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Burning Man, My First Time on the Playa


Burning Man. I have spent days struggling with HOW to write an article that can explain this event to you all. Burning man definitely cannot be put in the category of a “Music Festival.” Even though Black Rock City has it’s own constant soundtrack, the music you will hear is just a small part of what you will experience. The best way I can try to explain Burning Man is; it will be one of the most extreme experiences you ever have - physically, emotionally, and musically. I promise, whether you have a good experience or a bad one, Burning Man will be out of this world.

The concept of Burning Man is basically for a whole city to come together and prove that we can all live and thrive while expressing ourselves however we please. All the members of Black Rock City have agreed to come together on what they call “the playa” to support and give to the city as much as they can, while also sharing art, music, or any other creative aspect of their lives. There is an understanding that the members of this community will not judge each other. No matter what, you are accepted and you are loved. You would be surprised what human beings can do when they are living in this environment. You would also be surprised how generous one stranger can be to another and how creative we can all be.

There is no money at Burning Man. You bring what you would like to share and take what others want to give. That means after you set foot in Black Rock City, everyone is financially equal. Contrary to what some people think, there isn’t bartering either. The citizens of Black Rock give you what they give just because they want to.

Let me paint a picture for you by explaining what happened the first night I arrived. As the car drove into our camp, people were getting ready to go out for the night. I passed by tents of Burners who smiled and waved. Everyone was dressed differently in whatever they had chosen for the night. Most people like to dress up in costume at Burning Man but some just want to be comfortable. (Note: It gets cold at night so take a coat. If you do want to dress up, also take comfortable clothes. I promise there will be times when you want them.) Anyway, back to the first night. I got to my camp and got ready for the night; fur coat- check, cowboy hat- check, short skirt- check, LED lights-check. I also made sure I had an empty cup with me in my bike basket. (Note: It is a good idea to take a bike (an old one preferrably as it will get pretty beat up) with you to the playa to help you get around. You can walk, but the playa is huge and there is a lot to see so without a bike, it will take a while to get everywhere and you will get tired. ) A group of us rode out to the playa and, as night started to fall, the first glimpse of the playa was A-MA-ZING. I was riding my bike in the middle of a flat plane of dust and surrounding me were the most amazing pieces of art and statues all lit up. Some of these structures are very big and have taken months for Burners to build. Then there are the art cars; possibly what makes the playa so amazing is that vehicles are not allowed unless they are built to look like something else. So amidst the craziness of dust and structures, there are cars that roll by, lit up and looking like cats, spiders, spaceships, pirate ships…whatever has come to a Burners mind. Most of the art cars have music playing from them and if you wish, you can hop on and party with the group (whoever they might be).

Climbing at Nexus

We rode our bikes through the sea of lit up cats and ships to a stage, the Nexus stage, one of the many set up that year. It really was more of an outdoor club than a stage and I had never seen anything like it. First, I saw there was a huge sphere in the middle of the dancing area that was on fire. Above it, there were trapeze artists doing acrobatics in the air, a dj was spinning as a large group danced around…and then…here is my favorite part…I noticed there was a jungle gym that some people where playing on. I have to say, before this, I never realized how much I missed climbing from when I was a kid! Below the rope and step ladders was a bar. This is why it pays to carry an empty cup with you at Burning Man; bars are free just like everything else. Just walk up and say what you want and if the bar has it, they will pour it to you. Needless to say, this night was amazing. And the trip continued this way.

During the day, we biked around to see the sculptures up close or to go roller skating in a rink that had been set up by a camp. We saw pianos sitting out in the middle of the playa in case we wanted to play or we could go to the temple to rest and slow down a bit in the heat. The best feeling was the sense of community and calm that I felt while I was in Black Rock City. It was very different than I had imagined it would be which was a bunch of people getting together just to party and be crazy. Yes, there are parties, lots of parties at Burning Man, but what you will see and feel is something completely different.

It is important to understand everyone will have their own experiences on the playa and some might be better than others. Make sure you feel you are ready to take care of yourself and be responsible when you are having fun. It is important to have a pack of water on your back at all times in case you get thirsty. It is also important to not go over board in the heat. Other Burners will be there to take care of you if you need it, but, the point is to share and bring positivity to the community.

Baby wipes are a must on the playa since you probably won’t be showering very often. The port-a-potties are cleaner than any others I’ve ever experienced but honestly, they are what they are. Make sure you look at the official Burning Man checklist for things to take with you. There are items on the list that are imperative that I would have never thought of myself such as a head lamp or goggles (for the infamous dust storms which you will experience at least once a day).

I hope by reading this you have an idea of what you will see in Black Rock City. I would definitely recommend this event to anyone who feels they are up for the experience. It is life changing and mind altering. It is worth dealing with the conditions just to see a different way of life that you will never be able to witness otherwise.

Related posts:

  1. Burning Man 2011: Black Rock Syndicate Artist Lineup and Schedule
  2. Burning Man: Nexus Camp Lineup and Artist Schedule Announced
  3. Burning Man: Osiris Camp Artist Lineup and Location
  4. Burning Man: Music Savages Lineup and Artist Schedule Released
  5. The BPM Festival Brings You Inaugural PRIMAVERA FESTIVAL - Playa del Carmen, Mexico, April 21-24, 2011

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