Burning Man's success as a cultural institution has been brought about by a secular calculus as much as sacred geometry. Amidst the bustle preceding the event's 2015 edition, Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell sat down with Brandon Beachum of the Positive Head Podcast to shed light on a number of this year's unique organizational challenges.
During the hour-long conversation, raucous all-night dance ragers out on the deep Playa, sluggishly cautious Bureau of Land Management contracts, and the tax-happy State of Nevada were all brought under scrutiny.
"Burning Man is not a festival," Goodell was early to iterate. "A festival, for many people, now means stages and food vendors and having your comforts more taken care of. We're definitely not interested in providing a typical festival atmosphere."
That statement may be a tougher sell to the much maligned, but now-entrenched upper crusters who glamp amidst luxury and a minimal sense of radicalism that sits starkly against traditional Burner tenets.
"We have watched the change in the type of people that come to Burning Man," Goodell acknowledged. "We're not gonna get in front of certain things and force issues. We are gonna nurture the process so we all get the best results. Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community, and we're the stewards of that process."
This year, that process involves stewarding some of the rowdier art car dance parties away from Black Rock City. Goodell acknowledged that longtime Burner crew The Dancetronauts were disinvited to the Playa in 2015 after a long-standing dispute with the jumpsuited spacemen, while the Opulent Temple camp was denied camp placement after dropping their levels of camp interactivity.
Made more notable after the famous debacle last year in which Skrillex and Diplo dropped "Turn Down For What?" to a bemused audience of hippies, is the institution of the Deep Playa Music Zone, a distantly situated area in which art cars like Robot Heart will be more free to post up and blast electronic dance music for as long and as loud as they need, want, or are physically able to.
Goodell was at the center of this change after an encounter with the untz last year left her reeling: "I was one of the people who was awakened at 3 in the morning by the sound of thumping music. My trailer was vibrating! Several of us came out, shocked, and couldn't understand, even though I've been doing this for 19 years. We got in the cart and went out and it was an tart car facing its speakers towards the camp. It was past the man and it woke me!"
This year, dance music will be off in the darkness of the deep Playa, but bathrooms and infrastructure will be in place to accommodate the traveling bands of ravers who will no longer have to kick up miles of dust while looking for their backpacks, bikes, and a place to poop, and art cars will face their soundwaves out into the great beyond.
In a moment of good will, BLM officers participate in a ceremony for a fallen officer at the Temple.
The more threatening challenges looming above Burning Man come from off the Playa, where both state and federal government agencies press in on both sides. The federally-run Bureau of Land Management has the event locked into an inorganically conservative growth model, inhibiting the population size to 68,000. "That's not something we're doing willingly," commented Goodell.
"The biggest danger facing Burning Man right now is that the State of Nevada has levied an entertainment tax," Goodell stated further. "We still believe that we don't fit under a form of entertainment. Frankly, we're not a Las Vegas show. We're not a car race or a concert in a stadium."
Goodell claims that the Silver State is enforcing a massive 9% entertainment tax on the Burning Man project, crippling revenue flows and long-term sustainability. "We're not able to absorb that," she said, before balefully concluding by saying, "That's the thing right now that makes us look longingly towards Utah or any other state that might not have levied that."
Still, a little bit of danger never hurt anybody, right? That's why 68,000 of the world's dustiest are entering the annual pre-Playa frenzy mode as we speak. This time next week, Venice, CA will be a sleepy beach town and certain parts of San Francisco will enjoy their most parking-friendly weekends of the year as both cities will empty out onto Black Rock City.
Change has always been cautiously welcomed at Burning Man, but as the temporary city of 68,000 descents on the dusty climes of Black Rock City for its 2015 edition, transformation is a more central topic than ever. Event organizers have found themselves in the midst of a multi-limbed juggling act to keep their carnival of mirrors from burning up under the power of its own reflection, and 2015 could prove a pivotal moment in Playa history.
Story sourced by Karol Escobar.Check the whole podcast below or via Positive Head: