Burning Man (2)
Despite its whimsical, anything-goes appearance, Burning Man is extremely organized. Not only is there plenty of breathing space for everyone, but there is also relative assurance that you will be safe, have a decent place to pee, and that good vibes will abound. The largest work of art on the playa is arguably Black Rock City itself, a temporary metropolis of tents and theme camps that arcs out from the Center Camp Cafe in a large horseshoe shape, its mile-wide centre empty but for the Man in the middle. Art installations and the like are allowed in this space but people are not permitted to camp here. The city’s “streets” are set out in a radial design according to the hours on a clock face, ranging from 2.00 to 10.00 – the Center Camp Cafe is always at 6.00. The concentric streets are bisected by roads with names inspired by the annual theme; for example, the year of “The Body” saw people taking a stroll along Sex Drive, Head Way, Gut Alley and Brain Boulevard.
If you’re part of an organized and listed theme camp , your home plot is predetermined. Otherwise, you can drive in and meet up with friends wherever you choose to form your own mini trailer-trash community. The inside of the horseshoe is where much of the action resides, such as random art installations, temporary performance stages and motorized wet bar parties.
In addition to the theme camps and music stages, the hive around the Center Camp Cafe also boasts multiple medical outposts, a bike-repair shop, three radio stations, a media tent, a lost-and- found area, a bus stop that serves Gerlach, a freezer truck selling ice, an information and locator area – and Burning Man rangers to keep the peace. There’s also a smattering of local cops, who have recently tightened up on drug use and possession (there have been well-founded rumours of undercover cops using theme camps to lure in people to buy drugs, and then arresting them on the spot). But it doesn’t seem to inhibit anyone from having a good time.
Art and interactivity are at the very core of the Burning Man ethos. If you’ve ever dreamed of creating an oversized fallopian-tube walk-in maze, swinging on 18,000-pound boulders at the Temple of Gravity, plopping a wall of rubber gloves for groping strangers in the middle of nowhere, constructing a tower of animal bones, or being the high priestess of a spanking temple, then you’re in the right place. Just join a like-minded, participatory group, known as a theme camp, and away you go. A theme-camp group must be entirely self-reliant, with its own power source, and be able to protect its mechanisms and props against the elements, while also ensuring safety. If you fancy burning down your camp or installation upon the closing of the festival, predetermined burning platforms must be used. If you fancy making a smaller-scale statement and having more autonomy, you can choose whatever alter ego or fantasy you desire. Leashed slaves with foot fetishes wander around offering footbaths, faceless Pythia offer advice in oracle booths, flying zebras circle, caged men in ape suits pounce, and motorized lobster cars tool about. Just pack your politically correct non-feathered boas, body paint and imagination, and you’re all set.
Decompression Street Fair
In the weeks following Burning Man, many participants speak of disquiet and restlessness. Some become downright depressed. Recognizing their anguish, and also wishing to continue their concept throughout the year, the founders of Burning Man came up with the Decompression Street Fair, a one-day event that takes place on the second Sunday in October, six weeks after Burning Man goes up in flames. Performance artists and flamboyant theme campers relive the playa for one day in San Francisco’s Esprit Park, with five fun-filled blocks of entertainment, along with daytime and night-time art installations, and even the homeless take a break from panhandling and mingle with recently returned Burners, or those wannabes who missed the real deal. There are several Decompression parties in other cities, too, including Los Angeles, Seattle and New York City, while smaller Regional Burns are starting to emerge across the country – the Seattle Burning Man community, for example, holds a four-day camping event, where amplified music is played and art installations torched. Like Burning Man proper, the Regional Burns promote respect, courtesy, self-control, and a pledge not to interfere with anyone else’s experience; and, if Larry Harvey and others have their way, they may even eclipse Burning Man altogether.
Top 5 recent theme camps
COSTCO Soulmate Trading Swinger’s Lounge and Zipline Camp Obsessive Bacon Disorder Pubic Shaving and Manicure Barbershop Pancake Breakfast Theatre
Many people come to Burning Man exclusively for the all-night dance parties. But what is today ubiquitous on the playa was not always so. The advent of the first DJ stages in 1995 several miles away was met with much criticism; in fact, it took a few years for the first dance music stage to be allowed into Black Rock City proper, and only then reluctantly, and for just a single night. Slowly, the old guard relented and even the “quiet side” of town began featuring phat beat parties. Nowadays, it’s difficult to believe that there was ever a time when dance music didn’t feature at Burning Man – indeed, it’s regarded as one of the best assemblages of American and worldwide DJs in one place, with every DJ superstar worth their salt making an appearance here in recent years, from Tiesto to Freq Nasty, Paul Oakenfold to DJ Peretz.