Charms War: Dance Camps and Sound Cars at Burning Man

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Taking place in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada for one week every August, Burning Man is a unique event, with a distinct event-culture. Over the course of thirty years, it has evolved from a summer solstice festival, first held on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986, into the world’s largest temporary city. With Immediacy, Radical Inclusion, and Civic Responsibility among its diverse Ten Principles, Black Rock City is a uniquely contested context for the performance of dance music. While the chapter recognizes that the event is not a music festival, EDM or otherwise, navigating the history of this dramatic field of contestation, it examines how the composite art form of dance music has established its place in the event’s attention economy. At the same time, the chapter demonstrates how policy initiatives seek to distinguish Burning Man from other events, notably EDM festivals. From the outlaw “rave camps” of the early 1990s to the Techno Ghetto, and from the Large-Scale Sound Art Zone to Mutant Vehicles mobilizing in an escalating charms war, the chapter explores solutions, policies and compromises integral to the evolution of electronic dance music culture in Black Rock City. Based on the author’s experience at four events and analysis of extensive online discussions, with a focus throughout on event-tribe the Space Cowboys, the chapter demonstrates how Burning Man’s unique principles have had a shaping influence on electronic dance music culture at the event.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWeekend Societies
Subtitle of host publicationElectronic Dance Music Festivals and Event-Cultures
EditorsGraham St. John
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781501309328, 9781501309335
ISBN (Print)1501343777, 9781501343773, 9781501309311
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


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