Once a year, a crusty, weed-filled lot in West Oakland is transformed into a five-acre showc ase of flaming sculpture and fire performance. If you happened to be riding BART to or from the West Oakland station after 8 p.m. last night, you may even have caught a glimpse of what the Crucible's eighth annual Fire Arts Festival has to offer.
The summer fundraiser for the arts and education center, which is housed across the street from the festival lot, continues tonight through Saturday only. The Crucible's Michael Sturtz says this year's festival features a bevy of new work, a handful of old favorites and a variety of live acts.
"It's a little more of a dynamic experience this year (than in years past)," Sturtz says. "It has a real festival feel." Get the most out of this year's festivities with this handy insider's guide.
Stuff to know
WHEN TO GO: If you're not particular about whoever might be performing ontage, buy tickets for either tonight or Friday night's event. Not only do the price of tickets go up each night, but there are smaller crowds now than at Saturday night's grand finale. In fact, last year a few hundred people hoping to buy tickets at the door were turned away.
PICKING UP TICKETS: In years past, if you wanted to be among the first to get in the door, you'd get there early — but still have to wait in line for will call tickets and general entry. This year, the will call box office opens at 5 p.m. Pick up your tickets then and go enjoy dinner and a drink in famed Old Oakland or at Jack London Square. Neither is within walking distance, but if you choose to park in an empty metered spot in Old Oakland, you can save on parking fees near the festival and ride BART from downtown to the West Oakland station, which is two blocks away from the event.
WHAT TO BRING: No matter how hot the sculptures get, the evening doesn't end until past midnight, and even with the current heat wave, it's likely to get chilly — promise — so bring a coat. Also, bring extra money for food, beverages and cool toys. Both Skewed Catering and Uhuru Concessions will be offering munchies, and there will be beer and wine available. Cool Neon, Trick Concepts, Phoenix Rising Designs, Liquid Fire Mantra and Flowtoys will be offering poi-spinning gear, clothing, jewelry and EL wire.
CAMERA WARNING: Prevent getting hassled by hard-working Crucible volunteers who want to protect the art at the event — register your camera at the media tent before you start snapping away.
Installations of interest
About 5,000 gallons of propane will be burned over the four-day festival, Sturtz says, though no wood or other matter will be lit on fire. The evening consists of two main activities: marveling at the art and watching performances.
This year's Fire Arts Festival performers could draw crowds even without fire sculpture or flaming tornados. Each night features performances by Trapeze Arts as well as various musicians, fire dancers and circus performers.
Tonight's stage act is Bonfire Madigan, a baroque-folk punk group fronted by cellist Madigan Shive. The group plays all over Europe and the United States and most recently composed and played music for the American Conservatory Theater production "'Tis Pity She's a Whore."
Friday night headliners are Loop!Station, a duo that uses cello and loops to produce haunting tunes. They follow Flameco Fury, a flaming flamenco performance, and Shawn Hallman "Iron Monkey," one of the world's top B-boys and urban dancers.
Saturday night, the much-beloved Eric McFadden will bring his brooding circus-style music to the stage at the end of the evening. He and his special guests follow a contortion duet and aerial performers Scarlett & Axelrod.
A little more
For a tax-deductible $50 on top of the price of a ticket, festival-goers can experience the Patron Pavilion. The pass includes access to a private courtyard, hors d'oeuvres, a full bar and entry into Sean Orlando's 30-foot-tall Steampunk Treehouse, seen at Burning Man 2007 and Coachella 2008.
Reach writer Laura Casey at 925-952-2697 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out D. Ross Cameron's video of the 2006 Fire Arts Festival at ContraCostaTimes.com or InsideBayArea.com