The Man Behind The Music

Image: IRDeep via Spin

Image: IRDeep via Spin

Spin magazine has an interview with Opulent Temple founder Syd Gris. Some highlights:

The organizers behind Burning Man deny any affiliations of being a “music festival,” but, for all intents and purposes, this is the wildest music festival in the world.

The denial of their identity as a music festival lets Burning Man rely heavily on crowdsourcing the 24-hour, over-the-top productions, visuals, DJ booths, sound equipment, and world-class music performances to ticket holders…

Attendees being responsible for their own entertainment is exactly what separates Burning Man from any other music festival. You bought the ticket, and have to do all the work. 

Gris is the co-founder, lineup curator, and overall production director for more than 13 years with the sound camp known as Opulent Temple. 

CREDIT: Photo by IRDeep

Opulent’s major objective is twofold: to provide a platform for spiritual dance expression and for DJs to explore the more artistic (and perhaps unacknowledged at other commercial festivals) side of their craft…

 This year, Opulent Temple took a step away from their typical stage build for their popular Wednesday night “White Party.” Instead, they provided attendees a truly magical alternative that captured the true essence of Burning Man by forming a commutative stage consisting of multiple art cars from other camps. The Opulent team set up their DJ stand on top of an art car, outfitted with large speakers, to drive deeper into the open center area of Burning Man. Various cars from other camps outfitted with large speakers met them at a specific location and linked up wirelessly through RF technology to form a makeshift half circle dance floor. While each car was synced directly to the Opulent DJ performance, additional art cars unaffiliated with the camp would drive in and the Opulent workers would link them up to join the party as well.

What was the sound camp scene like when you arrived at your very first Burning Man?
Back in 2001, there were certainly less of them and most every scale of production was downsized compared to current standards of Burning Man sound camps, especially the scale of sound systems. I say that mostly because camps such as “Lush” in 2004 and “Sol System” that same year (fondly known as Sol Henge) were even by today’s sound camp’s standards massive productions, but those were definitely outliers and seemingly burned both crews out because neither ever came back after that year.

Is it true that you fought for the rights of sound camps at Burning Man?
Yes, I organized a bunch of camps in 2008 including representatives from camps like El Circo, the Deep End, Green Gorilla, and others to approach the Burning Man organizers to request some changes and support. The premise was basically that collectively we’ve felt like we give a lot to the event. Which, of course, is fine; it’s why we started creating such camps in the first place. But we hoped we might get more support and resources from the organizers to do what we do since it is our perception the role of the Large Scale Sound & Art Camps had evolved to be an integral part of a large number of attendees experience and reason for coming. What we asked for and what we got for our efforts were different. Spoiler alert: not much!

Did artists like Tiesto find it unique having to purchase their own ticket?
Yes. We are a volunteer and fundraising camp. All the equipment, food, shelter, and electricity comes out of our own pockets, while we all have day jobs outside of Burning Man. He provided a donation to our camp debt after he played for us in 2005, he said, “It’s the only time I’ve paid someone to play for them.”

What did Opulent Temple do to set the standard for today’s music scene at Burning Man?
What we did to raise the bar was really just building on the precedence of the great camps that came before us but taking it to a higher level. We make our own art and the production pieces that make up our camp, and we build new stuff every year to add to our recognizable look. We were the first to have a DJ-operated flame-throwing booth, and the first to consistently bring out an eclectic range of so-called ‘big-name’ DJs, and we did it all year round through volunteers building the camp and making the art.

CREDIT: Photo by IRDeep

What’s the future of the music community of Burning Man? Will the music be too much and eventually take away from the art as it slowly becomes the main attraction?
I think people’s association and experience of Burning Man — unless something drastically changes — is always one of art and music. For now, it is by far primarily dance music. Though it sounds ironic to say, in one light you could say the organization has gone to great lengths to do nothing to support music at Burning Man beyond allowing it to exist. They do a lot to nurture the art scene, so I don’t see it becoming too much.

[Source: Spin]

Read the full interview at Spin Magazine.

Here’s a Syd Gris set from last year’s Halloween.

Cosmo: Burning Man Erection Contests Are Really Hard

Tom Anderson at Cosmopolitan brings us a “deep behind the scenes” look at what goes on at Burning Man’s Slut Garden camp.

From Cosmopolitan:

Cosmo: Too irrelevant to make fun of since the '70sThe first boner to rise gets the prize,” says Brad McCray at the start of the event.

McCray is a beast of a man who leads the Burning Man theme camp Slut Garden with his wife of 10 years, Tammy. In front of him, five men stand exposed from the waist down with their scantily clad female partners dancing around them, encircled by a cheering, dust-covered crowd of hundreds. Every man is trying to produce an erection as fast as he can without touching himself. Their partners can encourage the sexletes but not by using their hands.

This is the Speed Boner challenge, the finale to McCray’s fourth annual Slut Olympics. Other events include Deep Throat (a pretty self-explanatory contest that involves a 13-inch dildo), Guess-A-Willy (a blindfolded woman has to identify her partner’s penis out of a lineup of naked men), and a Best Balls beauty contest. Speed Boner is still the biggest draw.

 …Slut Gardeners are strictly swingers, married couples who range from their late twenties to early forties and want to experiment. Of the 54 campers staying at the garden, women slightly outnumber men. “There is a lot of cross pollination,” McCray says, but to be clear, they are not polyamorous. “Swingers are looking for sex, and the polyamorous are looking for a relationship.” One year, Burning Man organizers put Slut Garden next to a polyamorous camp. They did not get along. Slut Garden campers were looking to hook up while the polys were working out the complicated geometry of triads, quads, and other romantic shapes.
….McCray made a new rule that contestants “cannot come to Speed Boner with a boner.” 

…Since its inception, the Speed Boner competition has been plagued with difficulties. The first year, no sexlete got an erection. So the second year, McCray decided to let the contestants use their hands. The competition quickly turned into an ejaculation blast, which McCray describes as “grotesque.” Last year, a man came to Speed Boner packing wood. McCray made a new rule that contestants “cannot come to Speed Boner with a boner.”…”it ain’t a bone if it doesn’t stand on its own.” McCray explains the rules to the contestants from Slut Garden’s DJ sound booth: No touching your penis with your hands. Partners can rub on each other but no touching with the hands. And no “insertion,” he adds.

…The dancing turns to grinding as the crowd grows impatient. The women rub their breasts on their partners’ penises to move things along. Perhaps out of frustration, perhaps misunderstanding of what McCray meant by “insertion,” or maybe because they were carried away in the heat of the moment, four of the five women start fellating their partners. A referee disqualifies all of them as Graham taunts them for breaking the rules. The last man standing by default is “Shylar,” a porn producer from Los Angeles. He gets a gold medal for his partial stiffy.

…machismo aside, the pressure of a large stage may make the difficult task even harder, and fewer boners is the last thing Slut Garden needs in 2015.


Read the full story here. Congratulations to Shylar for his boner accomplishments.


Burn Before, After, and While Reading

by Whatsblem the Pro

3 out of 4 BARmag staffers have human faces -- Photo: BARmag

3 out of 4 BARmag staffers have human faces

While some might assume that we’re rivals, here at we regard the staff of BURN AFTER READING MAGAZINE as a great bunch of people who put out some excellent writing on the subject of Burning Man. We’re pleased to have them as colleagues, and happy to see them thrive.

BARmag co-founder Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee graciously agreed to do an interview with our own Whatsblem the Pro.

Whatsblem the Pro:

What do you tell people when they ask you what BARmag is?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

BARmag – or Burn After Reading Magazine – is a burner art and culture mag. We cover burner stuff all around the world, from Afrikaburn to the Temple of Christchurch in New Zealand. We post articles on the web year-round. Aside from our website we have a print magazine at Burning Man.

Whatsblem the Pro:

You co-founded BARmag, right?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

Yes. Doug Crissman, our art director, and myself started the magazine in the winter of 2011. I was doing volunteer work at another magazine during that time and it made me realize that we could easily be doing our own art mag. Doug was a part of another art magazine in college, called Deek. He did a lot of design for that and even helped to run it for a couple years post-grad until the magazine eventually folded. When I brought up the idea of the magazine he was immediately on board, although I’m not sure if he realized I was actually serious about it. Two months later BARmag was up and running on the web.

Aside from the two of us, we have roughly thirty to thirty-five volunteers who do a lot of the articles and design. The coolest part is that our volunteers are literally spread all over the globe. 

Whatsblem the Pro:

What are BARmag‘s goals?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

I think the ultimate goal for BARmag is that we find a way to be fully self sufficient. No kickstarters and constantly begging for donations. Just an awesome magazine each year on the Playa showcasing the amazing art all these people bring to the desert. If we grew to be a quarterly magazine and I could pay my staff and we could give a grant to Burning Man literary art each year that would be my dream world.

Whatsblem the Pro:

Can anyone write for BARmag?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

Yup! We are radically inclusive. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll just take every article though. We like to keep our magazine focused on Burning Man art and culture specifically. We also don’t take any fiction or poetry. But we are happy to work with everyone and the more volunteers the merrier!

Whatsblem the Pro:

What does BARmag do on the playa during Burning Man?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

Raised by Wolves, Dressed by Ringling Bros.

Raised by Wolves, Dressed by Ringling Bros.

Our cafe is part of the frontage of Raised By Wolves which is my home camp. Some magazine members camp with us but many of them have their own camps all over playa. Luckily my friends at Raised By Wolves are totally into running our cafe and helping to gift the magazine. Their support really makes our magazine that much more special. I’m really grateful for all of them and for all of the magazine staff that continue to make this project happen.

Whatsblem the Pro:

Assuming an article isn’t something you reject automatically, like fiction or poetry, what is it that you look for in a piece of writing that might be appropriate for BARmag?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

The art and culture thing is a big criteria. As long as an article encompasses that wether its a review of a burner party or a fabulous Burning Man packing list if it highlights the art and gives back to our culture then it goes in the mag.

Whatsblem the Pro:

How did you find your way to Burning Man, and how has it changed your life year-round? How has it influenced you as a writer and editor?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

I stumbled onto Burning Man accidentally. In July 2010 I moved into a new house in Philly and my two roommates were going to the Burn. They invited me to a couple Burning Man parties – PEX Magic Garden and Disorient Boom Boat. I was totally blown away. These were my people! They loved crazy art and costumes as much as I did! Not only that but they created the worlds I dreamed up as a kid! I helped do set up for Magic Garden as well as set up and strike for Boom Boat. I was immediately hooked. That August my roomie, Tristen and I drove my car full of people and stuff from Philadelphia to Black Rock City. Last year Tristen and I got engaged at Kostume Kult on Playa.

It changed my life by teaching me that art is something you can create RIGHT NOW! It’s inspired me to take my big ideas and actually make them happen! As a writer and editor it taught me that I didn’t need the validation of others to make things. I could create things for myself and if others enjoyed them then that was a total bonus.

You can help keep BARmag running on and off the playa by donating to their Kickstarter campaign.