Is This The New New Thing?

Larry's expression when Kucinich asks "what about your humanity?"

Larry’s expression when Kucinich asks “what about your humanity?”


I have just stumbled across Sure, there have always been plenty of YouTube videos about Burning Man – earning revenue for Google whenever they play. This seems to be something more co-ordinated, though. Many of the videos have an intro that says “From the Burning Man Archives”. This is accompanied by old fashioned World War 2 propaganda film music, a thematic resonance with Caveat Magister’s “not official” Burning Man Minute series…

24 videos have been added in the past week, showcasing Regionals as well as ancient history. Another 6 were added a month ago from the 2015 Global Leadership Conference.

Some of the videos on the channel are showing ads. We may never know whether this revenue is being donated to the Burning Man Project, or channelled into Decommodification, LLC. Whoever gets it, someone is Commodifying Burning Man here:

Screenshot 2015-07-18 16.57.19

Is this return to the old being simultaneously accompanied by an attack on the new?

And is the “really really BIG RAD thing” we were promised was “coming soon” last November? A bunch of video content released from the archives, and a bunch more created from the Founders’ philosophical discussions?

They seem to be kicking off with Larry Harvey interviewing Denis Kucinich at this year’s Global Leadership Conference.

Here’s the full interview from YTBM, if time is limited skip down to the next clip which is the main highlight I want to discuss.

DK: “What I saw at Burning Man is, there’s a new matrix being built“…

DK: “What Burning Man does is to create a space, that no other organization has created in quite this way, to creatively explore the human potential for an evolutionary response to the challenges of our times. The world today is beset by so much conflict, people are yearning for an opportunity to get past it and find a way to come together”

Larry: “Meaningful political dialogue is in many ways increasingly inhibited by both money and aspects of the media. I’m not anti media, books are media , media implies communication and that’s a good thing

DK: “The politics that you describe…Burning Man creates a platform for a whole new discussion about everything, for a whole new relationship we have with each other, with our government, and that’s what I think is so valuable. When I see a space for a new discussion, I’m exhilirated. I think wow! We can actually have a real discussion about what the implications are without anybody worried about “well, what’s the party going to think about this” or “what are my supporters going to think about it”. Burning Man is in a position to go very deep in the implications of the current system and to have a discussion which has the potential to produce solutions that otherwise couldn’t be brought forward because existing structures are so hidebound, in tradition and in political practice, that there’s a limitation in the dialogue that occurs and they can’t really get to any kind of a synthesis outside the box that they’re in. Burning Man begins outside…Burning Man is not in a box, and that’s the beauty of it”.

So Larry’s a talk show host now?

While the politicians are being inspired by the creativity of Burning Man, BMOrg themselves seem to keep coming up with rules, bans, and punishments – all things notorious for stifling creativity.

Although only 45 seconds long, the clip above may give us some insight into the collective Borg mindset these days. It is interesting that they chose to create this as a highlight of the entire interview.

“We don’t prescribe content, we design context”.

Perhaps this philosophy explains some of the recent EDM war battles like Dancetronauts, Opulent Temple, and now Mayan Warrior.

Mayan Warrior, a popular art car with more than 22,000 Likes, said “we’re bringing these DJs”:


…then got publicly slammed (and threatened) in the wee hours of Friday morning by the Burning Man CEO.

Screenshot 2015-07-18 10.53.17

Why did they get slammed? Because of the content they published. Of course, Burning man doesn’t prescribe content.

No matter that the policy hasn’t even been created yet. Nobody has been told the rules, all we have is a story in BRC Weekly from last year, publicly shaming White Ocean:

sound camp lineup ban

They’re doing it for the Burners. So we can all have more chance to win tickets in the OMG sale. Right. 80,000 Burners missed out on the general sale. The majority of Burners who tried to get tickets, didn’t. There don’t seem to be many STEP successes. So we already have 79,000 Burners who are going to miss out on the remaining 1,000 tickets. There is already a 99% chance you’re not going to get a ticket in the OMG. So what if more people hear about Burning Man and want to go? And on that point, what about Grover, Denis, Diddy, and all the other celebs who have been commodifying Burning Man by talking about it to non-Burner audiences? Is their crowd OK, but Mayan Warrior’s isn’t? Whatever happened to radical inclusion?

For the sin of publishing unprescribed content, Mayan Warrior couldn’t just get a personal message alerting them that they’d broken an unwritten rule, asking kindly if they could please make it right. No, they had to get a public statement against them, a shaming. Then, even when they fixed the problem and apologized, the statement remains. And, 2 days later, there is still no policy or description of what rules were broken.

Prescribing content is just fine in this post from BMOrg telling us which art projects they selected to receive our money this year. Decommodification is no problem when it comes to soliciting money for a select few of those (I wonder if BMOrg get a percentage?).

“Music is not art, and people dancing to a DJ are not interacting with the music” seems to be the new party line.

The vision behind the Mayan Warrior is amazing. A crew from Mexico, passionate about music, wanted to make an art car and bring it to Burning Man with local DJs playing. They could showcase the modern day sounds of Mexico to Burners from all around the world! They could share their culture with us as a gift.

mayan warriorThe Mayan Warrior art car has just released some of the first names who will play at Black Rock City this year. The Mayan Warrior was originally created to showcase the music of Mexican electronic artists at Burning Man. Pablo Gonzalez Vargas, the executive producer of the interactive mobile and sound system since 2011, explained that the car was inspired by the playa’s limitless creativity, and the Mayan visual concept comes from ancient Mayan culture, crop circles, and principles of sacred geometry.

[Source: Dancing Astronaut]

Of course, if the Mayan Warrior didn’t tell us that their vision was to bring Mexican DJs, we would not get a fundamental point of the gift. The first time I saw the art car, I didn’t even realize that its face was Mayan. Sometimes, to get the context of art, you need some sort of description of the content. I would much rather they let us know which DJs will be playing in a flyer, than by getting on the mic every 10 minutes to say “this is DJ So and So, how you feeling BURRRRNNNNNINNNNNGGGG MANNNNNNNNN!!!!”

This year's Man design. Image: Burning Man

This year’s Man design. Image: Burning Man

Meanwhile, the geniuses at Burning Man HQ spend decades in the lab “designing context” – that is to say:

  • “CARgo Cult”, “CARavansary”, and “CARnival of Mirrors”
  • A UFO with the Man on top, a plain Man but giant on top of a market, a plain Man but giant on top of a circus.
  • Words from A-L that are supposed to be connected with the theme (like “geek” and “carnival”).

What Larry’s saying is that’s what made Burning Man great and brought the population up to 70,000: those 3 designs (which did what the 17 themes before them couldn’t) and the street names. Not the content: the music, the dancing, the art, the Burners, the beautiful people and the sex and drugs: no, the themes. The “context” for “our” self-expression. Because of the inspiration designed into these themes, we now have Google, Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar City.

(Side note: in 1998, when Google famously launched themselves with Burning Man’s logo on their home page, the theme was Nebulous Entity. Given the revelations that have since come out of Google’s relationship with spy agencies, hey, perhaps this theme did actually inspire them!)

Or am I missing something: does BMOrg “design context” and socially engineer us in other ways?

Personally, I think Larry has it all wrong. Burning Man takes place in the desert in Nevada, not an ivory tower in the Mission. Burners supply the creativity and inspiration. Burners have the ideas. Most Burner art and activities have nothing to do with the themes – many Burners don’t even know (or care) what the theme is. We give money to artists to create the art. We give money to Burning Man’s charity – they take most of it for their own expenses, and pass a small percentage of it on to the artists to create the art. All the art projects they choose to redistribute our money to still need further support from the community to make it out to the temporary city and back. We give money to BMOrg to buy our tickets. They use it to rent portapotties and pay the cops and buy ice creams for the Federales.

I am not convinced by this “Burning Man TV” 2.0 philosophy. Burners can change the world, and the first step to do this is banning things and making more rules. Err, what?

I’m still on the side of the Burners. Burning Man is awesome because of everything all of us contribute to it, not the theme or the First Camp guest list.

BMOrg are Commodifying the culture we create for each other, when they use it to promote the politicians they want to curry favor with, the commercial tour package vendors that are their mates, the artists they choose to receive the funds we’ve given them, and the vendors that they choose to give monopolies to. We’re supposed to just accept that all of that is fine, but if your camp wants to bring musicians, and tell people who you’re bringing? You must be punished. We’re gonna ban your art car and shame you to the community. Because, Decommodification – the alleged Principle, not the ironically named LLC.

They are trying to create a gravitas around themselves. “We mingle with politicians! The Google guys and Elon Musk go and get technology ideas there! VCs network and do deals!” They want to re-shape the event in their own image, to support their importance in cultural history.

Meanwhile, many Burners love music, and appreciate it as art just as much – maybe even more – than taint washes and polyamory workshops. These Burners want to lose it on the dancefloor to their favorite DJs. They want to hear amazing new music that draws them in from a distance and keeps them for hours, in a crowd who are all sharing a special moment together, united by the beats. They want to discover new artists to become fans of. Camps who are gifting those DJs are getting excited about it, and want to share the good news so Burners can get excited too.

They must be banned. All that fun is getting in the way of a pie-in-the-sky vision for “what Burning Man could become”, that politicians who went once and went to bed early are now espousing. Crack down on doof. Implement more rules, more policies, more restrictions on Burners’ freedom. Jack ticket prices sky high, to price out the dirty hippie freaks. Bring in more cops so you can try to promote it as family friendly. Favor rich new tourists over hard-working veterans. Promote it in the mainstream media, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc, The Simpsons. Bring politicians who will recruit more politicians, maybe they can get this apathetic disillusioned bloc of Burners escaping from the Default World to get off their disgruntled asses and vote – for them, natch.

How will human potential evolve, by banning more and more cool stuff that Burners gift? If communication is a good thing, why can’t BMOrg communicate what the rules are to everyone at the same time? Why can’t camps communicate what art they’re bringing? Because, scalpers? Because, EDM fans are bad but politicians are desirable?

art car sharkIs this the new new thing? Is this what we jumped over the shark for?


There’s some fierce debate on the Interwebz already about this issue, with some who are not EDM fans saying “good riddance” and wishing for a return to the past. You can’t go backwards, people. I don’t like seeing so many people on smart phones on the Playa, but the answer isn’t “ban smartphones”.

Last year a camp (White Ocean) and this year an art car (Mayan Warrior) were publicly scolded by Burning Man, despite not breaking any actual rules. They committed pre-crime, like in Minority Report. The policy is still, as I write this, unwritten and “coming soon”. How hard can it be to write a paragraph? Is this some holocracy thing we’re waiting on, establishing consensus within BMHQ?

The BMOrg supporters echo Maid Marian’s argument that publishing your events in advance might lead to people wanting to come to Burning Man who we don’t want there. These people might think that the whole thing is a festival, because there are certain events on at pre-set times.

Well, take a look at this, Burners. Here are some of the 2015 Burning Man events that have already been published. Apparently every single one of these is fine, including those that feature named stars, because this is at It is just EDM events they have a problem with. #radicalinclusion #gratitude

Note: these are just the events on Monday August 31.


Scheduled Events

See also:

PulseRadio.Net: Burning Man vs EDM – Is The Hammer Starting To Drop?


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

further future flyer

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


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

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

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

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

How I Got my Invite Code:

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

The Location:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Few Words About the Theme:

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

Celestially Oriented Placement of Stages:

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

The Crowd:

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

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

Speaker Series:

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

The Music:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Bottom Line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Image: Stacie Hess/Fest300

Image: Stacie Hess/Fest300

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.

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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

Remember When DJing Used To Mean Something?

doctor djDavid Guetta is one of the world’s most popular DJs. He ranked # 7 last year in MixMag’s Top 100 DJ poll (down from 2 the year before). He’s #2 after Calvin Harris in Forbes list of top earning DJs, bringing in an estimated $30 million in 2014. When it comes to actually doing the Disc Jockeying, though, he seems to be a little rusty….

In a recent interview, he complained about having to go through his USB sticks for his Coachella set choosing each track to play individually, rather than just relying on a pre-set playlist.

DavidGuetta2014WEBGuetta’s got the high-profile hook-ups, too. On the first weekend, the Black Eyed Peas made a cameo to debut a comeback track and close it out with “I Gotta Feeling.” Meanwhile, on weekend two, Beyoncé watched from the sidelines, while Nicki Minaj sauntered out for “Hey Mama” in a tartan skirt, Run DMC singlet and a crown made of feathers.

Not everything went smoothly behind-the-scenes, though, as the DJ recounts. “Something crazy happened to me on the [first weekend],” he says. “I’m using Rekordbox and Pioneer to play, and before I saved my playlist to my SD card, my computer crashed. So I just had to put all my music in a random order on USB sticks at the last minute, doing it really old school, scrolling to look for the records I wanted to play next.”

He goes even further, revealing that he got his manager to download “I Gotta Feeling” for him off iTunes and he just played that as part of his set, with Fergie “live” on stage – lip-synching, perhaps?

The Black Eyed Peas’ surprise appearance also threw a curveball. “When Fergie decided to come last minute, it was like, OK, but I don’t have ‘I Gotta Feeling,’ because I don’t play it any more. I called my stage manager to go download ‘I Gotta Feeling’ on iTunes so I could play it. It was just completely crazy, but I loved it. And actually the set went amazing, and in a way the stress adds to the adrenaline.”

I thought this story must have been from Wunderground Music, but sadly, it’s an interview he did with Beatport, where he had the #7 track last year. Put it down in the truth is stranger than fiction category.

In the fiction is truer than truth category, Wunderground reports on the new art of miss-mixing, DJs making deliberate mistakes in sets to show they are not just pressing a sync button…something I really believe some of them do.

The latest craze, known as miss-mixing, is proving very popular amongst digital DJs as a way of highlighting that they are actually manually mixing tracks rather than using the sync button.

Michael Briscoe, also know as DJ Whopper, spoke about miss-mixing with Wunderground, “Flawless mixing is now a thing of the past, especially for any up and coming digital DJs. You just can’t afford to mix without mistakes these days or you’ll be labelled as a ‘sync button DJ.’”

“I learned how to mix on vinyl years ago so naturally I’m pretty tight when it comes to matching beats,” continued the resident DJ. “I swapped to digital format a couple of years ago because it’s convenient, now I spend more time practicing making mistakes than I do practicing actual mixing. [Source: Wunderground Music]

Now THIS is some old-skool DJing:

This DJ explains Why Old School DJs Are Complaining, And You Should Too

ghetto blaster

alien dj

Image: Dominique Bray/Photo Bucket

Image: Dominique Bray/Photo Bucket

Humboldt General Reveals Details of Medical Split


Say good night to the ambulance. That’s the last time you’re ever gonna see a ambulance like this again.

Humboldt General Hospital was recently dumped by BMOrg as the provider of medical care on the Playa. A shame, since they have a hospital and ambulances nearby, and from what Burners are saying they have done an excellent job for the past 4 years.

Now we know a little more about what drove this change, thanks to HGH director Pat Songer. It seems there were several factors:

– Humboldt wanted contingency plans for a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI), and to “shine a spotlight on safety issues”

– Humboldt gave 180 days notice to terminate and re-negotiate the contract, expecting to negotiate in good faith with a partner they’d provided exemplary service to

– BMOrg took that as a “fuck you” and responded with “fuck you too”, ditching HGH for CrowdRX

Other, admittedly more speculative, factors may be the departure of BMOrg’s Emergency Services Chief Jospeh Pred and the new team being assembled around Operations Chief Charlie Dolman; and the rumor media report of a West Nile virus outbreak in Gerlach last year.

Presumably CrowdRX already have these Mass Casualty Incident contingency plans in place, given that they do much bigger events like Coachella. Of course, the main issue is “take a lot of people to the nearest hospital”, and there are plenty of buses in Palm Springs. The danger here to Burners is that –  by their own admission – the only experience CrowdRX have ever had in dealing with remote locations was a Phish concert in New England 20 years ago. Pretty sure Phish tickets don’t make you take responsibility for serious injury or even death on the way in…

CrowdRX recently had a disastrous show on their hands in Chicago. They needed a lot of ambulances to transfer 16 people to hospital, out of a crowd of 10,000 ravers at a Skrillex concert. They provided services for Electric Zoo in New York, where 2 people died of “an overdose of MDMA and hypothermia”.

This situation reminds me a bit of the Google employee who is creating Burning Man – The Musical, despite never having actually been to Burning Man. Here we have “Burning Man – the Medical”, brought to you by the team who once hired a guy who went to a Phish concert, but that was twenty years ago. Hey, it’s Coachella in the desert, how hard could it be, right?

From the Journal of Emergency Medical Services:

Humboldt General Hospital began providing medical care at Burning Man in 2011. Each year, Songer said his agency tweaked their contractual relationship with their host to compensate for increased numbers of participants and the associated risks of hosting one of the country’s largest mass gatherings in one of the world’s most remote and austere locations.

This year didn’t seem different except Songer said some safety concerns identified by his staff in 2014 needed clarification, so in February, the agency exercised their 180-day right to cancel their contract.

That happened in a meeting with Burning Man officials and the entire group agreed to move forward, intent on renegotiating a new contract that, among other things, would allow for at least one more EMS agency to provide backup in case festival numbers surged again, like they did in 2012.

“We just wanted to continue that same level of preparedness,” said Songer. “After all, this is a large-scale event with the potential for an MCI in the middle of nowhere. I think some people forget the potential for disaster there.”

Still, the two parties tended to disagree on Humboldt General Hospital’s role: was the agency simply an event contractor or were they a public safety agency with all the associated risks and responsibilities?

Last week, when Burning Man officials announced they were negotiating a contract with CrowdRX, a large-scale event contractor, Songer said he got his answer.

“I think that was really the crux of our concerns,” he said. “When we came to this event, we saw it as an extension of our hospital. We were going to provide hospital-level care, even if it was in the middle of one of the world’s most remote locations.”

He continued, “We weren’t there as an event contractor, we were there as a medical provider in the Black Rock Desert—a fully operational, gold star-staffed medical facility.”

Songer added, “I think as the event evolved and our expectations for safety continued to escalate, philosophically and operationally, we found ourselves on opposite sides of the coin.”

The agency was certainly planning to complete its initial five-year commitment, said Songer, and hoped to see that relationship continue beyond.

Apparently, so did many others, including officials from local, state and federal governments, hospitals and even law enforcement.

“There is safety concern out there,” Songer explained. “When Nevada is investing so much to hold an event of this magnitude here, you want there to be some long-term good that comes from that collaboration.”

“Sure, you can issue that temporary license,” said Songer, “but what we’re hearing is worry about the long-term. When your hospital or your Nevada ambulance company provides those services, there is an investment there, an investment of time, experience, equipment, manpower and you come out more prepared—way more equipped for Nevada—than you went in.”

…With HGH out of the medical mix, and REMSA before that, Nevada’s medical network has definitely lost a one-of-a-kind training ground. That being said, Songer said he is proud of what HGH EMS Rescue brought to the festival’s table during his medical tenure including, according to Burning Man officials during early April, his agency’s ability to “shine a spotlight on safety.” Other successes came with the agency’s partner relations, which Songer said were critical to his agency’s success at the event and in the future through the many mutual aid agreements forged during the festival.

“Burning Man did not define who we are; we defined the systems that made Burning Man’s medical an incredible model across the world,” he said. Now, said Songer, HGH EMS Rescue will take that model and continue to adapt it to the other special events it oversees each year, including the increasingly popular music festival “Night in the Country” as well as the up-and-coming “Further Future” festival, 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas

The full press release from HGH is at the bottom of this article.

robot heart distriktHGH will be providing medical services for Burning Man off-shoot Further Future, happening this weekend. Further Future is put on by the Robot Heart crew, who have thrown many large parties on the West and East coasts.

YourEDM says “Further Future Takes The Festival Experience To The Next Level”:

For many of us, the weeklong desert exodus of Burning Man is simply too much to stomach. From the inevitable lungfuls of dust to the complete isolation, some festival goers would rather have comfortable amenities and leisure than try and test their physical endurance and stamina. Robot Heart, host to some of the most elaborate events held during Burning Man, understands this mentality and has announced the conception of an entirely new experience to go down this May only 45 minutes from Las Vegas.

Robot Heart; photo by Peter Ruprecht

Robot Heart; photo by Peter Ruprecht


Further Future aims to be one of the first events to equally combine the aesthetic and vibe of a music festival with the guest list and esteem of a Silicon Valley tech conference. The desert party is only open to invited guests and those whose applications are approved. Among the supposed 3,000 attendees will be Soundcloud founders, Google X directors, and heads of other technology companies currently at the forefront of the movement. These guests will be hosting panels and tech talks amongst the artists performing, fostering an entirely unique and somewhat career-oriented approach to the festival scene. Professional networking is just as much a part of the experience as jamming out to the stacked roster of musicians. Unlike Burning Man, energy conservation is not of chief importance at Further Future, as they will be offering a staggering amount of high-end amenities to those willing to shell out dollars. In addition to the $275 tickets, luxurious pre-built group camping tents complete with A/C are being offered at $3,200 for the weekend. In the “Gypset” members-only area, there will be round-the-clock food and spa services provided.

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

For the past few years, Robot Heart has been known to host the most stylish gatherings during the week-long desert revelry that is Burning Man. Known online as a group of “doers, dreamers, artists and entrepreneurs,” the party-throwing collective could often be found on the desolate expanses of Black Rock City dancing until sunrise during the week before Labor Day, which sees many a Silicon Valley tech employee take off “to discover, exercise and rely on his or her own resources.

This year, however, Robot Heart is making sure that its followers won’t have to wait until the end of summer to lose themselves in a haze of dust, heat and extracurricular substances. At the beginning of May, the collective will host its first Further Future festival, a three-day get-together in the Nevada desert that’s a 45-minute drive east from Las Vegas.

While there are some similarities to Burning Man, which drew nearly 70,000 people last year, Further Future is deliberately more exclusive, an invite or application-only party that does not preach the same inclusive principles or self-reliance of its effigy-torching predecessor

There was a brief moment of last-minute panic when they couldn’t use the venue they wanted, after the BLM moved to shut them down. Fortunately, a local Indian tribe stepped in to save the day.

the invitation-only festival for as many as 5,000 people will be held May 1-3 on the Moapa River Indian Reservation along Interstate 15, about 40 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

The site won’t look quite like the beautiful landscapes shown on Further Future’s slick website, but it will help avoid federal trespassing charges.

Early this month, both the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management denied the festival a commercial use permit for roads crossing public land to the privately owned Anniversary Mine, a 215-acre tract just outside the boundary of Lake Mead National Recreation Area 35 miles east of Las Vegas.

Then, just in case there was any lingering confusion, the BLM’s Las Vegas field manager, Gayle Marrs-Smith, sent a strongly worded letter to the mine’s owner and the festival’s attorney warning against using the site and treating the resulting fines and penalties as another “business cost” for Further Future. [Source: Las Vegas Review Journal]

Mixing music, tech, and networking sounds a lot like SXSW, which BMOrg’s merry band of travelling salesmen “represent” at.

Some Burnier-Than-Thous and Radical Haters would no doubt breathe a big sigh of relief if Robot Heart and other large EDM crews left the event, and took their rich and beautiful patrons with them. “The future is in the Regionals!”, they cry.  “You’re not a Burner if you have A/C!”

It would be naive to think that Burning Man could continue to reach its current 70,000/$34 million capacity purely with poor people (who somehow still manage to drop a couple of grand partying for a week), bike theft, home-made art, and unamplified music. The track record of Burning Man’s Regional Network as event producers is less than impressive. The last Robot Heart party I went to was On The Fucking Moon for Halloween in New York, the year Hurricane Sandy hit. They had no problems selling out what looked to me like a crowd of about 5000. Meanwhile regional events like Kiwi Burn pull less than a thousand people, even after more than 10 years. Maybe the future of Burner culture is more likely to lie in the hands of promoters, than bureaucrats and lawyers?

Despite Larry Harvey’s anti-EDM proclamations, I think the organizers of Burning Man Nevada are well aware that the surge in popularity of EDM and the simultaneous surge in popularity of their festival is no coincidence. Their Board member Chip Conley runs Fest300, which gives them intel on all the other festivals in the world. Size, attendance, popularity, ideas. With all the art cars, major sound camps, and smaller music setups throughout the city, there are more than 1000 music stages at Burning Man. Try finding that anywhere else – and who cares if some of them want to publish their line-ups? They are putting these DJs on for free, as a gift, why wouldn’t we all want to celebrate that?

Image: Snowbrains

Image: Snowbrains

The article I wrote last August What Dreams May Come is starting to look very prescient, now that Further Future has been announced. The poll there said 75% of Burners think there is room for more Burning Man-style events in the world without BMOrg, and only 4% thought they needed to be official Burning Man regionals.

So here we have a break-away EDM festival in the desert, profiled in business publication Forbes, featuring the most popular ever Burning Man art car – and, if you’re been to a Robot Heart party in Black Rock City lately, you will have noticed an armada of dozens of art cars that follow them around too. The “cool kids of Burning Man”, going off to do their own thing: exclusive, curated, professional. And HGH has partnered with them to bring a medical solution that is as good as Burning Man – the gold standard for events in the desert. All of a sudden, Larry & Co mysteriously ditch HGH in order for what looks like an inferior and woefully unprepared alternative. And then, also all of a sudden, the BLM at the last minute decides to fuck the festival organizers over on their permit and threaten them via lawyers.

Coincidence? Or conspiracy Nevada politics?

Humboldt seemed to deal with the local issues just fine. In 2011 they garnered industry praise for saving someone’s life with “miraculous” cardiac treatment.

In 2013 they were featured in an article “EMS In Charge At Burning Man” which began with the headline “If EMS Ran The Show”…possibly this was seen as some sort of challenge to the authority of Larry & Co.

Image: EMS World

Image: EMS World

This article is very informative. This was much more than just a week-long paid gig for HGH:

Burning Man itself may only last a week, but planning for the event is year round, says Louis Mendiola, BS, EMT-II, wellness coordinator for Humboldt General Hospital. He says one of the major challenges that go into that planning relates to recruiting, hiring and credentialing the nearly 400 Burning Man employees who will help oversee care.

“Establishing EMS for Burning Man is no easy task,” Mendiola explains. “The austere environment, remote location (no existing infrastructure) and the large population present a number of challenges. HGH relies heavily on the dedication of members of the Burning Man Leadership Team to ensure the operations rolls out seamlessly. HGH has organized a team of some of the nation’s best EMS leaders from a number of different backgrounds and areas of expertise. HGH strives to continually find ways to improve the operation by creating systems that improve patient care and system wide readiness. The willingness to incorporate EMS leaders from such diverse backgrounds has equated to an operation that is truly ‘high performance.’”

They have done more than just provide some medical staff on-site. They have created a fully functional emergency department, with ultrasound and x-ray machines. Their idea was to treat patients as much as they can on-site, where their medical expenses are paid for by Burning Man’s insurance, before sending them off to a Default world hospital where the patient’s own medical insurance presumably picks up the tab.

Instead of approaching Burning Man like any other mass event, we looked at the geographic distance to civilization and healthcare facilities, the environment, the attendee type, and decided to take a more global direction,” explains Bledsoe. “Instead of just placing ambulances and first aid stations everywhere we decided we would develop an integrated emergency healthcare system that ranged from first aiders to board-certified emergency physicians. We specifically wanted to use paramedics in an expanded role because they are already accustomed to the austere environment, independent thought, and the general mindset of the event medical and EMS leaders. As emergency physicians we saw the capability to safely expand their scope of practice to meet the needs of Burning Man.”

Because the providers on-site at Burning Man are quite literally the only care for miles, patient care needs to be robust and all-encompassing. The care provided ranges from minor to major and during the entire event there is at least one physician level provided and one medical director on call (usually via radio), says Mendiola.

“As with a typical ER, most patients are first seen by a triage nurse or tech, who decides which of the four pods the patient is best suited for,” Mendiola states. The actual structure is comprised of four inflatable disaster-type hospitals and a large wooden triage structure that serves as the entry way. More impervious mod spaces are used for x-ray, a suturing suite and command offices.

“We operate a fully functional emergency department, with facilities for minor care, emergency care and extended care,” adds Bledsoe. “We have x-ray, ultrasound and lab capabilities. While we rely heavily on emergency medicine residents and fellows, a Nevada-licensed medical director is within the hospital or nearby at all times (with a radio). We reduce fractures and dislocations, repair lacerations, manage drug overdoses (including mechanical ventilation), use deep and moderate sedation, and treat multiple common medical conditions. On the last Saturday of the event, the day they burn the man, we become one of the busiest, if not the busiest, emergency department in the United States. We will exceed the volume of patients we see daily at UMC in Las Vegas (a big, busy public hospital) by over 40% (more than 600 patients on the last Saturday). We have a large formulary/pharmacy of prescription and non-prescription drugs to treat the attendees at the event. And all medical care is provided without costs to the attendees, keeping with the prevailing spirit of the Burning Man event.

Notes Mendiola, eight ALS ambulances are staffed and deployed with at least one ALS level provider. One EMS operations chief oversees ambulance observation and one incident commander is available 24/7. An airway team/critical intervention team is also available to assist with advanced procedures.

The patients the EMS providers and medical staff see during Burning Man are quite diverse, encompassing all ages (though relatively few are children) and all walks of society.

“The population is generally healthy and chronic conditions are less common,” Mendiola says. “Unlike a regular healthcare system there are typically fewer patients with secondary gain issues, like drug seeking, doc shopping, or who are indigent.”

But the perception of risk is highly distorted on playa (the desert). “The culture equates to risky behavior, which subsequently means more injuries,” explains Mendiola.

“We see a lot of lacerations and fractures, eye problems, skin problems, female urinary tract infections, dehydration and similar conditions,” says Bledsoe. “Although many people think Burning Man is a drug fest that’s far from the truth. In 2011, only 2.5% of the patients we saw were drug or alcohol-related. The Burning Man systems actually take care of most substance abuse problems in a separate facility, referred to as the sanctuary. We help them with medical issues, if present, and have sent some of our psychiatry residents over to the sanctuary to help.

“We treat all comers,” Bledsoe continues. “Sometimes all they want is a medical opinion, a band-aid or an over-the-counter medication. All patients who present are assessed and triaged to the appropriate level of provider (e.g., EMT, community paramedic, nurse, physician). There are certain things we don’t get into unless absolutely necessary. We don’t do sexual assault exams and female pelvic exams. We did treat some pregnancy-related issues but had ultrasound available. High-risk issues and problems are immediately handled by the most senior personnel. For example, we had a patient go into labor at 36 weeks. I personally assumed her care, did a quick OB ultrasound, checked her cervix to ensure she could safely make the trip to Reno, contacted her OB/GYN and the labor and delivery department in Reno, and safely sent her to the hospital by ground ambulance.

“The difference between Burning Man and other big events,” adds Bledsoe, “is that we can’t simply say, ‘That’s all we can do here. We’re going to send you to the hospital.’ The closest hospitals are 150 miles away and sending an ambulance to the hospital can take 6–7 hours to go and return as the event enters the weekend. We try and do as much as we can on site. If a patent needs more detailed care, imaging (e.g., CT, MRI), or hospital admission we send them to Reno or Sacramento. Some can go by private vehicle. We pride ourselves on minimizing transports off the desert. People plan for this event all year, spend a great deal of money to attend, and want to stay through the final ‘burn.’ The people are quite nice and thankful. Pat (Songer) always receives nice letters from patients who compliment the medical care at Burning Man and even go on to say that they feel that medical care at Burning Man is a model for healthcare in general.”

Here is the full press release from HGH (emphasis ours):


Contact: Nicole Maher, Director
Community Education and Development
Humboldt General Hospital
(775) 761-2624


WINNEMUCCA, Nev.—“We wouldn’t trade our experience with Burning Man for anything.”

That was HGH EMS Rescue Chief Pat Songer’s statement last week after his agency was notified that their four-year contract providing medical care at the annual counter-culture festival has been terminated.

Songer said it’s those “lessons learned” that will stay with the agency long after memories of the dust, dehydration—and even death—fade away.

The art festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert gathers 70,000 people each Labor Day weekend, making the make-shift city Nevada’s fourth largest for one week.
“It was a challenge providing medical to over 450 community members each day,” said Songer, “but it was an exhilarating challenge and one that we are immensely grateful for.”

Humboldt General Hospital began providing medical care at Burning Man in 2011. Each year, Songer said his agency tweaked their contractual relationship with their host to compensate for increased numbers of participants and the associated risks of hosting one of the country’s largest mass gatherings in one of the world’s most remote and austere locations.

This year didn’t seem different except Songer said some safety concerns identified by his staff in 2014 needed clarification, so in February, the agency exercised their 180-day right to cancel their contract.

That happened in a meeting with Burning Man officials and the entire group agreed to move forward, intent on renegotiating a new contract that, among other things, would allow for at least one more EMS agency to provide backup in case festival numbers surged again, like they did in 2012. “We just wanted to continue that same level of preparedness,” said Songer. “After all, this is a large-scale event with the potential for an MCI in the middle of nowhere. I think some people forget the potential for disaster there.”

Still, the two parties tended to disagree on Humboldt General Hospital’s role: was the agency simply an event contractor or were they a public safety agency with all the associated risks and responsibilities?

Last week, when Burning Man officials announced they were negotiating a contract with CrowdRX, a large-scale event contractor, Songer said he got his answer.
“I think that was really the crux of our concerns,” he said. “When we came to this event, we saw it as an extension of our hospital. We were going to provide hospital-level care, even if it was in the middle of one of the world’s most remote locations.”

He continued, “We weren’t there as an event contractor, we were there as a medical provider in the Black Rock Desert—a fully operational, gold star-staffed medical facility.” Songer added, “I think as the event evolved and our expectations for safety continued to escalate, philosophically and operationally, we found ourselves on opposite sides of the coin.”

The agency was certainly planning to complete its initial five-year commitment, said Songer, and hoped to see that relationship continue beyond. Apparently, so did many others, including officials from local, state and federal governments, hospitals and even law enforcement. “There is safety concern out there,” Songer explained. “When Nevada is investing so much to hold an event of this magnitude here, you want there to be some long-term good that comes from that collaboration.” In other words, explained Songer, “you don’t want an out-of-state event contractor to simply take the money and run.”

Songer said that concern focuses on the differences between a Nevada medical provider that becomes a long-term asset to the state as it grows its present and future medical network, versus an out-of-state contractor that operates on a temporary medical license for seven days and then leaves. “Sure, you can issue that temporary license,” said Songer, “but what we’re hearing is worry about the long-term. When your hospital or your Nevada ambulance company provides those services, there is an investment there, an investment of time, experience, equipment, manpower and you come out more prepared—way more equipped for Nevada—than you went in.” When you bring in a temporary contractor, that goes away. You’re not empowering a medical network across the state, you’re simply funding an out-of-state business.” “I think that’s the worry,” Songer added.

With HGH out of the medical mix, and REMSA before that, Nevada’s medical network has definitely lost a one-of-a-kind training ground. That being said, Songer said he is proud of what HGH EMS Rescue brought to the festival’s table during his medical tenure including, according to Burning Man officials during early April, his agency’s ability to “shine a spotlight on safety.”

Other successes came with the agency’s partner relations, which Songer said were critical to his agency’s success at the event and in the future through the many mutual aid agreements forged during the festival. Songer also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn the complexities of mass casualty incidents—not only the ins and outs of staging such a massive medical operation, but also in learning to “trust other agencies that you only know for one week each year.” He praised the “once-in-a-lifetime chance” to assemble and work with a world-class medical team. “These weren’t contractors who go from event to event, these were medical practitioners at the top of their respective fields; they were there to practice medicine.”

Perhaps the agency’s greatest accomplishment on the Black Rock, however, was creating and adapting a system to the needs of the patients—fully in line with Humboldt General Hospital’s mission of “being helpful and caring for those in need.”
“These people wanted to stay on the playa,” he said of each year’s Burners. “They had invested a lot in terms of their time and money to get there and our job was to keep them there.” Songer added, “It’s no different than what we do at our community hospital. We have invested millions and millions of dollars to allow people to get their care right here at home. “When we went to the Black Rock, that model did not change, so we had to create a system that would allow patients to get the majority of their care “at home” on the playa.

Songer said there are those who will see the severed contract as a black mark for the rural EMS agency. “We don’t,” he said. “Burning Man did not define who we are; we defined the systems that made Burning Man’s medical an incredible model across the world,” he said.

Now, said Songer, HGH EMS Rescue will take that model and continue to adapt it to the other special events it oversees each year, including the increasingly popular music festival “Night in the Country” as well as the up-and-coming “Further Future” festival, 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas.

Of course, the model remains the core of HGH EMS Rescue’s delivery of pre-hospital care across 10,000 square miles, parts of two states and three counties.
“We had an excellent run with Burning Man,” said Songer, “and now all those resources, that knowledge and those experiences come home to our community.”