Burning Man Spin-Off Makes Solid Debut

Further Future, a festival in the Nevada desert put on by the crew behind the Robot Heart art car, happened last weekend about 40 minutes outside of Las Vegas.

It takes a lot of time, effort, money, and logistics to get a major sound stage to the Playa every year. In the case of Robot Heart, the situation is even more complicated because the stage moves around. Once Robot Heart parks and the music gets going, it’s kind of stuck – because of the crowd of 10,000+ people and 100+ art cars surrounding it. It’s hard enough moving out of there on foot, let alone turning the main stereo off and driving away.

What do these sound camps get, from bringing what to many is one of the fundamental elements of Burning Man? Nothing. No money. Barely even thanks. Instead they get Larry & Co bitching because they posted DJ set times, BMOrg complaining about the infrastructure headaches (for example, large numbers of people far away from portapotties), and they have to pick up literally tons of MOOP left by the Bucket List Broners.

Given all that, it’s not at all surprising that sooner or later sound camps say “we might as well do this professionally, with higher standards of safety and sanitation, and get paid for it too”. There is a long history of sound camps throwing year-round events off Playa to raise funds that facilitate bringing their equipment, DJs, and crews out. In this sense Robot Heart are no different, and have been throwing parties for many years.

Further Future went, well, further…with a selection of luxury amenities on offer for those who could afford it. The Robot Heart camp contains several billionaires, but you don’t have to be one to dance at their bus or attend their festival. Some of the online detractors have made a big deal about the “invite-only” nature of the event, but that seems to me a wise move to keep initial numbers controllable. For a first-time event, anything could go wrong, and probably will – better to have 3,000 disgruntled patrons, than 50,000. Although there were some hiccups, Further Future generally went pretty smoothly, and was very much enjoyed by most of the attendees. It was not difficult to get an invitation, regardless of body type or financial status.

The venue was changed at the last minute, after the Bureau of Land Management rejected a permit to use a access road to the festival site “out of the blue”. They chose the same medical provider as Burning Man, Humboldt General Hospital – who then got ditched by Burning Man, a decision that also came “out of the blue”. We know that BMOrg have a cozy relationship with the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, who they pay millions of dollars a year to. BLM Special Agent Dan Love, who has a long history with Burning Man, appeared near Las Vegas running the historic Bundy Ranch Standoff. Apparently there was more than a little hatred directed towards Further Future at last month’s Global Leadership Conference.

Were these two surprise decisions – that occurred at about the same time and both related to possible competition for Burning Man – completely unrelated coincidences? Or was there some behind-the-scenes Nevada politicking going on?

On April 21 the Reno Gazette Journal said:

Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell and other top Burning Man officials this week are speaking on behalf of the Burning Man nonprofit while in Washington, D.C.

Officials are meeting with both federal and state BLM representatives, asking that they consider issuing a permit that would allow for an increase in attendance starting in 2017.

On April 18 the Las Vegas Review Journal broke the news Further Future Festival Scrambles For New Location. So in the same week that BMOrg are meeting with BLM state representatives and their bosses in DC, the BLM decides to make life hard for Further Future. Hmmm…

Luckily for Further Future, the Moapa Indian tribe stepped up, and provided a site that was bulldozed flat in 10 days for the event.

The festival received a lot of publicity, the reviews were mostly positive:

LA Times: Further Future Goes Deep Into The Desert For A New Kind Of Festival

Las Vegas Weekly: No Sleep Till Further Future: My Night At the Electronic Music Festival

Vice: Further Future’s Debut Proves You Can’t Buy Instant Vibes

Mixmag: Snapped: Further Future in the Nevada Desert

Forbes: Burning Man’s Cool Kids Break Off To Mix Music And Tech At New Festival

The Huffington Post published an interview with FFFounder Robert Scott:

Tell me about the inception of Further Future. Who’s the core team? How did it come about and what inspired the name?

Robert: The main members of the core team with whom the public and industry will generally interact are Jason Swamy, Michael Calabrese and Benjamin Alexander and I. As individuals our team members generally prefer to remain somewhat in the background, with our focus being on benefiting the development of the endeavor and the community over our own personal status, if that makes sense. The Further Future concept is something that we have been talking about and evolving for several years. A Further Future event aspires to be a gathering of people with the common goal to spend time together celebrating the infinite possibilities of the future, without necessarily being shackled to the dictates of the past or the cycles of present-day society. We want to combine the connective power of music and art to bring people together in a place where they can shed their anxieties and fears, and touch a natural state of happiness. This, while immersing ourselves together in a culture of open thought and inquiry sharing ideas and aspirations with leading minds in the fields of art, business, science, technology and thought.

We feel there is a yearning in our world for a mindful and directed optimism, the sort of self-belief that empowers a society to transcend its flaws and scars and make great leaps into the future. We have also in our own lives been drawn to and awed by great thinkers and dreamers, artists, scientists and entrepreneurs, who can see past the future and beyond the horizon (into the Further Future). If we could bring such minds together in that environment, just think what amazing conversations and ideas we might witness and what new possibilities might be born.

Morena: Is the goal for Further Future gathering to expand or do you want it to remain small and intimate?

Robert: We have quite a few ideas for what we will do next with Further Future, although it’s not our intention to ever build this into an enormous event. We definitely value the intimacy and community that comes from a smaller event comprised of people who are truly invested in what we are all trying to do.

Las Vegas Weekly noted that there was a large amount of live music, for a crew known mostly for progressive house DJs and that “Robot Heart sunrise sound”:

Its chief component and draw was its music slate, one of the most progressive you’ll find for an American festival. Given the Burning Man pedigree of promoter Robot Heart, Further Future could have exclusively booked DJs. But instead, it booked a considerable complement of live acts, a decision that showed depth for a new festival, cultural relevance given the slowly building trend of electronic musicians opting to perform rather than play their material as a DJ (see: this year’s Coachella and Ultra Music Festival) and a commitment to being more than a party.

By the reports made by Van Insurance, the festival was marked by tragedy outside its gates, when Fest300 co-founder Art Gimbel was killed in a car accident on the way to the event.

Our condolences go out to Mr Gimbel’s friends and family and the Fest300 team. Fest300 gave Further Future a glowing review despite the death, describing it as Beautiful People Partying On Mars:

Further Future, the invite-only, first-year Burning Man offshoot that was once shrouded in mystery, pulled off a stunning debut this past weekend in the Nevada desert. Straying far from the see-and-be-seen vibe of Coachella and the opulence of the likes of TomorrowWorld or EDC, Further Future curated an intellectual aura, featuring an eclectic, cool array of musicians (Com Truise, Damian Lazarus + The Ancient Moons, Warpaint, Nosaj Thing, and more showed) who played well past sunrise, a selection of high-minded speakers (like Zappos head Tony Hsieh, the founders of SoundCloud, Google [X]’s captain [Astro Teller], and Zoe Keating) and luxury accommodations like a gated campground called Habitas, spa treatments, and gourmet feasts – all in a Mars-esque setting full of beautiful, well-accessorized partiers.

As the world becomes more and more saturated with corporate-run behemoth festivals, boutique fests will continue to pop up all over, in order to offer more intimate, bespoke experiences. Despite its infancy, we think it won’t be long before Further Future becomes a leader on the new festival frontier

Image: Stacie Hess/Fest300

Image: Stacie Hess/Fest300

Gypset Glamping Tents

Gypset Glamping Tents. Image: Stacie Hess/Fest300

It seems like those who made the trek out to the Moapa Indian Reservation generally had a good time, and were prepared to forgive a few teething problems in a first-time event.

pink_panther said:

Spinoff gatherings like this are becoming more common now that Burning Man has reached capacity and become more mainstream. Each one has its own unique vibe and offering. Further Future was the name of this one, and is clearly a Robot Heart creation, but there’s also Envision, Lightning in a Bottle, and many more.

The burn has been a big part of my life, but going forward I would rather take the time and energy it requires and direct that to international travel to my bucket list of exotic locations. These simpler gatherings offer a great way to keep the flame alive, so to speak, and to try something new.

Further Future apparently signed a 5 year lease with the Moapa River tribe, so this event will likely grow quickly. This year was about 2,500, but I bet next year is closer to 5,000. The event was far from perfect, but it has a lot of potential. I imagine I’ll do it again next year.

teo said:

I really enjoyed this festival, it was small very intimate, the weather was fantastic, and the food was excellent… those Tacos were out of this world. I think it was a very interesting experiment. It was great that no mainstream artists where there. I hope they can keep Skrillex and Diplo away from this festival and all the mainstream artists. It was a very convenient location driving back and forth from Vegas only 40 minutes, no traffic and overall and despite that they were finishing the setup on the last minute, I never felt this level sensation of freedom before in any other festival as I did in Further Future. Kudos to the organizers.

Scott had some constructive criticism:

A few off the top of my head notes and opinions…
-It felt like an album from a band that needed to focus on doing less. Don’t make a “meh” 20 track album when you can focus on doing 10 really good songs.
-It didn’t feel like a rich-guy festival it was accused of being although it had a very different feel overall than on-playa. Generally more serious and reserved, but not bad. Still great things and people.
-With all the open space compared to the number that went, it felt barren.
-Clearly, the most social and bubbly people in any of the camps were those in the self-camping area. Those in the paid-for tent camping often looked… Well, unhappy.
-The music should have been going before the event even started on Friday, but barely any was going until late late into the night/early morning (Or when it was, there were long breaks in between). Further, no disrespect to the DJ or artist at the time, but there was head music on the main stage when it should have been good beats. So many were wandering around looking for thumpy beats.
-The fact that they were behind schedule was obvious from the get-go. It seemed that instead of focusing on getting multiple stages going at the same time, they should have been focusing all the manpower on one, then the next, then the next…
-The supplying of water and showers were both great. The water truck guys were great too.
-The police presence felt almost non-existent.
-Nobody I met, including myself, was ever asked to show a ticket/parking pass/etc. to get into the event.
-The taco/burrito truck in the self-camping area was serving up decent stuff at a decent price.
-For how many comfy couch-like seats were provided, they didn’t provide shade. it would have been nice to have more shade and community structures around the event.

The day beds were comfortable, but not very shady

The day beds were comfortable, but not very shady

shadow_billionaire shares what it was like to attend the festival in style:

The helicopter access ran pretty smoothly, in a brand new Eurocopter. Further Future had even provided a sound-track for the ride, a classy touch. One of the co-passengers did not have their wristband on them, so after landing they had to arrange a ride out to the gate to pick it up. A minor inconvenience, but the last thing you want after an expensive chopper ride in is to leave the event to go line up at Will Call, this defeats the purpose.

We had a brief wait in line at the reception desk to find out which tent was ours. It took about 20 minutes, so much faster than Burning Man’s Will Call line. At one point a beautiful girl wearing very little came up and said “we noticed you guys standing in line, so we’ve arranged to have some day beds brought over if anyone would like to sit down”. I thought this was very considerate, and indicative of the attitude Further Future showed to their customers: they cared. 

The glamping tents left a lot to be desired. Perhaps we should have chosen the more expensive Gypset option. On arrival, the canvas structure contained a lamp that didn’t work, an empty mini-fridge, and a cardboard box with a strongbox inside. Later, some pillows arrived. Guests were required to track down their own inflatable mattress, and carry it to the tent once it had been inflated. A topsheet appeared at some point during the night, but there was no blanket or pillowcases. They managed to get the lamp working, but then the air-conditioning failed. The A/C consisted of a large plastic tube filled with air, with a couple of holes ripped in it with a knife. There was no lock on the door, and people kept opening the tent flap constantly – perhaps because they were still trying to finish the rooms off. There was also very little privacy, you could hear every word in all of the neighboring tents. 

All of this could have been manageable, but unfortunately a communication breakdown between the helicopter company and the event’s organizers meant the luggage that we paid extra to have follow us out in a car never showed up. No blanket, no pillowcases, no door, no A/C – OK, we can try to make a go of it anyway; but having no luggage either was just too much. We took a limo back to Vegas on Friday night, rather than sticking around for the return chopper we’d booked the following afternoon (since there was nowhere to watch the fight at the festival).

We did not sample any of the spa treatments, but it looked like many FF-ers were. The organic smoothies were delicious, it was nice being able to get food and drinks whenever we wanted. The music was varied and interesting, underground rather than mainstream. I heard no dubstep, no Diplo and Skrillex, although we did leave early so maybe that came on later. The Robot Heart stage was open to anyone who wanted to climb up on it. There was no feeling of “exclusion” at the festival, despite the high-end amenities on offer. It was not like you could order Cristal and lobster there though.

The cashless system generally worked well. It was useful the way you could link multiple wristbands to one account, and automatically top them up. It was somewhat strange the way your remaining account balance was displayed with each transaction, and the tipping was awkward. A fixed 20% gratuity would have been easier for everyone.

We did not notice any bad attitude from anyone, workers or patrons. Everyone was friendly and seemed to enjoy being there. It was clear that the organizers put a great deal of effort into the festival, and probably were prepared for a larger crowd. This did not seem to be a one-off, and we would definitely go to check the event out again. Next time, we would stay in an RV rather than a “luxury” tent.

2015-05-01 21.49.26

The glamping tents are to the right. The lit up tent to the left is maybe the spa; not sure about the chopped-up container

2015-05-01 19.44.01

The A/C vent

2015-05-01 19.42.04

Secure your valuables – if they made it off the helicopter

2015-05-01 19.41.47

Pillows, but go find your own mattress

We also have received a quite detailed review from Kestrel, that will be published separately as a guest post.

Is Further Future a threat to Burning Man? It doesn’t seem so, since it is on at a different time of year, in a different place. The experience is not the same without all the art cars, bicycles, fire, and the massive city of home-made art. Many Burners insist that Burning Man isn’t even a festival. As an EDM festival, Further Future has many things it offers that are better than Burning Man. It seems like there is plenty of room for both events to flourish in this big, wide, world.

My impression is Robot Heart put a lot of effort into this festival, and did pretty well for their first time – especially given the last minute shafting on their permit. The vibe of everyone there was very friendly and cool, not exclusive at all. The music was great. Sure it did not have 70,000 people, but that was never their aim – Burning Man took a decade to get to 4000 people.

Is it a “transformational festival”, where people can go to act out a different version of themselves, and perhaps come back as a changed person? Probably not – but neither is an official Decompression. Can you enjoy music, art, Nature, and meeting cool, like-minded new people? Absolutely. Is it only for rich people? Definitely not, it costs less to attend than Burning Man.

Since Burning Man has accepted a higher percentage of virgins than any other group of Burners (around 40% for the last 4 years), it has become difficult for its experienced fans to return. So the culture needs events like this, in order to keep growing around art and passion. There was a lot of love at Further Future, as opposed to how corporate and elitist the nay-sayers complained that it would be. Kudos to Robot Heart and their team for trying something new, trying hard, and making it really good. Attention to detail, quality music, quality art. Sure there’s room for improvement…and their attitude suggests that they want to improve. Can we say the same about BMOrg?

Thanks to Peter Ruprecht for these great photos.

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furtherfuture2015 ruprecht robot heart
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furtherfuture2015 ruprecht 1

18 comments on “Burning Man Spin-Off Makes Solid Debut

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        • If they do block him, the dancing Pooh damage control will be most entertaining.

          No, I suspect they might let them in and do a lot of swatting. Far more tortuous and NPD – more narcissistic supplies. But in this case, LE will simply be a willing running dog for the BOrg chasing the toy they have put in play.

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  3. “Some of the online detractors have made a big deal about the “invite-only” nature of the event, but that seems to me a wise move to keep initial numbers controllable. For a first-time event, anything could go wrong, and probably will – better to have 3,000 disgruntled patrons, than 50,000.”

    Or, you know, they could just sell 3000 tickets, first come first serve. But that’s not what they wanted to do, because who knows what riff-raff might make it through? They’re free to do what they want, but from all descriptions, it just sounds like a big outdoor private party.

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    • You mean just like the NV burn. Pretty soon the creative burners will lose a critical mass, if that has not happened already, and the NV burn will just be a bigger version of the same. There is an uncreative sucker born every minute, and FF and the BOrg are fighting over them.

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      • For all its faults, the NV burn doesn’t feel like an exclusive private party to me. Maybe parts of it do, but those are the parts I avoid anyway. 90% of the burn still feels pretty free-for-all for me. And most importantly, the NV burn isn’t focused around music performers on a stage. Sure, sound camps are an aspect, but not the focus. Yet, anyway.

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  4. What?! In Injuns did not cooperate with the Feds in blocking the FF land use?!! Time to impose Manifest Destiny and have the BLM take over ALL native American lands where any event like the NB burn can be held. Let’s move the Injuns to Vegas or LA.

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  5. Pingback: Don’t Hate the Plug-n-Player, Hate the Game | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  6. Looking at those pictures with the fur vests and ugly boas, this all seems so cliche and dumb to me now…Burning Man has officially become sliced bread…

    Liked by 1 person

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