43 Flavors of Burners

It takes a village, to raise a city. Radical inclusion means welcoming everyone, no matter what their idiosyncracies. Last year, Piss Clear Black Rock City Weekly published a defintion of Burner types, compiled by Burner Turnerjer from a discussion on ePlaya. It’s quite amusing – if you enjoy this, then you’ll love the Jaded Review.

  • the acquisitor : measures how much fun they’re having by how much stupid crap they can stuff their pockets with. warning: they’ll try to steal some key piece of decor from your bar. also, they’ll try to trade you a handful of painted bottle caps for a dose of E.
  • the bad couple : fights all the time. fucks the rest of the time. one or both of them may try to seduce you. it’s not worth it.
  • the barfly : if you have a bar, this person will keep people coming back to it, night after night. always willing to spell you at bartending, always there when you need a smoke, always drunk enough to find everyone fascinating, will dance to any music, laugh at any joke, applaud any story. will probably sleep on the couch even if their tent is ten feet away. this person is your bar’s heartbeat.
  • the burner-than-thou : similar to the jaded old-school burner, except this is their third year. don’t try to tell these people awesome stories of your adventures.. they’ve seen it before, and anyway you did it wrong.
  • the camp bitch : would really have been happier staying at a nice hotel in reno… but then they wouldn’t have lazy filthy campmates to complain about! they can’t believe what giant slobs everyone else is. will moan incessantly about how no one else wants to wash the dishes. if you’re burning with more than two other people, you have at least one of these in your crew. if you don’t know who it is, maybe it’s you!
  • the center-camp-hanger-outer : hangs out at center camp the whole time. by the end of the week, they’ll have spent more money on iced-coffee drinks than you spent on gas. PRO TIP: center camp is lame.
  • the creepy date-rapist : always has plenty of drugs.
  • the cruise director : has read the guide. knows what day it is. eats spectacular meals in a different place every night. easily spotted by the addresses written on their arms. if you want to go to bed early, spend the day with this person. by sunset you’ll be exhausted.
  • the engineer : on the up side, they’ll do all the work and keep your camp functioning. on the down side, they’ll never let you forget that they do all the work and keep your camp functioning. try to get them laid.
  • the first-timer whose mind is completely blown the whole fucking time : depending on your point of view, these people can be deeply inspiring, or even more annoying than the jaded old-schoolers. usually they take too many drugs and have at least one nervous breakdown.
  • the fish-to-water : it’s their first year, but they wear the playa like jessica rabbit wears an evening gown. fearless, self-deprecating, and utterly charming. makes even jaded old-schoolers smile. make them your camp ambassador.
  • the font of swag : exact opposite of the acquisitor. each morning they’ll fill their bag with homemade junk, and won’t return to camp until they’ve “gifted” away all their garbage.
  • the jaded old-school burner: never shuts up about how much BM sucks now… but still comes! you won’t see much of these guys, though, because they never leave their camp.
  • the overly spiritual burner : can be easily identified as the person who never laughs at your jokes. thinks burning man should be like easter mass: solemn and incomprehensible. just drop them off at the temple while you hop a totally undignified art-car to the upside-down-on-a-pole-in-a-wet-t-shirt drinking contest at Pinky’s.
  • the overprepared neighbor : forgot your can opener? your toenail clippers? your corkscrew? here you go! no, you can keep it, i brought twenty.
  • the person who’s having way more fun than they seem to be : often the oldest person in their camp. has had a hard life. you have trouble catching their name. you’ll worry because they just sit at the end of the bar the whole time, drinking from a flask. but when you catch their eye they give you a giant shit-eating grin.
  • the perv : all their clothing is shiny and/or crotchless. they brought a “bag of tricks.” for most of the week you don’t know where they are. that’s because they’re next door, having earth-shaking sex with your dumpy middle-aged neighbors. if this person invites you to a party they heard about, FOR GOD’S SAKE GO
  • the philosopher : prefers shots to cocktails. often fails to notice hot nudity that’s right next to them. has rough mornings. loses their voice.
  • the raver : wakes up at sunset. measures fun in decibels. runs out of drugs.
  • the shell-breaker : who would have thought boring old doug from work can sing like barry white and do beer bongs like Bender?
  • the sparkle-pony : no camp is complete without some of these. they’re a bit like furniture you might get a chance to fuck.
  • the weekender : arrives on friday in an RV that’s more luxurious than your apartment. doesn’t want to meet their neighbors. doesn’t pack out their trash.
  • the wrecking ball : spills drinks, knocks over barstools, falls off of tables, rides their bike into support ropes and is humorously flung backwards. wanders off with the bong. invites thieves over. gets hurt. gets tickets. can always lay their hands on a megaphone.
  • the yahoo : says woo. picks fights. is a dick.
  • your dream-girl/guy/both/other : your perfect soul-mate. you’ll spend the most wonderful night of your life with this person. then you’ll find out they’re married.

Burner Mookie5 added to the lexicon with some more positive archetypes.

I noticed most of the categories listed so far were negative – and yeah, those types of people are around, but I don’t think it’s too hard to be able to avoid having to be around a lot of them. (Seagull is a great name descriptor though!). I thought I’d add some positive ones from my personal experience:

  1. The Architect – Has a couple of oversized playa art projects, leads a theme camp. Campmates tend to look up to him/her and help with the giant projects, which create unity of purpose for the camp. Also helps others with their projects due to the plethora of construction skills the architect has.
  2. The Planner – Like the Architect, the planner leads a theme camp, but rather than making landmarks, the planner addresses every organizational challenge possible, from event listings to leave no trace planning, writes it all down, and communicates the expectations to camp 3 months ahead of time, yet somehow isn’t bitchy during the event when, as always, things don’t go exactly as planned.
  3. The Builder – The builder doesn’t like details, but goes to burning man to put shit together and make things work. The builder always is wearing a tool belt except for the one time a week when they’re exploring deep playa.
  4. The Overlit Wanderer Won’t leave camp at night unless they’re radiating at least 30 watts of colored light. Brings solar panels and batteries solely to recharge smaller batteries.
  5. The Guy Who Shares Workspace – Is usually hard to find on playa, but back in defaultia, they share a gigantic workspace where people gather to build stuff and party.
  6. Small Art Car Guy – Spends the 6 months pre-burn just building that golf cart based animal car. While at the burn, only desires to drive it around, and take campmates, neighbors, and total strangers other places on the playa. Won’t drink, as they take driving seriously.
  7. The Homemaker – Goes to burningman to build something that’s as comfortable as home, from scratch each year. Has comfortable furniture, fantastic shade, home made swamp cooler, and some sort of sealed sleeping area. Usually has good food they share, and hates RVs.
  8. The Worklepony – Has a million costumes, built some crazy artbicycle, arrives early to build camp, and really helps out doing so. Sometimes takes things a little too seriously.
  9. Fire Spinning Hero – Came to the burn to spin poi/staffs/comet/etc. Is a good campmate, cleans up after themselves, helps as appropriate.
  10. Fire Spinning Zero – Came to the burn to spin fire, fuck everything else. Otherwise acts like a seagull. A long time ago, my camp had 4 of these. ugh.
  11. Rockstar – It may be their first year, or their 7th, but the rockstar just gets ‘it’, and seems to help everyone, rustles up campmates to lead them to the coolest playa parties, and looks snazzy doing it. Kinda rare.  [I KNOW ONE!]

General burner archetypes I’m aware of, but haven’t interacted with on a camp level – I consider these folks (even the ones I’m not real fans of) essential parts of the landscape of burning man:

  1. Deathguilder – wears black, looks like they’re from Mad Max, their art vehicles are black, spikey, spit fire.
  2. Steampunk – Dresses like they are out of the movie “wild wild west”, 1800’s formal, but with lots of gears and mechanical flair. The ones I know best from seeing out there drive the “Neverwas Haul” around very slowly. I’d also lump some western afficianados in this group, even though it’s a little different.
  3. Partiers – Show up, throw up a teeny bit of survival infrastructure, and go rage for 5 days straight. Usually hang out on 10 or 2.
  4. Theme camp-a-holics – So busy maintaining/running a major theme camp, they don’t get to get out and about very much. Usually overcommitted, but their camp is on Esplanade or Center Circle or 10 or 2, so somebody’s gotta be paying attention, right?
  5. MTV Beachparty – The sea of sparkle ponies that are out in the sun grooving away at the Distrikt (used to be deep end) all day everyday.
  6. The volunteer – Goes to burning man to volunteer with the org, be it Rangers, Gate, Coffee, Greeters, or many other things. You won’t notice them much when they’re not volunteering, and they’re ok with that.
  7. The installation artist – Spends 70% of the burn finishing their deep playa project. You can see them on Tuesday night under lights working until 5am.

10 comments on “43 Flavors of Burners

  1. And you forgot the Judgemental: he will write a blog post about 43 flavors of burners 😉

    Good post nonetheless.

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