Burning Man (kinda) Part 2


Not Burning Seed

I caught a glimpse of what Burning Seed was about during the final night when the Temple was burnt. As everyone sat down quietly to watch a small (if beautiful) structure go up in flames in which many had inscribed messages in the days before, I could almost see that mix of prayers, insults, jokes, well-wishes and general graffiti waft up with the smoke and embers. It wasn’t a bad metaphor of what happens in general to the loftiest ideals of transforming societies or cultures.

However, when ignoring the ambition of its vision, as an outdoor dance party, Burning Seed is passable in general and exceptional only in a couple of areas. Having been to quite a number of them over the years, the biggest differences I noted was the absence of both trash and trash-bags. The environment including the different dance-floors was clean: people actually picked up after themselves. And on the whole, the percentage of people not being able to hold their drugs/alcohol/sleep deprivation/heat exhaustion was so minimal as to be hardly noticeable. Needless to say, there were not a steady line of ambulances streaming in and out of the site.

The lack of both litter and dickheads is probably related.

Having said all of that, one of the possible primary reasons why both were absent was because unlike many outdoor dance parties, Burning Seed lacked a focal dance floor that through sheer numbers of people and size of sound system is capable of sending its adherents into a frenzy lasting days and nights. That magic was noticeably absent because unlike other festivals, the energy was distributed and diluted across dozens of small theme camp dance-floors ranging from 30 to 150 in capacity. This is not to say that small dance mobs can’t generate the energy, it’s just that with so much choice around, people generally just wandered away when the music changed. This meant that in general, with the exception of some events and times such as the Sunset Island stage at sunset, many of the theme camp dance floors felt poorly attended and generally lackluster.

As outdoor dance parties go, Burning Seed felt like a collection of small stuttering dance parties with occasional moments of brilliance when both the music and the crowd are at its peak. Of course, it’s fair to point out that Burning Seed is not an outdoor dance festival and that it aims to be something more. In which case, my question is why then does it seem that almost every theme camp is nothing more than a bar and a DJ? With the exception of the Teakettle, which gave its guests a choice of tea from dozens of options and the far dodgier sounding Pleasure Palace (or something) which catered to specialized over 18 needs, most of the camps seemed to put their effort into throwing a party and DJ led EDM parties at that.

Perhaps, this is one of those catch-22 situations where the EDM vibe is actually turning off non-EDM types from bringing their own camps to Burning Seed even if it is different music styles: the modern classical ensemble, the open choir, the light jazz and wine camp, etc etc.

With a 6 hour drive there and back to invest in, I’m not sure it’s worth my time in its current format. However, given how much it has reportedly grown over the last couple of years, I’ll be keeping an eye on it. The hints of brilliance I caught shows the open format framework has potential and if it manages to grow both in size and true diversity, I’ll be there at the Johnny Cash Cart.

My vietnamese coffee stall became unexpectedly baroque in execution but that’s a post for another day.

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