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Digital Dust

Dropping in with Dirtwire’s David Satori

Kyle Thiermann

Sitting on top of a U-Haul truck at Burning Man 2020, he drinks a bottle of champagne.

As he watches the sun descend behind the mountains, a new frequency dances across the dry lake bed and mingles with his mind. It’s invisible. It’s hypnotic. And even though his serotonin levels are shot and his knee is sore, he stands up, holds the champagne to the sky and grooves late into the night.

It’s Dirtwire.

Born from the underground West Coast electronic music scene, the band is at the forefront of blending world instruments with the power of the laptop. It incorporates West African kamale ngoni, harmonica, space fiddle, whamola bass, Rickenbacher electric 12-string guitars, bowed banjos jaw harps and other instruments you’ve likely never heard of.

It comes together for a style of music Dirtwire’s David Satori describes, with a laugh, as “swamptronica.” 

“Our music has also been called electro-twang and back-porch space cowboy blues,” he adds.

When Burning Man was forced to go virtual due to the pandemic, Dirtwire didn’t feel constrained by the digital medium. Instead, the band used it to explore worlds only accessible in VR. In collaboration with digital artist Android Jones and with educational interludes from mycologist Paul Stamets, the band created an experience known as The Virtual Mushroom. 

“Stamets is one of my heroes,” Satori said. “So it was amazing when we heard that he was a fan of Dirtwire and wanted to work with us.”

The band has cultivated a relationship with psychedelic mushrooms over the years and often uses them in its creative process. Their first album, Electric River, explored Dirtwire’s ritualistic practice of taking psilocybin mushrooms and conjuring musical transmissions from other dimensions.

“‘Sailing the Solar Flares’ was written on psilocybin,” Satori says of the band’s most popular song. 

So perhaps it was fitting that when the band designed its show for Burning Man’s first digital experience, it transformed the stage into gigantic mushroom. The music reverberated from inside the fungal walls and echoed across the interwebs until it reached that same kid dancing on top of a U-Haul truck, champagne in hand, parked in his parents’ driveway.  


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