What’s Up With DPW and Gate?

Kim Jung Ilo from DPW, the crew that spend months constructing and removing Black Rock City for us every year, reaches out to bridge the cultural divide.


(source: Facebook)

This was my response to a thread asking, if I dare paraphrase, “why are DPW such assholes and are they ever been nice or any real use to you?”, which seems to have been deleted. Various ignorant and sage comments followed, mostly thoughtless; none quite hit the mark, in my opinion, and as a member of DPW, I felt the need to put some sense into the conversation. I still feel it…

DPW sets the table and cleans up afterwards for the biggest cultural potluck there is. It’s a lot of very hard work. (The DPW work season is where ADHD workaholics go to hang out with each other, I’ve heard it said. From the inside, it’s remarkably apt.) That some of us resent the eventual guests for interrupting what some feel is our real occupation – the DPW season – with the actual party, at which some of us don’t feel comfortable or wanted, is both silly and understandable. So they/we hang/hide out in the servants’ quarters with friends.

dpw assesSome of us ARE assholes, to be sure, and I’m sure there are some who would say that about me, and even though you, original poster, were talking only of your own experiences, it’s best not to generalize too much. DPW members are all too often people who already have difficult, fringe-y lives and it is an amazing comfort to come out and be and do with like-minded souls. Our often apparently brutal affection for one another isn’t universally translatable to the psychological vocabulary of outsiders and the respect it both implies and demands isn’t automatically conferred on just anyone who shows up in our midst. The type of people who can do what we do are frequently habituated to being wary of strangers due to default world dynamics and the subsequent need to be self-reliant – not an automatic recipe for openness nor a casually sunny demeanor.

In contrast, the raver culture that many burners come from is characterized by a genuine, but necessarily superficial openness to new faces. This is likewise a cultural language that is understandable to those who are acculturated, but seems weirdly phony to those who are not or don’t recognize it for what it is. “Why is this beautiful girl hugging me? Is it because she wants to have sex with me?” Probably not, sadly. “Why is that ragged DPW member shouting insults at me. Does she hate me?” It might be an inappropriately placed attempt at familiarity offering you the chance to play. Similarly, say “how’s it going?” to a stranger and you expect them to say “good” (or “well” if they’re avid grammar mavens). However, should you start answering that question with an account of your day, said stranger will likely be put out or at least confused. The cultures simply don’t line up, though both are lovely in their own context.

DPW Parade, 2013. photo: Carnivillain, Flickr

DPW Parade, 2013. photo: Carnivillain, Flickr

Everyone wants to be cool and feel part of the group, but if you haven’t been out there in the DPW manner, you’re just not, in all likelihood, going to have the markers of someone who merits automatic respect and acceptance. We’re wary and standoffish with each other at first, as well.

What makes for a negative interpersonal experience, anyway? Is it that the person you’re interacting with is possessed of some negative trait? That’s generally how we react. Is it that we ourselves have some negative trait? That’s seldom how we react, though, in truth equally likely, right? “I didn’t have a good time interacting with him” is generally voiced as “what a jerk” not as “he’s probably really nice, but we didn’t get along”. It’s pretty simple self-protective ego tactics, right?

We’re not evolved to deal well with strangers, though many of us have learned to do it fairly well, but none of us deal well with anyone outside of wherever that boundary of “stranger” is set. Your behavior is no doubt the same even if your threshold is broader and your tolerance for perturbation greater.

Still feel like judging? If the answer is yes, then you’re either very dull-witted or a complete dick. You decide.


I come at DPW from something of a weird perspective – over-edumacated, pretty square dude, living a pretty square life – I found myself hired by the bmorg to build a major project, thrust in amongst the heathens at the beginning of May. I was green as a ’70’s avocado fridge, had my share of freakout, meltdown, etc., but found something I didn’t know I was missing, or wanted. I felt “I’m not one of these people, but I have an unreasonable affection for them”, and found that I couldn’t not come back. It’s been ten years and counting, now, and I still feel like an outsider sometimes, but I recognize that as my own neurotic bullshit. I find that I am in an environment that suits me very well with people whom I can respect and admire and feel honored to be part of. The rough love was a godsend; being with dozens of other alphas and getting along more or less was a huge relief. It broke something loose inside my soul and that has made me a better, much better person.
I, for one, love “the participants”, whose simple enjoyment of the event can elude me, being a jaded, behind-the-scenes-motherfucker, and envy their, your, uncomplicated joy at it all. The last three years have each been my best yet, so I’m learning. I tease my fellows for hating on the participants when they do, pointing out that it’s unworthy to revile the very guests we’re throwing a party for; after all, we wouldn’t have anything to do if they weren’t coming.



Buck Down shared Gate’s perspective:

so i was nudged to add a little perspective on behalf of the Gate Crew which suffers from similar PR vis a vis our perceived (and occasional very real) antipathy towards participants. in our case – we actually have to interact WITH EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU as we get you into (and to a lesser extent – out of) the event. sadly – the ones of you who are super cool, and completely have your shit together (which is by far really the majority) – we barely get to interact with – as the transaction takes next to no time at all (and thank you! for making our, and your lives easier on that!) however – its all the “special snowflakes” who have wandered off and lost their cars, can’t follow simple instructions are trying to sneak themselves or others in, and/or put their own and our lives at risk out there are the ones that can fill up a lot of our day – or at least the more memorable parts. after 6-8 hours a day, day after day, of dealing with the least prepared, most annoying people black rock city has to offer -it gets progressively easier to start building up a resentment that unfortunately can spill over to a lot of less deserving people – add to that a dynamic that Kim Jong Ilo mentioned of having spent a long time working out in an empty desert that suddenly became full of noise and people which is more than jarring and it becomes easy to see how we start retracting in to an “us” and “them” dynamic. it’s not something we are especially proud of – but it’s real. you all have seen how just how much even a week in that desert can completely run you through an emotional roller coaster – now imagine that for a month – or two months – how about 4???? this shit aint easy kids. and when all is said and done – a lot of us aren’t doing it for you, or burning man – we’re doing it for each other, and our bonds are not dissimilar to the ones felt by soldiers at war. at a certain point, many of us stop caring about the event, or what it means, or art – we just know that our best friends are out there doing a tough job in the heat and dust and will be damned if we are going to let them do it alone. so when you do stumble on one of us when our manners aren’t what they probably should be – just know that what may come across as disdain for participants is actually rooted in a jealous and protective love for one another in our crews. we promise we’ll try to be better about it – but just know it comes from someplace real.


57 comments on “What’s Up With DPW and Gate?

  1. Buck has covered much of what needed to be said in here. My remarks are more directed at this hunny guy trying to shit all over everything.

    While I am not a “hardcore” GPE volunteer, I have been volunteering for shifts since 2011. As the co-mayor and builder of a large theme camp, much of my day to day time at the Burn is spent herding cats around camp and making sure shit is where it is supposed to be and everyone is performing their tasks to a reasonable level of expectation.

    Here’s the shocker for you hunny,I volunteer to do that too. I also volunteer (as well as my campers) to spend a considerable amount of money (easily a personal drop of $4 to $6k a year) on transportation to get the infrastructure and basic expendables that make my camp function so that people like you can be entertained at Burning Man. Now, does this mean that people like me and the others that come in early to build shit for you to play with and stay late to clean it all up are also being manipulated by BMORG to entertain people like you? Should we also be getting paid by BMORG to set up the side shows on the Esplanade and elsewhere that people like you take for granted and have come to expect from people like me?

    My typical shifts for Gate are opening night and 2 to 4 dawn patrol shifts. It really revolves around what I can carve out of my schedule from running my camp. Those shifts are 6 hours of Heaven for me out there. All those bright, happy faces full of excitement and expectation that I get to see in my lane. I LOVE THAT SHIT.

    I was approaching full Burner burn out in 2010. 2011 was going to be my last year ever out there because of it. 2011 was the year I was going because I had obligations to my camp and village, not for the fun and excitement. It felt way too much like a job at that point. It was also the year I said “Ya’ll need to deal with X, Y and Z because I’m going out for Gate this year.” I had no idea what to expect but was excited for the change in my Burn.

    10 minutes in on my training shift I felt it start. By the end of that first shift I was renewed, envigorated and loved everything about Burning Man all over again. The Playa may be Home, but for the few days I can be with my brothers and sisters in black in the lanes, THAT is my real home in the dust.

    So no, hunny. I do not want or need any compensation from BMORG for the time I give to the event. I do it for the love of the people, the event and overcoming my own self imposed limitations.

  2. So tell me hunny, do you think everyone that brings art out to the playa, or runs a bar, is paid for their effort? Do you not understand how rewarding it is to help get something as monstrous as burning man to run each year? Do you understand that gifting is about the giving, not the getting? Let me tell you my stats. I’ve brought art pieces to the play for the last 4 years and have worked for Gate for the last three. I don’t get paid for any of that, not even free tickets. I’m about as employable as anyone in America these days, if you believe the studies on job statistics. I’ve been employed full time for longer than you’ve been alive, I’d guess. I’m married with 2 grown kids. I’m your prototypical suburban dad. And one of my biggest thrills is having some totally magical moment reveal itself out on the playa. Or having some sweet soul just say “thanks” when I get them through gate and send ’em on their way. I have a whole grab bag of trinkets that folks gave me this year as they passed through gate. Just being a part of keeping this whole crazy thing running is my reward. But a vast swath of the folks coming to burning man are clueless. They expect everyone to make exceptions for their stupidity. “Hey, just cut me a break, will ya”. Time after time we hear that and we finally get tired of being nice about it. So we send you to D lot and tell you go fuck off. The flac you get from Gate is rarely undeserved.

    Having worked on art on the playa, I’ve had a fair bit of interaction with DPW, and I have to say I’ve never gotten grief about anything. They’ve been stand up folks all down the line.

  3. My long post below about how Gate can set the scene for participants in a useful and important way? I actually had conversation about it earlier today, with a smart and insightful gal who has clearly read a great deal about Burning Man and wants to go someday:

    Pantsless Santa: . . . and I also volunteered a couple nights a week at the entrance Gate, it was pretty cool… people come into the event and the first thing they see is a bunch of people in black not necessarily stroking their egos.

    Friend: Oh? I thought it was more of a peace and love sort of thing…

    PS: [Smiles]

    Friend: [Smiles]

    PS: There is a ton of that peace and love stuff, and a ton of other stuff… It’s good for people to learn what you just learned as soon as possible.

  4. Hunny speaks to my truth tho. I’m severely underemployed and use my time in the desert to recharge and hide out from the law a bit before hitting nor cal for trim season then its off to ride the rails for a bit before the rainbow gathering, oregon country fair and then back to burning man. Im 60 btw and this has been working for me so far.

  5. tldr…… as a gate worker, i try to be nice. plenty of people i process understand the situation, and help my job, and their processing go really smooth. and thats fucking awesome!!! im stoked to let them go and have a shit ton of fun, and they are stoked that they made it easy and fun for me. smiles all around. then there are people who are just not stoked to be at burning man, and act like it was my fault they all need tickets, and make a huge deal out of standard procedure, then get mad at us for following standard procedures. i bet some of the people i work with are a different case. I wouldn’t say that you can conclude that all pg+e/dpw are assholes, but i wouldnt be shocked if anyone had a negative experience. I, on the other hand, try to keep it as positive and awesome as possible, as we are at burning man…. smile a bit…..

  6. 11 years a burner, 2 years on Gate and Perimeter – and I’ll echo what Buck, Boyfriend and others said: Facing burner after road-burnt, clueless and occasionally shitfaced burner for 6-hour shifts in a howling dust storm, sun-broiled afternoon or numbingly-cold graveyard shift does give you a bit of an attitude. We stick together and look out for each other, and maintain a little us-vs-them esprit de corps because it’s hard, public-facing work that we do for no pay. If we sometimes indulge in a dark joke, a chuckle or a sneer at the expense of occasional “bad” burners (no ticket, bullshit story, contraband in the car, overly-excited-and-about-to-run-someone-over-to-get-inside or just-plain-being-awful) then that’s because they’re the few unwanted nuts amid the huge and awesome batch of sugar cookies (the “good” burners) who do come through the gates. But we do our best to be professional, process participants quickly, search vehicles carefully but thoroughly for stowaways, weapons, animals and anything else that could endanger anyone’s burn or the city’s BLM permit – and then move ’em on in. We do it because we like the work (it’s honestly fun), the camaraderie (we do have the best bar on the playa) and the fact that we’re contributing a needed service to make this whole batshit insane socio/cultural/environmental lab-rat experiment work. If you can’t deal with personalities, I’m not sure why you came to Burning Man. I’m pretty sure the disclaimer on the back of the ticket offers no guarantees that you’ll love everyone on-playa – nor vice versa.

    • >it’s hard, public-facing work that we do for no pay.
      You asked for it, sweetheart. So don’t complain.

      >we do have the best bar on the playa
      I wonder where that nice booze comes from… I’ve unwittingly donated a few nice bottles of alcohol to the Gate when I failed to keep an eye on my rig during inspection. Next year I’m going to load a bottle of Patron with my jizz and leave it out to be “donated” without asking. Enjoy!

      • so now you’re accusing us of being thieves???? really??? once again you’ve shown you have absolutely no reservation in holding forth on things that you have patently no clue about. the nice booze in our (and every other) staff bar comes from a combination of a small amount leftovers portioned to everyone that was collected from the previous years “collexodus” operation ( the stands on the way out of the city for people to donate leftover food etc for playa restoration staff if they choose) along with a small department budget (in some cases), and donations from the staff itself (which is the overriding majority) just like your previous apocryphal story about dpw staff assaulting a participant while rangers look on and do nothing – your story of gate staff stealing your booze is most likely made up as well. theft from participants is not just a fireable offense, but one that would also likely be reported by us to law enforcement. so by all means, please fell free to jizz all over every single thing you bring to burning man – we don’t actually need any of your booze. we have more than enough of our own that is thankfully jizz free most of the time.

        and if you have a problem with how we do our jobs – i suppose we could all just quit, and let the BLM and the sheriffs search your cars, and you and 2/3 of the rest of the city can all get hauled off to jail on felony drug possession charges.

      • I’m sure no one you knew took that bottle once you got to the city, or that you didn’t forget it, or drink it yourself and forget about it. Gate never takes anything and leaves only dusty porn pages and footprints.

  7. It was my first BM this year, welcomed in a camp that was not DWP or Gate for the whole festival and then volunteered with DPW, and brought back into default world by Gate. There are so many different shades at BM; DPW and Gate gained some kind of reputation, there must have been a reason for that, but the experience I had is just amazing. I tried to step in with as much cautions as possible, after all the desert is your home more than mine, asked to step in, got to work. They looked at me with analyzing sight and when it was clear I was really there to help everything shifted on a different level. As I said already: thank you for being so rough and so friendly. And yes your asnwer I know it would be a roar.
    And I just guess BMorg is not just using DPW and Gate ’cause are “cheap”, like in your theory, I do suspect they really enjoy the way they perform their job, could you ever imagine that? I mean someone over there likes to spend time with all those misfits… unbelievable!

  8. Frankly, the assholes are one of my favorite parts of the burn and many members of DPW and Gate are amongst my favorites of that favorite part. You folks should make it a quest to hug as many members of those crews as possible, I’m sure they’ll thank you for it, in their own unique and lovable way.

  9. My first burn in 2007, late in the week and in the night, I’m tired and was riding back to camp and hit a soft dune and almost ate it. So I’m dragging my bike across the dune and a DPW art car honks it’s horn at me. I wave and double time it out of their way. A woman on the car yells to me, “We can’t wait until you leave!” Whatevs. It was my first interaction with DPW. Pretty much sums them up for me. I’m not offended or angered or scared by their behavior, it’s just tiresome. The whole “my life is better than your vacation” and “fuck yer day” thing. I suppose I’d be pissed too if I willingly worked my ass off for a month for no money and crappy food, but you know, they signed up for it. Nobody is forcing them, and the work they do ain’t all that heroic, so the hero worship of DPW always rubs me the wrong way. But then, I feel that way about hero worship in general.

    So for me, I let them act out and pretend to be heroes and feel entitled. They pretty much keep to themselves anyway.

  10. I can tell you from personal experience that most of the attitude DPW and Gate, and even Lamp Lighters and Man crew, and hell….even the Commies (commissary workers) is mostly for show. And over the last eight years I’ve seen the need to pretend to be a dick slipping from popularity.
    I may be a bit of a recluse, and arrogant at times, but no one would ever label me a mean person. But when I was on DPW, I felt almost inclined to act like the rest of them. Granted, back then most of them were homeless gypsies with a multitude of addictions and vices, and spiked leather and piercings were common place. The attitude was genuine back then, in the days when randomly punching people at the DPW parade was something no one even blinked at.
    But I was bar tending at the Tavern the night two of the prominent volunteer managers sat down and had a serious conversation about this. And they decided it was time to start phasing in skilled professionals, and phasing out the railway jumpers, and homeless gypsies, and Reno rejects that drank more than they worked. This year was a tipping point for DPW, and Community Services, and Gate, etc… Now, things that were allowed back then are not anymore. Vicious attitudes and fights are scarce. Walking around armed with a 12 inch knife is frowned upon. Still happens, but now it is more for show then a genuine show of arms.
    Where I am getting at is that this old stigma of “DPW is a bunch of rude, crude wanna be elitists” is really rather outdated. Kind of like the idea of no modification.
    One plus one equals two. And the simple matter of things is that these people come out to the desert for up to five weeks to wake up early in the morning and work outdoors in the dust and heat to put in a REMARKABLE amount of work. And most of you pansies wouldn’t last a week, if even.
    Oops, sorry, that’s just my DPW attitude coming out.

    • Bmorg does this once in a while, they purge the ranks. The first one I remember happened after a woman was thrown into a fire pit by the DPW lead. He remained, however, while others were removed. The kinder/gentler DPW myth emerged and there was a sigh of relief. It was bullshit then, too. The members changed (somewhat) but the conditions remained. And still remain.

      Then we have this report for 2014: https://eplaya.burningman.com/viewtopic.php?f=372&t=72378 The conditions lead to this.

      The hero worship of DPW (because day bilt da sity) causes almost everyone to overlook this shit, for the most part.

  11. Let me start off by saying this was my first Burn so I don’t have the experience with DPW that some might. That being said, the few interactions I did have with these bad ass mofos was my favorite part of interacting with strangers on the playa.

    Now this might be because I’m an asshole who does not like new people, especially those to happy to be human kind of people. Or it might be because a lot of the people I met on playa were so damn fake it felt like I was at a rave ( I was very disappointed with the masses). Either way I have mad respect for DPW, and one thing I’ve learned over my short 32 years on the planet is give respect to everybody until they give you a reson to not respect them and for the most part they will respect you.

    I spent 24 hours in line starting Sunday. By the time we got to gate I was so pissed off ( I was feeding off the engery that was being put out by all the frustrated participants) I just wanted to get out of my truck and tell these people who “wasted” my time just what I thought about them. However that is not what I did, instead I did as I was told and was very polite just like my mom taught me. Crazy thing was I got the same response from the gate crew that I gave them, strange how that works.

    So yes I’m sure DPW come off as dicks, but hey it’s their burn and they can act how ever the fuck they want because after all if shirt cockers are aloud to roam the city streets then I think the amazing guys and gals that spend 2-4 months every year building the city we all love for free can act how ever they want.

    One last thing before I go FUCK YOUR BURN.

  12. Hating on the very folks who build the city you come to party in is the ultimate arrogance. Are you also mean to watiers and receptionists?
    This is the problem with the built up perception of BMan as a desert rainbow gathering. It’s not. The desert is a harsh mistress. We love her but in return she demands everything from you. Showing up early to build is an honor and a duty. You work your asses off without much shelter or comfort (becuse you haven’t built it yet) but the pay off is seeing the city rise and enjoying the desert sans loud sound systems and thousands of idiots asking stupid questions.
    We experience something similar in our small camp. Those of us who come in early to build do so because it’s our favorite thing. We are makers. And after years of doing this together we have forged a bond born of hard work, weathering the tough elements, kicking ass, forging ahead through adversity, dehydration and fatigue. You harden up and share a kind of brother/sisterhood that unententionally alienates the late comers. We face and live through inpossible situations and the little jokes we share are hard to get if you didn’t live through the situation, which can make it seem like we have some secret we dont’ want to share. But it’s jsut the elements and the time together. It’s hard to explain.
    We love when our main campmates start pouring in on Sunday, bringing fresh energy, veggies and cold beer. But it’s also an acculturation when these new interlopers crash our party so to speak. And we love them dearly, our camp is our family. Once they arrive we are off the clock. They take over the day to day camp duties and we can relax and party. And I think over the years they have learned to just give us a ittle space in the beginning.
    We have had some newbies come in and wonder why we are all sitting around not helping out at times. The newbies fail to remember that we just spent a week building their damn camp.
    Burning Man was born more of a Mad MAx vibe then a Hippy vibe, which it has become known for. The hard ass edge is now what we call “old school” burning and that’s what i love. Yoga is good and all, but we come to Burning Man to burn shit and blow shit up. That’s where the roots are. It’s not a fucking Rainbow Gathering. Fuck yer burn! And if DPW and Gate don’t treat you like the sparkle pony your are, then go home. Because you are the one who is truly expendable. There is always someone else to buy your ticket. There aren’t many people who build the city.

    • DPW doesn’t build the city, the participants do. They’ve been riding on “We built this city” for far too long. They put up an effectively useless trash fence and map out the streets (sooo heroic). They build First Camp and a few other structures to keep the crews happy. If you’ve ever arrived early, you know DPW does NOT build the city.

      These Max Max wannabe poseurs can be and should be replaced by competent professionals. It’s not the participants’ fault that these slackers line up begging to be exploited for the opportunity to climb a rung on the social ladder. So they can fuck LadyBee or have a beer with Larry so they can drop more names. So they can ransack camps with impunity durning the festival.

      • Oh, feeding a troll is fun.

        Actually DPW does build this city.

        DPW builds Center Camp, Arctica, Rangers, ESD, Rampart, LE, Radios, Fuel, Spires, The Man, Roads, Fence, Gate (actually Gate builds Gate, but they help.) And also DPW supplies all the infrastructure required to build this infastructure. Which they then build. Trash fence? Takes 6 hours. Not the highlight, just a symbol.

        You know, all those departments that make sure you can get coffee and sit on a couch, get ice, mediate problems, not die, report crimes, and get into the city at all?

        Black Rock City as it currently stands is built by DPW to ensure that when your entitled, armchair loving, apparently omnipotent asshole, struts it’s way onto that desert, that you don’t die. Not that we would be opposed to you specifically dying, because you’re apparently an illiterate who learned how to type complete sentences with out any reading comprehension, but more because we’re actually so good at what we do that we ARE the competent professionals, WORLDWIDE. And unless you have direct experience doing a similar job anywhere else, you are essentially the equivalent of someone who watched Fox News once and now knows Everything about the Middle East.

        Also, fuck your day.

  13. Hey hunny, ever think that maybe your presumptuous cock-faced behavior resulted in your “abuse” at the hands of Gate and DPW? Probably not, since you strike me as a very special snowflake. Maybe next year you’ll get so fed up you don’t come back.

    • I’ve never received abuse from DPW. I’ve abused a few, though (for the lulz).

      Keep enabling BMorg to take advantage of the volunteers. Keep eating that shit-sandwich. I don’t care.

  14. I too thank DPW and Gate. I have wanted to volunteer for either of these and even more so now. I am not part of the raver culture nor do I enjoy it or its followers. Next year I will be taking my republican parents for their first time and I’m so hoping they too can see what I see and past the ravers, and appreciate all the hard work that goes into making BM happen. That being said I do have a question, not trying to sound nieve…but why is there no photso or videos allowed at the DPW parade? I go every year to give my thanks, but one year made the mistake of trying to take a video for my the 13 year old son, and was screamed at and had someone even jump off a car as I was flustered trying to turn off my Playa ridden camera and told I was going to have it taken away and to erase everything. I was just proud of DPW and had no plans on posting just sharing with my child.

    • To put it simply Robin, it was probably because you didn’t ask permission to video anyone. Consent on the Playa doesn’t just apply to touching, hugging, etc. – it applies to pictures and video, too. The DPW & Gate parades are our celebrations, not a spectacle for your entertainment.

  15. I agree deeply with the sentiments in this well stated blog. I spend six weeks every year for the last 7 years working to build the infrastructure for BM’s emergency services department.
    I get to work side by side with many of the folks that work for DPW. It’s a hard thankless job that they love. I don’t mingle much with them during my time on playa because we are just not cut from the same bolt of cloth, but, I can relate to many of the feelings they have.
    For starters, I’m over the event. I am to the point that I can leave during the event. Go home home rest come back and strike after the participants have left. I am far more attracted to seeing my long lost friends that I only get to be with once a year. The quiet of being on playa alone watching a sunset with no music pounding. Watching it all disappear.
    I have also enjoyed watching the growth and deeper level of professionalism in the managers and staff in DPW.
    Thanks DPW.

  16. This was my first Burn so I can sense between the lines of these posts that there may be alot of “stuff” going on for the folks in DPW. And, I am certain it takes a special kind of person who can handle being in DPW. In any case, I respect and honor the work that you do (individually and collectively) and have to do to ensure the safety of individuals and functioning/physical integrity of the Burn. And, taking care of oneself and each fellow DPW is to my view, tribal kinship at its best under arduous conditions and situations. So I salute and thank DPW for being there for me and everyone else! I would venture serious bucks that for your efforts; life, learning and lessons will be returned and manifest to you in more ways than you could ever imagine. May the blessings be abundant. Namaste!

  17. I can’t stand raver culture. Thank goodness for the DPW. Treat ’em with respect and you’ll get it in kind. Some of my best friends are DPW and I personally have a hard time being on playa if I’m not involved in building a camp or some art or something like that. Fuckin’ ravers…

  18. I say, tell it to the Pope.

    DPW and Gate seem to think they can be abusive on one hand and expect sympathy for their plight on the other. The only reason BMorg ‘hires’ these people is because they work for free. They work for free because they are unemployable. The slacker/misfit community is easy to play like a grand piano – and BMorg has perfected this art over many years.

    No other event on the planet requires its attendees to put up with abuses from their infrastructure staff. This is because our assholes are volunteers. If they weren’t volunteers, but actually paid reasonable wages with benefits, they wouldn’t have their little ‘real occupation’ where they get to have their special bonding time. Their ‘occupation’ would be occupied by professionals.

    The whole culture of DPW, Gate and many other departments exist because every dollar not paid to them in wages is profit – they’re good for business. By the time these individuals wise up to the game being played against them, they are swiftly shown the door, and easily replaced. And the profiteering off the exploitation continues.

    • Unemployable? I actually know an attorney who works Gate! And I had… I mean he had to deal with hippies sexually harassing and hugging him without his permission. I don’t blame the Gate staff for being a little gruff sometimes, but they’re nicer than the folks at the (default) DMV. Their number one goal is to get your tired asses into the event as quickly and safely as possible so that you can have as much time for fun as you can. 35,000 cars. Working Gate reminded me of a short stint I had as a teenager unloading trucks for UPS. It was fast and dirty work and about as simple as manual labor gets, but we took a lot of pride in doing our jobs well and quickly.

      Not to mention the fact that I have always preferred punk shows to raves.

      A friend of mine, actually a greeter, has a great theory why Gate (acting like Gate) is very important to the event, especially in an age where there are so many virgins. A lot of people envision Burning Man as some kind of hippie love fest, where everybody is joined together with open arms to welcome peace and harmony and morning yogo and namaste bitches…. yuck. It’s not. We all know it’s not. There is plenty of that, but the event’s full of pranks and snark and drunkenness and weird art and Rangers laughing under their breath at your misfortune. Full of it. That stuff is integral to what makes Burning Man special.

      If some otherwise creative and well-meaning morning yogo (I am just going to run with this typo) man rolls up to the event and the first thing he’s doing is ringing bells and swapping handjobs with a guy in a dusty banana suit, his suppositions about the event will be reinforced. What’s the problem with that? The problem is that when he starts to experience the aggressively irreverent side of the coin, he will think that something is going wrong, that what he’s experiencing is not supposed to be part of the event, and the people doing it must be from a different culture.

      But if the first thing that happens to him is, after getting out of his car in the lanes to do some yogo stretches for his tired back, being curtly told by a somewhat sinister person who is still obviously a burner to get back in while fireballs shoot up in the sky obscure metal songs blare from an unseen speaker and… then he’s told to get out of his car, open his trunk for inscrutable reasons, had his offers of hugs turned down, or worse….. he will at least subconsciously realize that he’s not in Kansas anymore and is perhaps far closer to Detroit than he imagined he’d be.

      Then the Greeters will hame him feel better and make out in the dust with him or whatever.

      I like this theory.

      • The exceptions prove the rule. Some people keep their cool, many absolutely lose it. They lose it because they are under qualified, underpaid (if at paid at all), overworked, and many have criminal convictions for violent behavior (among other personality disorders).

        Even Cafe Village has an attitude that they are better that mere citizens. DPW and Gate frequently feel they are not just better than mere citizens, but that the citizens are actively crashing their party, and feel resentment towards them. Combined with everything else, this results in the insults, assaults and theft. I’ve seen it. Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen. I’ve seen several DPW jump out of their car, push a man down and steal his beer and a sign they felt like taking. Afterwards the guy was shaking uncontrollably. The BRC Ranger said, ‘Well, you know, that’s DPW for you.” … And that’s just one incident I’ve witnessed.

        BMorg can now afford to pay event planning agencies to carry out all work DPW and Gate does, eliminating this culture that has been festering for years and troubling the participants. Yes, you wouldn’t get your special extended playtime on the playa without the stupid tourists getting in your way, but I’m sure you’d find other ways to enjoy your life.

        • hunny – if you want to know the truth – every year, event planners from all over the world come to burning man to shadow gate and dpw staff to learn how we do what we do in order to improve their own best standards and practices – so your supposition that we could be replaced by some other agency with no experience working in the extremely unique environment that is the Black Rock Desert is pretty well misplaced. logistically speaking – burning man is one of the tightest operations of any event even remotely comparable in size, and i am certain from your comments you probably have a less than comprehensive understanding of what it takes to administrate this event logistically. the event arc on the ground in the desert represents hundreds of thousands of man hours starting in july and going all the way to late october. the event itself only represents 7 days out of over 120 days that we are out there building and then erasing all trace of the city. the 7 days you see are almost days off in comparison to the work load on either end of them.

          additionally, the story about “several DPW pushing a man to the ground” quite frankly sounds like bullshit – especially considering the ranger doing nothing part. if that actually happened – the police would have been instantly involved and assault charges would have likely been pressed. assaults are taken VERY seriously regardless of who commits them. while i wasn’t there, and for all i know this could be a true story – but i wouldn’t bet on it.

          this is a job at the end of the day, and if you worked somewhere where for one week out of every four months – the customers included an alarmingly high rate of people extremely fucked up on a shocking variety of drugs, with little to no situational awareness, that put themselves and you in danger at a pretty high clip – you would start tense up that week as well.

          • >event planners from all over the world come to burning man to shadow gate and dpw staff to learn how we do what we do in order to improve their own best standards and practices

            I don’t think “improving” is their motivation, but rather learning how to tap into the free-labor model of doing business. Some people might call that improving, if you’re talking about the bottom line. Their desire is to somehow motivate their attendees to perform what is now paid work, for free. To do the Burning Man thing – labor in exchange for personal development/spiritual enlightenment and social access.

          • again bunny – it’s appears you have a pretty big blind spot on the concept of logistical operations as it relates to this event. while there are a great many volunteers who donate time – most of the people who work the 4 month event cycle are paid professionals. when event planners come – they aren’t following around some guy pounding t stakes or working 2 or 3 lane shifts in order to get a free ticket to the event – they are trying to figure out how to do things like reduce wait times on a massive influx of 40,000 plus vehicles coming off a one lane road that ends in a 15 mph bottle neck in gerlach into a 13 lane ingress on the playa (and then back out). not to mention how to operate ticketing systems, managing network or electrical grids on a massive scale in a place with no existing electrical or water infrastructure, rigging enormous art structures so they don’t kill people, operating as a buffer between law enforcement and participants….the list goes on and on. your singular obsession defining willful volunteerism as being exploitative seems to be getting in the way of seeing the bigger picture. i suppose if burning man was pulling people out of prison and making them work chain gang style on fence day – i’d agree with you, but burning man is not dissimilar to many other events that exchanges free tickets, meals etc to people who come and volunteer. a lot of what we do is not obvious out there, and it shouldn’t be – because this event is about stretching a canvas that lots of artists can show on – what we do largely involves making sure that people don’t actually die in that process

          • incidentally – before you go shitting all over the volunteers – just remember that all those volunteer hours are the ONLY thing separating you from an $800 ticket price. you see – EVERY other event this size (coachella, glastonbury, tommorowland etc. etc.) relies on enormous amount of corporate sponsorship and vending dollars to make their balance sheets work. the very popular myth, often (and almost exclusively) proliferated on this site, is that somewhere, someone is getting extremely rich off of burning man – they aren’t. burning mans logistical costs are in most cases greater than these other events – because unlike those events – we are way out in the middle of fucking nowhere and have no access to existing utilities infrastructure, but unlike those events – burning man isn’t underwriting those costs with sponsorship or vendor booth dollars. as such the hole has to get filled somehow, and like or not – those volunteer hours are what makes this event possible. take those away and now you either (a) bankrupt the event out of existence, (b) start taking in corporate sponsors our (c) price everyone out of the event except for the wealthiest people. take your pick. people way smarter than you spend all year trying to solve these problems, and while the solutions don’t always make every single person happy – the bottom line is year after year this event manages to keep happening despite overwhelming odds. i notice there is no shortage of people on this site with some sort of fundamentalist gripe about one thing or another as it relates to this event – but i sure as fuck don’t see a whole lot of creative solutions being offered up. this site would be an amazing force for good if half the energy that went into bitching here could be focused on coming up with elegant and better solutions to these real or imagined “problems with burning man”.

          • so what are your solutions? There are plenty here on this site, if you want to look at them, rather than Griping. Check out the categories Light Path, Positive Thinking, Ideas, and our new category, Warm Fuzzies, if that’s what you’re looking for.

            Burning Man is a $30 million business. That is a fact, not griping. Perhaps they would serve their customers better if they paid their workers a bit better, or let them collect tips at least.

          • First of all I’m not the one complaining here. As someone go does far a paycheck f I’m burning man, of course I’d love to see more – but who wouldn’t. Secondly, if you think 30 million dollars is a lot of money for an event this size, you obviously don’t know all that much about the cost of large scale festival promotion. 30 million is practically chump change compared to the cost of events of similar attendance levels. Even stagecoach, the country music festival that immediately follows coachella using all the same stages and infrastructure already set up the week before for coachella comes in at 60 million – and it’s only 2 days long

          • sorry – the line “As someone go does far a paycheck f I’m burning man” was supposed to read “as someone who does draw a paycheck from burning man” before fucking auto-correct butchered the shit out of it

          • Ok, fair enough, the article I read did not mention coachella revenue, but still, we are talking about a total of 3 weekends, or aggregately 9 days of event. I’ve worked on art projects at coachella several times, and I can tell you that their onsite build is only about a week or two and probably only about a week for strike, compare that with the 120+ days that it takes onsite in the black rock desert to build burning man. The bottom line is this, if you want to see more money for staff (God knows I would) and art, you are forced to either sell out to get corporate sponsorships, raise the ticket price even further, or consider moving out of the black rock desert to private land where you can get a better deal on the costs of site rental, the fact of the matteris that in forswearing vending and corporate advertising (which is noble) and not shopping for a better deal on a site (such as events like lightening in a bottle have done) burning man has painted itself into a pretty unique corner that literally no other event of its size could or would afford to do. Another option would be to scale the event back down to 25 – 30,000 people and scale back infrastructure costs, which I’m sure no one wants to do. At the end of the day – you can’t have yr cake and eat it too. You can either have the event remain religiously and ideologically pure and function on a shoestring, or you can turn it into another coachella or electric daisy carnivale and everyone can swim in money. On the whole though, I do find it a little cavalier when people with no actual experience doing large scale event production start Monday morning quarter backing an event that has more or less chosen to unilaterally disarm themselves financially compared to every single other event of its size on earth. If some one here has a bright idea on how to turn that 30 million into 60 million so everyone can get paid union rates without compromising the no corporate sponsorship standard, I’m all ears…..

          • if you are paying more than 25-50 cents a gallon for water, or are getting from anywhere farther away than ferny – you are super doing it wrong. buy your own 5 gallon containers and fill them up at any grocery store in fernley or reno for 25 cents a gallon. hell – the scolari’s in fernley even has a rack with 5 or 6 spigots on it you can rapid fill a bunch of containers with. driving long distances around hauling 100s of pounds of water any farther than you absolutely have to is just plain stupid. so is buying it pre-bottled. but whatever – the point is this – unless you marked water up to ridiculously over market value (which would certainly be a disincentive to buy it at the event) – its not a big cash maker – as the cost model shows.

            it also illustrates the inherent overriding logistical issue with burning man – which is everything you do out there becomes harder and less cost efficient than in the real world, because for all intents and purposes – you might as well be attempting to do it on the surface of the moon. lets just say you could haul a half million gallons of potable water out there (in the middle of a 3 year drought – so i’m guessing you’d get stuck paying mini-bar prices to have it hauled from someplace that wasn’t shriveling up dry) you would practically destroy whatever narrow profit margin you would have building out and staffing multiple dispensation points that also likely turn into muddy shitshows in 48 hours.

        • I like the idea of water sales, given that water weighs 7 pounds or so per gallon, a lot of fuel is being expended by the population carrying in water. But just for shits and giggles, let’s do the math. Let’s just shoot the moon and say burning man cornered the market and sold every drop of water consumed in BRC for event week. The average is something like 1 gallon a day per person, so 60,000 gallons sold per day, across all 7 days of the event, which comes to 420,000 gallons total. Market price at your average grocery store bulk water dispenser is about 25 cents a gallon – so unless you did a considerable markup, you are looking a total gross profits of around $105,000. I have no real clue what the cost to buy and transport close to half a million gallons of water all the way out to gerlach is, but let’s just guess it’s half the gross so $50,000. If you took the remaining net profit of 50 grand and distributed it evenly across the 2000 volunteers and staff that work the event, it comes to a whopping $25 each, so not much of a raise….but a start I guess, and that again is assuming burning man sold ALL THE WATERS.

          • While I appreciate your logic, it suggests that everyone who goes to Burning Man spends less than $2 on water for the week. Personally, I bring hundreds of dollars worth. I would really be surprised if most Burners only spend $2 on water.

          • There is actually on-site water sales available through the RV refill people, they will fill any reasonably large sized tank (I think the minimum may be ~30g) if you pre-arrange for it. It is definitely at a large markup compared to getting it in Reno and driving it out, I think it came to around $1.25/g. Of the other hand the decrease in hassle this year compared to carting out > 2000lbs of water was worth it.

    • Unemployable? Start asking around DPW and Gate and you’ll find that a lot of us are vastly overqualified for our positions. Also, there are paid positions all over the place, most people just don’t talk about it.

      Speaking of over qualified, I own my own business and shop, and I get paid to make art and be creative. I would say the majority of DPW and Gate have far more interesting and varied lives than your little vacation. I carved out the attitude, job and life I wanted, I just don’t like putting up with other peoples bullshit, including yours.

      • Unemployable?! BWAHAHAHAHA. I work for Gate, and I’ve owned my own business, am a master level tech and trainer at my current job, and hold multiple A.S. degrees, a B.A., and a J.D.
        I’m not even close to the most well educated or employable person that works as a staff member. Maybe you should educate yourself on what really goes on behind the scenes, and delve into the people who make up these departments, before you fire your ad hominem gun into your foot. Again.

    • wow, you really don’t know the people you are talking about do you… I guess ignorance is bliss. I work gate, and also have a vary successful career. Let me say one thing, the people in our department are some of the realest individuals you will meet on Playa. Just because they don’t want to hug you doesn’t make them assholes, that job is reserved for the Post office.

    • You, my friend, are mostly mistaken. There are plenty of employed people working for Gate and DPW, from teachers, to lawyers, to IT professionals. I work for Gate and DPW. I have a full time professional job, and I save up all my vacation time to go work in the desert.

      The one thing you are correct about is that we are all dispensable.

    • Hi Hunny. Did you know that a lot of the folks that work for Gate are not only employable, but have real jobs off the Playa? Lots of us are lawyers and engineers and scientists and Silicon Valley techies and mechanics and sales people and regular business types in the default world. Many of us save vacation time every year just to come out and work. We do it cause building and hard work are Art to us. Yes most of us express ourselves with many forms of art professionally and not so pro, but working in the dust is art to us as well. And maybe the attitude we’ve got that you hate, is just a but if reaction to that chip on your shoulder. I don’t have a plight for you to express sympathy with or whatever you thought, I like my Playa ‘job’ and choose to do it. But I also don’t feel obligated to be everyone’s best friend.

  19. I’m kinda against volunteering at Burning Man itself, given how much money the founders and BMOrg make off the deal. But :

    I adore the DPW-like folk at every regional burn where I’ve met them! I understand folk might prefer doing DPW shifts for Burning Man because the event itself is more impressive, but.. Burning Man’s DPW appears overall much more tightly structured. You’ll do more different interesting things with a regional burn’s DPW-like crew, even though each individual task might be less impressive. And regional’s DPW-like crews are usually more open and friendly than at Burning Man.

    Applies for Ranger too, btw. I’ve volunteers for ranger shifts at most events I do, but I’m not interested in rangering at Burning Man, given the event being such a profit center.

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