All the World Is a Giant Stage

Three friends build a massive La Victrola stage for Burning Man.


Tim Bremner, Marcel Cacdac, and Nick Fynn with "La Victrola."

Photo by Pat Mazzera

Tim Bremner, Marcel Cacdac, and Nick Fynn are close friends—they’re all Burners, and when they talk, they have a habit of finishing each other’s sentences. The trio has helped build lots of Burning Man art projects over the past decade. “But this year we stepped up,” said Bremner. “We graduated and took the lead,” added Cacdac. “With the biggest, most ambitious project and us in the drivers’ seats,” boomed Fynn. La Victrola—their Burning Man installation—is a massive 35-foot-tall gramophone with a steel-framed horn that weighs 3,800 pounds.

The friends each brought a unique skill set to the project. “The idea had been floating around in conversations between Tim and Marcel for years,” said Fynn, the “organizer” in the group. Finally, he said, “Let’s do this Victrola.” Fynn took on the task of fundraising the estimated $100,000 cost through Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns and private donations. Bremner, an art director by day, made sure the huge phonograph had the look and feel of the 1920s era. And Cacdac, a sound engineer, organized the sound system and digitized recordings of early jazz and bluegrass favorites like Louis Armstrong, guitarist Django Reinhardt, gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and blues master Robert Johnson. They pulled in the expertise of the West Oakland engineers at Sheet Metal Alchemist for the design of the mega-horn. Between the high winds in the desert and the festivalgoers’ penchant for climbing, for safety, Burning Man requires that all large art structures get a stamp of approval from structural engineers.

“We wanted to make something beautiful that would incorporate sculpture, music, and interactive entertainment,” said Bremner. They built a platform to serve as a stage in front of La Victrola for live performances and dancing and planned to host a party for three nights on the playa. Said Cacdac, “Our aim is to create a live cabaret and invite people to become part of it.”

Published online on Sept. 2, 2016 at 8 a.m.

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