuesday. I've got all sorts of ideas running around in my head, including taking the diaper shenanigans to a new level.
Leave your ideas in the comments, and later I'll collate them and share them to help inspire others to weirdness as well.
Feel free to use the Weirdout Wednesday graphic below I did up (I can copy and paste, mom!) to spread the word too, if you're so inclined.
(You can join the Weirdout Wednesday FB group here:
This is the camp I've always wanted, filled with people I love and who love me back. Friendgasm v1 was great (though not the heat), but with Friendgasm v2 we really hit our stride! You are the most incredible hard-working, hard-partying, tender, fierce, loving, supportive, non-judgmental group of people I've ever been privileged to be close to. You've reignited that exquisite lust I had for the burn, and I can't thank you enough for it.
We formed this camp to focus on community, after some of us had had a bad experience with a camp in 2016 that had very little focus on community, and it's worth protecting. We limit ourselves to 30 people to stop us breaking into sub-communities. We allow no randoms, and require all new members to have a camp sponsor who can vouch that they will be the kind of person we want to burn with. And it works. It was a simply superb Burn and while I wasn't sad to leave Burning Man at the end, leaving you all was pretty depressing.
I want you to know that at least twice during the week I was talking to Maybe or Ginger about our camp and broke down into tears, overcome with all the feels thinking about how much I appreciate and love all of you and what we've created.
I've made a little video to help us remember our time together. Hope you enjoy it!
Let's do it again next year! Rum Ham!
I'm Dr. Yes, a 9 year burner. I run this site, was on the '15 Temple team, and lead a theme camp called Friendgasm. Just say yes, folks!