Burning Man 2023 Debrief

A friend washed off all of the Playa mud and shared his experience of Burning Man 2023, Rain Edition.

What was great? He arrived on Thursday before the official event began and enjoyed a week of “Unnaturally perfect weather; no dust.”

His favorite art was a gigantic cube made from intermediate bulk carriers (IBCs). An IBC out of IBCs. Each cube had a light and became a pixel. “People could climb it. A few broke ankles,” he said. “The perfect example of ingenious art that is awe-inspiring by its simplicity and beauty out of materials that can be reused after it is taken apart.”

Overall, though, he felt that the art was not as awe-inspiring as in previous years. “There was a proliferation of laser-cut sh*t all over the Playa, including the otherwise-magnificent Temple. That’s a lazy way to build something intricate.” Perhaps this is because some of the A-listers didn’t show up this year. Unlikely in a typical year, tickets were easy to come by. What else wasn’t so great? “There are still too many plug-and-plays. The ebikes. They move too fast and the riders are like Tesla drivers: annoying people in a hard-to-explain way. Burning Man bikes are supposed to be crummy and hard to pedal. It shouldn’t be effort-free to move around.”

How about the art cars, now that Mayan Warrior has been destroyed by fire? (“They spent at least $8 million on Mayan Warrior”) “Titantic’s End is an art car iceberg is supposed to raise awareness about climate change. It has an interior room chilled to 32 degrees, lasers, massive sound, and everything else than can be done with an unlimited CO2 budget,” my friend noted. “We were not impressed.”

After a week of good luck, the rain began on Friday morning. With only shreds of mobile phone service, which immediately collapsed as soon as the event began in earnest, attendees had limited access to weather forecasts. “Rich people had Starlink, but everything went down after it started raining. The rangers told us no more rain coming and it f**king poured for days,” he said. What would he have done if he’d been better informed? “We would have partied way harder at the beginning and then left Thursday night.” Was it that bad? “It was a crisis made for social media and schadenfreude, but really not that different from going on a ski vacation and getting injured after a day or two. Some people kept partying, but we were discouraged so we stayed in our tents. Nobody could drive an art car, bike, or even walk in shoes. You could walk barefoot, but it was nasty.”

Dare we touch on the bathroom situation? “Porta-potties never became completely full, but were really gnarly, even for hardened ravers. We ended up finding a plug and play with $10K composting toilets on the last day. They had graciously opened their toilets to everyone. People had been prepared to pee in bottles and poop in trash bags, but it didn’t quite come to that.” Was the situation inevitable? “Toilet pumping and camp water deliveries stopped Friday morning. The cops had heavy equipment and super off-road dune buggies, but they just disappeared. Maybe they could have parked a pump truck at each station and kept pumping, for example.”

Was he sorry that there wasn’t a muscular response from President Joe Biden? “All the camps were sharing. Nobody went hungry or thirsty. The vibe was a little like Central American post-earthquake.”

What about the escape? “We tore down and mooped over a couple of days and I made a run for it but the rented car got stuck. I managed to walk back and pull myself out with my team and our biggest truck and return to our now-empty campsite for a cold and wet night. The next morning, Monday I guess, I mapped out the best route by foot, around bad streets and stuck vehicles. I deflated the rental car tires and went for it, but still got stuck. Some a**holes aggressively yelled obscenities at us for trying to escape, other people came out and pushed us. Once I got to K street, I cut out on playa and just plowed thru the swampy parts and banged my way out onto the gate road and out.”

What about the fact that the gate was closed for both in and out? “I heard that people were being stopped and could not get out, but when i decided to blast my way out early Monday morning there were no cops in sight. The gates were open, but not advertised as open. A campmate who arrived in a Toyota Land Cruiser managed to get out on Sunday night. He has a lot of experience off road and had traction pads with him.”

Who cleaned up the mountain of muddy trash that he left behind? “We did a full pack and moop before we left. We left a guy behind with the 4×4 truck and 8000 lb. trailer and supplies. He stayed till Temple burn left the morning after. So we cleaned up; not like the f**kers who ‘walked it out’ leaving all their sh*t behind.”

Summary? “We were well prepared so mostly it was the loss of part of the event and being stuck at camp a few days, but I got out right before Exodus so other than the nail-biting stress of getting to pavement, it was totally easy drive.”

What about the folks who waited for the official opening of the gate? He sent me this photo of Exodus:

Will we get a more thorough dissection of what could have been done better from the burners who know the event best? My friend says “No. People aren’t comfortable complaining about the Burning Man organization. They get over it or stop going.” Does it matter that failings won’t be examined? “In the end, Burning Man is like California. It’s so resource-rich that no amount of mismanagement can ruin it.”

5 thoughts on “Burning Man 2023 Debrief

  1. Funny how he calls the starlinkers rich. Gootubers definitely tend to live it up. Wonderhussy owns 2 houses, a mobile starlink plan, & a portable battery solar system.

  2. I understood BM was an excuse to face multiple paternity lawsuits from fun loving, EDM dancing, half-your-age ladies. Did your friend miss the memo, or is he just coy? He seems so interested in cars and art that I need to ask, his is a real patriot? He does not behave like someone committed to increasing America’s GDP. Sad.

    • word exodus used in the original post and Federico’s comment reminded me of golden calf episode, except this is voluntary for everyone and everyone approves.

  3. > “It’s so resource-rich that no amount of mismanagement can ruin it.”

    CA government: “Challenge accepted!”

Comments are closed.