Burning Man is one of those things in life that everyone needs to experience at least once… if you’re lucky enough to get tickets that is.
It’s a weeklong festival of radical self-expression that celebrates art and community. It’s the world’s largest interactive display of art and takes place ever year at the end of August in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada and we’ve got everything you need to know about it.
Where did it all begin?
Burning man actually began in San Francisco, when Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James put together a wooden figure and took it down to Baker beach on the Summer Solstice. Harvey and James then set fire to the wooden figure and the surrounding people on the beach gathered round to watch, and from there Burning Man was born. This event of self-expression and spontaneous creativity grew into an annual ritual with hundreds of people attending, so with the festival growing in popularity Harvey decided to move it to US government land in the Nevada desert.
Today this is where 70,000 people gather in the week leading up to Labor Day, coming together to create one massive, loving and hospitable community in one of the harshest environments on Earth; they call this temporary village Black Rock City.
A Festival Like No Other…
First time Burning Man attendees often assume that the festival is just like every other one they’ve been to, where you rock up and everything has already been planned and rehearsed by the event producers, and attendees arrive to just enjoy the show. However Burning Man isn’t like that, Burning Man actively encourages people to be more than just ‘attendees’, and instead to be active participants in as much as possible for the festival. People can participate in all sorts of ways, for example you can volunteer to help build the infrastructure of Black Rock City, or you can create and build one of the amazing art installations that are displayed around the festival, the ways to participate are endless.
Another unique factor about Burning Man is the absence of money. No money is exchanged and you cannot buy or sell anything (with the exception of ice and coffee), instead you bring gifts to give to other festival participants. You can be gifted with things like food, water, alcohol (of course make sure you bring enough food and water for you and your friends too) but you can also expect to receive fun gifts like a snow cone, a massage, a dance with a stranger, sunglasses, the possibilities are endless!
There are lots and lots of fun, themed camps at Burning Man. The camps are one of the best ways to participate in the Burning Man experience and to feel part of a wider community. You can browse all the different camps on the Burning Man official website and it’s the best way to find out what camps are looking for residents. Some camps will ask you to chip in some money to cover the costs of food and water and some will just ask you to do some chores around the camp instead. Some of this years themed camps include ‘7 Sins Lounge’, ‘404: Village Not Found’, and ’16 Inches of Joy’.
Art is at the very core of Burning Man and if you’re attending you can expect to immerse yourself fully in this art culture over the course of the week. Each year a theme is created for the festival, which determines to some extent the design of the Man and the designs of the incredible art installations and mutant vehicles you will see around Black Rock City.
Burning Man attracts all kinds of creative minds and there are some people who dedicate months of work into building temporary art installations for the festival. The installations are absolutely incredible and it’s pretty inspiring to see how much hard work and love goes into creating them, even though the art constructions will only exist for the week. Some of the art installations from previous years have been giant pirate ships, musical swings and a train of giant teapots. This year you can expect to see a giant flame shooting insect, 17ft blue mirror-steel butterflies and many more amazing art creations.
Fancy taking a ride on a giant unicorn, a pirate ship, or how about a magic carpet, well at Burning Man you can do just that. Art cars or mutant vehicles are another seriously cool aspect of Burning Man. Much like the art installations, Burning Man participants their time turning ordinary cars into amazing spectacles that help transport people from one side of Black Rock City to the other.
Burning Man is an arts and community festival, and there is no doubt about it that you’ll definitely be able to watch and experience amazing music whilst you’re there, however Burning Man does not publicly promote or even have an ‘official’ line up. Instead they request that each camp keep their line-ups a surprise until the week of the festival. People who attend Burning Man don’t go because they want to see their favorite DJ or band play; they go for themselves and to be part of the wider Burning Man community. You can see small gigs and open-mic sessions, however in past years some pretty big electronic music names like Carl Cox, Armin van Vuuren and Freq Nasty have also made an appearance.
There’s probably a never-ending list of stuff you need to bring with you to Burning Man but we’ve narrowed it down to just six essential things that you definitely cannot leave without…
- Bike – Black Rock City is huge and if you want to walk you can but then you’ll be spending most of your time walking from one side to the other when you could be doing so many more fun things. We also advise covering your bike in all sorts of lights, as it can get pretty dark in the desert at nighttime.
- Water – Ok this might seem like an obvious one but it’s very important! Make sure you take at least a gallon a day for each person in your group – it might seem like a lot but you’ll thank us later.
- Camera – Well how else are you going to show all your friends back at home that you caught a ride on a giant unicorn car?
- Headlamp – This will help you find your toothbrush in the dark after a hard day raving in the desert. It’ll also help light your pathway when you’re on your bike.
- Goggles – One word… sandstorms. Nothing worse than getting sand in your eyes and in the Nevada Desert there’s sand everywhere. So make sure you’ve got something to protect your eyes.
- Suncream – Temperatures can get up to 88°F so it’s important to have a high factor suncream to protect your skin from those powerful rays.