All Charged Up

It all happened the way it was supposed to happen — a good number of the people living in town moved out to the playa yesterday, just in time for a pretty spectacular lightning show, as if to get everyone charged up for what’s yet to come.

It’s always fascinating to watch the weather roll in around here. As one of the Gate crew said at Point One as evening fell and the clouds blew across the sky and lightning started popping in the distance, “This is our show.”

And what a show it was. Soundless and dry, the bolts lit up the sky for hours. We don’t know why the rain and wind didn’t come along for the ride, but we were happy to have them pass us by.

Meanwhile, everyone was getting themselves squared away, cozy even, as the trailers were pulled out from town. The Power crew had spider boxes ready for hookup, and the commissary tent beckoned from across the way.

Thirty-six hours previous, there was nothing but flat, dry playa. Last night, under the big tent, there was, let’s see, salad and fruit and chocolate milk and ice and sport drink and oh yeah, grilled flank steak and achiote-rubbed chicken quarters, smoked paprika rice and succotash. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Hello Shelly, hello Spectrum catering, it’s really good to see you again. Where have you been?

First Supper

We made the rounds a little bit, said hello to Adam and Kush Master and the others in the Auto Pod in the Ghetto. And over there was Kerry and Booya and Squirrelly and their campmates in the Road Crew pod. Why yes, we’d love a beer, thank you.

And then when you walked away from the camp and saw the sky, the big wide beautiful desert sky, from one end of the horizon to the other, with the hills in the distance and the orange and red and pink and purple and gray in the sky, and the ominous clouds waving at you from the direction of town, you were reminded of how glorious and special it all is, and you wondered why the hell you only come here when the big show is in town? You could plop your trailer down anywhere you’d like, anytime you’d like, outside of the Gates or at a different time of year. So why don’t you just do it?

We might, actually.

The Gate folks have been manning the Point One entrance to the playa 24/7 since Fence Day

We stopped by the Friends of Black Rock / High Rock visitor center in town the other day, and we paid up and became full-fledged members. The motivation was the gathering coming up this weekend, further out in the Black Rock Desert, away from all the hubbub in Black Rock City. Club members will camp out for the annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on Saturday night. The members haul their rigs out to the middle of the desert, in one of the darkest spots in the country, and basically look up and watch the shooting stars. That’s our plan, too, but we’ll have to see if the outcome matches the intention.

Here are some more pics from moving day:

Generators have been dropped, and power lines have been trenched


The cones mark the spots where the posts for shade structures will go


Kerry has a monitor to make sure the cutest baby on the playa is all good


Getting squared away


The commissary tent is ready to go


The staff recycling operation is rolling


No reservations needed


Cowboy Carl always knows the right thing to say



The lightning show started as the sun was setting
















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.

10 Comments on “All Charged Up

  • Cazbah says:

    Wow really great shots. You will be on the playa along time if your there already! Keep th pics coming I really enjoy them and the story thier going to tell. Cazbah

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    • Cindy Carter says:

      I can’t believe you didn’t get the hours of rain like Gerlach got! You have a great seat for the lightening shots, they are beautiful!

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  • epona says:

    “That’s our plan, too, but we’ll have to see if the outcome matches the intention.”

    This sentence pretty accurately encapsulates the experience of burning man. Love your work!

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  • KP says:

    What a nice glimpse of the people that are making BRC a home again this year! The milk machine photo brings me back to a central moment of last year when I discovered the commissary (twas only my second burn, on a Census shift) and LITERALLY SOBBED WITH JOY about having cold cereal milk.

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  • roissy says:

    Love the Lighting shots…
    I’m there Wednesday…

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  • Gregg Jones says:

    I am so appreciative of your stunning and eloquent introduction to my Firstime Burner experience. Your images are giving me a firsthand triptych through the build-in and setup, and your narrative makes me feel like i’m there.
    This has been on my ‘lifelist’ for a long time, and you’ve made the beginning of the journey so much more profound. I thank you.

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  • Jim says:

    WOW John. It’s so rare that we see really good pics of the build-up efforts prior to the actual event itself. We were actually there on the Playa (since we live in Reno) two weeks prior to your visit to measure the degree of mud if any, so we could gauge for ourselves as to whether to go this year or not. Thankfully it looks great.

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  • Chrispy says:

    Thank you.
    Really. Truly.
    Thank you.

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  • playamoth says:

    I’m looking for the like button.

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  • Bill Hans says:

    Thanks and great pictures.

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