Fire breathing dragons and go-go dancers at Glow

The Dragons of Eden, lots more information here.

The Dragons of Eden, lots more information here.

Among the aging hippies, LED-addicted Burners, and baby-toting Generation X/Y/Zers at last weekend’s “Glow: A festival of fire and light”, the fan favorite had to be the dragon. It polled well among those less prone to caricature too.

The bus length shiny silver body like a segmented wyrm built on top of a mobile home chassis (and headed by a multifaceted glass ball where the driver sits like the villain in the end-of-level robo-monster) was certainly eye-catching when it came around the corner, but it was the seven sharp-toothed dragon heads that really got your attention. As if that wasn’t enough, closer inspection revealed the open-ended propane canisters lurking like tongues in each head’s mouth. That really, ahem, fired the imagination.

“Does the dragon breathe fire?” asked wide-eyed children throughout the night. Parents lifted speculative gazes to the heads, then ran worried looks over the surrounding flora and fauna, all of which looked suddenly flammable.

The Lightwalker strides and mingles with a smile

The Lightwalker strides and mingles with a smile

“I think so, honey. Let’s not stand right here, okay?”

Nervous parents edging away from draconic destruction got help from the magnetic pull of flickering flames, four-storey projections, and eerie sounds coming from the crowd clustered in the courtyard nearby. I followed them over.

Fire spun on brass pipes, dragonflies cut from Volkswagens looked at me with hubcap eyes, and a line of exuberant artists shot flames into the air on a surreal arsenal of flame throwers. The crowd migrated between the attractions brought together by the Museum of Art and History, joined by the “Lightwalker”, who peered down with relentless amiability at children, adults, and flocking photographers alike. And at an event designed to showcase the skills and work of Santa Cruz’s resident contributors to the annual Burning Man phenomenon, there were as many cameras as flames.

Lucy Hosking playing with Satan's Calliope

Lucy Hosking playing with Satan’s Calliope

Explosions back on the street created a current of bodies to surround “Satan’s Calliope”, a Jetson’s-style car, pyromaniacal pipe organ, and marvelous means of musical mayhem, all in one. The same remarkable woman who made the dragon created it, and this one she got to play with. Literally. It was connected to a keyboard, and as her fingers tickled the ivories, flames and explosions blared from the trumpets and pipes with screams like the devil’s bagpipes.

It was fantastic.

Flames flare and die, but the sternum-popping bass of the Dancetronauts never dwindled. On their bizarre Bowie-esque trailer and rising spaceship thingy, the DJs stood in astronaut bodysuits while scantily clad go-go dancers (is there any other type?) did their thing to the sides… It was weird. Here were all these artists on one hand, and an instant neon frat party on the other.

Glow Fire Festival, Dancetronauts

A couple Dancetronauts observe their product

It all seemed slightly scandalous until I passed one mother who stooped down, pointed her child’s attention to the booty-shaking and said “Look honey, those are called go-go dancers.” Very educational evening. Besides, our inner monkeys love bass, and the world’s even more multifaceted than the driver-chamber of the dragon-thing, where a succession of people sat and waved their hands in front of the motion detectors that snapped the heads’ jaws open and closed.

Santa Cruz is a groovy town but it knows its bedtime, and not long after 9:00 the Dancetronauts played their last song…but there was one more act to go. Samba music, dancing on stilts, burlesque choreography, fire eating, and leather corsets. Maybe it was five acts.

Whatever it was, the Samba Stilt Circus was incredible. The crowd gathered around and four-thousand eyeballs could not look away.

Samba Stilt Circus drummers and dancers finished strong

Samba Stilt Circus drummers and dancers finished strong

I can’t recall ever seeing as large a group of humans in so good of a collective mood, grins and shaking hips across the generations, and in the end, no one noticed that the dragon heads never did spew their fire. Rest easy, moms.

And bring the kids back tomorrow night, they’re going to like Part 2 even more…