Burning Man Could Be Moving To Utah [Update]

So says the CEO, in a recent hour-long interview on the Positive Head podcast.

From VICE:

“The biggest danger facing Burning Man right now is that the State of Nevada has levied an entertainment tax,” Goodell stated further. “We still believe that we don’t fit under a form of entertainment. Frankly, we’re not a Las Vegas show. We’re not a car race or a concert in a stadium.”

Goodell claims that the Silver State is enforcing a massive 9% entertainment tax on the Burning Man project, crippling revenue flows and long-term sustainability. “We’re not able to absorb that,” she said, before balefully concluding by saying, “That’s the thing right now that makes us look longingly towards Utah or any other state that might not have levied that.”

Their sold out event can’t absorb an increase in Ticket Prices from $390 to $425? File that one under things that make you go Hmmmm. They seemed to have no problem jacking Vehicle Pass prices 25% from last year. Perhaps the real issue may have something to do with them spending so much money on lawyers and accountants in order to become “tax exempt”, only to have politicians route around them by implementing a new tax. More lobbying and lawyers required, where does it end? (Hint: it never ends).

Fest300 asks Will Burning Man Be On The Playa Next Year? and then takes it further, intrigued by the suggestion that we’ve outgrown the desert and it’s time for some permanent infrastructure:

Goodell continues, “We’re running out of space on the Black Rock desert, so we’re doing everything we can” to nurture regional Burns.

And, right above the 1-hour mark, Goodell brings up the intriguing possibility of Burning Man’s first permanent structure beyond its office in San Francisco: “For the long-term survival of the culture, we are going to need a physical space…We will, as time goes by, find it hard to only be in the Black Rock Desert. We may need to find a place that would allow for infrastructure. I’m certain that’s in our future.”

Marian shed some more light on what’s behind the Dance Music Zone. It’s to make Robot Heart “more free”, and because of a “long standing” dispute with Dancetronauts:

“Burning Man is not a festival,” Goodell was early to iterate. “A festival, for many people, now means stages and food vendors and having your comforts more taken care of. We’re definitely not interested in providing a typical festival atmosphere.”

That statement may be a tougher sell to the much maligned, but now-entrenched upper crusters who glamp amidst luxury and a minimal sense of radicalism that sits starkly against traditional Burner tenets.

“We have watched the change in the type of people that come to Burning Man,” Goodell acknowledged. “We’re not gonna get in front of certain things and force issues. We are gonna nurture the process so we all get the best results. Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community, and we’re the stewards of that process.

Time for a change? Bear Kittay, Marian Goodell and Danger Ranger. // Photo by Christoper Michel

Time for a change? Bear Kittay, Marian Goodell and Danger Ranger. // Photo by Christoper Michel

This year, that process involves stewarding some of the rowdier art car dance parties away from Black Rock City. Goodell acknowledged that longtime Burner crew The Dancetronauts were disinvited to the Playa in 2015 after a long-standing dispute with the jumpsuited spacemen, while the Opulent Temple camp was denied camp placement after dropping their levels of camp interactivity.

Made more notable after the famous debacle last year in which Skrillex and Diplo dropped “Turn Down For What?” to a bemused audience of hippies, is the institution of the Deep Playa Music Zone, a distantly situated area in which art cars like Robot Heart will be more free to post up and blast electronic dance music for as long and as loud as they need, want, or are physically able to.

Damian Lazarus at Robot Heart. Image: VICE

Damian Lazarus at Robot Heart. Image: VICE

Goodell was at the center of this change after an encounter with the untz last year left her reeling: “I was one of the people who was awakened at 3 in the morning by the sound of thumping music. My trailer was vibrating! Several of us came out, shocked, and couldn’t understand, even though I’ve been doing this for 19 years. We got in the cart and went out and it was an tart car facing its speakers towards the camp. It was past the man and it woke me!”


Hmmm again. This doesn’t sound like it was Dancetronauts. So why was it them who was punished? What happened to this other “too loud” art car – anything?

And what’s the CEO of Burning Man doing trying to sleep at 3am anyway?


[Update 8/19/15 1:06pm]

She’s certainly not building her own camp. About ten minutes into the interview she completely justifies paid sherpas – as long as they get to eat at the same dinner table as the other campers, rather than “staff” versus “guests”, an “us and them sort of thing”. She states “The culture of Burning Man can really flourish with money…[for example] to bring great musicians to your camp”.

Stereolambda has made a very interesting observation in the comments here.

This certainly adds context around why the org is suddenly asking sound camps not to list DJ line-ups. It seemed odd at the time that they would suddenly come out with this policy after so many years, but now it is clear they are trying to make sure they can argue that Burning Man is not entertainment, and therefore not subject to the entertainment tax.

Could there be a link between a new “entertainment tax” and a new “crackdown on EDM”? Or just more coincidences?

“we don’t believe we’re a form of entertainment. We’re not a Las Vegas show or a car race or a concert in a stadium”


Please Consider Helping Chris Wallace’s Widow

RIP Chris Wallace

RIP Chris Wallace

Chris Wallace was the man who died on the fire at Utah’s Element11 regional burn on Saturday. His family have started an online campaign to help pay for the funeral and end of life costs. They have asked that rather than sending flowers or condolences, the best thing the Burner community could do would be to help out with a donation of $35 (or whatever you can afford to give).

Burners in Utah can also go to a public fundraiser on Friday the 18th, a Gallery Show from 6-8pm at Mod-A-Go-Go, 242 E South Temple Salt Lake City. This is being put on by Chris’ wife’s sister.

gallery show chris wallaceJohn Christopher Wallace passed on Saturday July 12th unexpectedly. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to help his wife pay for a funeral & end of life costs.

Chris was a great person with wide impact. On Saturday July 12th, Chris passed from this world at the “Burning Man” Element 11 event in Utah. His wife and family are still dealing with the shock and sadness of this news. 

Chris did not have life insurance, and any funds you may be able to contribute toward his funeral, and end-of-life costs is a great blessing…The financial situation of his widow is VERY uncertain—no one plans for these type of tragedies, and she shouldn’t have to compare funeral plans at such a traumatic time in her life.


chris and his wifeThis link will take anyone who is interested to a page where they can donate to Chris’s funeral, memorial, and end-of-life costs. 

I’m sending this…with the hope that you can somehow give this information to the burner community, while pleading that anyone who responds to the knowledge of this link is respectful, non-speculative, and understanding that Chris’s loved ones may always be searching for closure relating to this unfortunate event.

[Chris’ wife] is going to be destitute—health issues prevent her from being able to work full time & Chris was the bread winner.

Please be respectful to the family’s wishes. If you really feel the need to radically express yourself with nasty comments or personal opinions about this tragedy, you can add them to the discussion at the original story here. I will be deleting them from this page, as Chris’s family are in more than enough pain already, and still trying to process the terrible events of the weekend.

Nothing can bring Chris back, but maybe the Burner community can help out a little, and show the family that there is more to us than snark and armchair speculation. I have checked it out, believe it to be legitimate, and have donated.

Utah Suicide Victim Named

The Salt Lake Tribune has identified the man who died at the Element11 Regional Burn on Saturday night. He was John Christopher Wallace, of Salt Lake City, in his late 20’s or early 30’s. According to the police, he had told people earlier in the day of his intentions to kill himself by jumping in the fire which became his funeral pyre.

From sltrib.com:

photo credit: Del Hargis

photo credit: Del Hargis

A joyous festival was cut tragically short Saturday night when a man burned to death after leaping into a huge ceremonial bonfire.

As a three-story wooden effigy, inspired by the creatures from Where the Wild Things Are, burned to mark the culmination of the Element 11 festival in Grantsville, hundreds of festival-goers watched in horror as Christopher Wallace of Salt Lake City broke through a safety barrier, danced wildly for a few moments and ran full speed into the flames.

Fire safety rangers were unable to stop Wallace from tossing himself into the inferno. Witnesses said they saw Wallace’s hand rise up from the flames as he died.

Wallace, who was in his late 20s or early 30s, had told other festival-goers earlier in the day that he planned to kill himself by jumping into the burning effigy, said Grantsville police Lt. Steve Barrett.

“This is what he was going to do, and it’s what he did,” Barrett said, adding that neither security rangers nor firemen could have prevented Wallace from killing himself. “It took not even seconds. He was just through the barricades and into the fire.”

Memorial created in the ashes of the Element11 burn

Memorial created in the ashes of the Element11 burn

Grantsville police reviewed video footage recorded by witnesses before determining that Wallace’s death was a suicide. The effigy had been burning for about 30 minutes when Wallace leapt into the fire at about about 11 p.m. Saturday, said Grantsville police Lt. Steve Barrett. Firefighters on scene tried to extinguish the flames but could not save Wallace.

“It was shocking to everybody,” said Grantsville Mayor Brent Marshall, who did not witness the burn but visits the event site each year to perform a safety inspection. Marshall expressed his sympathy not only for the family of the dead man but also for the people who witnessed the suicide.

“Horrific things get embedded into people’s minds,” Marshall said. “It’s a tragedy any way you want to look at it.”

A former co-worker, Benthewicked, has shared more information on Reddit:

John Christopher Wallace was his full name. I knew him in a professional capacity, so all of his emails were labelled “John Wallace.” His closest friends called him Christopher, but I’m not comfortable calling him that. He was my copy editor, and a brilliant one. I’d get articles back from him, and they’d be riddled with corrections, but when my employee evaluation came up, he marked me as a superb writer. I listened closely to him when we went out to lunch, and I got on a music email chain, where the two of us and a handful of other employees would recommend two or three songs each week. When he quit, I was upset, and I jokingly asked him to stay.

What makes me angriest at myself for this whole situation is the fact that just last week, I was thinking about him. Usually, if I think about a former co-worker, I’ll hit them up on Facebook, but for whatever reason, I let myself get busy. I know that my message wouldn’t have changed anything, but I hate myself for not getting a chance to let him know how much I appreciated working with him.

The point that I’m really trying to make is that his suicide was an accident. He was a really great guy, and I don’t want any of you trying to judge his whole life based on the one minute before his life ended.

…I’d like to say that John (the victim) was not an asshole and not selfish. After watching the video, it’s clear to me that he was not in his right mind. I have trouble believing he wanted to die. It’s more likely that he was caught up in the moment and unaware of the danger he put himself in.

I wasn’t very close to John, especially in the ten months since he switched jobs. I’d read his Facebook posts from time to time but that’s as much of a relationship that I maintained. Last week, I was thinking about how much I owe him for where I am at my job, but I didn’t even hop online to tell him I was thinking about him.

I’m going to listen to the music he recommended while we still worked together. I just feel the need to remember him for the great person he was.

Burning Man has finally acknowledged the death on their official blog.

For anyone traumatized by this tragic event, there are links to support groups at the bottom of this story.