Burner Artists Ripped Off by David Guetta and Nicki Minaj

You would think that top DJs could afford to pay for their art installations, instead of stealing them. David Guetta is the #2 highest paid DJ in the world ($30 million in 2014, so as big as Burning Man), and Nicki Minaj is #11 on the Forbes rappers list ($11 million in 2014), the only woman listed.

Maybe BMOrg’s IP policy made it all too hard. Rather than negotiating with all the lawyers, they just went to a set designer and said “make me this”.

Guetta appears with the art piece(s) and flame effects at about 2:20.

The official video for the song is definitely Burning Man themed:

Will they appear on the Playa this year, to perform their new hit?

From thump.vice.com (emphasis ours):

Did David Guetta and Nicki Minaj Steal From Burning Man for Their Billboard Music Awards Performance?

…Structures on stage with Guetta and Minaj nearly identical to those of a Burning Man art installation known as the HYBYCOZO series have prompted accusations the DJ and rapper stole someone else’s work.

“We received several calls in the evening telling on Sunday telling us to turn on the TV to watch the David Guetta performance because our design was popping up all over the stage,” designer Yelena Filipchuck tells THUMP. “It was so egregious that people who weren’t even that familiar with the project sent us messages asking us if we did the stage design!

Filipchuck and her design partner Serge Beaulieu debuted the HYBYCOZO installation at Burning Man after a successful Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2014. The series of steel-wrought, laser-cut, light-emitting geometrical structures went on to become one of the most photographed installations in the festival world after follow-up appearances at Treasure Island festival in San Francisco and Further Future outside of Las Vegas earlier this month.

HYBYCOZO, a contraction of Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone, features a number of different geometric permutations placed in conjunction, but in particular, the pentagonal dodecahedron (12-sided structure of five-sided panels) is the design that the designers suggest was pinched by Guetta and Minaj.

side by side hybocozo

Side by Side comparison. Image: Vice

“The size looks similar at six feet tall,” says Filipchuck. “The pattern attempts to be a copy, we zoomed in and the composition of the pattern matched exactly [a circle in a pentagon] on a grid of lines coming out of the corners. The shape itself even had the same thicker darker edges, glowing from the inside and matched the distinctive laser-cut repeating patterns that we are known for.”

Strengthening Filipchuck and Beaulieu’s intellectual property theft case is the more circumstantial evidence in the “Hey Mama” video, in which Guetta and Minaj galavant in distinctly Burning Man-themed scenes, replete with dusty post-apocalyptic revelers, art cars, and a stage setup commonly used at Burner spin-off events like Desert Hearts.

…”The part that hurts the most is that we are young artists doing festival art and stage design. Now it feels like anything we do will just be copied by one of these huge corporate teams,” Filipchuck adds. “If they wanted this aesthetic they should have contacted us to discuss the options rather than [create] what a appears to be blatant rip off of our art without our permission.”

Guetta enjoys burner vibes in the video for his and Minaj’s “Hey Mama”

Read the full story at Thump.

Over to you, BMOrg. You say that your IP policy is only there to protect artists and defend our culture: please go and defend our artists and our culture from these thieves.

 

Concierges At Burning Man: Now Made Official [Updates]

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There was a bit of an uproar last year when we shared that Festivals Concierge Service were making money from Burning Man. Well, it seems they’ve read the rules and done their best to comply with them – and no less than Larry Harvey’s words are being used to pitch their product.

As we predicted, Larry & Co’s response to last year’s Commodification Camp Concerns has been to give a full green light to concierges, commodification camps, Mistresses of Merriment, and anything else the VIPs require.

From Festival Concierge Service:

Burning Man is not a festival like no other, it is a community experience based on 10 principles that serve as guidelines.

The services we offer for Burning Man are intended to assist you in the preparation and organization of your Burn.

We do not offer on-site concierge services.

In any case we sell the Burning Man Experience. It is a unique personal experience, and is made possible only through your participation and understanding of the ten principles.

“Scan Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and you will not find radical equality among them. This is because our city has always been a place where old and young, and rich and poor, can live on common ground. The word for this is fellowship, as in the fellowship of a club or lodge whose members, however diverse, are united by common values and a sense of shared experience. But common ground is not a level playing field, and should not be interpreted as mandating equal living conditions.”

The services, which are all provided by BLM-Licensed Outside Services Contractors, include:

ACCOMMODATIONS
ON-SITE RV SERVICES
TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION TO AND FROM BURNING MAN
PLUG AND PLAY CAMP PLACEMENT
MUTANT VEHICLE (ART CAR) PRODUCTION AND RENTAL
SEGWAY AND ELECTRIC SKATEBOARD RENTAL
BIKE AND DECORATION
COSTUME DESIGN AND PERSONNAL SHOPER

[Update 5/21/1 6:09pm PST]
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Take a look at this. Big thanks to Anonymous Burner for sharing this. BMOrg has already known about this for almost 3 weeks, and the site is still up. And why wouldn’t it be? They are conforming to the rules. They only deal with licensed vendors who give the Feds a percentage of their sales.

The trolls have come out for us very swiftly after this post. Did we hit some sort of nerve?
Within an hour of me posting this story, James of San Diego appeared on our web page, saying:
Burners XXX of burners.me spends years talking shit and dishing out hate then gets called out and identified by Danger Ranger. Then BurnersXXX cries and whines cause he can’t take the criticism. Trolls don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash…Although many long term Eplayans are way bigger assholes and are anonymous.
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For anyone that doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or is open minded enough to judge for themselves the definition of “cries and whines”, you can read my previous response on this matter. There’s no doubt that one thing this commenter is saying is true: the officially sanctioned BMOrg forums on ePlaya suffer from low traffic, and high trolls. It’s not just that trolls are allowed to be there, abusing and bullying others, with support piled on from paid BMOrg employees: some of them think they have so many of the “suck up points” required to game the system, that they feel completely backed by the Org whenever they want to let their personal fancies assault the lives of others.
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When you see someone on the Internet saying “so and so’s a troll”, you should wonder if really it is the person named by the attack – or is it the nay-sayer accusing others of not conforming to their desired way of being.
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If you haven’t read it yet (and even if you have it’s worth a refresher) please check out our post How To Spot An Online Troll. Thanks to Jan Irvin at Gnostic Media for some of the key parts of that article which are his writing and insights.
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Spring is here and troll season has begun once more. The Ministers of Propagandas (of those organizations that employ them) are looking for things to do, victims to cyber-bully, and misinformation to sow…
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Badger then came over to www.burners.me to tell us:
I can’t believe you stooges have fallen for this faux site.
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I can’t believe there are any stooges left who are drinking the Kool Aid so much that they’d think “Larry & Co would never allow private concierges at Burning Man”…when Larry himself writes a lengthy blog post entitled “Concierge Culture” and explaining why wealth divisions have never been a problem and rich people should be allowed to ignore Radical Self Reliance if they can afford to.
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Source: Voices of Burning Man

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PDR agreed with Badger, that Festival Concierge Services is not a real web site.
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These are the same people as last year. They were in touch with us then, and they’re in touch with us now. The New York Times already wrote about it (quoting Burners.Me as a trusted source). The Key Group, private concierge service out of Luxembourg, has a highly desirable existing customer base of Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals. A-list Hollywood stars, princes and princesses, Billionaire’s Row, Mega-Sparkle Ponies, political pundits, the DEA, FBI BLM and other unnamed alphabet agencies, experimental Google technologies, even now frikking cartoon characters…this is Burning Man 2.0. Everyone requires a handler, for their Radical Self Reliance. If you handle yourself, you’re doing it wrong.

bm shark jumping
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Personally I think we should be giving FCS some props for adjusting their pitch to better suit our culture, after last year’s feedback – almost 100 comments and 1000 shares just at this site, not to mention Larry’s loqacious diatribe against Marxism. Isn’t that what we want – we complain, they listen, they remove the things we were complaining about, and from then on they conform to the rules. Is that what we’re trying to achieve? Making Burners conform to rules? Or “teach them a lesson”, is that the purpose of all this?
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I am neither endorsing nor condemning Burning Man concierges. People who’ve never had access to a concierge before probably think it’s something special. Like most VIP sections, it’s really not.
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However, when Larry & Co promote it by writing blog posts justifying it, it’s hard to rail against it very much. Go with the flow, I say…
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This is much more of a problem to me.
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Legitimate Burners lucky enough to win tickets, get them snatched away by the bureaucracy…and yet, the Concierge Commodification Camps seem to have tickets not only for their guests and entourages, but also for the sherpas, Mistresses of Merriment, and other staff.
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Every year, they make it harder and harder for Veteran Burners to get tickets. “Oh it’s a numbers game. It’s supply and demand. There’s no possible way to fix it”. I call Bravo Sierra. Problems can be solved, if there is a desire to. There’s certainly enough brainpower amongst the million-strong online Burner community.

[Update 5/21/15 7:07pm]
Thanks to FIGJAM for sharing this over at ePlaya. The latest from Answer Girl and the full complement of the 2015 Placement Team. There is no such thing as Commodification Camps – all camps are the same, regardless of how much they charge per hotel room or how many sherpas they employ. It’s just a spectrum, and everyone in the spectrum is welcome. Plug-n-plays are welcome, as long as they have an interactive component on offer to other camps. Like popsicles.

The Placement Team is up and running at full complement and the Burning Man Headquarters team is fully operational.We made some changes to our Theme Camp and Placement policies following events in 2014 involving TurnKey camps, and we wanted to inform you of them so you can plan accordingly.Definitions:TurnKey is a category of camps along a spectrum. At one end of the continuum are camps that depend on supported infrastructure to create on playa projects. At the other end are camps providing vacation type experience packages for campmates with no specific requirement for contribution.In 2014 Burning Man placed 12 TurnKey camps all of whom indicated they would offer an interactive aspect to be enjoyed by the entire Burning Man community.For 2015, all Placed Camps (other than infrastructure support camps) will be held to the same standards in order to receive placement, early arrival passes and access to the Directed Group Sale.

Theme Camp Placement Criteria / Standards:

Other than event infrastructure camps, all camps will be held to the same standards of inclusion and participation regardless of how the camp is structured. All Theme Camps requesting placement will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

1. Theme Camps should be visually stimulating, have an inviting design and a plan for bike parking and crowd management.

2. Theme Camps must be interactive. They should include activities, events or services within their camps that must be available to the entire Burning Man community.

3. Theme Camps must be neighbourly. This includes keeping sound within set limits, controlling where camp generators vent exhaust, and easily resolving any boundary disputes that may arise.

4. Theme Camps must have a good previous MOOP record (for returning camps).

5. Theme Camps must follow safety protocols designed by the organization (this includes traffic management on the streets, proper handling of fuels, and any other areas defined by the organization’s production team including alternatives to RV lined streets).

Entering BRC with Early Arrival passes:

Only Theme Camps meeting all of the above criteria and receiving Placement, will be given Early Arrival Passes from the Placement team for entry to BRC for pre-event set up

Post-event evaluation, Theme Camp Standing and access to the Directed Group Sale (DGS):

Post event, all placed Theme Camps will be reviewed on the criteria above, as well as:

1. MOOP score. If a camp receives a yellow or red MOOP score, the Placement team expects the camp to be proactive in addressing the issue.

2. Strain on resources. This refers to whether a camp requires extra BRC infrastructure support, which could include undue communication or interactions with Placement, Rangers, DPW or the playa restoration team. This could also include the processing of negative feedback from other departments. If a Theme Camp attracts negative attention by violating principles and cultural norms, this will similarly strain resources.

If a Theme Camp meets all of the criteria they remain in “good standing” and may be eligible to receive access to the DGS. Exemplary camps are the most likely to be invited to the following year’s DGS.

Good standing is of benefit as it will affect future placement.

Camps not in good standing will be contacted and will be expected to make substantial changes to their submitted camp plans to qualify for future placement of the DGS for the following year.

For most of you, this information is familiar and reflects what you are already doing. For some of you, this information means you are going to need to increase your interactivity and upgrade your public facing spaces to reflect the spirit of radical inclusion.

We are here to support all of you create an amazing and interactive city for everyone at Burning Man to enjoy.

For more information about this and other topics you can watch the Theme Camp Forum. We recorded the March 21 event.

Fuze Meeting link: https://www.fuzemeeting.com/replay_meet … e9/7113130


[Update 5/22/15 10:51am PST]

Thanks to Pooh Bear for bringing this to our attention. BMOrg are openly promoting one of the oldest tourist packages, Green Tortoise, which is about $1000 per head. Many major camps charge much less in dues, I am curious to know how this pricing sits with everyone.

The price of the tour is not so important. It’s nonsense to say “this is great at $1000 because they funded some art and gave people rides on their bus to Gerlach, but it sucks at $16,000 because they funded some art and gave people rides on their art car”. BMOrg have decided “it’s a spectrum” which makes all things welcome. If any Burners thought Commodification Camps would be shut down, I hope now you realize that despite whatever words were said, and however many feedback forms were filled out, that isn’t what actually happened.

The Voices of Burning Man has an official response, from “Burning Man” – yes, the symbol now speaks.

http://blog.burningman.com/2015/05/news/kicking-concierge-caboose-in-black-rock-city/

YMMV on how much actual caboose actually got kicked, and with what level of force.

They’ve said they’re trying to stop it. Even though FCS aren’t actually doing business at Burning Man…what’s next, any TaskRabbit services for Burning Man get banned? No more trunk shows?

We have contacted Festivals Concierge Services yet again, reminding them that they can’t offer “Burning Man concierge services” or use our IP to promote their business. We’re also taking a number of other steps to protect our principles and our stance on this issue:

  • Notifying participants in our Outside Services (OSS) program not to do business or subcontract with concierge companies like FCS or their clients.
  • Revisiting and revising the overall OSS program structure so companies like this can’t exploit the system.
  • Notifying BLM that FCS will not have a contract with Burning Man and should not receive a BLM Special Recreation Permit to operate its concierge business on public land.
  • Coordinating with DMV and Placement to ask Mutant Vehicle operators and theme camp organizers not to provide services or camping to FCS or their clients.
  • Working with our Ticketing Team to prevent FCS staff from acquiring event tickets for resale to their clients.
  • Communicating with YOU, our community, to keep you informed about these activities, and to solicit your help with combating the packaging and sale of our culture now and in the future.

Can anyone explain to me how BMOrg could possibly think the Ticketing Team might be involved with FCS acquiring event tickets for resale? Isn’t the event sold out, there are no more tickets?

The messages seem mixed to me. Concierge culture is OK (says Larry), and then it’s forbidden (says “Burning Man”). Shouldn’t we be focused on bringing more beautiful art into the world, rather than what things can They stop that They were previously promoting a few months back?

[5/22/15 9:35am PST]

Some hilarious commentary from some of the usual crew of haters on the official BM Facebook page, suggesting that we are lying about this story. Well, just click the links people, you can go to the web site yourself. It is very real, despite whatever “caboose kicking” is being talked about, there they are: still in business. With even burningman.org advertising their offering now. That is, if any Burners have any kind of anti-authoritarian, rebellious spirit in them…

And don’t think FCS are the only ones offering this service – they are just facing the wrath of Burnier-Than-Thous because they were brave enough to “stick their heads above the parapet” as Ross Asselstine describes it. They visibly tried to conform to the rules and promote the Ten Principles, after receiving community feedback last year. Most other concierge services aren’t doing anything remotely like that – that we can see, anyway…instead of “great, thank you, we asked you to make some changes and you did that”, they will face attacks from Burnier-Than-Thous and factions within the Org. All in the name of…what, exactly? Are they going to ban First Camp and Board Members Camps from having concierges? Paid staff? Nope, nothing’s changed, just more hot air, diversions, distractions, smokescreens. All part of the carnival, the hucksters, the chumps and suckers and rubes, making the spectacle for the ringmasters.


[Update 5/27/15 2:26am PST]

FCS has updated us with the statement below (emphasis ours).

Despite BMOrg’s claims, they were well aware of FCS, who have been in contact with them and trying to do the right thing for months now. There are many other concierge, catering, and event planning services operating at Burning Man – and it seems like the ones that DIDN’T try to do the right thing in dialog with BMOrg will still be operating on the Playa. Perhaps under the radar, perhaps with a “wink wink nudge nudge” tolerance, or perhaps with official support and free advertising (like the Green Tortoise tourist packages).

If BMOrg really wanted to put an end to concierges at Burning Man, then they shouldn’t have got their founder and philosophical head to write a lengthy blog post accepting and justifying them.

According to FCS, BMOrg may even be breaking some laws by trying to dictate who licensed OSS vendors can and can’t do business with. Isn’t their Vendor License with the Bureau of Land Management? Or is there a second contract also?

From Festivals Concierge Service:

A few days ago Burning Man posted an article on their blog about our company stating that concierge services did not exist at Burning Man and that they will do everything possible to prevent us from working on this event. Which is a total nonsense and in conflict with Larry Harvey‘s post of last December and even with our long discussions with BMorg.

Who will believe that BMorg just discovered that there are some wealthy Burners and they spend their money on services and organisation during the event?

After our last year mistake thus receiving a lot of community feedback, we agreed not to propose any direct on-site services and to only propose services through official Burning Man Outside Service Program suppliers (who refund 3% of their Burning Man business income to Burning Man organisation), and to respect the use of the Burning Man’s IP. April 20, 2015, a Counsel of BMorg even replied, “In the spirit of Radical Self-Expression, please use your own words to explain the Burning Man event to your clients.” Now BMOrg is stating publicly that we never tried to find a way to work with them, which is for the record totally false.

It seems that the Burning Man organization is influenced by opinions emerging from group of Burners who have an distaste for wealthy individuals and refuse changes to « their » event. Although their actions violate the first of the ten principles they claim to defend: Radical Inclusion. As Larry Harvey, Burning Man co-funder wrote recently “Scan Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and you will not find radical equality among them.”

Concierge culture existed at Burning Man early before we started any business there. Larry Harvey even confirmed it himself on his December 3, 2014 post on Voices of Burning Man: “Equality, Inequity, Iniquity : Concierge Culture”. As explain by Marian Goodell (Burning Man CEO) at the Global Leadership Conference, BMorg highly supports this business by its OSS program, and even takes financial advantage of this system. The near to 100 outside services companies who are supporting the Plug and Play camps are a most important part of the new business model of Burning Man, they are not going away, despite most of the Burner’s community dislike of them. The BMOrg personally deals with the outside services companies, towards satisfying the desires of the Concierge Camps, and of the Plug and Play Camps.

After trying to be recognized as a Burning Man Outside Service Program (OSS) official provider, Burning Man organisation finally replied us that they refuse to add concierge services to their program. We have therefore decided to propose a page on our website, clearly explaining that the services we offer for the Burning Man event are only intended to help our clients with preparation and organization, and the we didn’t offer any kind of package of the type BMOrg are trying to describe, or any other kind of unauthorized on-site services.

We are probably the only one type of concierge company who tried to do it in the official way, who tried to conform to the rules, who accepted to participate by paying the OSS contribution, who promoted the ten principles and who do our best to educate our clients to the Burning Man culture. Despite that Burning Man decided to lie and slander us publicly. This attitude is unacceptable.

The plug and play camps are increasingly numerous each year, and they do not relate anymore only to the wealthy Burners. There are some beautiful tunrkey camps starting from $500 for the week, including food, showers and electricity. These camps mostly host a large majority of campers, and RV’s are a minority. Some observers suppose that in a few years the Plug and Play Camps will represent more than 50% of the event, in accordance with the new business model of Burning Man.

Even if it displeases some Burners, the event evolves over time and we clearly are on the way to a Burning Man 2.0 with increasingly Virgins and wealthy Burners: people with annual income up to $150K grew  from 5.8% of the population in 2010 to 10.4% in 2014 and newbies from 21% in 2010 to 39,99% in 2013 (cfr. BRC Census).
http://burningman.org/culture/history/brc-history/afterburn/2014-afterburn-report/brc-2014-census/

This craze causes an obvious shortage of tickets that causes so much hatred from some Burners who have no more access to “their” event.

Also, by saying that they will notifying Outside Services (OSS) applicants and Air Carrier Services (ACS) programs that if they learn that they are doing business or subcontracting with us or our clients, they will deny access to the OSS and ACS programs, BMorg is asking OSS applicants to violate the U.S. Anti-Discrimination Laws and also the first Burning Man principle: Radical Inclusion

About this ticket problem, all our clients are already in possession of their own tickets. FCS does not have the task of verifying networks used by our clients to obtain their tickets. But we still allow doubting the good faith of BMorg when we know that they sells themselves a large amount of tickets to most of the Plug and Play camps.

We will continue to offer our services to help our clients organize and prepare their Burning Man experience. In any case BMorg may not oppose us from doing business outside of the event. We never claim to sell the Burning Man Experience, and even we really do our best to educate our clients to the Burning Man spirit. We also tried to create an art foundation (Art on Playa) to help our clients to sponsor art at Burning Man, but we met so many obstacles when we explained that we request financial transparency on projects that we wanted to support that we finally preferred to suspend this project. It seems that no one wants us to have a look on how they spend OUR money on their project. At least many of our “wealthy clients” continue to financially support art at Burning Man and by their actions, let all the community enjoy their gifts…

CrowdRX Now Hiring 120 Licensed Nevadans

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CrowdRX have already received 300 applications for the positions. 3 medical directors have been appointed. CrowdRX will have as many as 10 ambulances and 2 planes at the event “during peak times”, with one of the planes and a helicopter on standby.

From the Reno Gazette-Journal:

Although Burning Man outsourced medical support services management to a Pennsylvania-based company for this year’s event, the company intends to hire as many Silver State employees as it can.

Nevadan applicants who have experience working at the weeklong event in the Black Rock Desert will be considered before those who are inexperienced at Burning Man and are out-of-state, according to Andrew Bazos, CrowdRx board chairman… 

CrowdRx’s blueprint for managing medical support services will be very similar to Humboldt General Hospital’s and the company likely will hire nearly 100 percent Nevadans that have worked the event before, according to Bazos.

Already, CrowdRx has hired three medical directors for this year’s event.

The three directors include: emergency medicine physician Dr. Jeffrey Westin, formerly of Las Vegas and recent Reno transplant; University of Nevada, Las Vegas Chairman of Emergency Medicine Dr. Dale Carrison; and Dr. Eric Salk, medical director for CrowdRx, of Connecticut.

CrowdRx needs experienced employees given the extreme conditions of the Black Rock Desert, its isolation and the unique layout and organization of the annual event, Bazos said.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel out there,” he said…

“The comprehensive medical operation requires a large number of temporary staff. Physicians, nurses, paramedics, EMTs and non-clinical support staff treat nearly 3,000 injured and ill event participants. Given the complexity of the medical operation at Burning Man, CrowdRx is currently recruiting potential employees to staff the 2015 event,” the website said.

Interesting that CrowdRX thinks they only need to deal with “nearly 3,000″ patients, when according to BMOrg 6,100 patients required medical treatment last year. And this year is likely to be even bigger than last year.

CrowdRx is asking that only applicants with current unrestricted state licensure/certification apply.

Medical staff treated more than 6,100 patients in 2014, according to Burning Man’s 2014 Afterburn report. The majority of incidents involved people with minor injuries, such as scrapes and burns, as well as dehydration.

Note this, plane owners thinking about flying their own aircraft out there for a week:

CrowdRx will have a maximum of 10 ambulances and two airplanes on the playa during peak demand times, though one of the airplanes will be on-call at times.

A helicopter also will be on call, though it will not be on-site unless required because of the helicopter’s vulnerability to damage in such an extreme environment.

Shifts will be longer, but fewer. This is to prevent medical staff wandering off, and getting lost in the Carnival of Smoke and Mirrors.

One of the changes that medical staff will notice this year is that they will be working fewer, longer shifts, as opposed to more shifters for shorter periods of time.

“In the past, people have done a shift and wandered off,” Bazos said.

With longer shifts, staff will be able to work their shifts and then spend the remainder of the time enjoying the event without the concern about a quick return to their post.

BMOrg, as usual, have decided to be less than transparent:

Burning Man has decided not to discuss the rest of the contract in detail.

Burning Man officials in April said that the contract amount would likely be in the same ballpark as the $455,000 contract that it had with Humboldt General Hospital, according to the 2014 Afterburn Report provided by Burning Man. Burning Man officials also would not disclose the length of the contract with CrowdRx.

Read the full article at the Reno Gazette Journal.

Previous coverage of the changes to the Medical team from Burners.Me:

Humboldt General Reveals Details of Medical Split

BMOrg, Humboldt cut contract early

Don’t Hate the Plug-n-Player, Hate the Game

further future flyer

A guest post from our reader Kestrel about last weekend’s Further Future Festival.


 

ROBOT HEART’S SPIN-OFF DUST-UP: A Report From the Further Future -aka- “Don’t hate the plug n’ player…hate the game”

…My first year on Esplanade our camp was woefully undermanned, and the couple who organized it didn’t really even have an hour off to get in some of The Awesome until Saturday night, at which point they left me in charge and went off to find “The Bus.” This was back in 2010, before Robot Heart had acquired their giant sign, and you actually had to go out looking -and listening- for the THWAP. I still remember their words as they biked out into the Tron- “That bus,  man…it doesn’t look like much, but it’s what’s UP.”

I’m a bit of a camp rat, and in the years since then, Robot Heart was my reward to myself whenever I felt like it was time to get out. There’s just something about the look of that thing, with its ratty graffiti, minimal lights and drivers cantilevered ridiculously out to the sides. It’s been known to sound pretty great too. I also appreciate the fact that the Robot Heart crew documents and publishes the entire week of music, so that later in the year you have a kind of auditory postcard to reference. When they announced that they were doing their own festival in the desert outside Vegas I was curious. There was more than a little hatred directed at FF at the Burning Man GLC last month; when the topic came up at a breakout session, I didn’t feel comfortable admitting that I was planning to attend.

A few years back, one of the Playa news outlets ran a hit piece on Purple Palace and Robot Heart, accusing them of being art cars that only let pretty girls aboard. I thought there was a logical fallacy in the article: RH isn’t an art car. Its a delicate stage, and I have just as much a right to demand to touch their steel as I do to touch Dr. Kilovolt’s. Robot Heart took the high road and instituted a yoga and speaker series the next year. But I digress…

How I Got my Invite Code:

I sent the Further Future Facebook page a simple message explaining that I’d had a blast in the past dancing to their music and offering to bring my Playa install. I got a response within hours with 2 codes and a message telling me “thanks for the offer,” but that all I should bring with was an “open mind and good energy.”

The Location:

The festival was originally supposed to take place on public land near Fire Valley State Park. This is a very beautiful setting, with red, striated rocks. Having never camped in a Moab-like desert, I was sold. Apparently the BLM permit for the road to get there fell through, and the Robot Heart team had to go with plan B – rent a couple hundred acres of land from the Paiute Indian tribe, who control the Moapa Valley reservation. Among other things, the Paiute produced Sarah Winnemucca, probably the most well-known female Indian writer, and also handed some miners their asses to them at the start of the Pyramid Lake War (Hey, isn’t that on the way to a rave somewhere?)

This reservation was at one point down to a thousand square miles, but during the Carter administration the tribe was granted 70,000 more, and they have spent much of the time since then fighting efforts to place the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository on their land. This fact added a certain irony to the Further Future website, which depicted waify looking models emerging from smoldering pods in the desert. To quote Gary Farmer in more than one Jim Jarmusch film: “Stupid fucking white man.” (FF sent out a media bundle with a ton of free music from the fest, and it came with a reminder not to bring anything remotely resembling an Indian head-dress.)

I flew into Vegas Thursday night, having found a cheap rate at the Silverton Hotel and Casino, which has a free airport shuttle and contains the world’s largest Bass Pro Shop, where you can pick up pretty much any last minute camping supplies you need. Further Future offered free transportation to and from the airport, but I caught a ride in with a couple New Yorkers who had rented an RV. The drive was really quick- about 45 minutes from the strip. The gate was two big LED F’s on either side of the turn off and the greeters station was four dusty Chromebooks. Gate swag consisted of a slick, brushed aluminum FF water bottle (hydrate nudge) and a schedule. No map. Registration was a snap, and all told it took just under an hour for me to get from hotel to campsite.

This is where it gets a little weird, and I could understand if some people won’t read past this paragraph. The festival grounds looked uncannily similar to Playa: dark mountains surrounding a long valley filled with brush under that amazing Nevada desert sky. The ground underfoot was uniformly sandy/dusty, and at first I thought they had trucked in sand. Turns out the festival had simply bulldozed several hundred acres of brushland, tilling the desert into a smooth surface. Here and there some scrubs had been left to provide a little shade for a sound board or vendor. On paper, the idea of some rich guys from Buffalo bulldozing Indian land to stage a rave seems (insert Gary Farmer quote about S.F.W.M. here.) But of course it’s up to the tribe to decide how to use its land, and who to rent it to. (Lord knows they need the money to fight Uncle Sam’s efforts to fill their land with spent fuel rods.) The result of the landscaping was an environment eerily similar to the Big Burn, complete with winds powerful enough to send a ten-by-ten tumbling, brief whiteout conditions, nice wide hurricane-shaped dust devils and water trucks spraying down the streets. I brought my goggles and I used them.

The layout seemed like a rough circle but again, with no map it was hard to tell. We were allowed to venture out into the sagebrush, but were told that it contained both rattlesnakes and “bigger snakes that eat the rattlesnakes” so understandably very few Further Futurists wanted to fuck with that. Once my shade was up I went for a walkabout and took in my surroundings. In the middle of everything was the Mothership stage which was a run-of-the-mill silver truss rental stage, though they had started to build some pretty impressive organic panelized deco around it. This was the setting for Warpaint, Damian Lazarus and Bob Moses, and then guitars sounded right. At one point there was even a Hammond B3 and Leslie up there. I have never seen a Hammond on Playa! They never had time to finish decorating this stage, though a few guys worked until Sat pm and got it half done. Nearby was the Void, a kind of disco with Red Bull branding that I mostly avoided (thus missing Body Language’s set).  I should say, the Red Bull branding was very minimal, just on the draft pulls. Every other vendor had a hand-written chalkboard sign.

At the North end of things they had placed the speaker/lecture series stage, oddly named “Booba Cosmica”, whose backdrop was the Moapa valley extending for miles and miles. At the West end right next to camping was a little quad sound situation called the Gypset stage, with 4 speakers arranged in a 30 by 30 square. This stage had no lights or deco, and the backdrop behind the DJ was seven miles of Valley. This was also a moonset stage, and the desert moon behind the DJ was a more beautiful backdrop than any screen I could imagine. Nearby they had placed three super-neat laser cut polygonal steel sculptures lit from within. There were two areas of RV parking and two boutique AC camping zones of the Caravansicle variety, cut off from the rest of the festival and guarded by doormen. So. Weird. There was a main vending area, and apparently food was ten bucks. A few other pavilions, RFID top-up stations (cashless festival, unlike BM – your CC-linked wristband buys your ice) and a couple of art installs peppered the grounds. No signs, no info booth.

While there was no real central shade to speak of, RH had provided dozens and dozens of beautiful wicker and steel chill-out pods, each containing a circular mattress, and pillows, still shrink-wrapped. It took five or six people to move them and it became obvious that we were encouraged to just take them to camping. (A crew near me forgot their tent, and was saved by these pods.) These things were beautiful, and must have cost a fortune. It was the only real public infrastructure at the event that wasn’t a rental stage or pavilion, but they were really cool. You’ll no doubt see them out at 10 and K this year. There was also a yoga sanctuary, which was yet another rental stage outfitted with potted plants.

Last but not least was the bus itself, placed at the extreme Eastern edge of the area facing dawn (away from the fest) flanked by giant storage containers on each side. The thing is, the heart structure looks the same from the back, so while the star attraction faced away, it still was basically the Man here…the neon logo we all knew. I walked over to the bus and I would be lying if I said I didn’t have goosebumps. I fuckin’ love that object, and it triggers memories of some of my happiest moments. I shadowed a sound guy as he ran from sweet spot to sweet spot tweaking the mix. His baby is Basscouch, and he started explaining RH’s unique crossover to me and the search for a better onomatopoeia than “Thwap” to describe its super tight bass. I had a “there is no Santa” moment when he explained to me that there are actually TWO Robot Heart buses (one stays in Nevada). Soundcheck was Tycho’s Awake (foreshadowing?). Standing there, next to that bus, well…I felt happy to be there.

You could walk anywhere in five minutes, there were no bikes, trikes or streets, though they put out lawn lights the second night. There were no Thompson portals, no Flaming Lotus Girl builds, and no fire of any kind, at the Paiutes’ insistence. They simply cannot fight fire in this valley so we weren’t even allowed to bring camp stoves. If fire is a deal breaker this is not the fest for you. Other things conspicuously absent: cops, dreads, DPW, propane tanks, Rangers, dubstep, headlamps, projection mapping, theme camps, gifting and a temple…but then wait, slow down…this wasn’t a burn. Portos were clean, and water and showers were free. There were a lot of drones.

A Few Words About the Theme:

One of my very favorite writers is the Italian futurist/fabulist Italo Calvino. I brought with me his Complete Cosmicomics, which is a series of short stories inspired by scientific facts. Calvino’s main creative output was between 1965 and 1969, when the world was looking towards the moon. A cornerstone of Futurism is optimism based on human technology and ingenuity. This puts the theme directly at odds with the post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” aesthetic of the big burn. Now that California is dying of thirst and we don’t even have the space shuttle program to look up to anymore, RH’s celestial vision seems pretty exotic, and also retro. But it’s also very Robot Heart: the bus is almost always placed facing the rising sun. Reference the epic 2012 sunrise “Time On the Fucking Moon” mixes and remixes, their “Halloween On the Moon” party in New York and FF’s spaceman logo. People wore a lot of silver, and the largely undecorated rental structures actually fit in.

Celestially Oriented Placement of Stages:

This is where the RH crew really showed their cerebral approach to staging. At first, the stages seemed placed kind of randomly, and not optimally for sound bleed. But it’s all about the heavenly bodies, and I’m not talking about the girls climbing the heart (guys were allowed too this time, in fact anyone was allowed up on the bus). The fest took place under a worksight-bright full moon, which tends to detract from blinky stuff… But here it worked to their advantage. Robot Heart faced the sunrise, the Gypset stage had the moonset AND sunset as a background, the mainstage had the moonrise as a backdrop. The program had a section labelled “Key Times” and they were 6:07 AM and 7:13 PM…sunrise and sunset. My favorite art install was a piece inspired by the Voyager plate, placed by the Black Rock Observatory crew (Desert Wizards of Mars). Late Saturday night, looking at the bus from the East, you could see the beginnings of dawn, a blue-purple sky, three planets, and the full moon setting over the heart, with all the silver structures glowing in the moonlight behind the bus. It really was epic, and all the light was coming from outer space, not LEDS, fire or work lights. Again, I can’t emphasize enough how much this place resembled Black Rock. It looked more like Burning Man than a lot of Burning Man does, and with up to five stages bangin’ at once, you got that special moment where you walk away from one system and towards another and your feet are the fader.

The Crowd:

…Overwhelmingly consisted of impossibly attractive white hetero couples, gay guys and French people. Hard to tell how many were Burners. I saw a lot of money. Airstreams. Porsches. Airstreams hitched to Porsches. The whole place had the distinct flavor of wealth and civility. The open camping felt a little more down to earth, though very international. We were packed in tight, which was good for wind deflection and conversation. No grid, and mostly store bought tents and pop-ups. My neighbors on one side were a very cool couple who got a babysitter and flew in from Hong Kong for the weekend (!) and a crew of six French people were on the other. I speak a little French, so this was great for me. People were friendly but not outgoing like on Playa. I spoke to a Paiute tribal cop for a while and he couldn’t believe how little he had to do. He mostly drives around responding to domestic battery calls (“Indians like to drink” he said).

I didn’t see a single shitshow moment, argument, fight, injury, party shrapnel, O.D. or anything. Turns out a couple thousand white people will treat each other pretty well, left to their own devices. People mooped, but there was a clean up crew working so it felt like you were doing someone else’s job. I spoke to a few artists who had placed pieces and they all agreed that the organizers had been very helpful and on point. I can attest to this – when their third party ticket agent tried to mail me my will call ticket, I got a personal email from Benjamin Alexander (who rocked the bus Saturday night) fixing the problem. These guys are ultra-pros, and it ultra-shows.

Speaker Series:

Saturday afternoon featured a series of talks TEDx style. The Soundcloud guys talked about the future of listening and got my attention when they started talking about biotech enhancements increasing the range of human hearing to the point where we can start to hear light. Tony Hsieh talked about his downtown Las Vegas urban renewal project, and Carter Cleveland got everyone’s attention when he suggested that like Warhol, Kanye West be hated during his time but then later revered as a great pop artist. Other topics included space travel, consciousness hacking and why Elon Musk believes that we are already living in the singularity. The talks ended with cello looping by veteran Burner and one-woman orchestra Zoe Keating.

The Music:

…was outstanding. I got to see Warpaint from five feet away. Weird seeing America’s best current all-female band – called Warpaint – on a rezz. Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons was a really special moment, with four vocal mics going at once. Bob Moses basically headlined the mainstage, bringing one of the best performances I can remember, with the live vocals, guitar and samplers mixed perfectly. (If you know who Robert Moses was, the whole bulldozing thing takes on a deeper meaning). Twenty minutes into their set the full moon rose behind them. All in all, the sound quality at each stage was first-rate, and the depth and variety of music made other small festivals look like big festivals. Other highlights for me were Kiasmos, Little People, South African DJ Culoe De Song, and the topper was a surprise encore Sunday on the Robot Heart bus….a DJ set by Tycho.

I won’t really delve into describing the proceedings on the bus; if you’re reading this, you know what that consists of…though I will say, I kinda missed BOTH dawns. Saturday AM was their fault, as the bus ran out of diesel just before sun up, and by the time the sound guy I met earlier was done doing the fuel crew’s work it was daytime. (The scene: he’s balancing on a Kubota, heroically trying to fill up the worksite Genny hidden in the bus through its little feed tube, while models with glazed eyes watched from above.)

The second night culminated with an epic Thugfucker sunrise. As the magic moment approached, JLG lifts appeared out of nowhere and a three man film crew started taking an epic boom shot. There were so many cameras I would’ve felt really exposed without my Wasteland cowl. The whole thing started to feel a bit staged, like they were recreating the magic dawns from 2011-2013 on Playa but for the cameras.  To block the blazing sun they stretched a long run of aluminet between two JLG’s, creating the Giant Deep House Badminton Net of the Future, but I couldn’t tell if it was for us or the shot.

I got kinda down on it and walked away, so I missed the – wait for it – champagne and caviar toast at dawn.

Yeah.

It was as if the Robot Heart I knew had turned itself inside out…what used to be a secret party miles from Centercamp had become Times Square. I walked away, feeling pretty shitty about it all.

But my way back to my tent I found about eight people dancing at the quadsound stage and stayed there for hours. Kind of like a few years ago when I was feeling burned out and went for a walk in deep Playa and found this weird bus with the big speakers…so that’s a full circle right there (Orbit?). I don’t know who the DJ was, as the Gypset stage had a secret lineup – just as Robot Heart used to. By the time Bob Moses took the mainstage I was in better spirits and the Tycho surprise set sealed it.

The main reason I went to FF was out of curiosity, and the desire to be at something at its inception – my first burn was Larry’s twenty-fourth. This is a really interesting moment in the evolution of our culture; here we have a theme camp that isn’t even really a theme camp putting on a regional that most definitely isn’t a regional. What will be the next Robot Heart? It sure isn’t Mayan Warrior, though that’s pretty much a direct copy of what the bus is. And the bus itself is an homage to the T.A.Z. soundsystem movement in the UK back in the 1990s. I’m also curious what’s going to happen to the parking lot we made on Paiute land. It’s a great place to stage a festival and an excellent training ground for people who haven’t made it to Playa yet. It will be interesting if other legacy theme camps rent this land to have a faux burn. I can just imagine what some Greg Fleishman installs would look like here, or if it could be used to stage a “Building Man” type gathering a la the Jenkstars. Or maybe the land is cursed now and we’re all going to hell and the boys from Buffalo will lose their fortunes and join the rest of us looking for a cardboard box to contain our Aldi purchases.

The Bottom Line:

I shelled out $250 for a second tier ticket and another $75 for a camping pass. I ate out of a cooler and skipped vending and all the other amenities. The price is steep, but to put it in perspective, the hotel BM chose to host the GLC charged us $240 PER NIGHT for a motel-quality room with no bathroom fan. To camp in a gorgeous natural setting like that would cost you more per night than would the price per day at Lolla, Coachella etc. There was a $40 early arrival pass for sale, but shuttles started friday, and my RV ride was a surprise. You could stay until Monday AM, but I felt a need to get to the hotel and start writing this while it was fresh.

They must have lost a TON of money on this. Who’s to know is they even got deposits back on the original spot? The location went through; it was the access road that didn’t, from what I gather. Word on the street was that the population was at about 2.5k, but it seemed even lower. By Sunday night there were about 600 people left max. But the fact that they were able to pull it off at all, considering the venue change a mere days before gates is pretty astounding, and something I just don’t think a non-burner crew could have accomplished.

A final note on the money issue- Robot Heart dug deep into their pockets to finance a new Nevada desert festival in May. Unlike a private yacht, the rest of us get to enjoy this too. I can’t afford to live in Midtown Manhattan, but I’m not gonna boycott MoMA. I did boycott “The Fight” because honestly, I’d rather eat caviar with people who love music with every fiber of their being than eat McDonalds with people who think its worth $100 mil. to watch minorities beat each other.  FF speaker Tony Hsieh gave away three hundred million of his own dollars to revitalize a once-dead Downtown Vegas. It’s clear that our Congress is incapable of passing laws that would save the world, so what we need now more than ever is rich people who are also good people.

One thing that stuck out to me was the public water. Burning Man’s character building exercise of bringing your own water in has the unfortunate side effect that thousands and thousands of plastic bottles are purchased and then driven in separately, wasting carbon. BMorg should address this moving forward as BM’s population increases and California’s water disappears. Moreover, from ancient watering holes to water coolers, communal water is where animals and people have congregated to drink and mingle. How do we maintain the values of radical self-reliance and cut down on bottled water at the same time?

Its also really interesting doing the desert thing in Spring. The Baker beach burns were a Solstice affair, and while Labor Day is more convenient for more people, it’s a totally different vibe.

Sidenote: In the Further Future, the portos have a sign that says “close the toilet lid.” If you do this, the little shit-exhaust chimney creates a shit-Venturi or whatever and the shit-smell goes out the top, instead of cooking the Porto. Why people don’t do this at BM I simply do not understand. [Shit rant over.]

On a more personal note, this was the first festival I’ve attended alone, and if that’s something you’ve ever considered, or if you suspect yourself of being an ambivert, I say “Do it!” You’ll be on your own timetable, and you won’t disappoint anyone or get annoyed by anyone. I met some cool people and gauged their impressions of this boutique non-burn.

So what’s the Further Future? According to the Robot Heart crew, it’s got a lot of live PA and guitars in the mix, and an almost defiant sense that we’re free to pick up parts of the Burn culture and run with them and leave others behind. Its not quite radical exclusion – call it liberal editing of the principles. If their bulldozing virgin desert leaves a foul taste in your mouth, consider that the Burn takes place on Paiute land as well, except it is land Sam hasn’t given back yet. So by trekking to BRC every year, I’m sorta financially rewarding my government for its greatest crime. Who’s the S.F.W.M. meow?

The music was great; the celestial orientation of the stages leveled the music up cosmically. The Robot Heart crew have a reverence for the cycles of sun and moon that verges on a kind of neo-paganism. FF didn’t convince me I was gonna travel to Mars listening to Bedouin anytime soon, but they definitely had me looking towards the sky.

-Kestrel

****

Discussion question: When does awesome design become a logo? Or a brand? What defines a logo?

FINAL FURTHER FUTURE DISCLAIMER: I intentionally avoided the Robot Heart guys, although I basically know what they look like and where they camped. I wanted to bring back an objective report, so I talked to Indian cops, security, artists and festival goers but not the RH crew, and although I was tempted to go up on the bus, I didn’t want to sway my experience one way or the other. They’re Burners, after all, and they probably would’ve gifted me something awesome. Or maybe I would’ve caught them in a WTF moment after what must have been an insanely stressful week of location switch. Either way, we’d all do well to remember to try to give each other some breathing room as this fire spreads…we’re all just trying to get our camp up, after all.

Image: Stacie Hess/Fest300

Image: Stacie Hess/Fest300