The Burn That Comes Early, and Other News

The early team from the Lamplighters crew hung lanterns on the spires on the way to the Man.
The early team from the Lamplighters crew hung lanterns for the first time this year

So we had a couple of big events over the past couple of days, and we are moving inexorably forward. The time has become impossibly short – the gates open in *gulp* seven days.

It doesn’t seem real.

We get this feeling every year, that “Oh my god there’s no way we’re going to get everything ready in time” feeling. There’s not enough art! The Man is still on the ground! Where is everything??

But it’s probably just us. Because Burning Man happens. Every year it happens. Like we’ve said earlier, it’s like someone pours Jamesons on the playa and the city and the art and the camps and the people just pop up overnight and before you know it things are in a full-throated roar.

But there is a cloud on the horizon, though. Actually, many clouds. The National Weather Service has issued a “hazardous weather outlook” for this area that will extend through Wednesday. They forecast showers and thunderstorms, with possible hail and wind gusts to 50 mph. It’s unsettling, at least to us, but not everyone is worried.

“I’ve seen big clouds roll in,” D.A. said, “and then when they get to the playa, pffff, they just go around us.” So let it be this year.

The playa is still in amazing condition from the rain that came the week before last. It’s firm in most places, with the occasional thigh-busting mounds. But overall, it’s really really good. More rain would of course foul things up royally for the artists, because they go into high gear this week. But for the playa, wow. Once it dries out, it is left smooth and hard.

And we hesitate to say it out loud for fear of jinxing things, but there has not be a single whiteout so far this year. Not one. The wind has been blowing, the days have been hot, and a dust cloud will occasionally blow through, but overall … beautiful. The nights have been warm and still. Couldn’t be more perfect.

Dave X got things started with a bang
Dave X got  the early burn started with a bang

The Jerk Church was on hand for the waxing of the Man
The Jerk Church was on hand for the waxing of the Man


Everyone got together to wax the Man on Friday night. To make sure there will be a big fire on burn night, the wooden Man is stuffed with wax-soaked bundles of burlap – up his legs, in his midsection, and down his arms.

Chunks of multicolored wax were melted in big metal pots. We’re guessing that the wax was salvaged from a candlemaker, because as it melted, lots of wicks floated up to the top of the goo. Then the burlap pieces were dunked in, and after they cooled a bit, people attached them to the Man’s innards with wire.

There was music, of course, live music. It’s ironic that during the build, musicians and singers are everywhere. Austin and Dylan and Dan and Rachel and all the rest work on new songs, form new playa-only groups, then roll out to play and play and play. And when they’re not playing, they’re practicing. “I’ve got a weird notion of what a vacation is,” Dan said.

The neon crew was also working on the Man that night. Smoke Daddy said the colors this year will be green, orange and gold. Why that combination? “Well, little green men come from flying saucers, don’t they?” he asked. True enough. But what about the orange and gold, then?

“Well, it’s actually the same color combination as 2007,” he said. But he never got to see it, though, because that was the year that Paul Addis set the Man on fire early. Crews had to work day and night to rebuild the Man during the event, a decision that’s still talked about to this day.

“I only got to see those colors through my tears,” Smoke Daddy said.

Smoke Daddy wanted to bring back green, orange and gold neon
Smoke Daddy wanted to bring back green, orange and gold neon

Saturday night was the early burn. After a slow start, crews rallied to build effigies, and by the time evening rolled around, there was lots to look at. The Burning Man headquarters team set up an office with all the trappings – a paper-stuffed person behind the desk, a faux playa map on the wall. On it you could find your way to “Plug n Play Playland,” “Shut Up Ville,” “Playa School Dropouts,” and “Don’t You Know Who I Am Bar and Footwashing.” There was even an area called, “Marion Said I Could Camp Here” right there on Rod’s Road.

The Power team built a giant electrical outlet, and the Oculus crew made a miniature replica of the Center Camp Cafe entirely without fasteners (a little poke in the ribs to the Temple). And the Man Base team built a classic space alien, entirely appropriate for the week that the CIA finally confirmed the existence of Area 51.

Dave X made sure there were plenty of fireworks, and of course they were great. They boomed right over your head, and at times you thought they were going to come right at you. But that’s what made them a success: they were scary, and no one got hurt. And bright and early the next morning, D.A. was out at the site, leading the cleanup.

So yes the artists are rolling in, and one of them is Bunnie Reiss, who was commissioned by the Temple team to do a gigantic fabric installation inside. She got word of the assignment when she was traveling in India, and it’s been nonstop work ever since. “People don’t really understand,” she was saying. “You do get a commission, but you spend every dime on materials.” She said she’s never been poorer, but never been happier, either.

“This is the only place in the world where you do an exhibition, and people come up and say thank you, thank you for what you did.”

Thank you Bunnie. Thank you Dave X, thank you D.A., thank you Smoke Daddy. Thank you all, thank you thank you thank you.





The promenade was glowing with lanterns
The promenade was glowing with lanterns
Chunks of wax were eventually melted together
While the waxing went on, the neon crew working on the power supply
Crimson and Joe the Builder
Crimson and Joe the Builder


A-bear got help tearing a piece of burlap in two
The orchestra was in attendance
Songbooks were passed out so you could sing along
Trudi was excited to have a hand in making sure the man burns



The effigy from the Emergency Services department
… and from the Man Base crew
… and the Commissary folks got into the act, too
An office drone was behind the desk of the BMHQ installation
The skull tree from the Spires crew
Artica had a polar bear
Another view of the skull tree
Power Camp built an outlet
… and the Oculus crew didn’t use any nails
Some of the Temple team came down for the festivities
The map of the event at the BMHQ office
The opening fireworks display had a familiar message





Carmel was aglow from the light of the fires
Dave X was happy with the outcome
Kimba and her dad. (There are a surprising number of parents who come along with their children to see what this whole Burning Man thing is all about)
More contributors to the Burning Blog were in the house


We’ve mentioned along the way that we would occasionally offer Gratuitous Cheesecake (or Beefcake) pictures. This is another one of those times. Thank you, Natalie, for being such a good sport and making the most of the light from the fires.


While the early burn was going on, the neon was lit up for the first time


About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

6 Comments on “The Burn That Comes Early, and Other News

  • Willy says:

    The anticipation is killing me! I hope it lasts!

    Thanks John!

    Good job on you.

    You do most excellent work!

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  • Tapan Trivedi says:

    Did it rain today ? am writing this at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday Aug 18th 2013. Could you please update here if it DOES rain ? A LOT of people are freaked out about the weather space dot com forecast of rain.

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  • Not Freaked Out... says:

    A lot of folks are not freaked out… The weather is gonna happen… Prepare for anything or watch the livestream. Bring the rain all burn week.

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  • Persefoni says:

    The weather will be what it is. My first year (2000) was a bit of a deluge, but still amazing. We’ll rock it regardless of what the clouds drop on us.

    So excited! Thanks for all the great photos!

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  • Vanos says:


    Well it’s been raining off and on today in Reno with a lot of clouds. Just prepare for anything and you’ll be fine. You’ll be better than fine, because you’re gonna be in BRC. Little rain never hurt!!! 2 days for me and I can’t wait.

    Thanks, John!

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  • Heather Jones says:

    Yeah! Thanks everyone for starting the positive energy for all of us on the way! This year is going to rock, even if we get a little wet! I bringing my swimsuit and my galoshes!

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