The unofficial Burning Man festival kicked off this weekend in style with neon raves and huge fantastical floats and art cars at Nevada’s Black Rock Desert – even after organizers cancelled the official event over COVID-19 fears.
Tens of thousands reportedly showed up this weekend complete with techno-hippie garb in the spirit of the event.
In-person visitors took to social media to document their experiences from their wacky outfits to music concerts complete with laser beams and other vibrant effects.
The last official ticketed Burning Man, which took place in 2019, drew nearly 80,000 festival-goers, known as ‘burners’ to the desert.
Some renegades decided to take matters into their own hands after the event got canceled in April by setting up the ‘Plan B’ event – and Renegade Man was born.
A lit-up ‘burning man’ radiating red colored lights out onto the crowd
A tall representation of the Burning Man sits against the back drop of the orange sky in The Black Rock Desert
Laser beams and lighting effects amped up in-person festival visitors
Mad Max meets Star Wars: A trio of friends seen in traditionally out-there Burning Man-style gear
A pair of visitors pose with a dune buggy complete with Renegade Burn accessories such as colorful pants, goggles and patterned scarves
Visitors beat the desert heat in preparation for the much-anticipated Renegade Burn
Guests danced the night away during one of the festival’s techno-music events
A beautifully designed festival float complete with a glowing metal heart hanging above the crowd
Guests continued to go all out in festival costuming including bejewled crowns, braid extensions and other wacky accessories
A festival-goer’s look complete with high buckled boots, fishnet stockings, a set of goggles and a bejewled conductor hat
Another illuminating float that seems to resemble a bus complete with flags flying over it
A group of festival goers nestle under the desert stars as they are seen in a round kaleidoscopic structure illuminating different colors
Sparks of red light from the metal heart float are seen hanging above the festival crowd
On an Eventbrite ticket description, one wrote: ‘Welcome to the non-event, event that is happening in place of that. One event that is trademarked and we can’t mention its name. This is your official / unofficial place to procure your ticket which is absolutely required to be not required to attend!!’
Thousands of festivalgoers have already descended on Nevada’s Black Rock Desert – dubbed ‘the Playa’ – including Michael Goetzman, 38, of Wisconsin, who flew first class to the event on a semi-private jet.
‘It’s amazing, it feels like the 90s,’ Goetzman, who works in cyber security, said of the renegade event, where he’s camped out at the Bureau Of Misinformation site with ‘lots of highly intelligent successful friends from the Bay Area,’ including ‘notable celebrities and executives,’ although he would not disclose who was on the star-studded campsite.
‘Out here, this is the real America, the freedom. It’s public land. This is the real Silicon Valley of inspiration and emerging ideas. Bonds upon friends that spark innovations.’
Thousands of partygoers have gathered into the Playa part of the Black Rock Desert, with an estimate of up to 30,000 piling in the desert this weekend, according to Forbes
Festivalgoers might be dancing the night away, but will not be offered food, water, or a sanitary place to use the restroom or wash up
With the COVID-19 delta variant in full effect in the Reno, California, area – which is 100 miles outside the desert – unmasked festivalgoers will not only battle unsanitary conditions but wide-spread of the virus
As the Burning Man festival got canceled in April, festivalgoers created this own ‘Plan B’ festival dubbed ‘Renegade Man’
He also said there were ‘lots of six-figure FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) workers’ in attendance, who could afford luxuries such as Porta Potties and private performances during a year where the official Burning Man organization wasn’t providing food, water, toilets and a weekend full of live music like they usually do.
The event is being held at the Black Rock Desert, located in northern Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management looks after the desert and has already put restrictions in place until late-October to stop ‘festivals.’
Restrictions include not allowing lasers, ignitions of fires, and building or burning any structures in the desert, according to We Rave You.
Even though the unofficial festival is taking place, it will be nowhere close to the original free-spirited event without the razzle-dazzle and even no bathrooms.
The organizers warn of the reality of the desert, writing: ‘Bring everything you need for Radical Self Reliance. The desert is real.’
Daring fire shows and bright lights shine throughout the makeshift festival that organizers is dubbed as a ‘ultimate camping trip for Radical Self Reliance’
Despite the ban of lasers in the desert until late-October by The Bureau of Land Management, florescent lights burn throughout the festival
Among lasers, the Bureau, which looks after the Black Rock Desert, banned igniting fires and building or burning structures in the desert
Thousands of unmasked partygoers are threatened by the coronavirus. People are expected to pile into the desert from the Reno-Tahoe Airport, as well as catching connecting flights from the Las Vegas airport. Both cities are in red, high transmission zones for COVID-19
This includes no restrooms available or no ice coffee stations – a staple as festivals, like Coachella and Burning Man. It’s the ‘ultimate camping trip for Radical Self Reliance.’
Festivalgoers will not only be going au natural for the festival, but will also be battling the effects of the Caldor wildfires, a historic heatwave, and the COVID-19 delta variant.
SFist warned the event could turn into ‘Woodstock ’99 on COVID.’
The Reno-Tahoe Airport, where a lot of partygoers are expected to go through as people from all over the country pile into the desert this weekend, is in a red, high transmission zone according to SFist. Those with connecting flights in Las Vegas can expect similar COVID-19 dangers as it, too, is in a red zone.
A Hawaiian official, who recently traveled to Vegas himself, said anyone traveling to the city will ‘definitely catch COVID.’
The recent COVID-19 numbers for Reno, located a 100 miles outside of the Black Rock Desert, are rising in the last week, with 349 new cases being diagnosed on Friday.
Vegas, who has recently seen a decline in COVID-19 numbers, still has over 700 new cases on September 3.
With thousands of unmasked visitors without any sanitary options around, COVID-19 poses a threat for festivalgoers.
Festivalgoers will be dealing with a historical heatwave with temperatures reaching in the 90s
As the sunrise brightens up the skies for partygoers, the hazy skies are filled with smoke from the Caldor wildfires
As thousands of people pack into the desert, there won’t be the usual food and iced coffee stands around and partygoers should expecting camping conditions
People are expected to get rid of their own waste, not leave trash behind, and are not allowed to be structures in the desert
Despite the unsanitary conditions, the unofficial event has seen plenty of people ready to party and enjoy the holiday weekend
With plenty of lit-up bikes, RVs, and the ‘free-spirited’ people wander around, people gear up the holiday weekend
The Playa is available to the public year-round with a 14-day limit on recreational and camping use. But the land management has already issued temporary restrictions effective August 18 to October 31, 2021, including bans on igniting fires other than campfires, the burning of structures, aircraft landings, possession of alcohol and use of lasers.
It also warned people that ‘there are no medical and emergency resources close to the playa and multiple emergencies may result in extended response times’.
The statement means that this year’s event will look much different than past iterations of the festival, which are known for its incredible series of performances that showcase flaming structures and lasers alongside popular DJs.
Burning Man also usually has an airstrip for luxe on-site arrivals.
However, the restrictions – including the threat of historic heat strokes and smoke from the California wildfires – are not stopping die-hard Burner fans and groups such as Black Rock Plan B, Playa Poop Protocol, Unity 2021 Free Burn, RenegadeBurn, Renegade Man, and Rogue Burn from trekking into the desert anyways.
At the Bureau Of Misinformation campsite where Goetzman is staying, all guests are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated Burners were kicked out, according to Goetzman.
Another year of Burning Man has been cancelled due to the pandemic but for some Burners, this year’s virtual rendition isn’t cutting it. Thousands have decided to continue the tradition for a week-long unofficial Burning Man and have dubbed it ‘Free Burn’ and ‘Renegade Burn’
The statement from land management means that this year’s foe-live event will look much different than past iterations of the festival, which are known for its incredible series of performances that showcase flaming structures and lasers alongside popular DJs
A video posted to Instagram shows festivalgoers dancing as DJ Guy Gerber performs
Thousands more Burners are expected to join the crowd over the course of the weekend with rumored performances from Diplo, who is no stranger to the festival
He said that overall, people are being ‘very respectful’ of Covid guidelines by setting up campsites farther apart than usual, wearing masks and asking others if it’s okay to approach. ‘There is a risk of Covid anywhere but we wear masks,’ he added.
Art cars are expected to make a showing this year in place of the Burning Man’s infamous larger-than-life art structures, not to mention about 500 unofficial Burning Man camps on the Playa, according to Forbes, which has festivalgoers excited to experience what the festival may have been like in the early 90s.
For Burners who can’t make it to the renegade version of the event, Burning Man organizers have kicked off Virtual Burn Week. The virtual experience is free with a requested donation – a price that’s a little less steep than the $500 per person asked to attend the in-person festival.
Michael Goetzman (pictured), 38, of Wisconsin, flew first class to the event on a semi-private jet to the unofficial Burning Man festival where he’s camped out with ‘lots of highly intelligent successful friends from the Bay Area’
Goetzman, a Burning Man veteran, is also attending the virtual iteration of the week-long festival while he’s in the desert thanks to his $1,000 Internet uplink and SpaceX’s Starlink backup service.
He said the virtual festival was a good alternative and described it as ‘innovative’ for ‘breaking into new ideas of art’.
‘I had a grand time without the dust covering me,’ he added.
‘And virtual reality (VR) there is actually the art and temple,’ Goetzman said after noting that he missed the staples of the usual event.
An extended VR experience pass is allowing the half a million expected guests to visit the broadcast over and over again for up to 30 days after the virtual festival ends.
It’s designed to replicate as much of the annual festival known for its music, art, nudity and sex as possible, complete with the hours-long traffic jam to get in.
VR developers from six different companies have spent a year trying to reproduce that scene as they also took advantage of the new technology to give festival-goers, known as Burners, an experience they only would have had in past years if they were high on hallucinogens – with flying and teleporting avatars and Porta Potties that lead into a world of art.
They aimed to build a city out of thin air where participants can live in a utopian society that follows the principles of ‘decommodification’ (not needing money to obtain goods and services) and ‘radical inclusion’.
Virtual camps would allow longtime Burners to revisit their old haunts as DJs play virtual sets.
The virtual experience cannot, however, replicate the free-flowing drinks the festival is known for or the constant hugs participants get at the live experience that draws tens of thousands of people each year.
The festival began on Sunday, as thousands of people encountered a glitch trying to get into the system – not knowing that the developers programmed a rain storm to replicate one a few years prior.
The idea, according to Andrew Barrett, a creator of some of the virtual worlds, was to get the Burners to ‘hang around and rely on each other to figure it out,’ calling the approach ‘radical self-reliance’.
Goetzman, who works in cyber security, is a Burning Man veteran. In 2019 he took his children to the last ticketed Burning Man (pictured before leaving for the festival), which drew nearly 80,000 Burners. In 2020 he attended the first virtual iteration of the event and said: ‘I had a grand time without the dust covering me’
Officials at the Bureau of Land Management, which controls the desert where the festival usually takes place, estimate the non-ticketed event will attract up to 20,000 people over Labor Day Weekend
Nothing has stopped die-hard Burner fans and groups such as Black Rock Plan B, Playa Poop Protocol, Unity 2021 Free Burn, RenegadeBurn, Renegade Man, and Rogue Burn from trekking into the desert
Art cars are expected to make a showing this year in place of the Burning Man’s infamous larger-than-life art structures, not to mention about 500 unofficial Burning Man camps on the Playa
The Playa is available to the public year-round with a 14-day limit on recreational and camping use. But the land management has already issued temporary restrictions effective August 18 to October 31, 2021
Temporary restrictions include bans on igniting fires other than campfires, the burning of structures, aircraft landings, possession of alcohol and use of lasers
Half a million people are expected to show up virtually for the event over the next few days, as they did for the first Virtual Burn last year – which was pulled together in a month, with several participants experiencing glitches as they could not figure out how to enter its multiple digital worlds.
This year, though, developers said the experience will be better.
‘We’ve improved on the technology because we’ve had a year and a half,’ Colette Crespin, director of Virtual Experiences for Burning Man Project, a nonprofit that organizes the event, told the Wall Street Journal.
The first Virtual Burn was built on Microsoft’s social platform, Altspace, and included over 200 worlds to explore, with more than 1,500 hours of live events.
It drew an estimated half million attendees, the Journal reports, more than five times the 80,000 who were there physically in 2019.
After winning the PGA Innovation Award last year, and further publicizing Altspace, Microsoft threw more resources behind the Virtual Burn this year and fast-tracked a 2D version compatible with Macs and PCs so anyone with a computer can create an Altspace account and teleport to the festival, according to IndieWire.
‘We brought his whole community with us, and now Microsoft is pouring money into Altspace to turn it into a premiere events platform,’ said BRCvr co-founder Athena Demos, adding for her ‘it’s a labor of love.’
The users would create their own avatars who could fly and teleport throughout the virtual world and experience the sites the annual festival is known for
A scene of the playa as night descends on the city, with lights lighting up the sculptures
The virtual festival will run from August 29 through September 7 and is free with a requested donation, as compared to the in-person festival which costs $500 per person
The virtual playa includes many different features, like a virtual Ferris Wheel
Burning Man is known for its sculptures – which will be on display in the virtual world
One of the worlds users can explore at the virtual Burning Man is the Infinite Playa
Organizers said there will be no Orgy Dome this year, but participants can create their own adults-only events
The virtual desert is created to be three-dimensional, though a two-dimensional version is also available