Review & Photos | Burning Man 2013 | Black Rock City

Spending over a week on the Playa, this writer learned about what it takes to make Black Rock City come to life -- and return to desert -- rest assured it is no small feat. I’d like to acknowledge and thank the wonderful souls whom dedicate themselves to making sure we are able to “Do it Right” at Burning Man, at their own great personal cost and effort. To the Black Rock City Dept. of Public Works (DPW), the glue, manpower, badassery and know-how that drive the infrastructure in every way remote need, the Burning Man Organization, Burning Man Project, and all the different arms and legs who provide the foundation of the entire event. I’d also like to recognize one of the numerous, smaller, self-governed camps that provide essential services; like our good friends at the Recycle Camp, who work night and day crushing cans while DJ Bobby Bluefoot spins boomshots and members take turns educating Burners about sustainability and eco-awareness.

[Photo by Jillian Ashley/Recycle Camp]

Upon arrival, this writer got himself acclimated and dove right in, completely unprepared for the whirlwind of emotions I would undergo. By surrendering to the flow, I allowed sentiments and passions to guide me. I trusted the Playa, for she provides as the Dude abides. Without further ado, here is one boy’s virgin sojourn to Black Rock City, with the soundtrack my guide, and the Burning Man cultural pact finally personified. Tread gently, Safety third and please handle with care.

Sound camps are where the colossal, illusory trance-like music events transpire. These are netherworlds of sound, LED light, fire and fury, and site of many of this writer’s most substantial Burn experiences. Even on Playa, music comes first and foremost for somebody like me. Many of these camps also have mutant vehicles and ambitious, elaborate art cars that pack massive soundsystems and provide traveling raves to any and all areas on the Playa. Some of these extravagant, ostentatious camps explode fireballs and glow like an Owsley Stanley-themed pinball machine. I would stand in jaw-dropped awe before flamboyant dancing elucidated submission. Like all theme camps, Sound Camps are urged to be as interactive as possible. However, one of the few rules is that all speakers must be turned away from Black Rock City, so that the bass travels out into the greater open playa at all times. In the dark of night, it would be Robot Heart, White Ocean, Digital Apex, or Camp Question mark that piqued my curiousity time and again. Come sunrise, I most often found my way to Fractal Planet or the Abraxas dragon art car to greet Mother Sun with Zen aerobics and sky worship.

The monster set from The Polish Ambassador at Apex on Thursday night was the perfect blasting off point, as he weaved classic hip-hop and R&B tracks into dazzling danceable grooves. Heard often on the Playa, a remix to Blackstreet’s timeless anthem “No Diggity” got the party started quickly and right. This hallowed ground is where Dave Sugalski decided to first unveil his super-sexy take on the timeless Teddy Riley jam. TPA’s smooth transitions and uptempo beats had a nearly full camp getting throw’d by midnight with countless rap sing-alongs and four-on-the-floor electro funk that was dripping in Warsaw hot sauce. It was clear to all that ‘Jumpsuits were in the Building!’ and everybody in that gi-normous sound camp threw it down something vicious. This segued well into later unannounced sets from Diplo’s raga-fied soundsystem Major Lazer, who waved a Jamaican flag far and wide perched atop the giant Apex soundcamp DJ stage as emcees riffed on the spot. In keeping with the sensually charged vibes omnipresent when the sun goes down on the playa, the dancehall riddims went over hard for the Apex massive. A Diplo-fied remix of Sean Paul’s modern dancehall chorale “Shake That Thing” sent us into a frenzy, as did the Stephen Ragga Marley track “Traffic Jam.” Nuff respect was shown as Major Lazer rained tees and bandanas down on the crowded dancefloor and tag-teamed with Glitch Mob before passing things over to the Mob for another hour of electrifying, sonic bombast.

The Polish Ambassador:

“Burning Man is not festival. It is a societal experiment. It's a place where people get to try on whatever identity they wish. Certain cultural agreements, like freedom of expression, creativity and gifting are different than what we are used to. It's a dose of soul medicine to take back and integrate into our daily lives.”


We did four shows (two by Diplo, two by Major Lazer) but one of them I don't think anybody heard. I'm just getting feedback now as people are returning to society. For me, I don't like for music scenes to be defined and I had always prejudged it. I was already building a tolerance to what that was and knew I had to go see it. Carnival in London is the most insane party -- or I thought that before I went to Burning Man. They rival one another.”

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