Posts Tagged ‘coachella’

Burning Man Is Not A Damn Music Festival

burning man

Every burner has lived through a similar moment many, many times because of the confusion that exists in the general public over what Burning Man really is all about. In this particular instance I was sitting in my mother’s kitchen back east with two of my brother’s friends, these guys are about 15 years younger than me and they knew that I go to Burning Man.  They were excited to talk to me because they too were planning to go that year.  You see they had met a band, whose name meant nothing to me although I could see in their eyes that I was supposed to be impressed.  This up and coming band they had befriended had told them that they were playing the main stage at Burning Man and these guys were going to get back stage passes if they showed up.  I blame Woodstock, Glastonbury  and Coachella.  You see there are some commonalities between Burning Man and these types of large gathering multi-day festivals.  However having attended a couple of them and spent several years on the Playa, I can tell you there are some major differences.

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There certainly is tons of music on the Playa there are radio stations, entire theme camps dedicated to nothing else but cranking out 24 hour dance beats, I have visited blues camps and jazz cafes and I’m quite sure there are a myriad of music based theme camps that I’ve missed in my years in the dust.  Individual musicians and bands have shown up and even played on the Playa, hell Joan Baez probably holds the distinction of the only artist to play Woodstock and sing at Burning Man.  However, Burning Man is not centered around the music, the music is just another art form at the festival.  There is no main stage, unless you consider the small stage at center camp to be the “main stage”, but if you’ve been there you would not confuse that stage with the main stage, or even a side stage at Coachella.

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A huge difference is that every music festival I’ve ever been too, not matter how hippy driven the vibe, is highly commodity driven.  There are food vendors and booze vendors, you can buy t-shirts and knick knacks and a full assorted range of shit that once you get it home you wonder why the hell you bought it.  At Burning Man you can buy, ice, coffee, tea and lemonade.  Burning Man is a no trace event, there are principles involved, hell the community builds an actual physical community for a week, infrastructure and all.  The venue if you will, is a dry lake bed in the Nevada desert, there is a lot of fire, there is more art than you could imagine, did I mention the fire?

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So what’s my point with this piece?  Simply that if you, as the ticket deadline is approaching are thinking about going to Burning Man for the first time understand what you’re getting into it.  There is a lot written about what the festival is and what it means to people, I’ve written virgin guides, 30 days worth of warm up pieces, hell 70 pieces in total on this blog.  There are tons of other pieces written as well, the organization’s website and even their own awesome survival guide.  So know what you’re getting yourself into, Burning Man is a lot of things to a lot of people, but it’s not a damn music festival. ~ ZD Blue


Now, I’ll be the first to say Burning Man is utterly unique and so the question is really, what is the next Burning Man-like thing?  I’m not quite one of those old burners who thinks it was all great in the old days and so screw the playa.  However, I really think I’m closing in on my limit on the playa.  I’ve volunteered on big art projects, albeit in small ways, I’ve spent my time at Center Camp and worked at Ice Camp.  I don’t spin fire but I’ve worked fire safety and hung out with spinners, I’ve been a Temple Guardian and had press credentials.  I’ve watched Black Rock City through virgin eyes, mine and others, I’ve fought in Thunderdome, etc….

So although I don’t think it would ever be possible to have experienced everything BRC had to offer, even in a given year, I think it may be time for me to move on and I am considering making this my last burn.  Not with the hard feelings of a break-up, just acknowledging that it may be time for me and my annual pilgrimage to part ways.  The question is however what do I fit in its place?

Rainbow gatherings were kind of my first exposure to the idea of something off the beaten path and not quite normal.  Not being normal is big with me.  There of course will always be adventure, I went to Everest Base Camp last year and I’m far from done doing the travel type things I hope to do.  But what’s out there like Burning Man, a destination with a temporary community that comes together for a short-time to celebrate and then go their merry ways.  There are the standards like Mardi Gras, Fantasy Fest, Coachella and Glastonberry.  But I’m not looking for a standard music festival or even just a big party, I’m looking for something special. 

I did a bit of a Google search and really didn’t come up with anything that excited me, so I thought, hey maybe, like me, in the middle of their playa preparations the burner community might take a break and help me out.  The burner community is probably the worlds largest group of experts on the type of thing I’m looking for, so I decided to ask you and all of my other readers to help me out.

So, give me some ideas folks, what else is out there that I might experience next year?  And I thank you in advance for your thoughts and suggestions.