Five Questions with Ryan Ballard, High Priest, Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus.
Why does a psychedelic drunken Wookiee serve as the inaugural Ignition Festival’s symbol? And why burn this Wookiee?
Ignition Festival is a benefit for the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, Inc. 501(c)3—everybody’s favorite sci-fi-themed Mardi Gras krewe and satirical space cult. We will celebrate our Sacred Drunken Wookiee at the climax of the festivities on Saturday night with a spectacle of controlled fire. We have an elaborate and intense ritual planned for the zero hour that symbolically explores man’s destiny in the stars and the true meaning of the grand conceptual experiment that is “Chewbacchus.”
The immolation of a sculptural bonfire happens right at the intersection of science and art. There are few things more primal and rewarding. It’s pure energy and time made visible and tangible.
Was the concept for Ignition inspired by the seminal free-and-freaky gathering, Burning Man?
There is nothing better than camping with a bunch of beautiful, fun-loving, generous, creative people and enjoying spectacles of ephemeral art, particularly sculptural bonfires. Burning Man is a powerful and immersive experience and has had a massive influence on everything I do.
What I find particularly interesting is that there is actually a long tradition of large bonfires in Louisiana. There is a rich history of “Fire on Bayou” with the fais do-dos in Cajun country. In fact, we attend the T-Bois Blues Festival in Larose each year, where the locals burn several large bonfires and the NOLA Burners create a large-scale piece of fire art. That was definitely one of the big inspirations for Ignition. The Algiers bonfire that happens each December is a great example, too, complete with enormous sculptures that are carefully constructed and safely burned.
What can festival-goers expect to experience in the event’s New Orleans East location?
It’s an absolutely idyllic camping spot just 10 minutes from downtown, a real hidden urban oasis on the ground of the FilmWorks movie studio. We’ve got five interactive sound camps and several incredible large-scale pieces of art, including a massive, projection-mapped supercomputer called “Deep Thought,” a gigantic effigy of Chewbacchus in all his furry glory and an amazing, laser-heavy SUPERDome Mothership.
What do you suggest attendees bring with them?
Their cooler, their tent and their joie de vivre!
What will Ignition offer as far as musical entertainment?
We have an incredible lineup of over 50 DJs, musicians and performers, including mic PhedUSHA, Tristan Dufrene, the Jack Officers and more. The turnout by folks who want to come camp and share their musical talents has been overwhelming. Ignition will be an immersive feast for the senses and an incredible experience.
The Ignition Festival burns October 15–18 at “a hidden urban oasis” in New Orleans East. Visit ignitionfestival.com or the event’s Facebook page for more info.