Once upon a time, I found myself on a blind date (technically we exchanged numbers on the dark dance floor at Middlesex, but I think that still qualifies) with a quirky man sporting a sly grin and a mild case of crazy eyes. When I told him that I didn’t “get” Burning Man, he confidently informed me that it is “the coolest thing you will ever do, with the coolest people you will ever meet.”
A bit hyperbolic, probably, but pretty much in line with everything else I’d heard about the dusty desert festival: it’s an experiment in self-expression, a spiritual journey, a radical community, a giant art project — all vague descriptions that mean little to someone who is used to structured music festivals with schedules, maps, and security. With no agenda, what could you possibly do for the ten full days you’re there?
A few of my own friends have since attended and returned with first-hand accounts, so I have a better idea of what goes down at the end of each summer: some 50,000 people convene in the desert of Nevada to form Black Rock City, and they spend the week riding around the playa on bikes and art cars, checking out art installations, weathering dust storms, playing with fire, wearing costumes or nothing at all, taking drugs, and generally indulging in all sorts of things you can’t do in the “real world.” I guess it’s one of those you-had-to-be-there things.
There is one part of Burning Man, though, that as a house head I haven’t had trouble wrapping my brain around, and that’s the legendary Robot Heart. The double-decker bus is topped with an LED-adorned heart and boasts a massive all-climate sound system. It has hosted big names in house and techno representing the likes of Hot Creations, Crosstown Rebels, and Get Physical, among others — including Boston’s own Soul Clap and Tamer Malki. A giant bus blasting deep house in the middle of the desert? Okay. I’m in.
Of the many Robot Heart DJs who have inspired all-hours desert dance parties, Thugfucker is one duo whose personality seems designed for the Burning Man vibe. Both previously occupied in respectable careers — Greg Oreck as an international aid worker in the US and Holmar Filipsson as an Icelandic security specialist — they ditched their monotonous routines and turned to the club scene to simply have fun and help others do the same. They are lighthearted troublemakers; they frequently give off the wall answers in interviews and they always seem to have a new, wacky story to explain how they initially met.
Their tongue-in-cheek name is both proof of their mischievous mindset and a strategy to avoid ending up trapped in commercial EDM territory. They’ve said:
“It’s also a way of ensuring that we don’t take ourselves too seriously or let our egos get too big. Cause at the end of the day, we’re still in a group called Thugfucker.
So let’s just focus on trying to make good music, good parties and helping as many people have a good time alongside us as possible.”
It was this fondness for bacchanalian celebration, their anything-goes attitude, and their celestial deep house tracks that brought Thugfucker to Robot Heart for the first time in 2012. They entertained like-minded festival-goers, many of whom were there to escape from their own monotonous routines much like Greg and Holmar.
Luckily for those of us who were not there to witness it, their entire set was recorded and uploaded — and I’ve selected it as this week’s DJ Set of the Week. It’s a 150-minute journey into a futuristic dreamworld that embodies the hedonistic Burning Man spirit. With closed eyes, it’s not difficult to imagine dancing on the playa in my own pair of pasties and furry boots.
This Friday, a bit of Robot Heart visits Bijou with Thugfucker and Tamer Malki. You’ll have to trade your rave gear for club wear, but their wild party will be well worth it to get your fix until next August on the playa.
W/ TAMER MALKI
BIJOU NIGHTCLUB & LOUNGE
51 STUART STREET
10PM/21+/$15 ADV, $20 DOS