AFTERBURN REPORT 2005
Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR)
BMIR (94.5 FM) is Black Rock City's full-service, full-on playa radio connection. Featuring a mix of music, late-breaking theme camp news, public service announcements, Exodus traffic flow info, original programming, and--if the need arises--emergency information, BMIR attempts to sound like the playa feels: diverse and dramatic, creative and chaotic, silly and sublime.
This year's programming constituted a dramatic boost in the station's goals. Originally mandated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as an emergency communication tool in the event of a crisis, BMIR ran largely as an automated station for the past several years. In 2004, efforts to go live with on-air DJs and interview shows were hampered by a variety of factors, including the reality that the station's one-room shack couldn't accommodate both on-air DJs and the all-afternoon drop-in hours for Black Rock citizens to record announcements for their events.
Thanks to the vigilance of the Community Services Department and the diligence of BMIR and Department of Public Works staff, however, BMIR acquired some new real estate for 2005. The facilities blossomed into a glorious two-room shack. The new space supported a dynamic on-air presence with live shows in Studio A from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) while simultaneously accommodating all the needs of citizens who came by to record their announcements in Studio B.
For those who listened, everyone at BMIR hopes that everybody liked a lot of what they heard.
And for those who didn't listen, here's a random sample of what they might have heard on any given day (in addition to a mix of music the likes of which connoisseurs only wish they could hear):
- Art Car Talk, with Ick and Ack opining on mutant vehicle aesthetics and mechanics
- Speaking in Flames, a daily interview show featuring organization orchestrators, regional reps, alternative energy activists, and desert aestheticians. Both behind the scenes and on the scene, the show tried to provide a deeper perspective on what happens not only during that magical week in the desert but during the rest of the year as well.
- Lady Bee's Art Buzz, a daily diary of the art curatrix's musings on a few of the myriad pleasures of Black Rock City art
- This Playa Life, featuring field recordings of participant experiences as recounted and recorded by themselves through a battalion of transient, self-serve cassette recorders
- NewsBurn, a nightly news show, rebroadcast each morning, that highlighted the very finest in real and imagined playa events
- The Nudist Chef, which will be left to the reader's imagination
- The YOU Show, a random stream as citizens dropped by throughout the day to tell their stories and radically express themselves with the DJs and with the BRC listening community. Highlights included exploring the litigious imbroglio in the case of Pizza Sluts vs. Pizza Smut (facilitated by the friendly folks at the Post Office, who delivered the subpoenas to all parties involved) and discussing the first mainstream novel set within a Burning Man context. Participants reigned supreme in creating a fertile forum for discussion and exploration.
Drop-in hours from noon to 4 p.m. each day allowed participants to record their announcements for radio play throughout the week. Hundreds of citizens came by to announce their camp's events, put a shout out for that desperately needed item or service, or lay down a public service announcement. As usual, numerous PSAs and theme camp announcements came from various camps before the event, either on CD or through emailed MP3 files. BMIR welcomes this participation, and the service will of course continue in 2006. The process is a little easier if people submit spots in advance, although staff will never turn anyone away at the door.
For reasons both expected and tragic, BMIR returned to its roots as an emergency messaging network in 2005. The station participated in the inaugural testing of Black Rock City's emergency broadcast system, which was put in place as a safeguard against extremely inclement weather or other catastrophes. Additionally, the station served as the on-site production suite for this system, which was a successful collaboration between BMIR, the other wondrous radio stations on the playa, and many large-scale sound installations; in the event of an emergency, all of these outlets would have broadcast the same vital info for the citizens of the city to weather any literal or metaphoric storm.
Unfortunately, the tragic necessity arose to fulfill this emergency broadcasting mandate by updating Black Rock City on Katrina's devastation of New Orleans, as well as on Black Rock City's efforts to support the region, morally, financially, and otherwise.
The challenges of a station based in Black Rock City are manifold, from programming that reflects the citizenry's diverse aesthetics and interests to ensuring that theme camp announcements are rotated properly for maximum coverage to facilitating the involvement of all those who wish to participate to troubleshooting technical difficulties that are endemic to running a radio station in that environment. Mistakes were made, but oversights are simply that: loss of attention within the chaotic context of an overly ambitious and excitable desert media outlet. Participants should always feel free to harass staff in a kind way if you're their needs are not being met, both during or before the event.
As 2006 unfolds, BMIR will continue to expand its staff, augment its programming, and do whatever it can to better serve the ethos of the event and fulfill the desires of all who make it happen. Plans to launch a year-round webcasting station are well underway, which will hopefully make the station a vital nexus for interaction of participants from around the country and around the globe, 365 days a year.
BMIR is not your grandfather's Black Rock Radio. Or even your brother's. For the Old(er) Guard, BMIR might be seen as something of an orientation station, a useful tool to acculturate newcomers to the environment and event but something irrelevant to the needs of the more playa savvy participant. Regardless of how many years people have attended, however, BMIR wants to reach them in 2006, while they make breakfast or dress up for a night out on the town or hang out with campmates in the heat of the day.
They may be pleasantly surprised. And those who don't like what they hear can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by Eric Myers (aka Zues)
BMIR Programming and Operations Director