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Each year, thousands of revellers flock to the deep desert of Nevada to experience Burning Man.
The nine-day gathering hosts everything from artistic performances, sculptures and installations, and music. It is considered a place for self expression, community building, and authentic connections.
However, contrary to popular belief, Burning Man is actually not considered a festival, and its organizers distance themselves from that term.
We bet there’s more you didn’t know about Burning Man.
Here’s everything you need to know about Burning Man.
On a San Francisco beach in 1986, Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James built an impromptu 8-foot-tall wooden figure. In celebration of the Summer Solstice, they dragged the statue with them to Baker beach and set it on fire.
A large crowd began to form around the bonfire to watch the ritualistic burning.
The pair was so touched by the camaraderie of the evening and the symbolism of the burning figure that they decided to do it again the following year. The event started gathering larger crowds, and the structure grew to 40 feet tall – officially marking the birth of Burning Man.
By the time the event’s fourth year came around, the gathering had gotten so large that police eventually shut it down.
This sent Harvey, along with bohemian anarchists Cacophonist Society, to the Black Rock Desert north of Reno, Nevada. The empty space of the desert provided the perfect place for the ceremonial burning of the statue and gatherings of large crowds.
Burning Man could finally become the cultural festival we know today.
The Burning Man effigy went through a lot of transformations throughout the festival’s lifetime, with different types of designs and platforms hosting the structure each year.
The structure at Burning Man 2014 was the largest standing Man by far, reaching 105 feet. The effigy was standing with its feet planted firmly on the ground. Usually, the entire structure along with its platform is around 60-90 feet tall.
2019 saw the largest Burning Man crowd to ever grace the grounds of Nevada. An estimated 78,850 people amassed at the festival grounds
Music was never originally meant to be a part of the Burning Man experience, in fact it initially faced doubts and disapproval by the event’s organizers.
This was due to a music camp launching in Burning Man in 1993, called the “Techno-Ghetto”, where all kinds of music would be played.
However, drug-related deaths, injuries and general disorder in the few years to come led to the camp being opposed by the Burning Man community.
However, music became integral to the Burners’ experience. Over time, it crawled back in, and dedicated music camps were initiated off the top of buses and small makeshift stages, or blasted from a DJ set connected to car speakers
It isn’t uncommon to hear a diverse array of music at Burning Man. But in between deep house, EDM and techno beats, Playa Tech prevails as the most played genre across the board.
Playa Tech is considered the predominant sound of Burning Man. It is a subgenre of Techno House which leans more towards spiritual, trance-inducing sounds.
Establishing their own commerce-free economy, the community and organizers of Burning Man don’t believe in the exchange of goods for money.
Partygoers are expected to bring with them everything they might need to get through the week-long event.
One of the principles of Burning Man is decommodification and preserving the culture of gift-giving.
Attendees are instead encouraged to gift items to one another without the expectation of anything in return.
Of the most iconic aspects of burning man is the outsider art exhibited all around the open-desert venue.
The art consists mostly of sculptures and structures built by the community and exhibited free of charge.
Amateurs and professionals alike can contribute to the art at Burning Man, with many devoting their time to creating custom car decorations, and others investing months in building large flammable structures.
As per ritual, much of it is set alight throughout the course of the event.
Burning Man’s official website states that “each and every one of us is a player performing on the playa.” Essentially, there is no real main stage at Burning man.
Things are happening all across the Black Rock City area for 24 hours a day, and anyone can take over as a performer – be them a musician, fire dancer, atist, singer, DJ, and more.
Performers are encouraged to find audiences on a small and intimate scale. Makeshift stages can be created by the Burning Man community for one another, but usually the organizers themselves do not splurge on large spectacular stages like other festivals like Glastonbury and Tomorrowland.
Despite distancing themselves from commercialization, the event itself has still attracted DJs from all over the world.
The difference between performances in music festivals and Burning Man is that DJs attend voluntarily and play surprise sets.
No contracts, money compensation or advertising is provided. Instead, the DJs simply attend out of love for the event itself.
Diplo played a couple of sets at Burning Man 2018, and captioned the video saying:
“I’m guilty of getting lazy and keeping some of the same routine and playing (the) same songs .. but at BM I get to play records for the first time, bring back old records, improvise … connect with old friends (and) find new energy .. do amazing back to back sets“
The one of a kind experience has long been misunderstood as a mainstream music festival, largely due to its rise in popularity. However, despite music being an important and essential part of Burning Man culture, you’ve now realized that it’s also about so much more.