THE MAN & THE TEMPLE
There are two significant structures in the middle of The Playa. The first is "The Man", a tall wooden effigy lined with neon that stands above a 4-story circular gazebo.
We visited the Man on our first night. There was a massive jungle-gym-like structure geometrically formed in hexagonal shapes in the center of the interior. Burners of all shapes and sizes were crawling all over it. Others milled about the circular balconies, peering both inward at the teeming horde and outwards in to the black light dreamscape. At midnight a guy dragged a blushing girl to the top of the stairs and screamed out "Attention everyone! This is Julie and it's her 21st birthday!!!". The entire place, maybe 500 strangers, immediately broke in to singing her Happy Birthday. She didn't know if she should laugh or cry. I think she did both.
The second is The Temple - the emotional centerpiece of the entire festival - the heart of Burning Man. It's a beautiful, elaborately-carved wooden structure that changes each year. It burns on the Sunday night as the final send-off of the week.
Originally, the Temple was simply another art project in 2000. It took on a deeper meaning when one of the crew of builders was killed in a motorcycle accident before it was even completed. They dedicated the finished temple to him. Since then, each year it has been living memorial for all burners to participate in.
Thousands of people visit it during the seven days, leaving their own personal memorials to loved ones who have passed. As the burn grows near, the density of memorials increases exponentially. People can be found there at all hours. Praying. Weeping. Singing. Chanting. Playing instruments. Telling stories. It was an incredibly emotional space to be in. Often too much for me, to be quite honest.
I performed my own ritual of sorts there, and carried the feeling with me for the whole week. The surrender theme was running deep within me.
Before we left NY, I made 3 one-hour mixes specifically for headphones. I made sure every member of the crew downloaded them all. The music was chosen for its sonic qualities as well as its dreamy mood. Each day at sunset, we would put on headphones, press play simultaneously on our mp3 players, and ride out in to the middle of the "Deep Playa", beyond the Temple.
Sometimes we would simply chase the sunset, riding as far and fast as we could as it sank below the mountains. Sometimes we would just drift aimlessly, riding from one random sculpture to the next.
It was truly a beautiful thing. The blank canvas of the Playa becomes this weird existential nothingness for you to get lost in thought and music.
If you ride far enough you come upon weird things in the middle of the desert. This was a tiny, painted brick movie theater, complete with a little marquee, that some freak had built at the very edge of the Playa. They were playing the Wizard of Oz when we rode by.
This headphone plan turned out better than I could have ever imagined. It became one of the daily highlights in a week filled with nothing but highlights.
You can download them all in the DJ mix section of this site.
Everyday at dusk, a large parade of lamplighters illuminate the roads of Black Rock City, post by post.