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September 20, 2014

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Crowd cheers as Lucky Lady Lucy burns for First Friday

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Leila Navidi

Fire dancers perform leading to the burn of Lucky Lady Lucy, a 20-foot tall wooden showgirl sculpture, in downtown Las Vegas on Friday, March 2, 2012.

First Friday Burn

A dancer performs in Launch slideshow »

Well, they burned her. They removed Lucky Lady Lucy's lighted boa and skimpy sparkly clothing as the crowds chanted, "Burn it! Burn it! Burn it!" Friday night during a lengthy ceremonial process that culminated when Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, surprising everyone, emerged from the side of the gravel lot and used a torch to light the fuse that would snake across the ground and ignite the "Flames of Change."

Downtown Las Vegas' first official burn, a collaboration between First Friday organizers and the denizens and organizers of Burning Man, had been a success. The corner of Third Street and Colorado Avenue, set off from the thousands roaming among the galleries, artist tents and vendors of First Friday, was the home of a dreadlocked, techno urban bacchanalia.

The wooden Lucky Lady Lucy—who'd been built in pieces in backyards across the valley for several months—wasn't the only star of the evening, though that's what everyone came for. As with the Burning Man festival, the effigy was the centerpiece of a celebration of "radical self-expression," but was preceded by a celebration of fire spinners, costumes and tribal imagery.

It's likely that most everyone walked away from the "Flames of Change,” wanting to see more of the crew from "The Burning Opera: How to Survive the Apocalypse". The company of musicians, singers, dancers and dreadlocked gypsy punks, mixed with Las Vegas showgirls, performed three 15-minute reviews of the full opera that was conceived in Black Rock City and premiered in 2009 at Stage Werx in San Francisco.

Whether you’re a fan of Burning Man and/or Broadway, it's hard to dispute the talented performers, well-organized canivalesque choreography and ingenious music of the production that hearkens "Hair," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and the bohemians in the 1987 movie, "Sammy and Rosie Get Laid." Add to that a guy in a fuzzy animal costume and rabbit ears, perched on a ladder with a megaphone, mocking the "tribe of freaks" and their tales of the transmutation zone in a Nevada city built in the "middle of nowhere."

In addition to "Party's Over" and other Burning Opera songs, they carried the audience into the burn, performing "Strange Weather" and instrumental numbers that ushered in a line of 20 drummers, a cast of fire spinners and desert hippies in rags who performed while performance props from the burn site were removed.

When Lucky Lady Lucy finally began to burn, everyone was quiet as the 20-foot effigy slowly caught fire, showering the audience with sparks. They cheered as she gradually lost wooden body parts and eventually collapsed into a pile of flaming bones.

But that wasn't the end. From behind the crowd and atop a 100,000-watt sound system on Third Street (and attached to a lit spaceship raised above) came three words: "DJ Philthy Phil." From there the Dancetronauts took over, shooting flames from the top of their sound system as electronic music rumbled through the crowd.

Costumed Dancetrohotties performed amid a smoke-ring shooter, stage lights and a party that would move to the Plaza hotel on Fremont Street and continue well into the morning.

Near the burn site where cast members and firemen shoveled gravel onto what was left of Luck Lady Lucy, Joey Vanas, managing partner of First Friday LLC and organizer of "Flames of Change," watched the Dancetronauts spectacle.

"Awesome!" he proclaimed. "Everybody really came together and did exactly what they were supposed to do. Total cooperation. And that's what it's all about—working together."

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  1. Downtown is turning into a Freak Show...what's next? Bearded ladies & Werewolf boy? If this is how it's supposed to rebound, it's a joke...

  2. Well Sinatra711, if it weren't for people that are in the 20's & 30's going around downtown then there wouldn't be a downtown to go to. If you had your way, everyone would live in giant malls and get all their books at a Barnes & Noble. For the people that like to go out and support the local music and art scene, keep coming and make people like Sinatra711 pissed off more!!!

  3. @Vegasvampire - are you kidding me? You mean to tell me that the people who work in Downtown hotels & casinos and other businesses as well as the patrons in the casinos are primarily in their 20's/30's? You need to get a clue. If it wasn't for the older people with money, there would be no downtown.

    All this type of freak show circus act attracts are the hippie wanna be's and so-called "artistic" group who DON'T spend any money! You think attracting thousands of people down there to watch a burning thing and listening to local bands once a month is going to do anything? Most people that go don't even buy any art. The last time I went to First Friday at the Arts Factory, I could barely walk inside the place...let alone appreciate the art and inquire about prices, etc. People were shoving me and my family around and a lot of people were smoking INSIDE the galleries, ruining the paintings and other works of art! ....and guess what vampire??? I have $$$ to spend and wanted to purchase some art, but there's no way I'm going to do that in an environment like that!

    All of us who have $$$ and appreciate art prefer to go to events where it really is all about the art....not about getting hammered, smoking dope (there was a lot of drug use) and listening to awful music. We brought our teenage Son and his friends down there and quickly realized it was a bad environment for them to be in...

    First Friday is not attracting the right people. Success is not always about the quantity of people, but the quality...First Friday is attracting the wrong crowd and this wanna be burning man display is not going to attract people who actually spend money on art. Have you ever been to Burning Man? I have...it's a massive event that attracts a hippie-like community where a lot of illicit drug use and other illegal activities run rampant...and that's what is inspiring the promoters/organizers of First Friday? Scary...

    It should be billed as the best comedy show in town....LMAO

  4. Sinatra711 from your dialogue about having teenage children, i am calculating that you are no longer in your 20s or 30s. If you remember back that far did you never smoke dope or congregate with large groups at an event? This is Las Vegas what do you expect from young people. You probably moved here from California or out East, so leave your values there, don't try to change the way Las Vegas is.You were right to take your children home. You should all stay home or move back to wherever it is that you came from!

  5. Las Vegas is the perfect place for events as this. People come, participate at their level, have a good time, ARE spending money in many forms, and plan to come back.

    Different strokes for different folks as they say. Not everyone will be attracted to the Arts, let alone the many different kinds of events that there are. One shoe size does not fit all. If its not your thing, there are plenty of other places and events for one to explore, it doesn't make anyone or anything "bad," it is just about personal preferance, that's all.

    Age really doesn't matter. I grew up in Los Angeles and enjoyed the many popular productions back in the 1960s and 1970s, as "Hair," or "Sound of Music." Still do today, and my children are in their 20s and 30s, one just produced "Godspell," on Broadway in New York City. Both my children grew up churched, and were also taught to be self-suffient, contributing members of society. By the way, they spend money.

    First Friday is a magnificant opportunity to get a taste of Newport Beach's Sawdust Festival here in the desert of the West. The world is a better place with the Arts, which expresses our innermost thoughts in varied forms.

    So keep it coming, all who venture into the land of creativity! GO for it! Paint it, write it, sing it, act it, dance it, play it, design it, model it...Do it!

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  6. How can you bash anything that brings anybody downtown?

  7. I attended the event with my entire family. What a blast. Thousands of people, great food and art. Entertainment everywhere. Parking was a problem.

  8. @Sinatra711 - You're taking a beating here, but I have to say it's deserved. First Friday is a fun event for all ages, with Metro on hand to keep things from getting out of hand. Expecting everything to be sanitized and 'wholesome' is unrealistic and uninteresting. As for the galleries being packed, good! You can have the black-tie receptions at elite New York galleries, we'll take mixing with local artists and citizenry. Art isn't just for museums - it's for everyday life too.
    First Friday is bringing people and money downtown, and with its new management it is getting bigger and better.

  9. I'm a long time Las Vegas resident...I didn't "just move" here. So don't tell me to "go back to where I came from".

    Everyone is right...different strokes for different folks and the way downtown is heading is not for me, which is why I stay away....and so does my money. I've been to First Friday 5 times, so I've given it more than a single chance. My observation is that 99.9% of the people there aren't spending much money on art.

    A close friend tried to sell her art in one of the galleries at the Art Factory and spent a lot of time and effort behind a big "First Friday" event...we were there to support her. Not only did she didn't sell a single piece, but two were damaged from people who disrespected the artist's work and tore a canvas and one put out their cigarette on her frame....disgusting. She said she would never go back...we went back a few times after that, but more of the same. Yep, if that's what you want to attract, go for it. It won't save downtown....

    In the meantime, I'll watch from afar and laugh until the sun comes up...LOL

  10. "We all got what we were looking for, a community event with ZERO desire to make a buck. It's hard for many to grasp that but oh we'll..."

    .....and that's why all of these events won't "rejuvenate" downtown. How can you rejuvenate an economy without making money for area businesses? I guess one way to change downtown is to burn it down...I never thought about that. Good luck! LMAO