For many a millennial, Fury Road was their first dance with Mad Max on the big screen. But the fandom runs deep, and for the last five years, it’s run straight to California’s Mojave Desert for a four-day, post-apocalyptic party called Wasteland Weekend. Complete with its very own Thuderdome, the event is cosplay-meets-festival-meets-performance art-meets guzzoline auto show. And sweet mother of all that is chrome, does it look good.
Source: Ross Way
It’s important to note that WW is more than just a bunch of people running around yelling “Witness me!” (Although, even that would be enough badassery on its own). The heart of the event has always been the original Mad Max trilogy, but so long as you’re willing to commit to the spirit of post-apocalyptica, you’ll be welcomed with open arms. Whether that means sipping Fallout-style Nuka Cola, creating your own currency, or building a psychobilly hot rod is up to you. “We’ve even see nods to dystopian ’80s music videos,” the staff explained.
While the mostly-volunteer event crew erects some set pieces and infrastructure, most of what you see in these photos was created, and brought to Wasteland Weekend by fans. “People come from all walks of life,” says Wastelander Steve Lipman. “There are people that can barely afford to get themselves there, and people that come from other countries. It’s amazing what a small group of 2,500 people can put together for four days in the desert.”
Source: Seth HowardSource: Preston Yarger PhotographySource: Paul C. MillerSource: Preston Yarger Photography
The desert is also teeming with artists and vendors, ready to show off their wares. “I was at the first Wasteland,” recalls photographer Jon Enge. “It’s amazing how much it’s changed since then. How huge it’s gotten and how much of a community has sprung up around this. It has become such a huge part of people’s lives. This is an event that people prepare for year-round, like Ren Faire or Comic-Con or Burning Man might be for some. And to watch them in this element, truly enjoying themselves is so fantastic.”
Like Burning Man, or any desert festival for that matter, spending a weekend in the Waste isn’t for everyone. It’s dusty, wildlife-inhabited, and most importantly: it’s really f***ing hot. “You have to know how to take care of yourself in that kind of environment,” explains Darien Basinger of Custom Cranium, who brought her bone art to Wasteland this year. “Short scrub, sandy red soil, tarantulas and scorpions.”
But that doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Whether they were seasoned veterans or Wasteland Virgins, each and every attendee with whom I spoke felt an immense sense of camaraderie at the event. “My favorite thing about Wasteland Weekend, and what surprises newcomers, are truly the same thing: family,” says aerial photographer Pavel Aubuchon-Mendoza. “When you are out there, you are part of a big family that will watch out for you and take care of you. It doesn’t matter if you need more toilet paper or a friend to guide your drunk self to camp – someone will be there to help you. Everyone may look scary but Wastelanders are the kindest, most wonderful people you could ever meet.”
Oh, what a day – what a lovely day.
Check out more photos from WW in the gallery below.