How Rich People Do Burning Man

Lauri Apple · 09/03/11 12:16PM

Unless you're wealthy, you've probably been spending Burning Man Week moping about how you couldn't afford tickets to America's favorite festival of radical self-expression this year. But make no mistake: Those rich people touring the playa on their Mad Max cruisers are suffering, too.

Burning Man's Just for Rich People Now

Lauri Apple · 07/31/11 10:44AM

If we didn't attend the week-long Burning Man festival in Nevada every year, we probably wouldn't be the deeply spiritual, open-minded individual that we are today. We'd just be another emotional eunuch living in America, ignorant in the ways of radical self-expression. Sadly, we and our collection of fruit-flavored body paints and hovercrafts won't be able to go hang out on the Black Rock City playa this year, because last week festival tickets completely sold out for the first time in its 25-year history.

The burners return, en masse and without class

Owen Thomas · 09/04/07 11:33AM

The good news: Burning Man is over. The bad news: The burners are back in town. Once a year, the Bay Area's most troublesome pyromaniacs head out of town, leaving Silicon Valley cubicles deserted and Mission barstools empty, as they fill up Black Rock City, the temporary site in the Nevada desert for the now-ended arts and counterculture festival. Despite Caltrans's best efforts to block their return by closing the Bay Bridge, they've come back — except for one sad suicide. It's never the ones you wish would off themselves who do, of course. Take Paul Addis — please. The man accused of prematurely setting fire to Burning Man's giant wooden statue was one of the first to return, beating a hasty retreat after spending time in a Pershing County jail. At a Labor Day barbecue, blogger Scott Beale taped Addis in a pseudoconfessional rant.

The Man is dead, long live the Man

sdavalos · 09/02/07 12:35PM

BLACK ROCK CITY — It is quiet here this morning. The rave camps have settled down, fire-spewing trinkets have ceased exploding, and the only citizens of Black Rock City out at this hour, just after 8 a.m., are dazed as they wander through the detritus of dead glowsticks, dusty embers, and unconscious hippies.

The Man burns tonight

sdavalos · 09/01/07 03:02PM

BLACK ROCK CITY — Actual conversation, overheard at the Porta-Potties:

Satan's Calliope rocks the desert

sdavalos · 09/01/07 02:36PM

BLACK ROCK CITY — One of the main advantages to being the middle of the fucking Nevada desert for Burning Man, the arts and counterculture festival held here this week, is that it's a lot easier to burn a whole lot of accelerant without incurring too much wrath from the local authorities. Of course, every single thing that is soaked with gasoline and set on fire out here has gone through a rigorous process to make sure that carbon-offset trees get planted up in Canada somewhere. This is a kind, gentle, carbon-negative hippiefest, after all. However, some attendees transcend the incineration of mere wood and plastic and build art pieces that really say something while they're warming up the planet.

The Orb Swarm rules the night

sdavalos · 08/31/07 05:59PM

BLACK ROCK CITY — One of the neatest things I have seen in the self-expressive miasma that is Burning Man, the countercultural arts festival here in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, has been The Orb Swarm, a group of spherical robots designed to roll around the playa and interact with participants with lights, motion and sound. Imagine this: You're deeply intoxicated on a substance of your choosing, wandering around in the dark, when suddenly you're nudged by a two-and-a-half-foot high aluminum balls twittering at you and changing color. Yeah. You're tripping over balls, and the balls are tripping you.

The Man rises again — for a day

sdavalos · 08/31/07 02:52PM

BLACK ROCK CITY — Friends playing along at home, you can stop fretting and sleep a tad better tonight, knowing that the dedicated hippie construction workers of Burning Man have erected a brand new Man, the giant wooden statue everyone came to Nevada to watch burn down. Following the early burn on Tuesday by local antihero Paul Addis, the all-volunteer Department of Public Works worked 'round the clock to build a brand new totem, after it was found that the portion of The Man left standing after the premature incineration was not stable enough to use as a base. The new Man is decked out with neon just like the old one, and the pavilion of corporate sponsor appeasement green technology exhibits will once more be open to the eager denizens of Black Rock City. And to think — in a day, we're just going to burn it all down again.

Dust storms roil the playa — and this reporter

sdavalos · 08/31/07 02:44PM

BLACK ROCK CITY — We had a wee tiny, itty-bitty hardly-worth-mentioning dust storm yesterday. There was a moment when we could not see twenty feet across the street to the neighboring camp due to the whiteout conditions. The total lack of visual stimulation forced us to imbibe playa margaritas (a "playa" margarita because we used tasty, tasty Gatorade instead of lemon juice). The great thing about playa margaritas? The mixer rehydrates you as fast as the alcohol dehydrates you. Pretty soon, the packaging on the Spam Singles that someone had brought to camp was uproariously funny. We made it through the crisis just fine, never fear.

Techno playa bling

sdavalos · 08/31/07 02:26PM

BLACK ROCK CITY — In between weathering dust storms, drinking heavily and stalking Internet tycoons, we have come in contact with an amusing assortment of tech people who have come to Burning Man to shrug off their work cares and forget about the Web for a few precious, hot, dusty hippie-filled days. We managed to tackle Stef Magdalinski, illustrous CTO of, as he was puttering about his camp.

Interview with the accused Burning Man arsonist

Owen Thomas · 08/30/07 06:56PM

Paul Addis, the man accused of setting torch to The Man, the wooden totem at the heart of the Burning Man festival, has drawn his share of fans and detractors. Chris Radcliffe, who's tangled with the organizers of Burning Man over various issues, even paid thousands of dollars in bail money to spring Addis from jail. But aside from a statement sent to blogger Scott Beale of Laughing Squid, he hasn't spoken to defend his actions. Until now. In an exclusive interview, Addis, who's been charged with the felony of arson, spoke to Valleywag as a friend drove him from Fernley, Nevada, back to his home in San Francisco. The full interview follows.

Black Rock City's first-ever suicide

Owen Thomas · 08/30/07 05:46PM

Death is always a possibility in Nevada's high desert, the site of the annual Burning Man festival. But heat, dehydration, and drugs are the causes one would expect. Not suicide. But local coroners have confirmed the festival's first suicide, SFGate reports. The still-unnamed dead man's body hung from the top of a two-story tent for hours before someone thought to check after him. "His friends thought he was doing an art piece," said a federal agent on the scene.

The arsonist of Black Rock City speaks

Owen Thomas · 08/30/07 04:08PM

Blogger Scott Beale of Laughing Squid has obtained a statement from Paul Addis, the man accused of setting fire to The Man, the wooden statue which provides the Burning Man festival's raison d'etre. Addis, who has a one-man show devoted to the life of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, portrays himself as the spiritual heir of Thompson. "Most of you are newbies who have been drawn in by the semi-religious nature of the event, or maybe just the easy drugs and easier sex," writes Addis to his critics. Well, duh. Here's the rest of what the premature incinerator, released on some $3,000 in bail, has to say for himself from the outskirts of Reno, Nevada:

Google founders spotted at Burning Man!

sdavalos · 08/30/07 03:23PM

BLACK ROCK CITY — A rumor has just reached our ears that Google's cofounders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are here at Burning Man, the ever-dusty counterculture and arts festival taking place in the Nevada desert. We even have their purported addresses on the playa.

The 8 types of Burning Man attendees, according to Jonathan Grubb

sdavalos · 08/30/07 01:59PM

BLACK ROCK CITY — Jonathan Grubb, maverick something-or-other of software developer RubyRed Labs, had an informative and enlightening column about the many types of Burning Man attendees published in The Black Rock Beacon. The Beacon is one of many carefully edited, lovingly printed, well-researched news outlets on the playa, and they use the interesting and charmingly old-fashioned medium of actual paper to get their message out. But they use an interesting technique to get their content out: copy and paste. Grubb's column, you see, was taken verbatim from a blog post he wrote last December. Ah well. After the jump, nonetheless, a quick list of Grubb's eight Burning Man archetypes, with our comments.

Black Rock City remains no Man's land

sdavalos · 08/30/07 01:17PM

BLACK ROCK CITY — Despite the best efforts of many sleep-deprived hippies with the Department of Public Works, The Man itself, the centerpiece of the Burning Man arts and counterculture festival in Nevada, is still not back up. Crews have been working around the clock to restore the festival's iconic sculpture after it was prematurely burned by local antihero Paul Addis early Tuesday morning. The area has been strictly cordoned off by some very pissed-off volunteer Black Rock Rangers, with no one except for officials allowed entry. The featureless desert, normally dominated by the giant wooden statue, is sad and eery, especially in the frequent dust storms.

Welcome to the real-world Wackyland

sdavalos · 08/30/07 11:01AM

BLACK ROCK CITY — The foofaraw surrounding the Great Burning Man Arson Escapade — the attempted torching by prankster Paul Addis of The Man, the giant wooden centerpiece of the Burning Man festival here in Nevada — has started to die down. And at last, we can get back to the subject at hand, which is, of course, Wackyland here in real life. You remember Wackyland of course — that fanciful place Porky Pig visited while hunting for the elusive dodo in the old Looney Tunes cartoons. Burning Man, that festive bastion of self-expression and artistic endeavor, simply bleeds art and creativity into the hard-packed desert floor of Black Rock City. And, yes, wackiness. Some examples follow.