BYHO Journals

“The Extra in the Ordinary”

45 minute read
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About XLive Music Festival

The unrivaled conference & expo covers all things music, tech, food, wine, beer, film, and eSports taking place in Las Vegas, December 2016. XLIVE 2016 boasts an impeccably-curated speaker lineup and is forecasting a Who’s Who of the festival community to be in attendance. Participants can expect interactive workshops, infinite topics + panels in which to gain invaluable knowledge, incredible exposure to industry goods & services, and networking opportunities galore.

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Prequel

Fiction. Based on a True XLive Press Party

Written by Mingjie Zhai

Stills by Mingjie Zhai [Meeting Waco]; Syahirhakim [Cocoon] [/et_pb_text][et_pb_text admin_label=”Break: Meeting Waco” background_layout=”dark” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_style=”solid” disabled=”off” border_color=”#ffffff”]

Meeting Waco

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“I’d like to introduce you to Waco Hoover, the founder of XLIVE,” a board member of XLIVE said to MJ.  She shook his hand. His grip was firm. He reminded her of a GI Joe, ready to head to no man’s land. This was the CEO and Co-founder of XLIVE, and they were at the press party at their office in West Hollywood.

“Hi Waco, I’m MJ. Perhaps, we are in the same line of work,” she said.

“It’s a pleasure meeting you. What is your line of work?” he asked.

“We provide AR journals for the broken hearted,” she said.

“Sounds like a fascinating project,” he said.

MJ took out her phone and showed a picture of Donny O’ Malley, Founder of Irreverent Warriors, author of Confessions of a Marine Lieutenant, who was one of the 40 artists in the book. The minute Waco saw Donny, he said, “That’s my brother.”

“Really? That’s amazing. Were you able to catch his comedy show in San Diego recently?” she asked. At this, she regretted asking because she knew the answer. It wasn’t like Wacco had all the time in the world. And she didn’t want him to feel bad.  For a minute, she had almost forgotten through his solid demeanor that this was the man who had masterminded XLIVE Conference–the man who pulls the strings to move and shake things up. It was his eyes that gave him away. They were eyes that assessed the entire room, from the food pastries to the the far corner where Julia, CEO of Eventbrite was chatting with Tucker, the Festival Guy.  It was eyes that analyze, process at high CPUs, and see through ideas that manifest into reality.

His eyes revealed fight or flight, the mind at ten thousand miles per hour, the adrenaline junkie. This man, like Donny, is a super soldier for transformation. They were each doing amazing things in the community. For men like Waco and Donny, time slows when things move quick and maneuvering through seemingly impossible situations with lightning speed is what they live and thrive for.

Alongside Waco was Russell, founder & CEO of The Confluence, the man who two years ago was standing next to MJ at a Herbert Bail Orchestra show letting her know that she’s welcomed to their events. It was the start of a beautiful relationship.

“Be a cockroach,” Russell had told MJ a year later, when she was sitting in the conference room of The Confluence’s Marina Del Rey office two years ago to pitch Russell about joining her board. “Keep going, no matter how tough it gets, and it will get tough, just don’t give up,” he said. His advice was to survive, even if a nuclear war happened. Perhaps, like festivals and like the tradition of a traveling circus, this is what it means to transform.


He was standing alongside Waco, hovering over the room like two eagles assessing the land where press, publishers, non profits, documentarians, and event producers all gathered.

MJ saw a person she recognized.

“Hey Tucker, what’s going on?” she said.

“Long time.”

They gave each other a long Burner hug.

“The last time I saw you, we were at Further Future dancing while the rain was upon us at Four Tet’s set.”

Tucker smiled. He always had that smile. It reminded her of the Sesame Street version of Alex in Clockwork Orange, with all the magic charm, and perhaps, the crazy, at play. Unlike Alex, his crazy was channeled through creative expression when in another reality, it could’ve played out differently.

“Yeah, more to come,” he said.

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“The Extra in the Ordinary”

Fiction. Based on a True XLive Conference.

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Co-Written by A.J. and M.J.

Photos Courtesy of The Confluence Group

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Ace Card

The six hour drive to Las Vegas from Los Angeles flew by.  The eco friendly transportation service via Tesla Model S put Elise at ease. The black interior of the car was well cushioned and framed the large touch screen between the driver and front passenger seat.  It was a cozy spaceship that cruised down the highways with the sunroof open, per request of the passenger.  Allison, the pilot was a lanky blonde with heart shaped sunglasses. She blasted electronic dance music as they cruised down the highway.  Seat warmers enveloped Elise like a hug in contrast to the sharp cold desert winds. By the time she had finally arrived at XLIVE, she was both excited and equally exhausted.

Elise checked into her room and received a warm complimentary chocolate chip cookie that she had unceremoniously dumped it in the garbage. She hated walnuts in baked goods. The few moments of guilt over wasting food was quickly overshadowed by the need to be on schedule.  When she arrived at the kiosk, a young woman with brown eyes and a gentle demeanor handed Elise her badge and conference schedule.
Just be in the moment, Elise told herself.

 

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She had finally arrived, without really understanding the impact of her arrival. This could be another conference, but an hour in and already she sensed that this was different from all the other conferences she had attended. What was it about this conference? Everybody was so huggy and feely. She wasn’t used to it. She had never once attended a transformational festival, and felt like an outsider looking in. Immediately, she thought about trying to blend in by talking to the man with the mullet shag hair that reminded her of Axel from Guns and Roses.  Something told her that this was just the tip of the iceberg from what she’s heard about burners and people in the transformation community. Burners were people with wide smiles and long intentional hugs who wanted to know–really know–how the other person is feeling and what they are manifesting into this world.

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There were also eager aspiring event producers who were there with tablets, laptops, voice recorders, and phones ready to absorb as much information as possible about how to enhance their production experience. XLIVE curated an educational roster of speakers who touch upon a variety of subjects facing today’s industry, resolute to make a lasting imprint on the mainstream festival society for the next generation of producers.

In addition to presiding as the platform for procuring your pass to XLIVE 2016, CEO of Eventbrite, Julia Hartz would be delivering one of the esteemed speaker keynotes over the course of the event. Following suit is Mike Pine, Vice President of Business Development for fellow sponsor Cinetransformer,who would discuss live event sponsorship activation strategies that make brands stand out during the “Noticing You, Noticing Me” panel.  Also in attendance would be Greater Palm Springs CVB, Southern California’s premier live event and festival destination and home to world class events including the Coachella Music & Arts Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Modernism Week, and most recently, the history making Desert Trip.

Festival insiders like Vendini, RFID technologists Connect&Go, the world’s largest rental providers United Rentals, event marketing cloud Feathr, crowd control equipment suppliers Epic Solutions, full-service media + publicity agency The Confluence, ticket re-seller Ticket Galaxy, end-to-end security solutions Fortinet, production needs providers MS Event Production, visually-stunning email builders TailoredMail, advanced credential systems Access Event Solutions, live stream and on-demand wizards TourGigs, event information technology providers Backstage Networks, creative content producers XI Media Productions, online booking platform Curadora, live event producers and design services ATOMIC Design, actionable insight providers Umbel, would also be there.

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They were all there. And this was the backstage in an unrivaled conference and expo covering all things music, tech, food, wine, beer, film, and eSports. Multiple panels were curated, topics including interactive workshops, exposure to industry goods and services, and the how to put together events.

After the many talks and workshops, a group of movers and shakers were invited to a suite on the 22nd floor.  Elise was packed in with them like a Tokyo subway station at rush hour; people from all races and creeds mingled. The room was filled with both opportunity and quiet anxiety that reminded Elise of her first day of school.  Her heart raced before every exchange of glances, yet the moment hands were shook the chills of anxiety would dissipate.  The hellos were warm and the eyes were genuinely inquisitive and she sensed herself shifting from anxiety to eagerness. The warmth and love was palpable. Every interaction was like falling in love with a complete stranger.

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Wizend

Cecil was a tall lanky man that had the grace of a gazelle. When the crowd began to scatter a bit, he sauntered over to Elise where she was at the corner room just observing. For awhile they were both standing there at the corner of the room, just taking in the scene. They stood near a wide doorway lit by the warm light of a nearby lamp. She felt claustrophobic. She figured the gazelle could be a good distraction from her discomfort.

“Hey, you seem like a really sweet person,”  Elise said noticing Cecil’s soft blue eyes. It matched his baby face contrasted by the facial hair that contoured his chiseled profile.

“Haha, thanks!  You have a good aura about you too,” Cecil replied, a bit flustered.  After a quick exchange of business cards they shifted onto the topic of politics.

“We live in really interesting times.  The results of the election are so troubling; they’re a sign of a much larger problem.  She should have won, I don’t know how this had happened,”  He said frowning and shaking his head.

“You have the right to be upset. I’m also pissed off.  There is a ridiculous double standard regarding men and women.  If a man is quiet, he’s stoic and when a woman is quiet, she is conniving.  Should a man shout and be angry, he’s considered strong, and should a woman shout and be angry, she’s considered a crazy bitch. How could we elect this crude manipulative savage?” Elise said as Cecil’s mental gears were turning. He nodded in approval, eyes filled with compassion.

Cecil, leaned over slightly and replied, “It’s my personal mission to help other men embrace their inner feminine energy.”  It was through his first experience at Bonnaroo where he accepted his inner feminine. When he had discovered it, he made it his mission to continue awakening the divine feminine in men.  His eyes held back tears as he recounted the exact moment that the revelation struck him.  He was sitting under a tree, eyes closed, completely connected to nature’s vibrations.  The morning dew washed away past lives, past guilt, past agreements and he surrendered to the presence of his great awakening. After years of toiling with his identity, he finally understood that wholeness was the completion of both masculine and feminine energy existing in perfect synergy.  He scratched his beard and the spell was broken.  Both back in physical form, within a room on the 22nd floor, they stood.  Elise smiled and admired his forwardness.

“The experience of emotions and acknowledging them is a human one,” she added, “it is undefined by gender.” Again, the two nodded in agreement. Cecil excused himself to join his boss, a tall Khal Drogo doppelganger, sporting a grey scarf. Small scars adorned his face dressed with piercings and rugged facial hair.  Elise continued to roam wonderland.  Each person in the room was a character, each overwhelmingly divine in one’s mysterious grace.

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Steven was a petite man with salt and pepper hair.  After Elise introduced herself as press he asked her impression of the event so far.  “Fairytales are real and so are Santa’s elves. They are all gathered at XLIVE this weekend,” she said. Steven was amused. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, they work so hard all year long just to put on an event for a few short days. Then they get back to work and do it all again to prepare for the next year.” she said. After she said this, she immediately felt bad. She was too blunt.

“That’s beautiful” the small framed man replied, much to Elise’s surprise. She thought she came off patronizing.  

“You are totally right. They are all really giving people,” he said. Then he did something that surprised Elise even more.

“Hey Nigel,” Steven called out to his friend, a mahogany skinned man, who was taking his sweet time babysitting his orange cocktail.

“What is it?” Nigel replied. He had dark eyes and a puzzled expression.  

“Tell him what you told me,” Steven looked to Elise, as if they were school children on the yard sharing what they had brought to show and tell that day. She was caught off guard, is he making fun of me? She thought for a brief moment, he can’t be, he doesn’t give off a bully vibe.  Elise took a deep breath and explained her analogy again, this time to Nigel, Steven’s friend.

Delighted, Nigel nodded in agreement.  “Yep, you’re right.” he said.  Steven looked at him happily as if they had reached a consensus.  Elise could not help but feel like Jack, the Pumpkin King, fascinated with Christmas in Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas.  She found it strange that a man would call upon another man to share good ideas. .  Then it occurred to her. It was their way of life. Why wouldn’t they share something they enjoyed together? These strange people before her were natural born givers because they thrived on sharing.

It’s a strange contrast to what many people would consider the event producer’s industry to be a dog eat dog world.

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Co-Optition

Elise realized that she had just experienced the fairy dust from where they brought the magic. The fact that the three of them stood in agreement in serious conversation to her fairytale analogy threw her off and made Elise feel strangely accepted and disturbed. How is it that there is no feeling of competition? It was like they were all at a farmer’s market having a casual conversation about which stand has the ripest tomatoes. They were all at ease and they all accepted Elise’ truth even if she had considered the truth to be arrogant of her to say so out loud.

“I think this journalist deserves a hug for being spot on about us,” Nigel reached his slender arms wide and enveloped her in his wingspan.  The hug, though quick in Burner standards, was sincere.  The musky cologne rubbed on her and continued with her for the rest of the evening, long after they both left the rooms.  Both men excused themselves to prepare for the night’s delights as they parted ways.  In a daze, Elise retired to her hotel room wondering just what kind of world she had stepped into.

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Tugley Wood

A Dark & Mysterious Land

A tall raven haired man with a long beak beckoned to her from his table. The evening was lit with hard electronica music, the people were all dressed up, and they were in the most sought after nightclub in the world–Hakkasan. As an XLIVE Attendee, they were given access to VIP, and being a novice to the night scene, Elise went straight to the VIP. Besides, she didn’t really want to “just have fun.” She was on a mission.She felt both apprehensive and excited when raven man invited her to join his table. A complete stranger. Am I going to be okay?

She had remembered her editor’s advice: Always watch your drinks. Even the waters.

“Want a drink?” raven asked her.

“No thanks, I’m good with my drink,” she said. Elise was sipping on OJ and water all night. Though she may have been cautious of any strangers soliciting her, she felt safe in this club with XLIVE members as the VIPs.

The experience of being seen in a crowded room was profoundly touching as it validated the part of her who wanted to be acknowledged. She suddenly went from being the girl who was last picked for the dodgeball game to the girl who everybody wanted to invite for birthday parties. At least that was how she imagined it anyway. She was the cool girl in this nightclub.

As Elise attempted to crawl over the side of the booth, she almost fell off the soft leather seat. They both laughed. One out of embarrassment and the other to save the other from being embarrassed. “Who are you and why are you at Xlive?” He asked Elise.

He was handsome. With a chiseled face and deep eyes. He had the kind of look of a wizard. She could tell he had some magic powers in the way he commanded his body language.

She leaned in and replied “I’m here with a group called The Love Story, and our goal is to help others transform their pain into passion.”

There was a subtle smell of vodka on his breath. Those tender deep eyes started to tear up and red started seeping into the white of his eyes.

“I’m sure you’re aware of what happened in Oakland,” he said.

Elise had to recall of what he was referring to. There was so much in the news nowadays that she simply couldn’t keep up. She had no idea, but she held her silence and her eye contact, giving him space to talk.

“I had two friends that died in the warehouse fire. How do we transform this into something positive?” he said. His voice was shaking. Though she has never been to a transformational festival, something told her that talking about the deep stuff was the heart of transformation and his candid honesty struck her like a wrecking ball.

Elise locked eyes with his and held it for a long moment. She wanted to run away from the responsibility of being the keeper of his pain, but something told her to stay–this stranger needed her in this moment. Though they were sitting in the VIP section at one of the most renowned nightclubs in the world and not under a tree in the middle of the desert, something told her that this was transformation in process.

“There is no changing that this was a tragedy.  While we cannot make the loss of our loved ones a positive one, we can rally around their cause.” Images of fire consumed her mind. Fire was the catalyzer of chain reactions. How to manipulate fire was what gave humans dominion over this world. Men and women of ancient danced around fires to perform sacred rituals, celebrating the gods who sacrificed so they can be warm and protected.

“You’re totally right,” The raven haired man replied, “The reason they were there in the first place was to bring together people from all walks of life to celebrate art and togetherness.”

The synchronicity of his story with the mission of her coming here sent shivers throughout her body.

“Perhaps that is where we can focus. The celebration of their intention.”

He nodded in agreement, “The media has focused on how it could have been prevented.” He was still troubled. She can tell by the way his back was bent that the weight of his grief landed heavily upon his shoulders.

“What matters most is the cause. The fire was an undeniable tragedy and the way we can honor those lost is continuing to come together.  It is inexcusable that the true meaning of what they stood for was lost in translation by the media focusing on logistics,”  Elise replied. She felt his indignation and gave him back the same emotion of indignation. She was pacing him.

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It was Monday and the crowd was beginning to thin out. Elise called MJ, her editor. “Hey, just wanted to check in and let you know that I’m heading back to LA.”

“How did it go?” MJ asked.

“It was….different. I have so much admiration and respect for the people here. There’s so much…” Elise couldn’t find the words.

“Love?” MJ inquired.

“Yeah,” Elise said. “I’m not used to so many people hugging. Megan, Evelina, the people at Confluence and Dream all send you their love.”

“Thank you.”

“What did you think of the community overall?”

“It’s interesting because I have yet to attend a festival,” she said. “However, I walked in feeling like an outsider and I’m walking out feeling like I’m welcomed. To come back. Perhaps, this time at one of the actual festivals.”

“Interesting.”

“Yeah, and I’m thankful for your advice.”

“Which one?”

“To treat everybody with love, even if it’s someone who may not offer something I’m looking for. I met a guy who was wearing a simple T-shirt and jeans, and he wound up being a producer for one of the biggest festival producers. At the end of the day, it’s just about being a good human being. And I think that’s what this conference was about–how to be a good human being when throwing a show for people. It’s quite extraordinary.”

“It’s the festival producers and all those who are involved in this scene,” Elise continued,

“I think everybody here puts the extra in the ordinary–it’s the detailed planning, the marketing, the public relationships, the message, the workshops, the porta potties, the environmental consciousness, the art cars, the…extra that make it a festival that transforms.”

“And you know what Elise?” MJ said, “I think you’re also the extra in the ordinary of Love Story. Thank you.”

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