Burning Man Is Not A Damn Music Festival
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.
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.
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?
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