Post-Apocalyptic Party: Road Warrior Weekend Brings Mad Max Fans to the High Desert

Check out LA Weekly's photo gallery from Road Warrior Weekend.

Road Warrior Weekend wasn't your typical fandom convention. There were no stuffy hotels, no lines to pile into meeting rooms, no overpriced convention center lunches. Instead, this one-time-only event brought fans of the Mad Max series out to Southern California's High Desert for a three-day, post-apocalyptic campground party.

Post-Apocalyptic Party: Road Warrior Weekend Brings Mad Max Fans to the High Desert
Shannon Cottrell

Scarlett Harlot, already well-known for her appearances at pirate events, came up with the idea after a night of wine and Road Warrior a year-and-a-half ago.

"I started thinking you don't want a bunch of people in a hotel or a convention center, it doesn't go with the theme of Mad Max," she explains. "I started thinking, it would be really cool if we could do in the desert with a backdrop similar to the movies."

Scarlett Harlot
Scarlett Harlot
Shannon Cottrell

The event was held in Soggy Dry Lake, an off-road racing/camping area about twenty minutes or so outside of Apple Valley, a city your faithful correspondents will best remember as the place with a Sonic Drive-In. Once you're outside of town, you have to follow a two-lane highway with little in the way of street lights and signage. Along the side of the road are a few scattered trailers, an occasional farmhouse and clusters of mailboxes. The 247 highway grows progressively more desolate the further you drive and once you reach the turnoff for Soggy Dry Lake, there is nothing but dirt road, rocks and a smattering of desert fauna. Visually, it's about as close as you can get to Mad Max's Wasteland while still being less than two hours away from Los Angeles.

Post-Apocalyptic Party: Road Warrior Weekend Brings Mad Max Fans to the High Desert
Shannon Cottrell

Once we headed down the dirt road, we turned our radio on to 95.7 FM, Wasteland Radio, which was the designated radio station for the event and featured blocks of Australian-made music (lots of AC/DC, Midnight Oil and INXS). As the signal grew clearer, we knew that we were approaching the site. The Road Warrior campground was marked by a burnt-out, upside down truck guarded by a guy in punked-out leather.

Checking out the gyrocopter
Checking out the gyrocopter
Shannon Cottrell

Early Saturday afternoon, cosplayers milled about the premise-- Mad Max, Warrior Woman, Wez, even Feral Kid. Vernon G. Wells (Wez from The Road Warrior) and Virginia Hey (Warrior Woman from The Road Warrior) were on hand to answer fan questions and sign autographs. Inside Bartertown, attendees could check out themed merchandise and pick up odds-and-ends for their campsites. Meanwhile, MFP cars raced around the grounds and crowds chanted "Two men enter, one man leaves" as mock battles took place in a makeshift Thunderdome. To highlight the weekend, a gyrocopter flew through the desert sky and swooped down to the center of the Wasteland.

Post-Apocalyptic Party: Road Warrior Weekend Brings Mad Max Fans to the High Desert
Shannon Cottrell

Road Warrior Weekend wasn't strictly a convention, though. Drawing elements from Burning Man and California's legendary desert party culture, DJs played throughout the day and well into the night, tailoring their sets to fit the vibe of the event. The sound was focused on hard techno and industrial and LA DJ Mark Zabala, of the Ninja Skillz crew, told us he was going for more of an industrial drum 'n' bass style on Saturday night. While music in the main performance section of the camp only went until 2 a.m., those who stayed throughout the weekend said that parties continued inside the individual camps all night. The camps themselves were a spectacle, with people incorporating elements of the films into the designs of their tents.

Post-Apocalyptic Party: Road Warrior Weekend Brings Mad Max Fans to the High Desert
Shannon Cottrell

At the exact moment that the sun began to set over the High Desert, the temperature dropped drastically, quickly dipping from cold to frigid. As evening came, people piled layer after layer over their costumes, began stirring chili and other camp-friendly food as they huddled over fires. In the distance, you could see more cars pull into the site. People were ready to party all night in the Wasteland.


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