Click photo to enlarge
PHOTO BY RICHARD KOCI HERNANDEZ/MERCURY NEWS/LOS ALTOS/July 9, 2004-- A burning heart sculpture was one of many artistic creations involving the element of fire that were displayed during Burning Man and The Crucible presentation of The 2004 Fire Arts Festival in Oakland.

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.


Advertisement

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.

  • New this year is "The Flamethrower Shooting Gallery," by Matisse Enzer. This exhibit allows users 18 and older to shoot flames at metal targets — the Burning Man figure — while gently poking fun at the American fascination with firearms and personal power.

  • THERM, a group of artists, engineers, metal-workers and performers who brought the much-talked-about "Thermo Kracken" to Burning Man in 2003 and to various festivals in San Francisco thereafter, comes back together after a years-long hiatus. Of particular note is Vance Cearley's "Exxothermia," a fire installation that slowly melts a block of ice.

  • Returning for another run at the festival is "Pyro- beat," by Chris Piper, an installation that allows its audience to control a number of buttons that set off flamethrowers, and "Fire Vortex" by Nate Smith, a larger-than-life controlled fire tornado.

  • Orion Fredericks' graceful and movable sculptures "The Twins" change color as their temperatures rise, as do Robert "Rigger" Kilpatrick's "Bizarro Saguaro" cactus-themed pieces.

  • When you get sick of starting at flames, spend a little time in the Lil' JuJu Pinball Arcade playing vintage pinball machines on free play or check out Oakland's own steampunks, Kinetic Steam Works' "1920 Case Steam Traction Engine."

    Awesome acts

    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 lcasey@bayareanewsgroup.com.

    Fire Arts Festival
  • When: Tonight through Saturday night. Doors open at 8 each night and close at midnight. Will call opens at 5 p.m.
  • Where: Kirkham and Fifth streets, two blocks from the West Oakland BART station.
  • TICKETS: Tonight, $40 advance, $45 at the door; Friday, $45 advance, $50 at the door; Saturday, $50 advance, $55 at the door. Upgrade to Patron Pavilion pass for an extra, tax-deductible $50.
  • CONTACT: www.thecrucible.org or 510-444-0919
    online
    Check out D. Ross Cameron's video of the 2006 Fire Arts Festival at ContraCostaTimes.com or InsideBayArea.com