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L.A. Decom offers taste of Burning Man festival in L.A.

The L.A. Burning Man Decompression Arts & Music Festival happens Saturday. Think of it as a tamer version of the Nevada desert event.

October 01, 2009|Elina Shatkin

Many Southern Californians who travel to the annual Burning Man event don't want to leave the experience behind on the dry lake bed in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. For those who can't get enough or are looking for a sampler, Saturday's L.A. Burning Man Decompression Arts & Music Festival, or L.A. Decom, offers a taste of the 19-year-old Burning Man festival -- without most of the nudity, swearing and transgressive performance that characterizes the Nevada event.

Inspired by San Francisco's Decom festival, which aimed to make the transition between the playa and the "default world" a little less rough, L.A. Decom founder and producer Athena Demos staged the first event in 2002. "With Los Angeles, we wanted to share what we were doing with people who might not normally want or be able to go to the festival."

This year's L.A. Decom is being held at the 32-acre Los Angeles State Historic Park and will feature 50 interactive and art installations on seven stages. These include the Black Rock Roller Disco, which will feature a variety of roller-skating troupes and free skate time; a madcap miniature golf course; a wedding chapel for mock weddings -- or real ones; the House of Hookah food drive to help local food banks; Kidsville, an environment for children 12-and-under and their parents; and much more. Past festivals have featured such creative activities as kids' yoga and "Padawan training" that teaches children how to become Jedi knights.

"If it's fun for kids, it's fun for adults," Demos says.

The key to L.A. Decom is interactivity. "If you go to Coachella, you're going to watch a bunch of bands perform," says Doug Jacobson, director of "Journey to the Flame," a documentary about Burning Man. "But at L.A. Decom, you're encouraged to dress up, to make art, to show your art."

The seeds of "burner" culture have germinated in mini-festivals Alma Paradiso and Fuente Eterno; future-primitive circuses Lucent Dossier Experience and Cirque Berzerk; performance troupe Mutaytor; DJ collectives Ninja Skillz and Plump; fashion lines Skin Graft and Cocoon; and a dozen fire performance troupes in the L.A. area.

"In L.A., something that's burner-related is going on every weekend," says longtime L.A. Decom and Burning Man attendee Jim Bunkelman.

There might be fire at L.A. Decom, but there won't be glow sticks.

"There is no reason for glow sticks ever," Demos says. "They only last 24 hours, they're nonrecyclable, they're highly toxic, and they sit there forever." It's part of Demos' commitment to running a green event. Last year, the festival diverted 76% of its trash from the landfill, and they're aiming for 80% this year -- without cutting back activities.

"There are 32 flavors out there," Demos says, "and L.A. Decom gives you a little spoon of each so you can try them all."



L.A. Burning Man Decompression Arts & Music Festival

Where: Los Angeles State Historic Park, 1245 N. Spring St., L.A.

When: Noon to midnight Sat.

Price: $10 in advance; $15, day-of in costume; $20, day-of in street wear; free for children younger than 12



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