It's 1,000 degrees on the racetrack, furry animals from some magical wonderland are embracing one other with permanent joy stitched into their heavily bulbous monochromatic costumes and I'm thinking Disneyland has some competition here. Maybe decorated youths busting into spontaneous dance while ambling through forests of electric attractions isn't for everyone, but when glowing mushrooms, lighted trees and illuminated daisies are your landmarks, you know you're in for something interesting.
"Welcome, welcome," no one is actually saying, but you feel like royalty anyway, like the china's been dusted, the silver polished and the door flung wide open. They've been expecting us for quite some time, all 100,000-plus of us, and everyone's glad to have arrived. The men are topless, the women are fit and the mood is genuinely celebratory, as if a war somewhere has ended or Moses has been on the mountain too long. Faux-fur leg warmers cuffing so many calf muscles tell me that a lot of stuffed animals had to die for this weekend. Same with the animal heads. Somewhere a Build-A-Bear Workshop has been raided. But I get it. Why build a bear when you can be one?
The more sensible wear practically nothing for this night party that crashed onto the Speedway.
Watered-down margaritas everywhere, yet the bartenders look lonely and bored, as if they're selling fur coats in hell or bikinis on an air-conditioned yacht beached in Antarctica. "Nobody's drinking here," somebody says, explaining that festivalgoers are on ecstasy and so they don't need it. Apparently cocktails are old hat at this party. I order two.
There were a couple of reasons given to the media standing on the hot tar in the bright sun as to why reporters, photographers, cameramen and probably bloggers weren't being let in on time, but who really needs to go in at first crack when the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics are taking place on the sidewalks with faux Indian chiefs, pandas, Middle Eastern dancers and Bob Marley white hippies parading by carrying flags and totems to identify their tribe? Forget the electric interior, these guys have it covered should the show not go on. It's like Burning Man, if Burning Man was taken completely over by the LA club scene.
Hours later and safely inside, I experience the Wide Awake Art Car's 60,000-watt mobile sound system pumping vibrations into the night for those who might be in the middle of their stage-to-stage walk/dance. Nobody's going to be left out of these beats, and anything structural vibrates. Inside is outside, even in the clean, minimalist media room where the bartenders are extremely kind and snacks are piled everywhere. Three bags of Cracker Jack give me baseball stickers that I tuck away for something important someday.
Back outside a group is blowing bubbles out of a giant teapot, one of four on wheels that make up the Lost Tea Party. Portable ladders welcome new riders who climb the rungs in leather cat ears. It's mirrored-disco-ball interior too much? There's a velvet-walled teapot just down the row.
So many Indian chiefs walking past and I'm wondering if this is offensive to anyone, but then I remember Christ led us in here, wearing black Nike swoop tennis shoes and flowing robe. Nothing's sacred.
I was told there'd be art, but it's hard to separate the sculpture and installations from the theater, and maybe there shouldn't be a line anyway when everything blurs into one insanely vibrating, moving thing. A sailor in sunglasses walks past. The carnival rides spin while flames spew from contraptions and fireworks explode in the sky. The Israeli flag waves above a crowd of friends. The giant owl watching the crowd from above the main stage shifts his eyes back and forth, and I'm thinking every city needs one of these. The towering caterpillar glows yellowish orange, then, like a hypersensitive chameleon in a flower shop on Valentine's Day, its skin dances in red and white flowers.
Horizontal rows of colored Christmas lights hang on the festival exterior, and a Buddha sits placid while EDCers lounge on the steps at its base and spread out on the lawn. We say goodbye to all of it much later than we'd planned, because it was too mind-blowing in concept and execution to walk away from. And it's only the first night.