As one of the organizers and the Entertainment Director for Wasteland Weekend 2010, I had a unique perspective on the weekend’s events. I thought I would share my recap with everyone. I’m not sure this is how it all happened, but this is how I remember it.
(I know this is long and wordy, but it’s meant as a record for those who weren’t there, or those who were there and missed some of what took place).
Prelude to the Apocalypse:
We worked for months on the event. Without boring you with a lot of behind the scenes activities, I’ll simply highlight a few things:
We prided ourselves on having many important parts of this event squared away far ahead of time. Then we got hit with some bad luck. Just a few weeks before the event, the Bureau Of Land Management changed their stance on our permit to have the event at Soggy Dry Lake. It was nothing to do with our event, it was because of a tragic and deadly off-road racing accident they had had at Soggy some weeks earlier. Our backup site of California City was great, but switching to it on such short notice would prove to be very difficult logistically. (In hindsight, we were actually fortunate that the venue was changed. CA City turned out to be better in a lot of ways than Soggy would have been – not to mention the fact that the dry lake at Soggy Dry Lake may have actually been wet this week after all the rain…)
Another hit we took just before the event is that the host that I had chosen for the event (we gave her the stage name Terra Morta) got a great acting gig in New York and had to leave town. I totally understood and wished her well, but it left me in a situation where I had to scramble to get a new host with less than two weeks to the event (and this after we had already done publicity and photo sessions with Terra). Luckily, one of the performers I had been working with, Krisanna, had always been someone I thought would be a great MC for the event, and I managed to get her to say “yes” on short notice.
By the time I arrived on site, setup had already been going on for a while. A lot of volunteers and staff had been hard at work since Wednesday. We were very lucky that all the rains from earlier in the week had stopped and the desert spot we’d chosen in California City was not muddy. And the dirt roads leading in were in pretty good shape. Ah, but the wind. The high winds left in the wake of all those thunderstorms would prove to be a problem…
High wind gusts knocked down a few of the structures that our hard working volunteers (led by our tireless production designer, art director and all around MacGyver – Paul D.) had labored to put up. Things had to be changed around and quickly rebuilt, but luckily most of our post-apocalyptic compound held together.
Around sunset, I gathered some of the performers and other assorted volunteers at the far end of camp. We had Trevor, our wasteland drummer extraordinaire and several members of his Bartertown Bateria leading the procession. Trevor pedaled a three wheeled bicycle rigged with drums and the rest of us marched behind. Along with the Bateria, we had people carrying red banners painted with the now-ubiquitous WW logo (designed by Elizabeth K. of Darqarts), two people dressed as “Wasteland Fire Brigade” (wearing some outfits I put together based on old firefighting backpack tanks and creepy Russian gas masks), and our resident Wasteland Preacher “Brother Justify”. I wanted Brother Justify in the procession just to pique peoples’ interest in the character and give them a preview. He would appear again Sunday Morning.
We all finally ended up at the main stage, with many of the attendees now in tow. Then I took the stage as MC to announce that Wasteland Weekend had officially begun. Unfortunately, my co-host Krisanna was having car trouble and hadn’t arrived yet. My original idea had always been to have a female co-host that would do much of the on-stage duties so that I could be more behind the scenes, but it just didn’t work out that way (lest you think it was my ego that kept me up there on the microphone all weekend).
Our first performance was a solo number by our fire dancer Kimi. Our other fire-spinning friend Alan also did a solo fire performance. Then DJ .MI started the music. (Later DJs on Friday night included Cybian, Necrotica and Rustryu. And I think another one of the DJs filled in for a bit too but my memory escapes me which one it was.)
Despite arriving Friday night after a long drive, the Burn Academy folks jumped right into doing some great fire performing for us. These guys live to burn.
We ended the music a bit on the early side (before 1am I think) because everyone had had a long day and many attendees had driven a long way to get there. We wanted everyone to get some rest and not burn themselves out. That was one of the lessons we learned from last year’s event. (At Road Warrior Weekend 2009, it seemed like half the camp stayed up really late partying Friday night. It meant they were pretty burned out for Saturday night, as were the people they had kept awake.) We had big plans for our Saturday night this year so we decided to take it a bit easy on Friday.
SATURDAY – DAYTIME EVENTS
By Saturday morning the cold I had been fighting all week had gotten pretty bad and I was starting to lose my voice, (not great when you’re the event’s MC) but the show must go on.
The Bateria got things started around 11am with some wasteland drumming at the main stage. As a side note, Trevor and the Bateria were fantastic all weekend. They served as the sort of “house band” for this event. Trevor had assembled a whole menagerie of instruments for volunteers to play, including the remains of an entire set of marching band drums and harnesses. They played everything from car doors to rubber hoses to create post-apocalyptic music for all of our various events. They were there anytime we needed them and were instrumental (no pun intended) in letting the compound know when they should start gathering for some kind of event.
MFP / Mad Max 2 / Group photo shoots:
At noon we had our Mad Max 1 / MFP photo shoot. This was scheduled as a group photo session for anyone with a car or costume from the first Mad Max movie. (MFP are the Main Force Patrol, the futuristic Australian police force that Max is a member of in the first film). We expected to have a pretty good contingent of folks dressed up as MFP cops (and we did) and we had two of the black V8 interceptors so this photo op was a given.
Enter Adam Chilson. Adam is a world class photographer who was set up in Bartertown for doing portrait photography and we were fortunate to also have him shoot our group photos.
For this MFP photoshoot we were lucky to have Tank, here all the way from Jersey, John N. as Ziggy (the outback MFP cop from the movie) and Jake McKinnon as Capt. “Fifi” Macaffee. On top of that, we actually had more uniformed MFP cops than there were in the original movie. (They had eight, we had ten).
After the MFP photoshoot, we did a Road Warrior group shoot, for anyone wearing a costume from the second Mad Max movie (and a lot of people where were wearing costumes that just seemed inspired by the second movie).
Finally, we brought in everyone and every vehicle we could gather to do one big group photo of everybody from the weekend. Not that we had even half the attendees and vehicles there but we got a whole lot of folks and the pics turned out great.
Thanks again Adam (and everyone else who participated).
The gyrocopter, flown by pilot Dave B., did fly overs of the compound on Saturday and Sunday. This was a great addition to the overall atmosphere and was something everyone really enjoyed. For most people, this was their first real-life sighting of the type of gyrocopter flown in the Road Warrior. (Incidentally, the area where Wasteland Weekend took place is near Edward’s Air Force Base and is a no-fly zone, but our gyrocopter pilot was able to get special permission to fly there just for Wasteland Weekend. Way to go Dave!)
We got an impromptu piece of entertainment when photographer Teal Scott volunteered to get his first mohawk live on stage. We think this would make a good start as a Wasteland Weekend tradition. Thanks to Patrick for bringing the clippers, Lori for doing a very professional cutting job, and Teal for volunteering his head. The crazy thing is, everyone couldn’t stop talking about how great it looked after. Maybe this should be Teal’s permanent look.
Around 3pm the Bateria started playing again near the main stage as the Juggers all gathered and began marching from their camp toward the stage. We introduced the home team (the Bartertown Bombers in yellow) and they were issued a challenge from the visiting league team in red. It was sort of like a post-apocalyptic football pep rally. The idea was to help build interest in the Jugger match at 5pm.
G4′s Attack Of The Show:
We were very happy to have some folks from G4 network’s Attack Of The Show program with us on Saturday. They really got into the spirit of the event. In the afternoon, they took a bunch of cars out on the dirt roads and filmed some vehicular action (and the gyrocopter flying over as well). Here is a link to their segment: http://g4tv.com/attackoftheshow/exclusives/72653/Blair-Herter-Visits-Wasteland-Weekend.html
Across camp, near the wooden lookout tower that most attendees were now familiar with, was the Jugger field. This is where the epic battle took place. After an explanation of the rules of the game, the match began. It was a hell of a spectacle and Dan Thompson (the leader of the juggers) and all of the men and women that played for us should be very proud of themselves. It was one of the real highlights of the weekend. This was some serious wasteland sports action (and yes, we got it on video).
The “quick” for the yellow team (the quick is the only player allowed to touch the ball – in this case a dog skull) got really beat to hell but kept limping on. At one point, he got knocked off his feet with a blow to the head that made the whole audience let out a collective “oooh!” (You can actually see this moment in the G4 footage above).
Dan’s character lost his eye but kept playing. At half time, the Bateria came out and did a fantastic anarchic marching band act that ended with them fighting with each other and smashing their instruments. Fantastic and wholly appropriate for a wasteland halftime show. The juggers actually played for a while longer than they had planned to, even though they were really hurting by the end. They had trained and prepared for this for so long, and they were determined to give the audience more than their money’s worth.
Around sunset we had the costume contest at the main stage. There were some AMAZING costumes at Wasteland Weekend, and this was certainly reflected in the costume contest. The judges (of which I was one) had a REALLY hard time choosing. We broke the costumes into two categories – original and replica (replica meaning inspired by an existing movie, video game, etc.). These categories were broken into male and female, for four awards total.
Best Original Costume Female:
Raissa F. won with a cool outfit with a lot of accessories and some nice yellow and black color coordination. (Another top contender for this prize was Fryda in her 80s-inspired post-apocalyptic punk look, and some others were really close to the top too).
Best Original Costume Male:
Jake McKinnon, in his really detailed and impressive marauder outfit. Another really tough one to pick. (The guy in the fur with the antlers on his shoulder was right up there.)
Best Replica Costume Male:
Dave G. in his Road Warrior costume.
We had some heated discussion about this one as Tank’s MFP costume was technically more accurate, but we ultimately decided that Dave got bonus points for difficulty.
Best Replica Costume Female
Nicole B., dressed as the Warrior Woman won this one, with a very accurate replica of Virginia Hey’s costume from Mad Max 2. (But it just as easily could have gone to the woman in the accurate outfit from the video game Fallout.)
Solo Fire Performer:
Alan S. did another fire staff performance for us and after that we awarded the prizes for the various contests from the weekend:
I don’t quite remember the list of who won for what, so if there are errors or omissions in this part, please let me know and I’ll correct.
The rusty bus, a.k.a. The Maggot Wagon. These guys won the coveted “Rockatansky trophy”, a real big trophy with an MFP car on top.
Second prize for best car (the “gilded gas can” trophy) went to Warrior and his vintage muscle car. A ’72 Plymouth Roadrunner (I think)
We also gave out prizes for best campsite (The juggers won with their many themed tents and wooden tower – they won a rusted bullet-hole-ridden car hood with the WW logo painted on it), best kinetic vehicle a.k.a. best bicycle or tricycle (won by Trevor for his cool Bateria bike), a prize for the winner of the archery contest and one for winner of the gas can carry contest (These folks won “wasteland happy meals” – an ammo case with an MRE inside). In hindsight, we should’ve also had a category for best motorcycle… Our apologies to those at WW2010 with cool bikes.
The music started off with Mr. and Mrs. DJ Liquid Sex Drive doing a double long set. (Jason, a.k.a. DJ Liquid Sex Drive, was a huge help all weekend, donating equipment for us and all the other DJs to use and helping on the technical side of things.) Their set included Jason doing some live percussion and using a grinder to throw sparks into the air.
The “Stunt Show”:
I use quotes because we never expected to be able to do much in the way of actual big stunts for this show (partly due to time pressures, and partly due to the insurance policy we had this year) but we wanted it to be a theatrical action show, sort of like a mini version of the stunt shows they put on at Universal Studios theme park. This was going to be a little surprise entertainment for the attendees; a simulated attack on the camp while they were all watching some other entertainment at our main stage area. And I had an ace in the hole for the end of the stunt show (more on that later)…
Part way through the Liquid Sex Drive set, I gathered the performers who had volunteered and we discussed the show for a little while and then just crossed our fingers. There would be no walkthrough, and no rehearsal, we just had to do it. (At this point, I realized that keeping the show a secret, as a nice little surprise for the audience sounded all well and good, but it would be no fun if there wasn’t actually anyone there to see it. Finally we said the hell with secrecy and sent some folks around camp to try and gather people and tell them to come watch an attack on the camp. After a while we had a pretty good-sized crowd).
By some miracle, the show went off without a hitch. Here’s what went down:
The raiders/marauders/bad guys went over to the main gate. They had a dirtbike (thanks Curtis!), a golf cart that shot fire out the top (thanks Boo & cupcake!) , and a dune buggy (thanks Charles!). Dan Thompson (as the main villain’s right hand man) shot two blank .38 rounds in the air. This was the signal to start.
I had several defenders placed near the main stage. They had taken up positions between the two RVs there. The space between the RVs would act as the “gate” of the compound, and also the audience’s window on the action, getting them to focus on a specific scene. At the sound of the gunshots, a defender on the roof of one RV shined a spotlight over to the scaffolding near the main gate, revealing a defender running away from the bad guys. At this point, another defender on the ladder of the other RV started yelling “They took out the tower! We’re under attack!” This was the cue for a defender in the back of a nearby pickup truck to man the gun mounted there and another defender (Adam Chilson) on the roof of an RV started blasting his flamethrower (nothing gets the audience’s attention like a flamethrower).
The main bad guy (played by Burn Academy member Shane, wearing a hockey mask) stopped just at the edge of camp and made a Humungus-like speech to the crowd (pre-recorded and played over the speakers), about how we should all just “walk away” and leave them the radio tower and transmitter. (The back story to this stunt show, which I should have done a better job of establishing earlier in the weekend, was that our camp had the last long range radio transmitter/receiver in the wasteland, allowing us to communicate with the other few survivors out there. This is what the bad guys were after, in the same way that the bad guys in Mad Max 2 were after the oil refinery.)
The leader of the defenders (played by Jonathan L.) called everyone to defend the camp, but when Burn Academy member Sasha (playing the camp leader’s daughter) wanted to go out and fight, he held her back. Instead, he went out himself to face the main bad guy. And after killing the bad guy’s second in command (Dan Thompson, who had just killed a couple of defenders) our illustrious leader was promptly killed by the evil leader (now swinging two flaming clubs.)
Cue Sasha as the avenging daughter, wielding a flaming sword. The climactic fight between the two of them spilled into the camp, with Sasha eventually killing the main bad guy with her flaming sword in a really well-choreographed combat routine (great work guys!)
At the same time, one of the villains (played by jugger Pedrick) had climbed our radio antenna tower, intent on destroying it (after all, if they couldn’t posses it, no one would). Luckily, one of the defenders fired a gun at him and he slumped dead on the tower.
At this point I took the microphone and called for The Fixer (Peter F.) to go and check the damage. In another nod to a favorite scene from Mad Max 2, Peter called out the damage and said how long it would take to fix the antenna (he said ten minutes, I told him he had five). DJ Liquid Sex Drive played a song, and in a few minutes The Fixer called out that the tower was fixed, and that we were receiving a long range transmission…
This was my ace in the hole. I’m sorry if a few in the camp weren’t there to see it, but a lot of people were and we really wanted it to be a surprise. As we put the “long range transmission” up on screen, it was revealed to be a special greeting from director George Miller, speaking to us from the set of Mad Max 4: Fury Road in Australia. The crowd went wild as George said a gracious hello (“Greetings to everyone out there in the wasteland. I’m George Miller… from our apocalypse, to your apocalypse, much love”) and introduced the production designer Colin Gibson, as well as stunt coordinator Guy Norris. Colin explained that they’re building over a hundred vehicles, and that Guy’s job is to wreck ‘em all. They just happened to be standing in front of a huge custom truck from the movie that fired up its engine at the end of the clip.
This clip was a one-time-only affair, played just once for Wasteland Weekend 2010 and will not be on the internet. We were so honored to have it sent especially for us from George and Co. Down Under. (And thanks to Jonathan L. for adding the “long range transmission” fx to it).
My lovely co-host Krisanna had planned a special dance for everyone, but due to some serious car problems, she had to leave the weekend early without performing it. She was very sad about it and sends her apologies. Hopefully she’ll get another chance to share her talents with you all.
Burn Academy Combat Show:
We began to push the crowd away from the stage (thanks everyone for your cooperation) in preparation for the big Burn Academy fire combat show at 10pm. They put on a special routine just for us. It involved their fire-spewing dragon car pulling up near the main stage, laden with fire spinning warrior women, ready to take on the two men with flaming staffs. The action went on and on, finally ending with people fighting with fire on stilts, and the flaming dragon car taking a victory lap. (I was also happy to have my two volunteer Wasteland Fire Brigade members, looking badass with their fire tank backpacks and gasmasks on as they patrolled the perimeter of the crowd.)
It was a blockbuster show and Burn Academy really raised the bar for future Wasteland Weekend entertainment. My thanks to Scorch, Jaz, Sasha, and everyone at L.A. Burn Academy who helped to put on this amazing show. (And don’t forget, if you want to buy some cool fire gear or take lessons, go to www.trickconcepts.com)
More DJs: DJs Cybian, Necrotica, Machine Gun Suicide and Tenebrae all spun some great music throughout the night.
Aesthetic Meat Front put on a show for us just after Midnight. Well, I say “show”, but they would call it a “deprogramming ritual”. AMF is a very unique group of musicians / performance artists. Anyone who witnessed their incredible show that night would say that “unique” barely covers it. Pictures and descriptions don’t really do it justice, but we’ll try. Louis, the leader of the group (here to join us in the Wasteland all the way from Berlin!) wore a big metal harness on his back and shoulders, suspended only by piercings. Other members of the group were attached to long springs suspended from piercings in their backs. These springs were played by the audience, using drumsticks, to create interactive human music. This music was augmented by live drumming, and even accompanied by bursts from a flamethrower. The show included Kimi in a flaming hoop dress, a cow skull burned by the flamethrower, blood smeared on the performers (and willing members of the audience) and a walkaround white board that attendees were encouraged to paint on with blood (the white board would later be burned symbolically).
It was an amazing show under a full moon, and it riveted the crowd. A huge thank you to AMF for giving us such a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
(Incidentally, AMF leader Louis sells his amazing corsets and other fashion creations at his website: www.amfkorsets.com)
Sunday morning was a time for people to start packing up and getting ready for the trip home, in some cases, long drives or even long flights. (We had people at WW2010 from as far away as Hawaii, New Jersey and Connecticut. And maybe others from even farther away that I’m not even aware of.)
Wasteland sermon with Brother Justify:
Sunday began with the Bateria leading a procession through camp at 11am to let people know that our wasteland preacher, Brother Justify, would be delivering his Sunday morning sermon. Brother Justify marched with his holy book, preaching to the camps, followed by his gas-mask-wearing followers carrying holy nuclear relics.
The Brother Justify procession ended at the main stage. I’d had a raging fever all night Saturday and could barely talk (or walk) at this point, but I’d be damned if I was going to quit on Dan and not be there to watch his act. He’d given his all for so many things for the weekend. He was really sore from the Jugger match the day before and had started to lose his voice, but he was going to preach. And if he was going to preach, I was going to be there to introduce him. (The show must go on, etc. etc..)
After a hoarse introduction by yours truly, the sermon began. Dan had intended to use the microphone but instead decided to preach in front of the stage. Which was good, as it really drew the spectators in closer for a more intimate old-time baptist-revival-style sermon. The sermon was great. It was all about blessed radiation (something that Brother Justify himself is well aware of as he himself suffers from radiation sickness). At the end of the sermon, there was a disagreement between Brother Justify and a post-apocalyptic Mormon Elder. (Many of you probably saw him during the weekend, it was one of my favorite costumes). Brother Justify took him around the bus to discuss the matter in private and we heard a gunshot. That settled that. The Brother Justify led his followers away.
Event co-lead organizer Jim Howard (who, as I’ve said many times, did more work than ANYONE for WW2010) got on stage and thanked some of our many hard-working volunteers. We announced that the final event of the weekend would be a car cruise around the dirt roads for anyone who wanted to participate. The gyrocopter flew in and did some more flyovers of the camp and the car cruise.
I packed up my RV and headed for home and about two days of sleep. If this product had been available, I would have taken it:
I want to thank everyone who helped make Wasteland Weekend 2010 such a huge success.