By Jon Mercurio Knight
For me, wasteland isn’t about the dirt and grime, it isn’t about
traveling to the Post Apocalypse or seeing neat heavily modded
vehicles or varying degrees of post apocalyptic costuming. Yes, it is
all those things. But to me, wasteland is about the people. It is
about connection, bonding over an experience with backdrops that
aren’t quite like anything else. Sometimes I want to hate wasteland. I
certainly hate the heat during the day. Then I’m reminded why I’m
here, the people. The experiences with the people. It is familiar, but
it is also expanding and changing. Some friends eventually move on,
some stay, many live beyond the wasteland even if shared experiences in the wasteland ceases.
Coming to it for the first time, wide eyed, fresh, you can make the experience as grand or as lowkey as you desire. Do you want to chill at camp during the hot days, watching passserbys with their post apoc costumes, various post apoc vehicles wandering around, everyone flipping each other off and saying fuck you, to each other, as a weird kind of warm affection shared among wastelanders, because it doesn’t have the same context as it does in the outside world. Here, it is a form of care, a form of hello, I see you and we’re both in this together. And that’s wasteland. The illusion of menace, of fierceness, a show, because in truth, most wastelanders are the friendliest bunch you’ll ever meet, so often giving.
Oh, you are struggling? Here, let me help you. Like last year, I brought a new tent that was supposed to be easily folded out with a quick set up… but it came with things twisted around other things. Struggling, a couple of wastelanders came to offer help and we sorted it out together (this year, with the tent put away properly, it did work as described). One even offered extra big metal spikes, since the stakes that came with it are your usual tent stakes, small, and not very effective, especially with the soft dirt and gushes of wind that make up the terrain. Of course, at the end of that weekend, I returned those metal spikes. My first year, middle of the night, after setting up my camp, I wandered from camp to camp as people arrived offering help, if needed. I built friendships off of doing that, that 10+ years later, many of which still endure. That is wasteland.
I see many people want to compare this to Burning Man when they first hear about wasteland weekend, but here is where they differ. At Burning Man, there are no requirements for immersion. You just go, maybe create art, and try to have a good time. It is an art focused event. There are no specific themes or requirements. Wasteland Weekend is about the immersion and the theme is specifically Post Apocalyptic. It is costume mandatory in the main theme areas, i,e, wasteland city. If you come in a scrub outfit, be prepared to be guided over to the body shop, or instructed to roll around in the dirt until you are nice and post apoc’ed out. For this event to work, everyone has to be committed to at least the bare minimum post apocalyptic outfit. My first year, I had a shirt and brown pants, and then had my bff cut my outfit to shreds, with tears across my night of the living dead T-Shirt and a missing left leg. With my accessories and a straw hat, I was able to pull off a minimal look. You bring your level of commitment, but you have to have a base. Wasteland Weekend provides many good tips on their website.
And wasteland has expanded in so many ways since my first year, to enhance the experience for newbies and wasteland veterans alike. A few years ago, bounty hunting was introduced, where you try to find someone from a bounty poster you snatch from the Rust Devils. Someone may also be hunting you. You find your target, and a simple rock paper scissors 2 out of 3 game (or a challenge defined by the target) will decide if you capture them, grabbing their ‘plastic severed finger’ and taking that back to the Rust Devils for a reward, though the experience hunting and meeting new people is the real reward. Since that was introduced, more and more tribes started coming up with their own quests, and many of them work together to create a more immersive experience. Again, wasteland is about the people and these games build on forming connections and experiences with those people.
Wasteland is about ritual. The opening of the gates. The various performances that help fully immerse us all. The dance at the thunderdome as the Death Guild moves around the two fighters strapped up in harnesses. The leader winds his staff, signaling to pull back
the fighters, and then he slams his staff down and pulls away, as the fighters are released to do battle, all while the members dance around in motion with the vibrant beat. Visit the signature Wasteland sporting events called Juggar, a post apocalyptic sport that first originated in the Rutgar Haur film Blood of Heroes and has been adapted for wasteland.
For many of us, Wasteland is about creation. You have those who create vehicles, costumes, camps, all to help create the environment. You also have those like myself, who put together establishments within the walls of Wasteland City. I run the Wasteland Film Festival, an international film festival with films submitted by independent filmmakers from around the world that has been going since 2012. You have Boss Caps heading up the Last Chance Casino, where you tell a story or a joke to get a drink and caps that you gamble the night away with at various apocalyptic versions of classic casino style games. Blackjack, roulette, wheels of doom you twirl to see what effect you gain. At the communication corp, The Swede runs and hosts the wasteland radio as it plays across the land, which you can tune into with a standard FM radio. At their physical location in town, you can also send letters within this world, which volunteers take up and seek out the intended recipients as letter quests. You can take on a letter quest, yourself, if you are so inclined.
Go to the Atomic Cafe hosted by Wasteland Weekend at night, pick up a drink at no additional cost to you, though tipping is always an option. Or wander the various other establishments hosted by tribes offering their own unique concoctions. Wasteland is partying, watching shows on the main stage, participating in the costume contest, showing up in various photos, both staged and random happenstance. There is something for everyone at wasteland who wants a bit of post apocalypse mixed in. Look out for the Puppets of the Apocalypse, as they perform here and there their dramatic recreations of Mad Max films. Or check out the bands performing on the main stage throughout the nights.
And so… so much more! There is nothing quite like it, so cohesively linked to a fully immersive post apocalyptic environment that helps everyone thrive in their own bit of weirdness, in whatever creativity and art they have to offer or just to come and experience the post apocalyptic art of others. Meet people. Share in unique experiences.
Grow, evolve, party. That is wasteland, i.e. that is Wasteland Weekend.