Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Burning Man turns 30: How a group of radical pranksters built a city in the desert

Burning Man was born 30 years ago as a bonfire beach party in San Francisco. An 8-foot-tall wooden stick figure planted in the sand of Baker Beach, and the Golden Gate Bridge loomed in the background. Three dozen avant-garde souls surrounded the recycled lumber effigy as it burned, the attendees summoned by two vagabond comrades, Jerry James and Larry Harvey. "It was like a second sun brought down to this earth, it was just ... it transfixed us, but ... that's where the story begins, in fact. Because at the moment it was lit, everybody on that beach, north and south, came running," Harvey would later say in a 1997 speech. The burning of “the man” stuck, became an annual tradition and, after a few years, the free spirits traded sand for dust. They migrated to an ancient lake bed outside of the gun-toting, leave-me-alone, 200-person town of Gerlach in Northern Nevada. Over a bizarre three-decade evolution, the getaway would turn into Burning Man, a weeklong capital of nowhere inhabited by 70,000 fancy desert rats driven by mischief and mindfulness. In the spring of its age, Burning Man was a wild, unruly, devious teenager. No doubt, today it is more composed, but it struggles constantly with its identity, perhaps because so many kinds of followers now identify with it. The hippies. The techies. The punks. The pyros. The ravers. The libertarians. The dreamers. The creators. As Burning Man turns 30, the Reno Gazette-Journal has collected interviews with some of the "movers and shakers" of Burning Man to piece together a story of evolution -- a story that begins before Burning Man ever was and ends somewhere in the future. In today's age, Burning Man has come to be known for the techies, stars and fashionistas who attend, but this story sheds light on the lesser-sung influences of Burning Man such as the Suicide Club, Cacophony Society, Desert Siteworks, Survival Research Labs and early Silicon Valley...more

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