Nearly 70,000 people turned out for Burning Man this year, which went down in Northern Nevada this past week, and was not washed away, as feared.
We were there too! Below are the best and worst of what we experienced.
A Woman Dies
A woman was struck and killed by an art car in the early hours of Thursday morning. As Dennis Romero reported:
The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office in Nevada identified the deceased as 29-year-old Alicia Louise Cipicchio of Jackson, Wyoming. Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said she fell under a bus or “large vehicle” that was carrying participants…
The Temple of Grace
Designed by renowned sculptor David Best, the Temple of Grace was the soul of the festival. Attendees covered the space with prayers, notes, photos and objects. Many mementos were left in honor of the deceased — we spotted a bunch of photos of Robin Williams — and we also saw prayers that said things like “dear drugs, please release my son.”
We heard people weeping, and we too lost it while reading a tribute to a woman who had passed away from cancer just days before the event. Although Saturday night's burning of the man had a party atmosphere, when the temple burned just after sunset on Sunday, the crowd just watched in reverent silence.
Talking to God
An old school phone booth on the esplanade allowed attendees to pick up the phone and talk to God. Seriously. When we called, a woman answered and proceeded to give us all sorts of useful advice before reciting a prayer (“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”) and telling us she loved us.The guy in line behind us chatted with God about this season's fantasy football strategy.
The massive installation The Embrace was one of the star art pieces at this year's festival. Attendees could take a staircase into the heads of the two figures, and it was burned at dawn on Friday. A huge crowd turned out to watch the piece go up in flames.
The Mayan Art Car
Rumored to have cost roughly a million dollars, the Mayan Art Car was a go-to destination for some of the best dance parties of the weekend.
The Roller Disco
Because if you've never roller-skated to “I Feel Love” at three in the morning while wearing a bikini and a tiger mask, you haven't really lived.
We found ourselves down-dogging at sunset during a yoga session near the Temple on Thursday. Marques Wyatt played a perfectly dreamy set to accompany the class, which was far more challenging than we had anticipated. Many participants, ourselves included, didn't have a yoga mat and just stretched it out right on the playa. We left completely covered in dust and feeling far more limber than when we started.
We waited three hours to get into Burning Man and three hours to get out. By some accounts we got off easy, as some reported waiting more than 20 hours to get in. The storm that shut down the event on Monday was no doubt to blame for some of these delays.
One of Burning Man's most legendary parties, Robot Heart happened at dawn each day. The crowd went wild when the sun peeked out from behind the mountains and everyone looked gorgeous in the morning light despite the fact that no one had gotten any sleep and that we were all more or less filthy. We even spotted Skrillex enjoying the view from the top of an art car.
Housed inside a domed building on the playa, the library housed hundreds of handmade, paper mache books. These books were empty, and attendees spent the week filling them with sentiments and confessions. “This place is better than a college education,” said a wise-eyed older gentleman wearing a kilt.
The Dust Storms
While milder than they've been in years past, the desert kicked up a number of dust storms this year, one of which we find ourselves caught in while searching for a bike we'd abandoned the morning prior. All we could do was lay down on the ground, put on our dust mask and goggles and wait for it to pass. Our sinuses have not yet recovered. We found our bike though.
This installation featured participants fighting each other with foam-covered sticks while a rowdy crowd of viewers watched and heavy metal blasted. We watched two participants, who were suspended from the dome by harnesses, beat the hell out of each other until one was bleeding from his head with his shirt nearly ripped off his body. The entire affair was thrilling, primal, and revelatory to anyone who thinks that Burning Man is all peace and love.
Despite immediately falling asleep for twelve hours upon our return home, six days biking around the desert in the heat has left us fatigued in a way we've never quite experienced before. Our body aches all over, we're running a fever and are covered in mysterious bruises. But it was totally worth it for one of he most legendary parties on Earth.