As the many layers of dust continue to settle and be wiped away, and the transition back into regular life takes place, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the adventure that was Burningman. Having not been to the festival since 2003 and 2006, this return to the playa was a long time in the making for Sarah and I.
A lot has changed in our “default world” since those first two times. When we first went, I barely used a cell phone to call people, let alone send text messages. There was no Facebook, Twitter or other social media channels beyond a few message boards, and you couldn’t instantly beam up photos and video to the sky to be blasted around the world. So needless to say, to return to a place that had created so many memories and life-changing experiences eight years later - when the world outside of it has truly changed - was an experience all onto its own.
There’s a ton of stuff I could ramble on about for days, and dozens of photos will inevitably be posted that provide glimpses of the adventure, but instead I’d like to share only the things that meant the most and that are still with me days later…
Celebration of Love. Standing out on the playa staring into my beautiful wife’s eyes surrounded by our closest friends, with a beautiful speech from Steve to celebrate ten years of being married has to top all special moments experiences. Words really can’t describe that moment, you just had to be there. I love you Sarah, and can’t wait to see where the next ten years go.
Kids at Play. Getting to watch our four virgin burners with us roll around in the dust with joy upon entering the festival, then continuing to observe them experience everything throughout the week - physically, mentally and emotionally - with very wide open eyes was awesome.
DJ’ing from a Perch in the Sky. I had the absolute honour of playing not one, but two sets on Carl Cox’s Playground Experience Stage, where the dj booth happened to be set up on scaffolding almost 30 feet above the ground. To even just get up there involved climbing one of the support structures, then of course being on a small wind-blown platform that bounced like a trampoline when the Huggernaut aka Eric decided to stomp around, with no rails to keep you from falling of the side was a whole other story. But it all became worth it when I had the chance to look up across the entire playa from above, have my wife beside me, and see more friends dancing below to a set of music I had spent hours working on leading up to the event. What a night! I’ll be re-recording that set in the next couple of weeks and posting here for download for those who weren’t there.
The Power of the Temple. The Temple at Burningman has always been a symbol of something more. Through the messages and gifts left behind by others, an aura of raw and powerful emotion is created all around it. I walked into this year’s Temple of Grace, where emotions, feelings and tears all flowed out freely for an extended period of time, then was overcome with a sense of peaceful calm as we stepped out. I’m still not sure what I let go by being there, but it was definitely something. Then on the final Sunday, when the Temple lit up with fire and burned so incredibly peacefully to the ground, that same feeling of calm came over me as shared embraces with friends brought it all together.
Since being back I’ve realized that finding that calm space in everyday life is my biggest challenge. Too many times I’ve lived with unnecessary anxiousness, frustration, stress and negativity - with my wife and friends bearing the outward brunt of it. That calm space is one of true happiness, and I need to try and find it on a daily basis.
A FAMILY OF FRIENDS
What became so apparent throughout the week was our own little group’s family dynamic, as pointed out a number of times by our Canmore and Nelson counterparts. Already the closest of friends, our group of six really became a family. From the drive down to the burn to the drive home, it was all there - whether it was our awesome nightly dinners together courtesy of Eric, the sound of genuine laughter (despite dealing with horrible pain) of Marshall, the comical indecisions of T-Squared (Travis and Tanya), or the clinical organization of all matters camp related by Sarah. We were truly a family on this trip.
CONNECTING AND RECONNECTING
Connections are everywhere at Burningman, whether it’s friends new or old. Our camp was joined together with a whole crew of awesome people from Canmore and Nelson - great to meet you all! And on the dance floor, Sarah usually knew about three quarters of the people there by the end of the night, connecting with everyone!!
As far as reconnections go, we got the chance to meet up with Matt, an old friend who was responsible for bringing me down to DJ Phoenix on a few occasions. There was also Millie from Calgary who has been a long-time burner and supporter of my music. And last but not least there was Emma from the Montana crew. I had met Emma years ago at an Area709 party, but we hadn’t really talked since then other than a few short messages leading up to Burningman. So needless to say it was a pretty cool moment to be dancing around at a stage and see the person I had shared some awesome laughs and conversations with years ago dancing right in front of me, and be able to reconnect. Of course, her camp could not be found for caesars the next day, argh!!
ONE FOR THE EARS
The first two times at Burningman were more about the art and daytime life than anything. Wow has that changed. With an influx of well known and lesser known DJs, the music part of things has really grown. For me, the legends that have been huge influences on me as a DJ and producer were all there. Nick Warren, Hernan Cattenao, Dave Seaman, Above and Beyond, Carl Cox, Perfect Stranger, Markus Schulz and many more were all playing. But the best part about Burningman, is that Burningman doesn’t really care who they are, they’re just regular people like anyone else that are sharing in the same experience. I got the chance to talk music with Dave Seaman (who’s new label Selador is worth checking out), catch up with Markus once again, and like a kid in a candy store, stand in the dj booth right beside Carl Cox and watch the master at work - bringing back memories of 2002 when I had my face planted against the plexiglass at Fabric in London, witnessing the same wizardry. And of course, he’s an awesome, down to earth guy on top of it all as expected.
Music-wise, I missed out on a ton of stuff going all over the place (there’s just so much) but out of the sets I caught, three stand out for me. First on the list was Perfect Stranger’s mind-melting psytrance at Ooligan Alley, it was insanity all in a good way. The only thing missing from this set was being able to also share it with the one best friend who wasn’t at Burningman, Rusty. And not to be outdone, the sunrise set Markus played at White Ocean was one of the best I’ve heard from him in a long, long time. Three hours of pounding tech trance, which sounded great in the desert. And lastly to the day time experience at Distrikt, DJ Dan ringing in the sunset to an absolute madhouse of burners.
TOLERANCE AND PATIENCE
If there are two things Burningman can teach anyone, it’s tolerance and patience.
Tolerance. You’ll see and hear everything on the playa - the beautiful and the ugly. From true outward expression to plain and simple expressive masturbation, it’s all there, and it’s all part of the experience. With the growth of the festival to almost 70,000 people accompanied by the social media build up, the veneer of mystery, kindness and love has been scuffed ever so slightly. But with any event like this, the shitbag quotient is always there - whether it be those who judge or those that decide the ten principles of Burningman don’t apply to them - so having a little bit of tolerance for everything at Burningman goes a long way to making the experience truly awesome.
Patience. Everything at Burningman is drawn out process that always takes longer, whether it’s simply trying to deal with the ever present dust or trying to navigate your way through an RV of six people just to find something. If you can be patient at Burningman, you can be patient at home - another key reminder for myself to employ on a daily basis.
IN THE END
Being back at Burningman was a pretty awesome experience. Even though I didn’t come close to doing all the things I intended to do (one never does), I got to see, hear, do and feel many amazing things. The bond with my wife grew stronger, and the family of friends I hold so dear to my heart grew even closer. I’m more aware of myself and what I need to pay close attention to and work on daily.
There are many fleeting memories from the playa - some now just a fading blur, and some I carry home with me to hold onto forever. I don’t know if we’ll ever be back, I’ll leave that decision up to the stars above.