The Amazing Rave-O-Matic Laser Disco Music Machine

Phoenix Festival

July 22-24, 2005

First run with all systems completed

I knew before I even got out of my car that the Rave-O-Matic was not going to be moving around much at this event. Last year, the Phoenix Festival was held on a farm, with flat, grassy fields; this year's venue was a dry, rocky hillside in southern Washington. The ground was not at all even, covered in rocks fist-size and larger; it was too rough even to ride my bike comfortably, much less tow a trailer around.

No matter; the machine soon found a welcoming home. Our group had planned a lounge area built from three costco barns and a parachute; as we were building it, we discovered that the parachute sagged more than we had expected. We needed something to prop up the center, and lo: there was the Rave-O-Matic, with a laser platform on a pole some fourteen feet up in the air. We rolled it in, parked it in the center of the shade area, threw the parachute over the top of it, and there it sat until it was time to leave.

The machine was designed for mobile operation, but it adapted remarkably well to its role as stationary centerpiece. With its lights on it became sort of an electronic campfire, and the stereo's insistent thump called in passers-by who might have otherwise been unsure whether the tent constituted public or private space.

This was not quite the public demonstration I had been hoping for, but it worked out well enough; the people who saw it liked it, and my friends enjoyed having an art project on site to set the mood and entertain visitors. All of the electronic systems worked, the case got a nice layer of dust, and once again I was unable to exhaust the battery. Next stop: Black Rock City!

I did notice one technical change I would like to make before reaching the playa. The pole, made of PVC, is not as stiff as I had expected; the tower swayed and bobbed rather alarmingly. Granted, I won't be using it to support a parachute on the playa, but it still doesn't give the laser platform the kind of support I had expected. I think I will try steel conduit sections instead.