Announcing DJ Lineups in Black Rock City

Kalliope (Photo by Guillermo Velez)

Kalliope (Photo by Guillermo Velez)

You’ve probably seen a stirring recently about the issue of Theme Camps and Mutant Vehicles announcing their DJ lineups in advance of the event. After some internal discussions and reviewing our past communications on this subject, we sent the following email to the mailing lists for Theme Camp and Mutant Vehicle organizers:

Dear artists, organizers and leaders who make Black Rock City what it is,

We’re writing to you with a request. We want you to refrain from pre-announcing and promoting your on-playa DJ lineups, a practice that many sound camps already employ. If you absolutely must announce your lineups ahead of time, we ask that you wait until the week before the event. Here’s why:

As you may be aware, the beloved Mayan Warrior Mutant Vehicle crew recently announced their DJ lineup, much like it was the lineup for an Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festival all its own. (They have since taken the lineup down from their website, which we appreciate.) We want to share with you this comment a Burner posted in response to the announcement at Resident Advisor:

Hey, I really love Burning Man, and I really love music at Burning Man, and as a long-time Burner, I love the artistry behind your car, the sound system, and as always, the people you bring on your car to play.

But releasing a lineup like this, over a month in advance, flies right in the face of the rules and is pretty disrespectful in general. We want to avoid turning Burning Man into an EDM festival, with people hunting for lineups and timeslots. Burning Man is not an EDM festival, or even a music festival. It’s something else, undefineable.

Even to someone who loves EDM enough to comment on an EDM news site, the practice of posting on-playa DJ lineups causes an upsetting sensation that there’s un-Burning Man-like activity going on. We couldn’t agree more — in fact, for many years, we’ve discretely requested that camps keep their line-ups a surprise. So yes, we feel that sensation, and we bet some of you do, too.

These kinds of promotions create notoriety in a community that doesn’t necessarily share our principles, and specifically commodifies and commercializes artistic experiences. Promotion beyond Black Rock City gets especially uncomfortable when on-playa camps, Mutant Vehicles and events are connected to off-playa commercial enterprises.

Promoting lineups to a worldwide audience is not the same thing as listing an act or an event within the confines of Black Rock City, in resources like the online Playa Events Calendar or the printed WhatWhereWhen guide distributed to participants when they arrive. Those are for reaching people who are already going to be on the playa to let them know what’s going on. They are not intended to build a brand on the merits of an appearance at Burning Man. It’s simply unnecessary to promote beyond ticketed Burners for an experience you’re giving to Black Rock City.

Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community, not a traditional festival like the others. So when our participants post splashy DJ lineups, EDM sites and forums talk about us as though we are, spreading that message far and wide. It can also add to an already painful ticket scarcity issue — we don’t want to artificially drive up demand for tickets that aren’t available, and the attraction of big-name DJs can also drive up the price of after-market tickets.

Burning Man doesn’t have “headliners”. We pride ourselves on that. Burners don’t follow anyone else to Black Rock City, they go for themselves. Please understand, we don’t have anything against EDM, an art form whose vibrant community has made great contributions to Burning Man for many years. But we welcome members of the EDM community to come to Burning Man for a different experience than they’re used to: to fully participate in an experiment in a temporary community.

So, while we used to ask this on the downlow, we’ve seen enough instances in the last couple years that we feel the need to formally ask you not to announce your lineups. If you are dead-set on it, OK, but please wait until a week prior to the event before you do so. However, as surprise is great fun, and playa rumors help make things more exciting, we’d suggest that not announcing your lineup at all would be ideal. We’re asking you to listen to this request, think about it, and do what’s right for Burning Man culture. Thank you.

About the author: Burning Man

Burning Man

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man's Communications Team.

55 Comments on “Announcing DJ Lineups in Black Rock City

  • Fade Monkey says:

    Thank you so much for protecting Burning Man in this way. I too am a huge fan of all sorts of music including EDM and feel this post expresses my feelings perfectly as a long time burner.

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  • Ulan McKnight says:

    Excellent!

    And thank you for your tone. It is perfect.

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  • Pooh Bear says:

    Basically you have a clash of cultures. Rave EDM culture and Burning Man culture are fundamentally different. They got along fine when sound camps were just another thing Burners did and the music didn’t impose itself on everything else and the artists were just amateur DJs gifting their art. It seems like the ravers want to turn Burning Man into a music festival and are confused that the majority of Burners don’t want that. Throughout history, when two cultures clash, one typically devours the other and that is what needs to be guarded against. It comes down to this. If EDM is your thing, you should be able to bring it and share it on playa in a way that doesn’t impose it on those who aren’t interested. You should not be paying artists to appear. If an artist is being paid to appear, they are not gifting their art. If you are paying them, you aren’t gifting your art, because you aren’t making the art and the act of paying for an artist to appear disrespects the community. You shouldn’t be advertising your lineup before all tickets are sold. Because no one should be going to Burning man to simply see a specific DJ. You should not be able to look at a moop map and figure out where the sound camps are, like you can do right now. If these ideas are confusing to you, you have a warped idea of what Burning man is.

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    • I couldn’t disagree with you more. But I respect your opine.

      As someone who is part of a group that gifts a Level 3 sound vehicle, I can tell you from personal experience that what you speak of has zero relationship to what we do. None.

      I invite you to join our Blues Cruise from noon-4pm the day of The Man burn. We will be out at the trash fence with hundreds of others who love dancing to blues music. Teachers will be on hand to help you learn some new moves if you wish. Most of us are over 40 and we give out multi-flavored cocksicles. Schweet!

      Burning Man is exactly what you make it. Let’s make is wonderful.

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      • Pooh Bear says:

        Hey Ulan,

        That sounds great! I would take you up on it. I have to say I’m not quite sure what you are disagreeing and I’m afraid I may not have expressed myself very well.

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  • Someone says:

    What do you think Burning Man is?

    You’re right.

    – but so is everyone else.

    People are allowed to come all the way to Burning Man to see one specific DJ, or hug one particular girl, or eat one particular cheese sandwich, or gaze at one particular star, or any number of other things you may find personally redundant or objectionable. As soon as you start saying that thousands of people are experiencing Burning Man incorrectly, you may need to reconnect again yourself.

    Thank The Man when you arrive, and apologize. He’ll be cool about it.

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    • AnDi-licious says:

      Right on. Don’t really need BMorg telling me about how to burn. I, personally, find the yoga and the talks tiresome. So what, no skin off my back. Go ahead, announce your polyamorous talk or your whatever yoga session as early as you like. Mention your speaker or your master, go ahead, knock yourself out. And then let the sound camps do their thing. I personally don’t need or seek the announcements. But then I don’t bother reading them either and they don’t take anything away from my experience.

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      • Captain Daisy says:

        Are we seriously writing “no planning music events before 1 week in advance” into the rules….how stupid! I have friends who left for the burn last week. I would like to be able to tell them where I will be and when, which will depend on the music lineups of various camps…thanks for making that harder for NO GOOD REASON.

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  • Pooh Bear says:

    What the participants provide is content, what the org provides is context. It’s sort of like an improve group. When you are performing, you get to do whatever you want, within the context provided for the scene. So if I’m given the instruction I am a Russian immigrant trying to buy a bathing suit, the scene can go in any direction, but I can’t legitimately use a Southern accent. A weird example, but I think it works.

    Burning Man is a little (or perhaps huge) social improvisation. The org provides the context. We have a gifting culture. The participants are expected to create and share that creation with the community without compensation (so paid DJs violate that context). You are expected to be self-reliant and respectful of fellow Burners. You are expected to stretch or break out of your comfort zone.

    In order for the improvisation to be meaningful and the social experiment to generate genuine culture, the context has to be fairly sharply defined an understandable to the whole. We live in a world where culture is endlessly fragmented. Disco was annoying and pervasive in its day, but there weren’t dozens of subgenres dividing people into smaller and smaller groups. Love it or hate it, we all had disco in common. A particular culture is what grows out of a particular context. When Larry identified the 10 principles he wasn’t making something up, he was identifying the culture that had grown out of the context of Burning Man up to that point. And the org looked upon the creation and said “it is good”. The adjustments the org have made over the years have been made to strengthen the context, so the culture can thrive. Not any culture that happens to arise from the desires of thousands of people with different agendas, but this specific culture that has grown from this specific context. If you want something different, come up with your own context and start your own event.

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  • G says:

    Before my time, I hear Rave Camp used to be a separate camp a good distance from BRC.
    Hey BMORG! why not consider building that into your plans? Put Rave Camp out say like at point 3?

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  • Rio says:

    You’re not suggesting closing down Rockstar Librarian’s music guide are you? I hope not. Please don’t say you are. Gosh golly gee please don’t.

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    • Dillon says:

      The Rockstar Librarian’s guide literally is the guide to my night. That’s how I choose a direction for which I aim my bike into the darkness, and how we can meet up with friends when we lose them because I know they will be at a certain artist.

      I realize Burning Man is not a music festival, but the music IS a huge driver for the night. I have discovered some of my favourite artists by accident because I was on the set of a previous artist that I knew would be there. . .

      I’m not an “EDM Raver” by any means, but I have to disagree on this.

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    • Nat says:

      I hope not too. I love the Rockstar Librarian.

      the way i see it, the RSL seems to be the approved way to promote your lineups, i think perhaps because it is separate to promoting the camps themselves. So people who love music can source all their music info in one place, but the individual camps are not being pushy for promoting their lineup, and can just promote the other features of their camp.

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  • Elmo says:

    This is a good start, but there are certainly many more un-Burning Man-like activities going unchecked. What is needed is a full time committee on un-Burning man like activities. Now there will be some naysayers, but as long as we can carefully frame the message like here with heartfelt messages from burners — which, for next time, would really have gone over better if it was from a wide eyed young girl — and make sure the original response from the BORG goes sight unseen, then we’re cooking with butter. And hey if that doesn’t work we’ve already started the black list with Opulent Temple and Dancetronauts. It’s a good time to be alive! :D

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  • MX says:

    First of all i think it’s totally wrong you called the Mayan Warrior lineup an “EDM” festival, if someone here knows a little bit of electronic music should release that the MW art, music etc. goes totally in the other way than for example another MV like dancetronauts, trying to involve another kind of audience.
    Same as you calling Resident Advisor an EDM news website, when to be honest this guys are something like the Rolling Stone of electronic music offering a podcast that weekly defines the way of electronic music, trust me much more than just give news and they work really hard.

    In another subject i’m going from MX City, not that far as other great participants but to be honest it took the some effort to save some money and make the plans (i know like many other people on the playa) to be there. I like to experience BRC in all the ways, go to see te art, the temple, help (this year i’m volunteering), hang out with new people, dance some rock at Planet Earth and yes a couple of nights have a great party, and to be honest i love to have the chance of choose a mutant vehicle with a great dj and a sound system to spend the night. Same to the Burn, i really want to have de decision to choose my enviroment for that night and saw a dj that maybe will take two or three years to arrive to my city, this is just a way to take more advantage of my whole trip and experience at BM.

    Anyway just my opinion, see you guys at the playa for another great Burn. Cheers from MX.

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  • Janyt says:

    My camp produces TED Talks throughout the event, and we also do yoga. I can’t believe how loud some of these cars and Burners are in general. They disturb our talks and our yoga sessions and make it hard to be spiritual.

    Is there some way we can ban megaphones, also? They’re not even funny. We also have a problem with couples who always fight. It would be nice to put couples on one side of the playa so they can rage at each other away from Burners who are more spiritual.

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  • Your Boss says:

    You people have way to much time on your hands of this is the shit that you spend your days concerning yourself over. Get a fucking job.

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  • espressodude says:

    Interesting seeing Kalliope MV in that picture. 2014 their camp was at 4:00 and A street. Opening night of the event they operated their sound system for a pre planned pre-announced lineup and party at their camp.
    Sound levels were likely in excess of 100dB. At 4:15 and A street ( about 300+ feet away) we measured 74 – 80 dB inside our vehicle.

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    • Sharon Middleton says:

      I thought I was the only one who caught that. We were camped next to them and tried numerous times to reason with them to consider the neighbors. We were met constantly with rudeness and a f*ck you attitude. Did you see them parked on the perimeter line with their bus at the Temple burn, while all other art cars were parked well away allowing the spectator an unblocked view? Yeah. Perfect example of the f*ck you attitude I am talking about.

      I guess this statement “Promotion beyond Black Rock City gets especially uncomfortable when on-playa camps, Mutant Vehicles and events are connected to off-playa commercial enterprises.” doesn’t apply to them because I’ve seen them at Bonaroo and Bloom with the same attitude.

      I am a 15 year veteran and understand change. But is this attitude change something BMorg wants to promote?

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      • Bare Hugs says:

        Sharon, I share your sentiments exactly. I’ve been attending for the last 5 years and there is definitely an element of entitlement which seems to run rapid within the community. You provided a very good example. Our camp was also located next to the Walter Camp. These obnoxious beings were given prime location to do as they want. After speaking with Rangers on numerous occasions, we followed up with a complaint with BMorg. Their response? Placement right next to them again. Last year, we were unprepared for the disrespect and as you say the f*ck you attitude we experienced. This year, we are coming fully prepared to be self reliant to resolve the situation ourselves. The rangers and BMorg have left us no choice. This may very well be the monumental year whereby the citizens will witness what happens when participants foolishly impede on the respect of others with a sense of entitlement and negative attitude. We tend to test the principles of radical inclusion and self reliance to its fullest.

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  • Gary says:

    Burning man is TED talks, yoga classes, political guest appearances, and a highly curated art show with a year round promotions team. It sure is not a chance to dance the night away to fake artists who waste their time, money and energy coming way out into the desert to get paid nothing let alone recognition. Remember that time Carl Cox built a huge camp and charged us all admission or Bassnectar passed the hat around for donations, DJs are such douche bags. At least a real artist wouldn’t beg for money for their art project then turn around and sell it after the event for a hefty profit or take it on a european tour.

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  • Sala Mala says:

    Thanks for the superb words to explain to the greater community and future community :)

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  • Fingers-in-Ears says:

    One thing is getting lost here… it’s a long standing Burning Man tradition that “everyone is a star”. That’s the practical result of “Radical Inclusion” combined with “No Spectators”. And that’s what announcing a lineup of stars destroys: it puts us all in the spectator seat at somebody else’s stardom, and makes it impossible to be an equal participant. That’s why it clashes with Burning Man culture. Before the EDM folks showed up, no one cared who you were in the default world.

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  • Cooky says:

    Perhaps I’m just wearing my crankypants today but this feels like some serious over reach on the Orgs part or bias. Will you hold the same standards to other types of artists? Nope, sorry fancy sculpture folks you can’t post about what you are making and showing at the Burn until 1 week before the event. Nope, sorry camp that hosts 100 talks during the event, can’t post your schedule until a week before the event.

    I’m also super curious if Burning Man will apply it’s standards to it’s own stages. Hope you don’t publish any info about which groups are performing at the stages around the Carnival area at the Man this year.

    The big sound camps and big name DJs aren’t my draw to Burning Man and never have been. That doesn’t make them wrong if they are a draw for someone else. Who am I to say you shouldn’t buy a ticket to go dance your ass off to your favorite DJ? As long as you get the same survival guide and the same Greeting to try to open your eyes to how Burning Man might be a bit more complex than other events, who are we to care what drew you there?

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    • Pooh Bear says:

      “big name DJs aren’t my draw to Burning Man and never have been. That doesn’t make them wrong if they are a draw for someone else.” Actually it does. You are replacing the unique culture of Burning Man with the common culture of music festivals.

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      • Cooky says:

        Poohbear, would you apply the same standard of “the common culture” to other areas as well then? Sure I can go see a DJ at a music festival elsewhere if I desired to do so. So, if I can see something else somewhere else is that your definer for the “common culture”. For instance, if something might also be a featured installation, event or speaker at Maker Faire would that be considered the “common culture” to you so not unique enough for Burning Man? I’m not sure I understand your criteria and why DJ’d music is not burn-y enough for you to be an ok draw for some folks.

        Art cars drew me in. And spending more time in the place where a landspeed record had been set. It might be dj’s for others. It might be David Best for others. I’ve always felt that the unique stew of stuff, experiences, various art forms, people etc. make Burning Man what it is.

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    • roissy says:

      Yes, Burning Man has always ” apply it’s standards to it’s own stages.” by not publishing any performers before the event…
      This year will be no different, than years past…

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      • Cooky says:

        Roissy, I recall the early years of Burning Man having stages and in my hazy memory remember Mutaytor and other big acts being trumpeted well before the event.

        I’m also already seeing Burning Man promote particular experiences (acts?) for the Carnival Midway so it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see schedules go out before the event for things going on there.

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  • Farris says:

    Thank you Cooky. You expressed my feelings exactly. Why create special rules or special “request” for only EDM?

    If the idea is to create spontaneity, please apply the no preposting request to all preplanned activities.

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  • There are hundreds of events at which one can pay to experience EDM as a consumer. There are few in which one can experience the art, community and participation of Burning Man. If the consumer oriented EDM culture were to take over, it would be a real loss. I think it’s worth it to protect this community.

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  • Ladymerv says:

    Back in the Olden’ days Famous people would come and use a playa name and be gifting themselves in a new way…..not tied to any former preconceptions of how they were or should be…

    EVERYONE is a star on the playa.

    Being Radically inclusive means The “insert namebrand here” DJ who got paid to come via plane for his two hour set, and his benefactor who hides from the “masses” behind fake velvet ropes with rented hoes from Vegas, makeup artists, and a buffet are welcome right, its his money and he can spend it on what he wants right?? (*said with sarcasm and wonder*).

    Dropping names is so Nouveau riche

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  • goals says:

    I fucking love this post and the intent around preservation of burning man. NO other event organization I can think of does anything of the sort. It’s all just promotion and commodification, and I want to be as far away from that as I can, at least for a week.

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    • Joel Zero says:

      This is a solid memetic defense against a the strong memes of famous DJ artists and capitalism. It’s really enheartening to see, and I would love for Burning Man culture to infect EDM with its values. And I would love to see both scenes be less white.

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  • Giu Arcuri says:

    I love Burning Man for that! Thanks all

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  • AC says:

    Now that we’ve solved that pesky musical lineup problem… time to start getting creative on ways to stop ticket scalping perhaps?

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  • Ambassador says:

    It was way better next year! Sweet funk everywhere.

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  • Jessica says:

    Yes! Thank you! Burning Man is not a music festival. Announcing lineups implies that attendees are spectators, not participants. This is discussed a bit in this article:
    http://pinkplankton.com/music-festival-vs-transformational-festival/

    I love going out at night and just wandering around to wherever the music sounds good and makes me wanna dance!

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  • glitterdome says:

    This is the most clear headed wonderful response ive seen yet to a troubling issue… good job BMORG!! )'(

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  • Mama Lupin says:

    I look forward to the year when the theme will be QUIET! All music will be acoustic, no speakers or amps will be allowed through the city gates. AHHHH, now that would be something to experience.

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  • fairymuff says:

    I grew up with the rave scene in the UK from its inception. EDM has completely lost its way.
    It didnt start out with superstar dj’s. Most of the early raves, the dj was hidden away, the crowd were the entertainment, YOU make the rave.. not the dj.. Sometimes there were live elements, and a real cross section of sensibilities and eclectic musical tastes contained within a danceable structure. the point was the coming together of people to enjoy music played with care, selected and matched by a selecter on a nice system, loudly and away from others (and when possible in beautiful surroundings).

    I’ve not been to Burning Man yet (self confessed – you can throw buns now if you want..) but I bet that sounds familiar.

    As a person who experienced that movement first hand, i hope to find a place where unexpected acoustic riffs can drift in and catch my attention around town while I know I can still ‘go to the rave’ and not disturb anyone. Surely the idea has to be worth a go.. after all theres plenty of room out there..

    Vive la difference. just give then enough space…

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  • Space Man says:

    More EDM, please. At the last Burns, I’ve banged the likes of Nina Kraviz and Miss Nine.

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  • Space Man69 says:

    More EDM, please. At the last Burns, I’ve banged the likes of Nina Kraviz and Miss Nine.

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  • RadicalReb says:

    STOP CONTROLLING THE EXPERIMENT!

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  • Ahmed kawser says:

    It is really very great website….i really very appreciate because of these website. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Algorhythm says:

    Lame. I understand the philosophy behind not releasing line-ups but I don’t agree with it. It makes planning your party pretty difficult, expecially for a virgin.

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  • NoThankYou says:

    As a music lover, even a music industry person, I take offense to the witholding of performers and lineups. Is it EDM? Is it folky? Is it jazz? Is it blues? Would I even have any interest in hearing the kind of music being performed? I have no idea what kind of music is even played! I have taken an hour to finally read about and explore everything about what Burning Man is, having been curious over the years, but all I find is what it isn’t… welcoming. To an outsider, you look exactly like a cult, even worshiping a false idol. What I am finding as a non-burner, no desire to do drugs, no desire to live in a dusty dirty place wearing crazy expensive asinine costumes when my money would be better served elsewhere… is that I wouldn’t be welcomed if I came just as myself, comfortable and proud in my own skin and everyday clothes, to experience a creative environment and see the art. No, I’d need to pay hundreds to attend and wouldn’t feel welcomed or comfortable. You don’t want someone like me there. You don’t list lineups in advance because you are terrified of being judged and criticized, holding tight to made up rules and cult ideologies. Well, someone like me would only attend if I knew who I’d be paying money to see and, since you don’t share lineups, you exclude me. I might have been intrigued to check the event out for a year just as a cultural experiment. But no, with no lineups posted before I’d dole out hundreds, there is no chance in the world I’ll ever attend. To me, only a cult would say, “Give us lots of money and we promise you a good time.” A real respectable honest enterprise would say, “This is where your money will be going to and, if you like what we’re offering, you’ll have a good time.” So, I will continue to seek out the artists I enjoy seeing, see the average of 4 concerts I see per week, know where my money is going, and proudly stand as a Catholic. I will not go to the negatively named Anger and Denial and Depression stages, waiting till I can complete my pagan drugged out “retreat” to see an Acceptance stage. I will stay true to myself, already accepting who I am, being positive and hopeful daily, knowing I live one of the most creative lives of anyone I’ve ever known, continuing to live a life away from drugs and pathetic escapism. Because that’s what this whole thing looks like to me… a pathetic attempt at escapism, running into the arms of a cult for a week for hope. I’m sorry, with the lack of concrete information about the event available online, that’s all you look like to an outsider who may have considered attending one day otherwise. There are so many other ways to escape the negatives and difficulties of the world. I’ll never be a Burning Man pagan worshiper, reduced to ashes like your false idol at the end of a pagan week. I will be a Radiant and Glowing Beacon of Light everyday and don’t need to ever escape my life, my morals, my ethics, my religion, my REAL world to go pay money for a manufactured and artificial week long pagan cult experience in a made up town, with made up rules, and made up mindsets altered by pathetic drugs. No Thank You.

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