While British festivals are infamous for their special ability to attract lots of rain and mud baths of biblical proportions, as well as lot’s of forged beams of joy from festival goers, topped up with ruined tents and overpriced beer, there are places like Nevada desert – a magical home for Burning Man – a hippy haven that recently has been attracting not only millionaires of the silicon valley, but also hi-tech advancement and venture capital to pimp up this phenomenal event that happens once a year or a whole week in the Black Rock City.
I have love-hate relationships with festivals . My first year of attending Glastonbury ended in tears in the tent on Friday night to the electro sound of Crystal Castles. After three days of heavy downpours I was physically and emotionally worn out, something like my dad’s old slippers he’s been wearing since around 1986. The questionable value of this festival experience made me re-consider my future attendance regardless of how may happy people will brag to me about all this crazy fun they had in the mud, some of them would probably deny the fact that it was pissing down for about 5 hours anyway just to make you feel worse.
Truth be told, it rained at almost every festival I’ve attended. Speaking of bad luck, but at least with each wet experience, I learned to tell the difference between shitty £25 popup tent and Regatta £70 4 person dome, as well as getting an invaluable lesson of securing pegs firmly in the ground (including stealing other peoples pegs – I plead guilty as charged). Despite having a great summer this year, I still managed to find myself stomping my way through the mud at the Wilderness and wondering how the heck all this rain was caused by a stray cloud from hurricane Bertha that was heading for Caribbean and still somehow managed to rape British coast on this particular weekend? Even last year my boundless optimism in Croatia was seriously put to the test after I spent 2 hours in my hotel room watching how sandy beach resort is turning into a mudslide.
I immediately grew to believe that my proximity to the festival ticket is directly proportionate to chances of rain. Whatever you resist – persists could be the only logical explanation of this terrible luck, but there must be some serious brain activity done in order to send a down pour in the middle of the desert.
Call it a climate change or pure coincidence, guaranteed you will end up scratching you head and very possibly use a 3 letter abbreviation WTF to accentuate your feeling of surprise. Last time I checked desert was still a waterless, desolate area of land with little or no vegetation, typically one covered with sand. Having observed handful of documentaries and eye witnesses testimonials, assuming that I have heard varied non-biased opinions, one can no longer claim that Burning Man is the same event than when it started in 1986. Woodstock, Glastonbury, Burning Man are potentially falling in the same pattern of “gentrification” of the venue on both ideological and pragmatical levels. The question however is, can we stop this from happening? Even more important question is – should we try to stop it from happening?
Trending feature of the festival coverage wasn’t so much it’s unique experience of living in a city created on ideology, community value, moneyless economy, fancy costumes or the burning of wooden effigy. It was more about runway developments for private jets, looming population of CEO sharks of silicon valley and supermodels (which I find to be a very odd observation). By rapid invasion of inflatable electricity powered hi-tech spider constructions and billionaire condos which is pretty much everything this festival isn’t about, want it or not, Burning Man’s landscape is changing. There can be an hour long debate about whether technology and venture capital is ruining the party for everyone, one thing is clear, you can’t stop it from happening, just as you can’t stop rain from pouring.
Festival is facing an inevitable pivotal shift towards restructuring festival’s and it’s communities values. The first signal for this was the scarcity of festival tickets created by an increased demand and popularity. Second bell was an influx of spectators which festival didn’t have before. Third became an affluent class of festival goers who take the liberty of tailoring the experience to their own needs instead of contributing to it’s authenticity. But, on the contrary of what original festival patrons think , money isn’t the problem for the festival, it’s what you can do with it. At the end of the day funding for festival installations must come from somewhere, and whoever holds the money, holds the power. Using Burning Man community as a model could be a key to creating perfect society without having the higher authority in the real world, except it’s science fiction. As we have witnessed, it’s very unlikely that any society based on plain equality can stand the test of time. The demand for expansion will create sources to facilitate the expansion no matter if it were better war weapons or 6 room air conditioned tent in the middle of the desert. If you want to survive, you have to adjust and resisting the change could only create more problems for the festival in the future.