Keeping Burning Man Burning for 25 Years

Burning Man has been lucky enough to have Dave X around for a quarter century.

If you’ve seen any fireworks at Burning Man (and who hasn’t?), you’ve seen Dave X’s work. If you’ve watched an art piece burn, you have benefited from his expertise. And if you’ve ever had a conversation with him, about anything, you know you’ve met one of the truly original people on the planet.

We won’t go into great depth here, because Dave X is a book, not a short story. There’s a long list of things we’d like to go deeper about at Burning Man, and Dave X is right up there at the top. But he’s here for his 25th year, and we’re all the better for it.

And really, there’s nobody better than Dave X himself to tell what’s it’s been like to be here for so long, doing what needs to be done, to set the stage for Burning Man, to get the canvas ready for all the things that will happen here.

“I was giving a presentation,” Dave X said, “and I showed a movie about Burning Man, and at the end, the burning of the temple came on, and they started asking me, you know, what about this temple?

“And I said that I felt really special that I was able to burn all these temples that I’ve burned all these years, and it made me get a little teary-eyed in front of everybody, because I was just … I feel so privileged that I can do the work that I do. And I think that it’s the same for a lot of us.

“ We’re the kind of people who make the magic happen. And maybe Mr. Magorium at the Wonder Emporium out there, where there’s actually somebody behind the scene twisting knobs, and pulling levers, and things you don’t see … we are the knob twisters and lever pullers.

“We’re like the people who go into the church before it opens and put in fresh candles. I don’t care what your theory or wish is, I’m going to put a fresh candle out for you.

“We’re like the guy at Mecca who comes and shines the stone that you get to throw other stones at. … We’re the people behind the scenes.

“That’s us. And I thank you for being those people and joining me in this intense, 25-year ride. … I could have had a career, but fuck it.”

The Volare

Dave X drives perhaps the most iconic mutant vehicle in DPW, and maybe on the whole playa. It’s the kind of vehicle you see in the Mad Max movies, and although we know that those vehicles were real, they were made for the movies. This one is made for the playa, and it’s been here for 10 years.

This year, miracle of miracles, it started right up when Mantequilla and the Auto Shop crew brought it out to the playa.

The only other vehicle that might rival Dave’s ride in status is the Volare, the beat-up, broken down, smashed-in piece of rolling nonsense that Coyote drives. “I like that this is the kind of city where this is the kind of car the ladies like,” Coyote says.

The auto shop tackles Volare maintenance as a labor of love. “But [Coyote] gets made at me when I fix stuff,” Boomhaeur was saying as he put in a tail light. “He says, ‘Don’t give me any gauges, I don’t know to know what the damn oil pressure is.’ ”

D.A. working on his new ride.

Speaking of rides, the bike shop had a get-together last night where workers could come get their chains lubed and their brakes fixed and their seats adjusted and whatever else they might need. In fact, you could put a new Frankenstein bike together from the parts they’ve collected. The Yellow Bikes program makes hundreds of bikes available for community use in Black Rock City, and the crew works to rehabilitate them before the event begins.

Elsewhere: Never trust anyone who has given themselves their own playa name, especially if it is a self-aggrandizing one. … BananaMagic had some sort of smoothy-type concoction going on, and it included yogurt and salt and sparkling water. River took a swig and declared it “feta soda.” Bleh. … D.A. was at the bike shop get-together last night, getting some wheels in shape. But we wondered: Have you ever seen D.A. on a bike? Us neither. … The waterworks team lost a crew member, and they’re looking for a hire. Cobra Commander asked what skill set might be necessary for the job. “You have to be able to use an iPad in the sun without getting frustrated,” came the reply. … Monkey Knife Fight is a big Bob Dylan fan. He’s got a big Dylan tattoo on his arm, and he once got an F in a poetry class for reciting Bob Dylan lyrics instead of a “poem.” “He’s got a Nobel Prize now, ” Knife Fight said. “I’d like to go back and hear what the teacher had to say now.” … Cowboy Carl saw us eating with LoDog. “You gonna take a picture of that?” Cowboy asked. “That’s some National Geographic shit right there.”

And to finish, something totally off topic. Or maybe not really. The absurdist, Dadaist roots of Burning Man might come in handy again. If the Nazis and white supremacists come to San Francisco, the cool, grey city of love should … laugh at them. Like this:

Here are some more pics:

From the bike shop gathering:

Bike Shop Betty getting it done.


She wanted no proof.


(Yes, we blurred Sgt. Slaughter’s bits, because, you know, family publication.)

More from the Volare and the auto shop:

The hood “ornament.”



Scrappy gives service with a smile

Round and about:

Yep, we’re getting ready for the eclipse.


Trevor’s morning meeting chic
Scott shows what you look like after working on Center Cafe shade all day.
Tressa and Flip brought margaritas for taco night at the Commissary.


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.

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