Burning Man Spawns New Age Festivals

The New York Times has a story by Julia Allison on The Progeny of Burning Man. There are other ways to get a transformational experience than going to Black Rock City, and not every EDM festival is like Coachella.

Re-blogged from the New York Times:

It was 3 a.m. in Bradley, Calif., in the middle of a dusty dry lake bed, and Carl Weiseth, 33, was shoeless, shirtless and regaling a gathering crowd about last night’s escapade. “I didn’t make it back from the dance floor until the sun was starting to rise,” he told his audience, adding that he “passed out to the gentle vibrations of thumping electronic music for three to four hours.”

A 1960s Volkswagen van was painted with the words “Give Peace a Chance,” surrounded by fresh-faced bohemians sporting flower crowns, acid-washed jean shorts, seapunk teal-dyed hair and psychedelic leggings. “It’s the feather-and-leather crew,” one festivalgoer said.

To the casual observer, this post-New Age convergence of monumental art, all-night dancing and “Kumbaya” spirituality could be mistaken for Burning Man, the weeklong arts festival in the Nevada desert. But unlike Burning Man, which marked its 28th year last month, this festival called Lightning in a Bottle offers paid lecturers, headlining music acts like Moby, and V.I.P. packages with deluxe tents and fresh linens for $2,500.

“L.I.B. is one of the pinnacle festivals of West Coast conscious culture,” said Mr. Weiseth, using shorthand for Lightning in a Bottle, among a new type of gathering called “transformational festivals.” They could be described as the slightly smaller, psychedelic-art-and-electronic-dance-music-centered, commercialized progeny of Burning Man.

“It is the ultimate convergence of visionary art, electronic music, yoga, spirituality, nutrition, fashion and dance-culture, where people gather who appreciate both nature and spiritual consciousness, and who want to co-create an unpretentious dance party in celebration of sacred art and community,”…Held over four days in May and billed as a “heart and mind expanding oasis,” Lightning in a Bottle, in its ninth year, drew 15,000 participants, one of the largest and more influential of these festivals.

Such festivals have spread beyond their West Coast stronghold and now take place year-round throughout the United States, as well as Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America. They are an amalgamation of several cultural forces: the rise of electronic dance music, the maturing of the rave culture, the popularity of TED-like talks, the mainstreaming of yoga, and the YOLO spirit of festivalgoers who spread the word on social media.

Unlike more mainstream music gatherings like Coachella and Lollapalooza(with their focus on pop music, celebrities, alcohol and fashion brands), transformational festivals embrace feel-good values like ecological sustainability, organic food, community building and wisdom sharing. With names like Beloved and Wanderlust, Envision and Lucidity, these festivals seem like bastions of the nouveau hippie, grandchildren-of-the-Woodstock generation. And, to a certain extent, they are.

…“This is a safe space — a space free of judgment, criticism, punishment,” said the effervescent Dream Rockwell, a festival founder, who was standing backstage while a man played a didgeridoo, an ancient Australian instrument. “Creativity is accepted in all forms. ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’ obviously does not apply here.”

…Maura Malini Hoffman, 49, a former Procter & Gamble executive who now gives spiritual talks at festivals, put it this way: “Transformation is about realizing there’s more to life than making money, having a good job, fame and fortune. People go to these and they’re never the same. 

…This year, organizers offered a luxury EZ Camping option. The $2,500 packages, which included a prefab tent, plush bed, cooler, private restrooms, power outlets and a “skinny mirror,” were sold out.

One of the luxury tents went to Misty Meeler, 29, an interior design assistant from Houston, who came with her 37-year-old sister. Ms. Meeler wore a gold headdress, rainbow bikini, a leather utility belt and purple leg warmers. Speaking through a heart-shaped dust mask, she explained that Coachella was too “Hollywood see-and-be-seen” for her taste. This festival, she said, “has a hippie scene that makes the whole experience better, whether you’re looking to eat healthy, live clean, meditate, yoga or want to party the whole four days with no sleep.”

…The crowd included James Oroc, a writer from New Orleans, who was waxing philosophical. Best known for his psychedelic tome, “Tryptamine Palace,” he is an outspoken and sometimes cantankerous critic of festival culture…His verdict? The crowd was “very hip, very beautiful,” he said, though he was concerned that the festival had become too “fashion” and “very L.A.”

“You get a lot of Burners who haven’t actually been to Burning Man,” he said. “They just have the clothes.”

Read the full story here.

photo: Flickr

Random Rab at Envision Festival, Costa Rica 2014. photo: Flickr

9 comments on “Burning Man Spawns New Age Festivals

  1. Enough with the fucking feathers already!!! they are awful and have no place at Burning Man or anywhere else. Especially headdresses! Even Native Americans don’t wear them. Educate yourself dumb ass and don’t wear them. Period.

    • “Even Native Americans don’t wear them.”

      Well if they don’t wear them – why shouldn’t we? Feathers weren’t invented by a culture, they’re the clothing of our avian brothers and sisters. There’s nothing disrespectful about donning a costume of feathers. Those who argue that it’s disrespectful to the culture of Native Americans don’t see that in wearing these costumes, we’re letting their traditions live on forever in ourselves.

      Look down upon those who *actually* disrespect Native American values, those who wear feathers and headdresses in ill will – not those who choose to share in the beauty of their dress.

      • Unless you’re a judge or a surgeon, you wouldn’t show up to court wearing a judge’s robe and powdered wig, or visit someone in a hospital dressed in scrubs, would you? Would you go to a Japanese restaurant dressed like a Geisha or a Samurai?


        If you stole someone’s land or robbed their house, would you show up at their dinner party wearing their own clothes? I’d say perhaps ALL of the events in North America happen on stolen land.

        Would you wear a fur coat to the zoo?

        • Women have been constantly oppressed by men, and yet men at Burning Man wear tutus and dresses.

          Black people have been enslaved by white people and had their culture stolen, but plenty of white people wear the sports jerseys of black players.

          Do you have a problem with either of those situations?

  2. While I absolutely adore Random Rab and a lot of this music, I find the label “transformational” to be pretentious. The festival goers are nice for sure, and there are some sweet intentions being set, but I don’t know what makes the music any more transformational than Skerik blasting an awesome saxaphone solo at High Sierra or Tim Carbone rocking a super intense fiddle jig at the Railroad earth Halloween fest. Fact is, music is transformational no matter what the genre and no matter what beverage you are sipping on. These feather leather festivals are magnificent and beautiful and festivals like High Sierra are rockin’ and silly. And to me, Burning Man encompasses both and then some.

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