August 17th, 2010  |  Filed under Building BRC

Spires to the sky

August 17th, 2010  |  Filed under Building BRC

The spires that mark your way at night and guide you through the dust storms during the day are going up fast here in Black Rock City, but there’s still a whole lot more of them to do. By the time the build is finished, the Spire Crew will have built and installed about 300 of them, and that’s a lot of aligning and pounding and sledge-hammering.

Day after day, all day long, the Spire Assembly Team puts together the poles and fills the Depot yard with them. Erin “Thirteen” Meyer heads the production crew, and she and her team have constructed probably a couple hundred spires in the past three days.

There are two kinds of spires, the greater and the lesser. The greater spires mark the Esplanade and the main promenades toward the Man. (There’s actually a third type of spire, the Fire Spire, and they’re made of metal and have nasty, jangly edges. They spit fire and get placed in prominent locations around the city. But they haven’t been working for the past couple of years, a situation that may be rectified this year.)

Erin is known as Thirteen on and off the playa

Erin’s a longtime burner, though she’s of a tender age. (And she’s had her playa name  since she was … you guessed it, 13.) She came to her first burn when she was 15, which, maybe coincidentally, was also the year she left home for good. “I had a tendency to run away a lot,” she says. Since then she’s been to design school (“Design is my true passion, she says”) and had a stint as a line cook. But she’s always come back to the playa, and she’s been out here this year since the end of July.

"Tits" Brown at the Spire construction area.

Jessy “Tits” Brown and Alexi “Pusstachio” were among those working on the crew this morning, starting right after the 7am morning work meeting.

Dylan runs the Spire Installation Crew, and they got an early start yesterday, too. They were out along the 3 o’clock path to the Man in the midmorning heat, lining up the spires and securing them to the playa with sledge-hammered rebar.

The city is laid out by the Survey crew before any of the construction crews arrive. Flags in the ground emanate from an oculus that’s laid around the Golden Spike, which marks the center of the city and the eventual location of the Man.

So now it’s a matter of putting the spires where they’re supposed to go. There’s a pair of them every hundred feet along the promenades. It’s 20 feet from the spire to the center of the road,  and the spires have to be lined up precisely.

Dylan heads to the top of the street, and from there he directs spire placement with the use of binoculars and hand signals. “Give it a couple of kicks toward the road,” his instructions come over the radio. The crew kicks it, and then the good word comes: “Mark it.” Then the crew drives four lengths of rebar into the hard crust and attaches them to the spire.

It’s one of the hottest jobs on the playa. “We’re gluttons for punishment,” DA says.  It’s a close-knit crew, though. DA and Bean have been coming out for nine years now, and Dylan is in his fifth. “We tend to hang out a lot together,” DA says.

Especially in the weeks leading up to the burn.

It’s hot as hell again here today. It’s well into the high 90s in Gerlach, and I think it’s a safe bet to add 10 degrees to the temperature out here. It’s just plain hot.

The spire, fence and shade crews probably have the hottest jobs around, but Heather might have stolen the crown yesterday. She was in full welder’s regalia, arc welding some hooks to a container. Full helmet, heavy gloves and long-sleeved overalls.


There are a lot of hot jobs during the build, but arc welding may be on top of the list.

Spires and bases collecting in the yard of the Depot.

The very nasty Fire Spires. Watch for them this year. Maybe.

After they're put together in the yard, the spires get hauled out to the desert.

Bean's a member of the spire installation crew.

Photo Mike lines up the tape measure as Dylan and DA check the measurements.

Dylan makes sure the spires are lined up right from the top of the street.

12 Responses to “Spires to the sky”

  1. Mike Hedge Says:

    love it. BRC street lights!

    Report comment

  2. Michelle Moquin Says:

    Hi John,

    I bet it is nice to be back out in the desert! It seems many are happy you are there photographing….doing your thing…Which by the way, they are wonderful! I wish I was out there having you take pics or moi! Unfortunately I will physically not be out there this year – will miss it again…but I will be there in goddess spirit! Have a blast!
    Playa Love,

    aka: Cactus Flower

    Report comment

  3. Paperboy Says:

    All i can say is thank you, thank you! This is my 11th burn and for some reason i’m more excited about this one than just about any. Got a good feeling about this year.

    Look for us in the sky, i’ll fix you guys a drink!

    6:30 A ring road. dota.

    Report comment

  4. Twin Says:

    Thanks, DPW.
    ~Twin, Lamplighters.

    Report comment

  5. Moloch Says:

    Thanks DPW. You’re doing it wrong!
    ~Moloch, Lamplighters.

    Report comment

  6. Andie Grace Says:

    The true art of hard work, manifested again and revealed. Can I leave yet? Can I? Can I?

    Report comment

  7. baconqurlyq Says:

    Are the spires anchored into the Playa? How do they stay up during wind storms?

    Thanks to everyone for their hard work!

    Report comment

  8. Cakky Says:

    Thank you guys. The spires are one of the most beautiful and cool aspects of BRC.
    ★✰★✰★✰★✰★You glow girllllllls!!!!★✰★✰★✰★You glow bros’!!!!★✰★✰★✰★★✰
    ★✰★✰★✰★✰★✰★✰★ Keep on shining for this incredible gift ★✰★✰★✰★✰★✰★

    Report comment

  9. C-Virgin-Knesal Says:

    I can’t wait to see them in person and think of your crew! Thanks fro connecting the dots!

    Report comment

  10. M Flash Says:

    dang….will be in the default world this year…shine on through the dust….

    Report comment

  11. X Says:

    Holy moly, that photo of Tits Brown with the drill is the sexiest thing I’ve seen since last year’s burn!

    Report comment

  12. LeanneTheLeo Says:

    Spire Crew!
    Thank you for doing the work that helps me light this city. Come have a drink in our lounge to celebrate!


    Leanne, Lamplighter Volunteer Coordinator

    Report comment

Post a Comment

The comments section will be moderated for the benefit of all readers and at the sole discretion of the editors. Our comment policy is here.