View Full Version : Burning Man 2014

September 3rd, 2014, 10:57 AM
So.... Burning Man.

I've got a lot of friends that have spent a lot of time on the playa and I need to admit I had pretty strong notions about how it was going to be. I was wrong - not horribly wrong, but wrong. While there one of our campmates commented that "Burning Man is like sex - you can describe it, but you can't really know it until you've had it and everyone's experience is different." That is totally true. There was also an article I read before going that commented that with so many attendees, anything you'd find in the the default world you'll find at Burning Man. That's totally true as well. You can work hard, you can party hard, you can experience amazing art, you can reconnect with old friends. It's a fully functioning city, and you can do as much or as little of it as you like. We tried to experience a good mix of its attributes and I feel like we did a pretty good job - but we saw just a fraction of it. Our ten days isn't even remotely enough to do or see everything. Admittedly, I couldn't escape a video game like approach to it - I really wanted to clear its levels, but that's not really a tenable approach to it. ;)

I took about 100 pictures, but most of them are useless. I'm not a good enough photographer, I didn't carry my camera very often, and so much of the experience is in the motion of it still photos don't help much. Here are a few of them that I can talk about to give a little sense of the playa.

First up, here's our home last week - a dusty old motorhome. BRC is a circle, with streets running inside to outside like the hours of a clock - named as such as well. Essentially, the streets between 2 and 10 are the city where all the camps are, the streets from 10 to 2 are the open playa where the big art installations are. Running concentrically around the city are letter streets started with Esplanade (inner) and then running from A to K. Each year the names of the letter streets change, but they're always letter streets.


Our home was at roughly 5:45 and A, but because our camp is so big and so old, we have our own service road that ran between Esplanade and A. The photo was taken on one of the dustier days - most of the time we were there the weather was excellent!

Our next door neighbor was an old Sportcoach, a four (I think) year veteran of the playa named Brenda.


Brenda's owner was a great friend and superbly helpful in helping us not make asses of ourselves. ;)

Our camp was (is?) the Lamplighters. The Lamplighters are almost as old as Burning Man itself, with a history reaching back over 20 years. Every night, the Lamplighters assemble an army of camp members and volunteers to march kerosene lanterns out onto the main roads to mark them and help keep people aware of intersections. It's billed as a performance art piece, and I gotta say it lives up to its billing:


It takes about 150 people every night from 5pm to about 8pm to light the city, with around 100 people carrying racks of lanterns and the remainder lifting the lanterns onto tall spires and providing support and guidance. We carried four of the ten nights - it's difficult work, but incredibly rewarding. It's a big photo opportunity for attendees and journalists and during the hourlong walk (carrying 40lbs of lanterns) people are constantly saying "thank you." At night when you're able to see road intersections and find your way around the playa it's an amazing sense of accomplishment. We could not have asked for a better camp, truly.

Burning Man is made up of a lot of different things. Some people bring food, some people bring art, some people bring activities, some people bring transportation, and some people bring dance clubs ("sound camps"). The 2:00 and 10:00 streets are where many of the big sound camps are, but some of them are so big they get installed way out in deep playa, far beyond the city. We spent one night at Root Society, as a big DJ group from SF was playing:


The picture is shitty, but hopefully you can get a sense of the scale of the thing. The photo was taken from the upper deck of Lucy, the Lamplighter's work vehicle (a '69 F500). Lucy is used, among other things, in the mornings to retrieve the hundreds of lamps placed the night before. Out in the distance you can see the midnight horizon of the playa - it looks (and feels and acts) like a carnival!

(I thought I took pictures of Lucy, but I guess not - here's what she looks like: http://www.lincolnnewsmessenger.com/sites/default/files/styles/story_bg/public/Misc.%20Media/1254960685_af61.jpg )

Another sound camp is Boring. Boring is kinda special, because Boring is on wheels. They drive it around and set up a temporary dance club wherever they go.


There is, not surprisingly, a lot of EDM out on the playa, so when Root Society is playing mashups and Boring is playing remixed '80s and '90s music, it's win. ;)

Art cars and sound cars keep increasing in number. Some spend most of their time in camps just being awesome:


(And I took these specifically for George - they are giant, scaled up VW products :) )

But most of them spend the week cruising around the playa, acting as mobile dance clubs or playa limos.


Some of them look great day or night, but some of them only take shape at night when their lights define them. The shark was particularly awesome as its profile lights up red at night, and it looks like a giant neon predator swimming around the desert. It's huge (built on a bus), so you can see it from just about anywhere at night. The yatcht, as I recall, is built on a scissor lift, so the whole thing can stretch up about 30'. It's NUTS.

Along with lights, another huge component of both art cars and camps is fire. I have no idea how much propane is used during Burning Man, but EVERYTHING shoots fire. This isn't even remotely the best example, but it's one I managed to grab a photo of.


Some of these things put off so much heat you can feel them from 200' away. At night, when art cars get into fire battles, they can warm up huge swaths of desert - you can tell where they've been!

I think something must have gone wrong with my camera because there are dozens of pictures I know I took, but cannot find. Lame. I did have pictures of Embrace, which was a huge art installation. It's built to the scale of the Statue of Liberty - HUGE.


As with much of the art, Embrace was fully climbable, with staircases on the inside leading you to the couples' heads. They gave an amazing view of BRC, and a rather solemn place to spend a little time.

On Friday morning, they burned Embrace to the ground.


One thing I am sure I took pictures of but can't find was the Alien Siege Machine:


It really didn't make much sense, being Alien-esque but mechanical, but who cares, it was huge and scalable on the outside. :) On Friday night, they burned it to the ground too in an epic, choreographed battle scene. Art cars circled it and shot fireworks at it, then it shot fireworks back, then firework "explosions" and more art cars circling it and shooting flamethrowers at it. It was like watching a movie without special effects. After 30 minutes or so of the battle, it lit up and burned down.

September 3rd, 2014, 10:59 AM
Of course the point of Burning Man is burning the man. This year, the man was freestanding (as opposed to being built on top of another structure):


On the night of the burn, they cut the wires keeping his arms down and he lifted them into the sky as fire was set to his base. There is a big procession leading to the burn including Lamplighters and fire dancers. I've got some pictures, but with 70,000 people crowded around they aren't that impressive.


It took almost two hours for the man to burn - he was built a little too stoutly, apparently.


In the end, DPW (BRC's Department of Public Works, another very old camp) rammed his legs with some of their work trucks and knocked him down. :lol:

A far less publicized aspect of Burning Man is the Temple. As it says on the Temple's page: While the Temple is something that does reflect the mad masquerade and joy of our community, it does so with sacredness, solemnity, a sense of remembrance, grief and renewal that can appear as a stark contrast to the rest of the event. It's a truly gorgeous construction:


This was where our friends were married - out front with the temple as their backdrop. I'm not all that much into marriages, but it was a beautiful ceremony and everyone (including strangers who wandered by) stayed and cried.


The citizens of BRC use the Temple as a sort of memorial for people, things, and emotions - every surface is covered with thoughts, prayers, and hopes. I cannot quite describe the oppressive feelings that come with being there. It is silent and solemn - sound cars turn off their music when they approach, and nobody speaks above a whisper anywhere within the outer walls.


On Sunday night, the Temple is burned as well.


If you can, I highly recommend finding a video of the burn. The entire structure spun down at once - it was truly beautiful. 70,000 people all standing in complete silence and then a simultaneous gasp of awe... It was powerful to say the least.

I will add some more stuff later on, but this is a good start.

September 3rd, 2014, 11:11 AM
wow. That sounds amazing. I have goosebumps. Thanks for sharing.

September 3rd, 2014, 11:31 AM
What. The. Fuck.

September 3rd, 2014, 11:58 AM
And the temple and the focal point each year are built without nails or screws. We had a lecturer come into my Globalisation class and give a talk about it. He was a scientist that spends most of his time studying ice melt and climate change, but they also built a brainwave controlled fire cannon installation for burning man.

September 3rd, 2014, 12:52 PM
Your bike would fit right in the festivities! :D

September 3rd, 2014, 01:28 PM
And the temple and the focal point each year are built without nails or screws. We had a lecturer come into my Globalisation class and give a talk about it. He was a scientist that spends most of his time studying ice melt and climate change, but they also built a brainwave controlled fire cannon installation for burning man.

Largely true, but not entirely. The temple this year was built with 2.5" nails - and one of our campmates has a scar on his hand to prove it. However, anything that doesn't burn is MOOP ("matter out of place") and needs to be cleaned up, so building with as little non-burnable elements limits the amount of cleanup.

Your bike would fit right in the festivities! :D

We built the bikes FOR the festivities. Being out at night without personal light makes you a darktard, and riding a bike without lights is dangerous to you and everyone around you. There are no traffic controls for tens of thousands of people on foot, on bikes, and in cars so it's up to everyone to be sure nobody gets hurt. If you're compromising that by being invisible you're pretty much an inexcusable asshat.

September 3rd, 2014, 02:08 PM
On the topic of "Burning Man is like sex" I think the key here is that Burning Man is exactly what you want it to be. I'm sure 20 years ago it was very different, but with 70,000 people in attendance this year, you'd have to struggle to find a thing that didn't exist in some form or another on playa. While there, we did karaoke with a live band, went to a few dance clubs, spent some time trying tightrope walking and trapezes, went to a nude bar, read quietly at the library, tried to contain tears at the Temple, drank an enormous amount, took part in recreational pharmaceuticals (nothing hard), fixed a '69 F500, helped build and tear down a bar, and saw a lot of impressive art installations - and so much more. There were dozens of things we didn't get to do for lack of time or energy, but still averaged only five hours of sleep per night.

Although the population certainly represents a cross-section of default society, it's definitely skewed to the more liberal/alternative end of the spectrum. A lot of friendly people who are very much of the mind "you do your thing and I'll do mine" and very little judgmental douchebaggery... At least for the first few days. On Friday, the weekenders show up and the population suddenly feels a lot less free and a little more like every other bar on the planet, but it's easy enough to avoid that particular group of people - which seems to be primarily 20-something males looking to get laid and little else. Don't get me wrong - I do think getting laid is probably an important part of the experience, but there's some sort of line between "Hey, wanna fuck?" and running game on sorority girls, if you catch my drift. In the end of course it's fine - the douchebags are kept in check by the armies of crossdressing, LGBT, funloving weirdos. It's pretty fantastic - especially when you combine those social elements with people with artists, electricians, and welders.

On that subject, I read some snarky editorials about post/pre Burning Man events, commenting that the participants don't get enough sex and drugs during the week so they have to have more events throughout the year - maybe that was the article Random posted? Anyway, that was more or less my impression initially as well, but I've got some new perspective on those events. Leaving Burning Man is like walking out of Avatar. The real world seems decidedly dull and boring - nobody is walking around naked or dressed like a bear, nothing has shot flames into the air in days, I haven't seen a life-size Pacman chase a lifesize ghost anywhere in town. Everyone out here is perpetually in everyone else's way, and nobody offers a "How's your day been?" or a name and a hug. Burning Man is like a one week support group meeting and playground where the question "What if?" has been answered and shared with everyone. I can completely see how after a few times out there one might really start to wonder why they bother with the default world at all.

The final thing that comes to mind right now is the overwhelming sense of personal responsibility present. The entry wristband says "Work hard. Don't do stupid shit." and I'd say that sums up the overarching disposition. Nothing gets done unless you make it get done. Your bar isn't being built, your art car isn't being fueled, and your taint isn't getting wiped unless you do it. I felt very lucky to get taken in by an established camp that has a job that needs doing and a method in place to do it - but I can also see an attraction in a lot more self-dependence. I was talking with one of our campmates one night during lighting and he told me the thing he likes about Burning Man is that it lets him get away without entirely giving up his work ethic. I really appreciate and share that sentiment. I definitely partied, but I also worked (right hand is still a little numb) - and both felt great. The sense of personal responsibility extends into activities - nobody suggests anything is safe, nobody suggests anything is a good idea. You decide whether you can handle a flamethrower or if you can make the climb - and if you can't your failure is on you. Of course people aren't out there building outrageously dangerous things, but you still need to assess each situation and ensure it's a good idea for you. "You probably deserved it" is a hilarious and welcome reaction to stupid shit happening.

September 3rd, 2014, 02:33 PM

I've seen this earlier. Immediately reminds me of this:

September 3rd, 2014, 03:25 PM
I wonder if all the good feelings and community outreach that is done at Burning Man is brought back home and continued. That would be 70,000 ambassadors for the right way to have a community.

September 3rd, 2014, 03:40 PM
I sure think it is. The events I've participated in (mostly fundraisers) have all been great events - and it was cool running into people I've met this way at Burning Man. On the drive back, there was certainly a sense of camaraderie amongst playa-covered vehicles moving through traffic. Still, it's very tiring dealing with people who won't moop, won't yield, won't take personal responsibility, and won't include. People who fall into one or more of those categories are everywhere - and I feel they are readily enabled by certain groups and interests - and it's tough to work through or around them. Life sure feels a lot better when there's more, "I think you could use this" and "Let me leave this how I found it" and "I'm not ready, you go." It's surely not 100% awesome, but it's so very close I really believe that while people aren't walking away as enlightened love children, they are walking way having experienced a huge number of people just magically getting along and being awesome - and unless there is something wrong with you it's just not possible to want to get back there in daily life.

September 3rd, 2014, 03:40 PM
Reminds me of Memorial Day weekend outings I used to have with a group of friends from high school, completely cut off from society. Or after the Chicago auto show weekend.

Going back to reality afterward is boring.

It's not nearly to that scale. But, I can understand the feeling.

September 3rd, 2014, 03:43 PM
It's probably similar to how I feel after leaving the strip club.

September 3rd, 2014, 03:48 PM
It's also that, though I'm guessing with a lot less wiener. :D

But you take the very good with the less good... I'm comfortable with naked people.

Freude am Fahren
September 3rd, 2014, 05:15 PM
Much of this reminds me of the infield at Sebring 12 hours.

September 3rd, 2014, 06:40 PM
You probably saw some of my friends... Naked.

September 3rd, 2014, 07:39 PM
You didn't see my classmate? MEGA FAIL

September 3rd, 2014, 07:51 PM
Maybe he did....naked!

September 4th, 2014, 02:00 AM
The funniest thing I saw was a NYT article talking about how San Francisco Mission district regulars talking about how much more empty it feels during Burning Man weekend. Bars are emptier, restaurants that are normally jam packed are open, parking spots are available...

September 4th, 2014, 10:40 AM
So Burning Man is not only bad for the environment, but also bad for businesses!!!

But at least it's good for looking at brightly lit bikes and naked chicks! ;)

September 4th, 2014, 11:14 AM
I'd bet there are naked dudes roaming around also...

September 4th, 2014, 11:24 AM
Many. After a few hours, it starts to lose any meaning.

Burning Man may be bad for SF business, but it's great for NV business. Burning Man heavily supports the entire local area - tiny little towns that would probably have gone bankrupt years ago if it wasn't for tens of thousands of people storing RVs, renting bikes, and buying water and ice. Burning Man also results in about $10m to the Reno airport, and around $5m to local government and law enforcement. There is a huge amount of money swirling around the event and a lot of people benefit from it.

September 4th, 2014, 12:22 PM
:up: :up:

Looks like a fantastic event, TSG -- when my girl & I head out there some year, I'll send you a note! ;)

September 5th, 2014, 09:02 AM
Go now.

And I say that because it's clearly apparent the original flavor of Burning Man is slowly being lost. People were outraged when White Ocean announced Paul Oakenfold was going to be there back in July - a clear violation of the spirit of the event. Shit got real when a rumor circulated (and was later validated) that Miley Cyrus was going to be there. Corporate entertainment using Burning Man as a publicity platform blows, but it's a sign of changing times. Sure seems to me in five years it's not going to be anything like it was five years ago.

September 5th, 2014, 01:51 PM
Kind of like paving Pike's Peak. ;) Not really

Glad I got there before it was completely paved though.

September 5th, 2014, 03:06 PM

Sounds like a life affirming event.

Now I want to go.

Knowing me though, after a day or two, i'd be bored and want to find a nice quiet hole to read in.

September 5th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Gtxf group next year??? ;)

September 6th, 2014, 03:20 AM
That would be really cool, honestly. BUT it's rather difficult to obtain tickets these days. (and expensive)

September 6th, 2014, 09:22 AM
Not sure how tickets are difficult to get, but they are expensive. $380/ea this year.

September 6th, 2014, 10:51 AM
hmm... I'd be down for something like that.

September 6th, 2014, 12:19 PM
As long as you commit to being on the website the second they go on sale, you shouldn't have problems getting them. The only people I know who ran into issues were those that waited until later in the day (or week, or month). Even those lazy people were able to score face-value tickets through various channels long before the event. I think the only people who got genuinely hosed were those who waited until the literal last minute. That's what I was told last summer (when I was stressing about tickets!) and it's certainly consistent with my experience this year. It'd be my advice to get the ticket if you're even thinking about going - there are plenty of opportunities to sell it on if you ultimately decide you can't or don't want to. At this exact moment, I'm planning on getting '15 tickets just in case. ;)

September 6th, 2014, 12:40 PM
January seems to be the day it goes live for 2015 tickets

September 6th, 2014, 02:13 PM
There is usually (last several years) a registration in January that predates the actual sales. You must register, as that's how you get your unique sales ID that expedites the actual purchase. If you don't preregister, getting tickets in the first round is very difficult. I think you also want to set up a Ticketfly (pretty sure - might be Ticketmaster) account at the same time if you don't already have one - that also expedites the purchase and increases the likelihood the tickets in your cart stick around long enough to be purchased (true of all Ticketfly and Ticketmaster purchases!). Then there is a charity sale where nearly double-price tickets go on sale, with the proceeds from that sale funding various Burning Man efforts including low-income ticket assistance funds. Actual, normal ticket sales in late February - and that's when you want to be ready to buy - logged into Ticketfly, logged into your Burning Man profile, and hovering on the GIMME TICKETS!!1!11! button at noon PST sharp! :D Make sure you get a vehicle pass with your ticket - it's $40, and you may not end up needing it, but it's better to have and not need than vice versa, and it makes a hell of a gift for any campmates you end up with who were less prepared! ;)

December 10th, 2014, 11:12 AM

December 10th, 2014, 01:19 PM
Very cool!!! :cool::up:

December 12th, 2014, 08:46 AM
Wow! Cool perspective to be able to see the true scale of this event...

December 12th, 2014, 11:01 AM
There were a lot of drones flying around. There is a whole licensing procedure for remote control vehicles to prevent frequency overlap, etc. Anyway, definitely some neat video emerged from all the aircraft.

December 12th, 2014, 11:34 AM
I love every bit of organization and rule put in place for Burning Man.

December 12th, 2014, 02:18 PM
There is real contention about the level of organization at Burning Man. Lots of folks want a big hippy free for all and they're irked at all the things they can't do. I get it, but they had serious issues with no rules when attendance was 25% of what it is now. No rules seems like a great idea til you're on fire and someone is popping caps off into the air. I get it, I think it'd be great if 70,000 people could just get along - and if it could happen anywhere Burning Man seems a likely candidate - but it's a lofty goal. Personally, I feel like the current rule structure, while seemingly onerous, allows for a large degree of personal freedom while still offering a reasonable amount of group safety. There is a documentary on Netflix (I think called Spark) that shows some footage from an out of control burn - it's a reminder for why the rules aren't all bad.

December 12th, 2014, 09:49 PM
That's why I love them. They are naturally coming to the same conclusion that the society they wanted to rebel from came to. Perhaps they will come to unironically enjoy what that means.

February 4th, 2015, 03:14 PM
'15 tickets have been acquired. I'm not sure whether we're going or not, but we now have tickets and a motorhome, so really all we're missing is some food and some time.

February 5th, 2015, 01:47 AM
Nice. Shouldn't you start a new thread, then?

February 5th, 2015, 11:08 AM
Trying to save time!

February 5th, 2015, 11:28 AM
We need new pics, new stories, new purchases!! #turboglitter

August 6th, 2015, 05:37 AM


August 6th, 2015, 01:54 PM
So true.

A friend of mine skipped BM last year for the first time since moving to SF and he commented about how empty certain areas of the city are during the week. He said it's like driving around Sacramento on weird government holidays - suddenly there is no traffic and no waiting for lunch. Carpe diem, you know?

I have definitely noticed that Crappy Motorhome activity is way up. Last night while driving home from work at 3a I saw an '80s Bounder towing a 16' trailer that looked like it was full of junk. I'm sure most people though that's what was happening, but I'd wager a week's salary it was heading up the hill. :)

I am excited but it's still uncertain we're going. Definitely very last minute this year. I guess the longer we wait the more the tickets appreciate, though, so there's that. :lol:

August 6th, 2015, 02:03 PM
I really enjoyed this comment, I think it's spot on:

I attended once in 1998 (with a group putting up a dome and a sound system; that part was fun). I’m going again this year. And yes, talk of how burning man has grown too big and has lost it’s soul has been going on at least since 1996, if not before that.

If you go with a plan to contribute somehow, it continues to be meaningful; discussion of how it’s died or been killed or has outgrown itself seem more a comment about how the speaker doesn’t have anything they (still) want to build out there or otherwise contribute. This time, I’m going for personal reasons, and to help with a specific camp; so far as I’m concerned, that makes it worth the time, effort, and money. OTOH, if you’re just going to see the party — that doesn’t seem worth it to me, despite the fact that it is an amazing party — at least, it was in ‘98, and from what I hear that hasn’t changed.

BM has gotten too big and too meaningless the same way that football has. I just happen to like the idea of building weird shit in the desert and am disgusted with the notion of billion dollar sports industry. :shrug:

August 19th, 2015, 06:17 PM


August 19th, 2015, 08:15 PM
Dude. For real. A friend of mine got tore the fuck up by those things.

*Maybe* glad we didn't make it. Seems like '15 is going to be a real challenge for folks!

August 31st, 2015, 09:04 AM
Livestream: http://burningman.org/event/live-webcast/

August 31st, 2015, 10:38 AM
I don't want to see that. Seeing the caravan of shitty motorhomes heading up 80 over the last few days was enough.

I am still on the mailing list so I get emails from people up there asking for supplies etc. So depressing. Maybe doubly so since this was going to be my vacation this year. Everything was building towards it. Now, I've got nothing... except I guess a really fat PTO check coming to me in January.

February 12th, 2016, 07:24 PM
Directed tickets go on sale in two weeks... on the waiting list, waiting to give up some Benjamins.

The great state of Nevada is taxing us this time, like the millions of dollars we spend in Reno annually aren't enough. Whatever. What's another $80, right? I am not being sarcastic - $80 is not a big deal in the scope of the enjoyment to be had.

February 12th, 2016, 07:33 PM
For an instant I thought "TSG spends millions of dollars annually in Reno?! DAAAAAYUM!!!!1!" :lol:

March 9th, 2016, 09:37 AM
Tickets were delayed while the tax issue was considered... but we're paying it.

1.5 hours to wait, prepared to be many Benjamins poorer, very excited.

March 9th, 2016, 11:07 AM
Well, that was remarkably drama-free.

NV Live Entertainment Tax Fee = $70.74

Not sure exactly what sort of "live entertainment" I'm going to see. Based on my experience, they should be charging this fee for driving into Reno. That's some crazy shit.

March 9th, 2016, 05:29 PM