Cover photo: Andrew McGrath
While Burning Man and the electronic music scene have not always been on the same page, there is definitely something to be said around some of the talent that makes the trek to the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada that occurs every year the week before Labor Day. While musical based events only mark a sliver on the pie chart of activities out on the playa, the talk of the town over the last few years at Burning Man has usually revolved around Skrillex, Diplo, Major Lazer or Robot Heart, for good reason.
This year was different. The Mayan Warrior, while always being a driving force, with the flashy front side of the vehicle resembling a Mayan Warrior’s helmet, layers of speakers and honey-comb lights on all sides, was always a few steps behind the top dog on the playa, Robot Heart, in regards to their art car. This year, they cranked the heat up, literally, and added what many would call “the shining stars on the playa”. The LED wall, lending its shape and design to the success of the addition, gradually pumped out stars and space while bright, white flashing lights installed in various positions gave the look of a sparkling universe from across the massive expanse of desert. Coupled with a group of powerful lights pointed towards the sky that converged to create a spotlight in the night sky, this $2 million dollar plus machine made a powerful statement.
Despite being the topic of many conversations during the seven day stretch, the Mayan Warrior art car wasn’t the only spectacle of amazement taking place. La Victrola, complete with a giant classic style trumpet horn, making it the largest gramophone in the world, would romp out to deep playa and settle in for an evening of throwback music not heard on mainstream radio anymore. Robot Heart also made their presence known by linking up with camps such as Distrikt, the 747 Big Imagination, Disco Knights and even with the Mayan Warrior.
Credit: Gilles Bonugli Kali
“A hand-built, seven-ton sculpture, stage, and celebration of early music and performance, La Victrola is a counterpoint to our cultural saturation by high-decibel electronic music by presenting live and early recorded performances from Americana musical history.
The evening begins with a slow musical meander into the dusk. Late at night, somewhere in deep playa, La Victrola will stop to deploy its stage and host a unique and compelling cabaret.
Designed and built at American Steel in West Oakland, this community art build features the talents and aesthetic direction of numerous accomplished industrial artists and crews.”
This wasn’t the only awe inspiring musical based art installation. The 1000 foot light tunnel dubbed the Sonic Runway encapsulated LED lights into circular steel gates that when synced with music, would shoot sound waves across the sand. “The speed of sound is roughly 767 miles/hour or 343 meters/sec. The Sonic Runway is 1,000′ long, so a single beat will travel the Runway in about a second” according to their creators, making Black Rock City the perfect home for such an expansive project.
When it came to performances, I saw more than a fair share. With there being so many choices though, announced and unannounced, coupled by the sheer amount of other activities to partake and participate in, I’ll give you my top five in no particular order.
Tycho – Dusty Rhino (sunrise): If you haven’t been privy to this exceptionally special set over the last few years, let me fill you in. Around 5a Thursday morning the past few years, a thousand bike riders, hungry for something a little different than the usual untz untz that has taken over, ride out with the tiny Dusty Rhino car to the trash fence, packed to the brim with individuals in the small space up top. This extravagant affair continues through the sunrise into the late morning hours, captivating the crowd with his blissful choice of tunes.
Credit: Andrew McGrath
Lee Burridge – Robot Heart (sunrise-sunset): Lord Lee has been a staple on the playa for quite some time now. A mixing maestro. Humble in the truest sense of the word. Always sporting a smile on his face with the intention of wooing the crowd; transporting them to another place. On top of his usual 3 hours sunrise set, he went all the way through to sunset playing b2b with Hoj.
The Scrumfrog – PLAY)A(SKOOL: Having been to the Burn three times now, I had never set foot inside this camp. That changed this year and sure glad everything lined up the way it did. Originally scheduled was Gab Rhome but the Scumfrog ended up switching time slots with the young production prodigy. Inside the Playaskool dome, an intoxicating, yet subtle smell, not native to the playa, encompassed the air. Complete with an incredibly designed patterned carpet, couches and tables around the side, leaving plenty of room for dancing, the Scumfrog pummeled the dancefloor into submission as the club type environment was filled to the brim with people wearing fur coats and costumes.
MSVG – Kalliope: On my way to see Gab Rhome/the Scumfrug, I rode by a roadblock of sorts, created by El Pulpo Mecanico, a huge standing crowd of bikes and burners and a few other lingering art cars. On the Kalliope art car early Wednesday morning was a violinist playing to house music, just jamming some sweet sweet vibes. Quite the different scenario and music played by most mutant vehicles and a breath of fresh air.
Credit: Valya Karchevskaya
With that being said, Skrillex, Diplo, Beats Antique, Griz and more took over Camp Questionmark for those bass heavy addicts in our reading audience. Skrillex’s set was posted to Soundcloud a few days but has since been taken down. Contrary to another publication, since Shiba San wasn’t even on the playa, he couldn’t have won Burning Man. Burning Man isn’t a competition. Plus, I didn’t hear “Okay” once. For the time being, listed below is a playlist compiled of the sets that have been posted from this years’ event; which will be updated as more begin to pile in.