The Man Meets His Fiery Demise… Burning Man 2014

 

Flames shoot out as the Man burns at Burning Man 2014.

Flames shoot out as the Man burns at Burning Man 2014. Fireworks continue to light up the sky.

I introduced the Man in my last blog. Now it is time to join him for his fiery end, the quintessential event Larry Harvey created in 1986 that gives Burning Man its name. Think show. Think ritual. Think party. Think three-ring circus. It’s the one event at Burning Man that pulls everyone together at the same time. Saturday night is Burn Night.

Preparations for the 2014 burn began hours earlier. The market surrounding the Man was closed down and packed away, the area was roped off, and the Man was prepared to burn. Firewood was stacked around his feet. Fireworks were stuffed everywhere else.

Burning the Man at Burning Man 2014.

Firewood stacked around the base of the Man helps assure he will eventually fall over. Massive support beams for his hundred foot height were reluctant to burn through, however. (Photo By Don Green.)

Sometime around six, the residents of Black Rock City begin their preparations. Dinner is eaten; costumes are donned; people and bikes are decked out in lights. (I’d love to have a concession that sells glow sticks to Burners.) The dozens, even hundreds of venues that provide free entertainment are shut down. Large and small camps provide final instructions. Are their members traveling by mutant vehicle, bike or foot? Will the bikers and hikers stay together? How? It is ever so easy to get lost in a rowdy crowd of 65,000 people.

And then the parade (or is pilgrimage a better word?) begins. Large mutant vehicles that hold dozens of dancing, gyrating Burners move out early, eager to find prime locations and begin blasting out ear-splitting, industrial-grade music. Hundreds of performers also head for the Man to find their assigned places inside the huge circle surrounding the Man. Next come the folks who hope to sit close to the circle and have the best views of the fire dancers and burn.

And finally, everyone else. Dark streets become clogged with gaily decorated, lit-up bikes and Burners journeying out into the Playa. Somehow they avoid running into each other. By 8 pm Black Rock City has become vacant, a ghost town.

For the past several years I’ve chosen to walk around the perimeter of the circle. My body has lost its sense of humor for sitting in the dirt for hours. Even now, my tailbone screams at the idea. Plus, there is a lot to see. Burners, dressed up in their finest costumes, stroll and dance around the circle. It’s prime time for people watching. But what really captures my imagination are the mutant vehicles stretching for two miles around the Man. Every vehicle is lit up for the night and many belch fire. Dozens form large viewing and dancing platforms. There are ships and trains and dragons and bugs and almost everything else the human imagination can create. Or at least it seems that way to me.

Great imagination goes into creating the mutant vehicles of Burning Man. I am not sure what this guy was called but I nicknamed him Mighty Mouse.

Great imagination goes into creating the mutant vehicles of Burning Man. I am not sure what this guy was called but I nicknamed him Mighty Mouse. The people on his back provide a size perspective.

El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man 2014.

Many of the mutant vehicles spout fire. This is one of my favorites, El Pulpo Mechanico. I’ll be doing a whole blog on El Pulpo.

Mutant vehicle lights up the night at Burning Man 2014.

This photo provides an idea of how bright the fire from a mutant vehicle can be.

As for the burning of the Man, it follows a ritualized pattern. The fire dancers twirl fire, drummers drum, the Man raises his arms, fireworks go off, the Man burns, and finally he falls to his fiery grave as 65,000 people first go quiet and then shout in celebration.

Fire Dancing at Burning Man.

Fire dancing/art is an important part of Burn night as hundreds of fire dancers perform in the circle before the Man is burned. I took this photo a couple of years ago.

The Man raises his arms in preparation for fireworks and burning at Burning Man 2014.

When the Man raises his arms, the fireworks are about to begin!

The night sky is lit up by fireworks during the burning of the Man at Burning Man 2014.

And they do.

Fireworks at Burning Man 2014.

Few fourth of July events are capable of matching the fireworks display at Burning Man, which goes on and on. (Photo by Don Green.)

Fireworks and Man burning at Burning Man 2014.

The fireworks continued as the Man burned quickly. We could definitely feel the heat.

Structure of Man at Burning Man 2014 shows through the fire.

Soon, his basic structure was apparent.

Head of the Man at Burning Man during 2014 burn.

Don caught this photo of the Man’s head. (Photo by Don Green.)

The Man before he falls at Burning Man 2014.

I waited patiently, along with 60,000 other people for the Man to fall as fires licked away at his feet. But he was stubborn. Finally I headed off to Center Camp.

Normally we return home sometime in the night after the Man has burned. But this year we stayed around and visited the site the next morning. Much to our amusement, people were cooking meals over the remaining flames and heat.

Remains of the burned Man at Burning Man 2014.

Burners were gathered around the remains of the Man the next morning. The size of the leg support beams suggests why it took so long for the Man to fall. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Cooking bacon on the coals left over from the burning of the man at Burning Man 2014.

We were amused to find people cooking bacon, eggs, coffee and pancakes. Some one had even roasted a lamb. Nice tongue.

Souvenir hunter cuts off piece of the Man's structure that remained after the Man had burned dow at Burning Man 2014.

A burner was working hard cutting off small pieces of the Man’s ‘leg’ for souvenirs.He smiled up at me and gifted me my own piece of the Man.

A close up of the Man burning at Burning Man 2014.

I will close with this excellent close up of the Man burning. (Photo by Don Green.) On my next blog I will visit another Burning Man icon: Center Camp.

43 comments on “The Man Meets His Fiery Demise… Burning Man 2014

  1. The size of BM and the Mutant vehicles boggles my mind. How many hours must go into designing, creating them is immense I’m sure.. I love the guy cooking breakfast, and I assume that is Turkey bacon, yes? 😉
    Great post and photos as always!

  2. Curt, that’s one con-flag-ration. I know it’s called Burning Man, but given this level of pyrotechnics, there must be some pretty heavy security to make sure that the burning man doesn’t burn a real man. Is there a history of burn injuries? ~James

    • Actually, James I was reading about a lawsuit the other day regarding a person who was burned. The court ruled that the injury was due to the person’s carelessness.

      Things are quite controlled around the burn. A large circle made of a solid, lit, plastic hose-like object surrounds the Man at a safe distance. People are posted every 30 or so feet to see that participants stay behind the line. Similar precautions are practiced at all other burns. A large medical contingent is available for emergencies. The only person I have seen hurt at the Man’s burn in my ten years was a fire dancer who caught fire. People are assigned to watch fire dancers. He was immediately placed on the ground and covered by a special fire blanket. –Curt

  3. You’ve got some wonderful photos, and I enjoyed every one of them — and the commentary. I did get a bit of a jolt when I got to the last photo. I’ll not tell you what I see until you’ve given it a second look. It’s quite amazing how much it resembles something else. Do you see it?

  4. Here in New Mexico in Santa Fe we have the burning man plague our city in the month of September. My friend David is an Artist who builds the structure for the burning of ZoZobra. It is said he washes away the bad for the year, sadly it’s become a HUGE party with too many drunks who party their day away until they burn the snot out of him in the evening. Good post Curt…didn’t know the burning man came from San Francisco.

    • Burning Man can get rowdy, Slingshot. Lot’s of people see it as an excuse to party for a week. But it also generates some of the best art being created today. I also like many of the ten principles, such as gifting, no commercialization, and environmental awareness. Imagine close to 70,000 people and no thrash. –Curt

  5. It was not until our experiences at Burning Man that I realized the artistic beauty of fire, especially in this venue. In response to some of the comments, we are hearing more and more about regional burns such as the one in Homer, AK and now Santa Fe. The difference appears to be honoring the 10 principals of BM and the uniqueness of making it a safe place….well as safe as 66,000 people together can be…grin. Peggy

    • The heat is on! 🙂

      Not surprising, you haven’t heard about it Timi, although it has certainly received a lot more world wide coverage lately than it used to. The only African country i know with a presence, is South Africa. –Curt

  6. I pressed the ‘like’ button, but this is the one part of this festival that makes me feel slightly ill. I’m something of a wuss when it comes to fire and seeing a humanoid figure burning, just makes me remember all the people who have been killed that way (by other humans). Sorry, I know I am missing the spirit of the event. I love all the other stuff and the wonderful inventive vehicles.

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