Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

Arts and Entertainment

Burning Man is Turning 21

Before you read this story...
Dear reader, we're asking for your help to keep local reporting available for all. Your financial support keeps stories like this one free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.


In a couple of weeks I will be joining 40,000 artists, misfits, deviants, hippies, vampires, musicians, furries, and nudists to participate in the 21st Burning Man Festivalin the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. So if you happen to be strolling through Venice Beach during the week of Aug. 27- Sept. 3 and wonder where all the freaks are at don’t be alarmed, we’re all just taking a much needed vacation from the default world. I have signed on as your resident tour guide of this giant party in the desert, which has been described as Disneyland for adults if it was run by Mad Max. Since there will be no internet, no telephones, no cell phone service, television, or indoor plumbing on the playa, I will be publishing my report when I get back (if I survive).

Los Angeles is home to the 2nd largest Burning Man community (SF has us beat) and there are Burning Man related parties and events occurring almost every weekend in the city. Burning Man is an event that has no headline act (other than burning a wooden statue), and yet manages to satisfy it's participants with an entire week of art, music, fire, and hippie-love. Burning Man has been featured or parodied in episodes of Malcom in the Middle, South Park, and Reno 911. Celebrities like Daryl Hannah, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Sting, Robin Williams, and Joan Baez have been known to anonymously wander around the playa. Not only has the festival become a playground for Silicone Valley billionaires and hippie engineers, but it has become an institution for an alternative lifestyle in the world.

Support for LAist comes from

This year Burning Man turns 21, and like any other 21 year old is experiencing some growing pains. "The Green Man" is this year's theme, which highlights humanity's struggle to coexist and redefine it's relationship with nature. And for the first time BM founder, Larry Harvey, has invited green-energy corporations to display their wares and ideas to create a world's fair for green technology in a 30,000 square foot exhibition space named The Green Man Pavilion. This has led to some controversy within the BM community. Purists and veteran burners consider this as a breach to one of the Burning Man principles of Decommodification. Participants have resisted the temptations of capitalism and have always opted for the participatory experience. Burning Man has never allowed commercial sponsorship or advertising in its event, and although the companies invited will not be allowed to hand out business cards, display their logos, or advertise themselves on the playa, there are those that are skeptical.


Despite the controversies and criticism from outside and inside the community, Burning Man continues to grow in leaps and bounds each year, organizers are expecting their biggest event yet. Artists such as Ben Shearn of L.A. based Do Lab, Mike Ross, Kate Raudenbush, and David Best (who will be creating the Temple of Forgiveness) will be present to display their latest manifestations on the playa. L.A.-based Burning Man camps such as Soulicious and Red Light District have been busy for months raising funds to assure that this year's burn will be one to remember. You can check out some pictures of last year's event here. So in a couple of weeks if L.A. isn't feeling as weird or as freaky as it usually does, don't worry, we'll be back the following week.

all photos by me, Ryan Jesena