Coachella ’07: Clown town

In cyclecide bike rodeo by summerburkes0 Comments

April 28, 2007
Coachella Valley Music Festival

ITEM! Ratgirl’s grandpa used to eat meat gravy on his chocolate cake. “It all goes to the same place anyway,” she said he’d say.

The gates have opened and the rubes have flooded in. Seventy thousand people rocked out here yesterday. Seventy thousand surprisingly well-behaved and not-totally-f’ed-up-on-drugs people. But maybe we don’t see the ugliest bits. They camp far, far away from us, in reportedly barbaric conditions. $5 bottle of water, anyone?

Did we mention it’s hot? Up to 104, we heard. The Cyclecide family dogs stay chained up in the shade in camp all day while we perform and run the rides, panting panting napping napping. They’re luckier than us.

Some days it feels like a pleasant bizarro version of a death march. Mostly, though, being in the Bike Rodeo is clown-tastic.

“The flies are gonna miss us,” Bill the Junkman said at camp this morning. Yep, and there’s plenty of flies everywhere. Next week they’ll be hanging out like, “Remember Coachella? Man, that was awesome. Those people brought food, and dog shit, and tons of dirty hippies showering in a pond-runoff faucet from the polo field all day…”

The Coachella horizon looks like capitalist Burning Man. Steam engine here, Gorey-esque carousel there, geodesic dome blaring drum’n’bass there, twin Tesla coils shooting off lightning over yonder. Johnny Amerika’s piece fires off in the evening, looking like a mad scientist’s laboratory about to explode any second now for 20 minutes at a time.

In the open field amid the stages and food-court tent oases designed with Asian or Mexican themes, Cyclecide runs the midway all day under the hell-sun. Seventy thousand fresh-faced hipster kids adore our pedal-powered carnival rides.

Philip Blaine, the art guy at Goldenvoice, said everyone’s raving about us. We’re sure they’re raving about everyone else’s art too. We party-throwers are becoming a viable industry.

and we look good too. right? Right??

and we look good too. right? Right??

The sideshow was short and sweet yesterday — parade of the bikes, bullfight, tallbike joust, moshpit of recklessness. Doyle jousted Otto and won, and then took a pratfall and lost to Linda on purpose.

It was so hot that by the end of that 15 minutes of running around, this writer laid on top of a pile of bikes in the finale and pretended to take a nap, just so we could get horizontal for a minute. Of course a couple people laid on top of us so it wasn’t all that comfortable.

Chicken brought up a half dozen people we hadn’t yet met, who ended up “interning” on our rides yesterday and learning the Way of the Bike Rodeo Clown. They get to be carnies, and we think they’re enjoying it.

One dude Esben, a Danish bike fiend who used to be in a circus as a child, can ride the stupid Rudy bike nobody else can ride — two different ways. Rudy built it for the sole purpose of watching people try to ride it and fall down. But Esben can flip it up and sit on the handlebars and work it like it’s a tall unicycle. Should’ve known Chicken would bring a top-notch labor force.

In addition to running things, Jarico’s been toiling on his new sculpture, the Melody Maker — an interactive tower that spins a bunch of contraptions with instruments on them, which play when the rider climbs up on a bicycle in the tower and pedals. The Melody Maker is nice to perch in at night — to observe the hoi polloi, the sea of heads rocking out to Peaches or Bjork or DJ Shadow.

It’s hard to want to leave our area and Johnny Amerika’s next door, though. It’s kind of like Frogger in the thorougfares — too many people going every which way. Even though we’re hams, most of us are antisocial as well, and slightly too old to run around amid the kids. Plus we just enjoy each other’s company.

And now the gates are open again, and we’re half an hour late, and Katy Bell’s dyeing Big Daddy’s and Laird’s hair clown-blue to match Moses’s. They all shaved parts of their heads clown-style, which is basically pretending to be balding, so they’ve all got fake old-man clown hair.

Now they’ve got Esben on his knees with the clippers too — what a good sport — and then they’re all going to rinse in the hose all the hippies are lining up for.

They’re gonna give the hippies blue feet.

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