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Beaucoup Boo Krug
May 17, 2012 12:55 AM   Subscribe

At Burning Man 2011, select participants were invited to an elaborate champagne dinner party, with food prepared by New York City chef Phil Winser of The Fat Radish. But who hosted the party, what was the reason for the dinner, and why were only certain participants invited? Well, the dinner was a marketing campaign for Krug.

With Burning Man as a backdrop, Krug's marketing team and events agency invited society bloggers and publications such as Town & Country and W Magazine to photograph and write about the "exclusive" dinner for its brand loyalists, with the intent of getting extensive coverage and brand exposure. After the dinner and photo shoot, Krug's teams abandoned the setup and left the entire mess for Burning Man to clean up. When the New York Times asked Krug's brand director Carl Heline about Burning Man, he remarked, "It's not that different than Fashion Week."

Burning Man has a long-standing policy regarding advertising at and commodification of the event. While Burning Man allows media members to publish photographs for editorial purposes, Burning Man does not permit the use of images for branded articles and product placement. Outraged by Krug's marketing campaign and disregard for Burning Man's 10 Principles, the Burning Man community has been voicing their opinions of Krug on Twitter and Facebook. Burning Man organizers have posted the entire story on The Burning Blog.
posted by mattdidthat (95 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Krug knows the market for its product perfectly well... rich assholes.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:00 AM on May 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


I still maintain that the most beautiful thing that could happen to Burning Man is for the creators to completely sell it out to MTV and RedBull and Budweiser and who ever would pay. Have the Jersey Shore kids at Bachelor Pad Camp. It used to be about creating beautiful things and then burning them to the ground, and the second part of that has felt a little missing as art shows up from the Playa in front of banks in SF and the festival itself becomes an institution. It needs a little more transience and creative destruction again, and I can think of no surer and purer way to destroy it than to let the marketers and brand managers of the world at it.

Burn the man.
posted by freebird at 1:22 AM on May 17, 2012 [37 favorites]


And then there's the apology, and the calling out of the apologizer...

I came across this thing out there. They all walked away from a huge, huge mess. So fuckem. Also, Krug = piss.
posted by Catblack at 1:24 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course at this point the damage to their brand will end up being much greater than the promotion gained by their stunt.

Well that's wishful thinking. It would seem to me that the people who attend Burning Man are not regular Champagne drinkers, nor are they likely to become ones. So even if the brand is damaged amongst this target audience it would not register in reduced sales.

On the other hand "rich assholes" just might like that fact that their (now) favorite brand punked a bunch of hippies and their little festival and that would only enhance the brand with the target audience who actually buy the stuff.
posted by three blind mice at 1:40 AM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


The one-percenters decamped after they realized the man to be burned was not a homeless person.
posted by longsleeves at 1:45 AM on May 17, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'm going to need a time machine and a flame thrower before my head explodes.
posted by loquacious at 1:53 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


If I ever needed outside comforting for never having been to Burning Man, it comes in the form of this fragment from the "apology" linked above: "amongst them many burners who participated in the construction of the Waffle."
posted by chavenet at 2:17 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well that's wishful thinking. It would seem to me that the people who attend Burning Man are not regular Champagne drinkers, nor are they likely to become ones.

It seems to you based on... what, exactly? Knowing people who attend? There's a huge range on income level amongst attendees, and a lot of them enjoy alcohol and spending money.

Chavenet, do you know what "the waffle" is? Or are you assuming?
posted by flaterik at 2:20 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well that's wishful thinking. It would seem to me that the people who attend Burning Man are not regular Champagne drinkers, nor are they likely to become ones. So even if the brand is damaged amongst this target audience it would not register in reduced sales..
It's simple really.

Start a couple of memes and publish fake articles/blogs of poor kids saving up to buy Krug to drink on street corners.
Turn it into a "thing", perhaps get some help from the Juggalos so they can pretend that they all love the Krug.


Brand death within 5 years.
They'll probably sell more champagne, but inside they'll be dying.
posted by fullerine at 2:26 AM on May 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


(and really, the fact that there is repeatedly reportedly a mess left behind is the truly unforgivable part. It's entirely possible that it wasn't all planned from the beginning to be as it was reported, but there's no innocent naivety that excuses a pile of unclaimed overused-acronym.)
posted by flaterik at 2:27 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Heh. Pwned.
posted by valkyryn at 2:35 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


JELLIED GASOLINE. FLAME THROWERS. TIME MACHINE. LOTS OF SHOUTING. SMELLS LIKE BACON.
posted by loquacious at 2:39 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, Krug = piss.

That there is just wrong. Krug is a great champagne once you get to about $150 a bottle.
posted by flippant at 2:43 AM on May 17, 2012


OMG...OMG...OMG...OMG...OMG...this is terrible

wait...no, no it's not....

When burning man stopped being a free event on the beach and started costing in the range of $300 to attend it sort of stopped being able to decry commercialism...
Just my opinion folks.... don't burn me for it.... heh
posted by HuronBob at 2:50 AM on May 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


Judging by the photos in the first link... did they serve warm champagne? Disgusting!
posted by samelborp at 2:54 AM on May 17, 2012


I mean the second link
posted by samelborp at 2:54 AM on May 17, 2012


HuronBob, most of the money goes to law enforcement and art grants. There are lots of disputes to be had about how the money is spent exactly, and the effects that the popularity has had on the way people approach things, but it's either tickets or no event on that scale. The people with badges and guns won't allow it. Just because money is involved doesn't make it commercial, and there are considerable good faith efforts being spent to keep it from being leveraged as a product in most instances.
posted by flaterik at 3:00 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Chavenet, do you know what "the waffle" is? Or are you assuming?

I have no idea. It's the phrase that gets me.

But I'm game: What's the Waffle?
posted by chavenet at 3:19 AM on May 17, 2012


Judging by the photos in the first link... did they serve warm champagne? Disgusting!

Looks flat, too.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:33 AM on May 17, 2012


My costume for the evening…. a vibrant red wig! Fun!
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:36 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


flaterik: Yet on the other hand - this kind of thing embodies the sort of conspicuous consumption that has overrun Burning Man, de-commodified gift culture or 10 principles or not.

It's an event where you (ideally) invest a great deal of time, money and energy specifically for the purposes of intentionally burning that effort, money and energy in an orgy of transience and impermanence.

No matter how much play-acting a participant does at trying to live like they're into permaculture - it's still a giant burning carbon footprint just getting oneself, the water, food and shelter one needs to survive out there in one of the most inhospitable and remote places in the continental US.

This doesn't even begin to account for the carbon footprint of bringing any art out there, large scale or not, and then intentionally burning it.

Burning Man has had 20+ years to "transform" our culture into something less dogmatic, less commercial and less rooted in consumerism. It hasn't succeeded at that on level that would warrant the footprint it occupies. Slow-growth and softer-spoken efforts like permies.com have done much more with much less than Burning Man ever has or ever will.

It's long past time to actually come home. Home isn't actually Black Rock City or the playa, and it's alarming that so many people have convinced themselves that it is. It's not, and to believe otherwise is little more than an escapist delusional fantasy.

So many smart people shouldn't be planning all year every year to blow all of that effort in a single week's worth of orgiastic partying, not to mention all the hedonistic partying with compression/decompression parties and fundraising parties and everything else that goes on with Burning Man "culture" that more and more seems to just be lots of drinking and drugs in silly hats.

I actually hope that the rumors about this being the last year of Burning Man are true. It's over. It's technically been over for 10 years or more. The moral/spiritual battle was lost ages ago.

Enough escapism. It's time to come home.
posted by loquacious at 3:37 AM on May 17, 2012 [50 favorites]


Belgian Waffle at Burning Man.
posted by Shusha at 3:38 AM on May 17, 2012


I'm taking Krug off my list for pouring over dancers with immediate effect.
posted by Segundus at 3:45 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


They'll probably sell more champagne, but inside they'll be dying.

Just ask Burberry. They had to stop using their distinctive tartan because they were being associated too much with chavs.
posted by PenDevil at 3:45 AM on May 17, 2012


When burning man stopped being a free event on the beach and started costing in the range of $300 to attend it sort of stopped being able to decry commercialism...

I don't go to burning man, but to run an event of that size needs a good deal of money. I'm sure the security costs that the Feds require is failed staggering, as is the cost to clean up all the stuff that burners forgot about, and at least trying to mitigate burn scars.

Without that base budget, the event doesn't happen. Nothing on that scale will. Decry the size if you must, but anyone thinking that can be done for free more than once is simply not being realistic.
posted by eriko at 4:01 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a creative person, and I'd like to understand the level of upset-ness that this happened, but I can't. So -- they'll tighten up their procedures? Case closed? Or is it wheels within wheels within something I don't understand?
posted by angrycat at 4:04 AM on May 17, 2012


I'd never heard of Krug before this.
So, I guess they won this round.

Although, I dislike them on principle more than I dislike the idea Burning Man.
So... can we call it a draw?
posted by Mezentian at 4:39 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


angrycat: If you read the part about the ten principles, you'll find that the exact thing that attracts many people to Burning Man is that it's a week without branding and advertising. To film an ad there, and specifically a private dinner with a guest list," is basically a huge "fuck you."

I'm overall with flaterik - this is really terrible, but the thing that was most galling is that they didn't clean up after themselves. This seems to have been (shamefully) produced in concert with an established camp; they should have known better. For those who have never been, Black Rock City has no garbage cans but also virtually no litter. People pack things out and in. It's incredible.
posted by Amplify at 4:51 AM on May 17, 2012


Look at the photo shoot!!!! A TON of people are wearing those fakey native headdresses!!! (I mean, in theory those people could all be native folks who decided to wear some kind of regalia to a champagne dinner, but that seems vanishingly unlikely.)

Okay, see, all this fuss about native headdresses and appropriation - I thought it was overblown and that no one actually did that. Partly because here in the Midwest we don't have has many cutting edge hipsters and partly because, I guess, there are a lot of actual native people where I live and you'd get called out or punched in the nose pretty quick. So when people were all "burning man, it's full of hipster racists in fake native clothes", I was like "oh, there are probably two. everyone knows that's dumb and gross."

But there they are at the Krug dinner, for all the world to see and admire.

I have to admit, I find that far more shocking than the Krug thing. That white folks who are almost certainly educated, either well off tech industry/arts types or slumming and probably socially liberal do something as tacky, crass and offensive as that in photos...I am genuinely shocked.

It occurs to me that native headdresses are like the hipster/rich/media elite version of those racist blackface parties frat kids throw.

I'm not kidding, I am actually shocked.
posted by Frowner at 4:56 AM on May 17, 2012 [19 favorites]


I love that they just left a mess for someone else to clean up. It's perfect, and from now on when I think of Krug champagne that's what will immediately come to mind: "We shit on your floor so you don't have to."
posted by mediareport at 5:11 AM on May 17, 2012


Sounds like an excellent subject for a TED talk, maybe with a tie-in to the next Gathering.
posted by jquinby at 5:13 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is that like Evel Knievil lining up fifty sharks for a jump only to crash on landing?
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:16 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look at the photo shoot!!!! A TON of people are wearing those fakey native headdresses!!! (I mean, in theory those people could all be native folks who decided to wear some kind of regalia to a champagne dinner, but that seems vanishingly unlikely.)

In the blog post, it says that the costumes were furnished by Krug. I have no idea if that makes it better or worse. But, hey, at least they're not all acting independently.
posted by hoyland at 5:27 AM on May 17, 2012


What happened to you, Burning Man? You used to be about the burning.
posted by Trurl at 5:34 AM on May 17, 2012


Are there any potential repercussions for Zoo Camp for enabling this?
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:36 AM on May 17, 2012


I stopped reading at "Burning Ma..."
posted by clvrmnky at 5:38 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I stopped reading at "I stopped reading at..."
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:42 AM on May 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


Wait, we're saying rich assholes and burning man participants are separate groups?
posted by Artw at 5:47 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


In the blog post, it says that the costumes were furnished by Krug. I have no idea if that makes it better or worse. But, hey, at least they're not all acting independently.

Yuck. Honestly, I was so floored that I didn't even read the details.

I guess the moral of the story is that racism has institutional support. Which makes sense; aside from a few rando hipsters making their own "headdresses", you can't really wear one unless you can buy one, and it's not like native folks are selling them off on the streets of Williamsburg. (Or has all the action moved to Park Slope or Brooklyn or some place now?)

I would hope that if someone tried to make me wear a native headdress like that I would have had the fortitude to refuse, although I suppose that if one were very young and naive one might not like to say no to a PR person. A good rule seems to be that the type of business which creates special things for "elite" customers only is a bad place to patronize.
posted by Frowner at 5:52 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Frowner, the action has moved to Bushwick. Park Slope is still just for new moms. (Also, all three of these places are neighborhoods within Brooklyn.)
posted by weinbot at 6:18 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


rich assholes and burning man participants are separate groups?

Yes. For a long time, and I'm guessing in large part still today.
posted by mediareport at 6:27 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Asshole move, Krug, but I lost most of my sympathy for the complaining Burning Man attendees after their nth use of "corporate whores."
posted by lydhre at 6:44 AM on May 17, 2012


I'm finding the notion that there is such a thing as a "society blogger" to be its own source of discomfort right now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:48 AM on May 17, 2012


I'm finding the notion that there is such a thing as a "society blogger" to be its own source of discomfort right now.


Yes, well: with poop comes flies.
posted by jquinby at 6:52 AM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


A good rule seems to be that the type of business which creates hypes special pedestrian things for "elite" customers only is a bad place to patronize.

There are lots of companies out there making really quality stuff for people who are really serious about whatever it is. And yet, somehow, I'm pretty much willing to bet your not going to see this brand of crap out of Lie Neilsen Toolworks or Rivendel Bicycle Works any time soon.

TLDR Version: Blah blah style blah blah substance.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:58 AM on May 17, 2012


My call to action: If you see suspicious marketing activities like this going on at the event, subtle or not, every participant should feel empowered to contact a Black Rock Ranger or any organizer to report the activity for investigation.
posted by jkolko at 6:58 AM on May 17, 2012


i must not be the audience for this.

it took me reading several comments until i realized i was confusing Keurig and Krug.

the first reference to champagne had me thinking "is that their new coffee machine? what a strange name. is it a flavor of coffee?" but the comment about it costing $150 a bottle finally clued me in.
posted by sio42 at 7:03 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


.

The last supper.
posted by what's her name at 7:09 AM on May 17, 2012


Park Slope is still just for new moms.

Don't forget the lesbians and writers!
posted by Falconetti at 7:15 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know I should be offended for some reason, but this is the most hilarious reverse-troll I've ever witnessed. That it was a champagne company is just the icing on the cake.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like that this Krug post is immediately followed by one about Bollinger.
posted by phl at 7:47 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


" I'm calling this meeting of the creative staff together today brainstorm ideas on how we can associate the terms "underhanded", "deceitful" and "made by and for total dicks" with our brand name. Any ideas?"
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:02 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe next year Madonna can host a Farmville tournament at Burning Man and these things can all stop being zombies and just go away together. If the side effect is that my cousin stops telling me about crap I don't care about which happened on "the playa" then I'm willing to take that chance.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:02 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


So next year, get together a bunch of Krug champagne bottles and pass them around for people to piss in. Make it the official bottle to piss in.

Blammo. Brand rep damage. Is that piss or champagne?
posted by discopolo at 8:21 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


>you'll find that the exact thing that attracts many people to Burning Man is that it's a week without branding and advertising

No Branding. No Advertising. That's Our Promise.TM
posted by darth_tedious at 8:30 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are lots of companies out there making really quality stuff for people who are really serious about whatever it is. And yet, somehow, I'm pretty much willing to bet your not going to see this brand of crap out of Lie Neilsen Toolworks or Rivendel Bicycle Works any time soon.

I think the issue is that non-jerk places don't have "elite" customers based purely on their social status and ability to buy the fanciest things. If a place makes a special coffee or bag or shoe or whatever, anyone who can afford it can get one, and the marketing angle is "keep up with the exciting things we do and you too can sign up for pocket square of the month club!" rather than "look at all these elite people who have the extra opportunity to sign up for pocket square of the month club - if you have a lot of money, you can join their ranks!" The loyal customer who buys a pound of special coffee every month gets treated as well as the loyal customer who buys ten pounds of coffee and a gilded espresso pot.
posted by Frowner at 8:33 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you read the part about the ten principles, you'll find that the exact thing that attracts many people to Burning Man is that it's a week without branding and advertising. To film an ad there, and specifically a private dinner with a guest list," is basically a huge "fuck you."

A lot of the burners I've met have a huge "Fuck You" attitude themselves over the smallest things. You studied design in school! You're a fucking poser! Some have their own "brand" of elitism. It's like hanging out with people in high school who have to really assert their identity and make sure you know they're cool and god help you if you're not just as cool. Getting a "fuck you" back is fabulous to see.

Of course my experience is anecdotal and in no way claims that all or even a very significant number of burners are like that, just a lot of the one's I've met during burner related events in other cities.
posted by juiceCake at 8:41 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


bet your not going to see this brand of crap out of Lie Neilsen Toolworks or Rivendel Bicycle Works any time soon.

Are you kidding me? Rivendell was all over the last brevet I rode! Every checkpoint was overrun with booth girls wearing fake beards, handing out branded wool socks and getting people to pose for photos on their new "Gildor Inglorion" randonneur. And you should have seen their invite-only VIP area at NAHBS! Trappist ale bottles and half-eaten artisanal panini everywhere!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:19 AM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


They'll probably sell more champagne, but inside they'll be dying.

And their patchouli incense may get soggy, too. Take that karma, 1-percenters!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:21 AM on May 17, 2012


The obligatory Bill Hicks "If you're in advertising or marketing" link.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


A lot of the burners I've met have a huge "Fuck You" attitude themselves over the smallest things.

This always happens with subcultures once they reach a critical mass. They get beyond that point where anyone who managed to hear about whatever random weirdness and show up and participate automatically makes you part of the community. The next stage is a commodification of all the markers "typical" of the community, and then later people think they have a right to start being dismissive of anyone not fitting their made-up stereotype.
The last time I was at That Thing In The Desert (2002), I was standing in line at the porta-potties at 9 in the morning. Now when I'm in the desert, I don't like to mess around with costumes or anything non-functional. So I was barefoot, wearing a sleeveless shift dress and a folding Chinese straw hat on my head. The dude in front of me is dressed in the most obvious playa stereotype Sexy Tutu and Cowboy Hat Burner Costume™ and is yapping to his companion about how beautiful it was at the temple last night and his EL wire on his bike was not working blah blah bloo blah. Okay, whatever; I don't care, I just want to pee. He then turns to me, looked me up and down, smiled sweetly and asked conspiratorially: "so, is this your first year in Black Rock City?". I gave him my best before-coffee stink eye and said, "No, it's my seventh." He said nothing, just abruptly turned back around and waited quietly in line. When I went back to camp we dared my friend Peter to punch the next person who came down our road with the Talking Hulk Glove (" Hulk SMASH!!"). So he ran up and gently bopped some dude on a bike on the shoulder with it and the guy got all ruffled. That was the day I decided I didn't need to go to Burning Man any more.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:28 AM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's technically been over for 10 years or more. The moral/spiritual battle was lost ages ago.

I have a good friend, formerly quite the Burning enthusiast, who claims it all died for him with Karina in 2005, which was going down at the same time. He wasn't at Burning Man that year (for family reasons) and found himself outside looking in feeling a profound disconnect that he just couldn't shake. People dying due to a force of nature (and human failing which is part of nature, of course) versus a bunch of his contemporaries getting consciously, creatively fucked up in the middle of nowhere and chalking it up to undermining the status quo (or whatever).

He hasn't been back.
posted by philip-random at 9:37 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


So next year, get together a bunch of Krug champagne bottles and pass them around for people to piss in. Make it the official bottle to piss in.

... Is that piss or champagne?


Are you putting the corks back in when full? I'm having visions of a political fundraiser dinner with donated Krug...
posted by BlueHorse at 9:47 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just ick.

I'm a former regular who stopped in 2002 for reasons that would totally predict something like this happening. I haven't ever felt the draw back "home" because my last year there I was surrounded by just enough yahoos, schmoozers, and frat boys that it was no longer "home" to me and my friends, it was just a rather unusual party that has more in common with Mardi Gras than anarachy and art. There was still plenty of art and spectacle and good will but there were just enough drunk assholes to make it not worth the effort getting there any more.

To grant Krug a *lot* of benefit of the doubt...Imagine you run a business, a business in which you use your talents and you decide that these are the same talents you want to bring to Burning Man to share with your friends. And imagine you are a scenester in New York and most of your friends are bloggers, journalists, and publicists as well as producers of commodities that you use in your business. You decide you and your friends are going to throw this big party one night at Burning Man. And hey, if your friends have blogs or write in magazines and want to talk about this, what's the big deal?

Anyway, I'm guessing this is their defense. These people would not likely have been at Burning Man in the early years and they are not people that I associate with now and I guess that's why Burning Man isn't my thing anymore.

The thing that's crazy about Burning Man is that it's big enough that I don't think it's going to go away. I mean, even if a majority of the organizers decided to fold it, I think there would still be something going on in the desert on the week before Labor Day and people would still refer to it unofficially as "Burning Man." I mean hell, the residents of Gerlach would probably approach a corporate sponsor if that's what it took to keep it going. So maybe, it's best to maintain some sort of governance that is connected to the original years of the festival.

But ick. Everyone involved deserves whatever negative publicity fall out.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:09 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


flaterik: Yet on the other hand - this kind of thing embodies the sort of conspicuous consumption that has overrun Burning Man, de-commodified gift culture or 10 principles or not.

I don't have any fundamental disagreement with what you're saying, other than the fact that I never thought burning man was going to change the culture outside of itself, any more than Just Dancing In the Desert events that I and others were doing. To me it is more than Just a Party, but not in a fundamentally society altering way or anything. And really, was something that is about impermanence and burning ever really trying to be about a small carbon footprint? I think judging it for failure to do more for permaculture is putting goals into people's mouths. It's definitely not what _I_ think about when I think about.

There is also increasing focus on the regionals, and not making Black Rock City the end all and be all. I support the hell out of this, as well as reminding people they REALLY don't HAVE to go every year. Flipside sounds great, and if there was something on that scale a reachable distance from me I'd do that instead in a heartbeat.

When I went back to camp we dared my friend Peter to punch the next person who came down our road with the Talking Hulk Glove (" Hulk SMASH!!"). So he ran up and gently bopped some dude on a bike on the shoulder with it and the guy got all ruffled. That was the day I decided I didn't need to go to Burning Man any more.

2002 was my first year, and it's not juts been a straight line towards more of that kind of burnier-than-thou shit. Personally I'd rather have a lot more people like you around to help offset the legions of fashion burners.

I can't argue with the good points made by People Who Used To Go here. And I also don't love the whole "it's home" concept and spending all year talking and planning to go back. But there have still been a lot of really great things I've seen out there, and it's still the only Party Type Thing culture that actively and explicitly embraces participation, and being a creation of the people going instead of just another corporation creating something to entertain you in exchange for money. The fact that the organizers and participants care about shit like this, even amongst the many real problems, is probably part of what keeps drawing me back.

Plus talking shit about burners is really fun and you can't do it quite right if you just abandon it entirely.

I have no idea. It's the phrase that gets me.

Well first off, I don't understand a brain that hears "they helped build the waffle" and thinks something bad. Cause... come on, waffles. Someone else already posted a link describing it so I won't get into that, but I will say the "attempts to excuse some behavior because of previous participation" shit is really obnoxious, but it's certainly not constrained to these douche canoes.

Look at the photo shoot!!!! A TON of people are wearing those fakey native headdresses!!!

If it makes you feel any better, and I'm sure it doesn't, when I saw that picture my first thought was "well of COURSE it was the kind of jackasses that would wear that shit".
posted by flaterik at 10:34 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


This always happens with subcultures once they reach a critical mass. They get beyond that point where anyone who managed to hear about whatever random weirdness and show up and participate automatically makes you part of the community. The next stage is a commodification of all the markers "typical" of the community, and then later people think they have a right to start being dismissive of anyone not fitting their made-up stereotype.

Indeed. I remember vividly how conforming to a particular set of standards some of the punks were back in high school and how astounded they were that if you wore shorts it didn't mean you were Ward Cleaver. They were also upset if you weren't shocked by them and you didn't pay any attention to them.
posted by juiceCake at 10:40 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Krug, huh? I think VG Cats got there first. About as nuanced, too; again with the subtlety!
posted by miss patrish at 10:56 AM on May 17, 2012


It's amazing to me how consistently this event creates really great news. How long before the next public Burning Man kerfuffle? It's awesome, really.

It's amazing to me too how consistently people go out to the playa and have profound experiences, or something like that. Still. Talking to a first-time burner is a remarkably consistent experience, year after year. They're jazzed, their lives have been changed, and they're happy about it.

It's also pretty impressive how consistent the arc is in terms of participant attitudes about the thing. I used to feel I could track how many years people had been going by their attitudes about conformity, but I think one can also track how many years people have been going by how burnt out they are about it. The thing is, the first year it's all new. After that, unless you are really good at creating your own involvement, it gets progressively disappointing. Heck, my four year old son did this on his second year on the playa. It was great, it just wasn't new any more. Similarly, the refrain of "too many frat boys, too many people, too commodified" has been going on since about 1994.

And still, people jam the boards to get tickets, and come away every year, especially if it's their first, amazed and energized. At least, the good ones do (Pip was far kinder than I would have been - she's also probably smarter).

Or, in the words of one participant caught in an early (1996?) documentary: "Burning Man, Burning Man, Burning Man... Where is enigma in the commercialism of next year's Burning Man? That's what Burning Man means to me."
posted by emmet at 11:19 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, lots of shit-talking in this thread.

A couple of points about Burning Man:

- people have been complaining about how it was better in the old days since... well... the old days. Almost everyone who has ever gone to Burning Man, almost everything that has ever been awesome about Burning Man, has happened since, in some cranky old-timer's view, the whole thing got commodified and overblown and all started to suck.

- the event captures such an absurdly overabundant river of creative energy that even if it has gone downhill and started to suck, it's still almost unbelievably awesome, way up the pinnacle of titanic coolness. There just isn't anything else like it, and it still blows people's minds and changes their lives with almost tiresome regularity.

- crap like this marketing stunt is the exception not the rule. People are pissed off because this is not what Burning Man is about, at all, and these fuckers are polluting the experience for everyone. If this kind of thing were common, if the event really had become "commercialized", this stunt would not be getting everyone so riled up.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:23 AM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


unless you are really good at creating your own involvement, it gets progressively disappointing

I think that's a feature, not a bug. If you're not part of creating the experience, maybe it's GOOD that it's not a great experience.

I went a couple times and was ready to be done with it, because it was becoming samey. Then I got involved with one art car, and then another, and then another. When one of those started to get samey (there's only so many times you can drive around blowing snow on people), we decided to stop doing it, and do something else.
posted by flaterik at 11:25 AM on May 17, 2012


Flaterik, that is entirely incorrect.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:53 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


unless you are really good at creating your own involvement, it gets progressively disappointing

(Flaterik) I think that's a feature, not a bug. If you're not part of creating the experience, maybe it's GOOD that it's not a great experience.


I didn't say it was a bug. ;) Rather the point of the whole thing, if anything.

I just meant that it was a predictable arc, for better or worse.
posted by emmet at 12:02 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Real Dan, I said a bunch of shit, but you're obviously talking about where money goes.

You're right about the first part of what I said - that it goes to LE and art grants - and I should've gone back and looked at the budget like I thought to. But the real point was that the event can't exist with ticket income, and nothing in that budget refutes that to me.
posted by flaterik at 12:05 PM on May 17, 2012


Woodstock
posted by HuronBob at 12:36 PM on May 17, 2012


who claims it all died for him with Karina in 2005

For many other burners, Katrina was a catalyst for action--it spawned Burners Without Borders. From the "About" section:

"Burners Without Borders (BWB) coalesced from a spontaneous, collective instinct to meet gaping needs where existing societal systems were clearly failing...
Following the 2005 Burning Man event, several participants headed south into the Hurricane Katrina disaster area to help people rebuild their devastated communities. As the volunteer numbers grew, they focused their initial efforts on rebuilding a destroyed Vietnamese temple in Biloxi, Mississippi. After several months, that job done, they moved to another needy Mississippi community, Pearlington, to continue to work hard -- gifting their time -- to help those in need. Over the course of eight months, BWB volunteers gifted over $1 million dollars worth of reconstruction and debris removal to the residents of Mississippi."

The Krug thing is particularly icky given that it seemed to be a very large-scale deception led by a veteran Burner who willfully disregarded some foundational community principles on a large scale. And didn't even clean up their mess.

But it also points up for me how accepted Burning Man has become as a hip cultural touchstone. Ten or fifteen years ago I had many friends who actively worked to hide the fact they attended Burning Man out of fear they might get fired from their job if it was known they hung out with "those freaks in the desert." Now signifiers from the event are widely used to convey hip/cool/edgy when selling things like vodka.

In many ways I view this as progress.
posted by donovan at 12:36 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Huron, Woodstock happened once, and was a concert. Even aside from the difference in the ferocity of law enforcement between then and now, it's not comparable.
posted by flaterik at 12:38 PM on May 17, 2012


flaterik: Yeah, I'm not really attacking you in particular over this since I already know you get it, but I hear a lot of counterpoints from burners who hold it up as a the ultimate and perhaps only grand experiment in permaculture and/or freakiness going on there's usually a lot of handwavey justification happening as they try to justify they're financial and emotional investments, and it's usually from the same annoying people in $300 hand tooled leather fanny pack utility belts and steampunk top hats and goggles and shit while they're nipping expensive scotch from a flask or horning fat rails of coke.

And, well, as you already know that shit gets annoying.

And not that partying and good works are mutually exclusive or anything, but I just strongly feel that these people should literally be putting their money where their mouth is and taking the entirety of their quite expensive and elaborate theme camp budgets and time and investing it in their local communities in the form of urban gardens or art/culture projects and/or real permaculture.

Which is kind of what the regional burns, decompressions and satellite projects like the Silver Seed project were supposed to be about, but instead it's apparently just more partying all year round.

At this point I really wish Burning Man (BMorg) would just intentionally close up shop, if only so I could see what all of these kinds of people would suddenly do with their free time and money.
posted by loquacious at 12:47 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for saying so, and luckily I already didn't feel attacked, even though I like or enjoy at least 3 of the markers of douchebaggery you mention :) Just conversatin'. Luckily, I don't find myself conversatin' with the same level of ass-hats as you evidently do. I'd probably want the whole thing to be shut down too if so.
posted by flaterik at 1:25 PM on May 17, 2012


loquacious, is there something wrong with doing something just because it's fun? I don't see why anyone has to justify their "investment" in Burning Man. It's fun, it's inspiring, it makes life more interesting; what's not to like about that?

But it seems that investment in a permanent local community is what you value. I don't know where you live, but here in Seattle I see rather a lot of investment in community organization coming as a direct result of Burning Man.

Year after year, large groups of people collectively organize themselves to build big art projects, haul them out into the middle of the desert, live there for a week or two, then clean it all up and go home. That translates into a lot of experience with logistics, scheduling, fund-raising, volunteer management, and a whole array of other useful skills ranging from bicycle repair to menu planning.

People go to all this trouble because Burning Man is a lot of fun; this practice in self-organization would not happen without the big party in the desert as a catalyst. Then we come home and we still have all those skills, we still have the big social network, we know that we can organize ourselves to accomplish things, and so the scope of the things we can accomplish keeps on growing.

As an example from my own life, about a year and a half ago I convinced a bunch of my friends to start up a community workshop with me. We formed an LLC, negotiated with a landlord, rented some space, and stocked it with tools. The shop has grown rapidly and is now a completely self-supporting organization, a hybrid of a hackerspace and an artist's collective. It's a place to work on Burning Man projects, sure, but it's also a year-round resource for anyone who wants to make things or fix things or hold meetings about activities that have to do with making or fixing things.

This organization is a direct result of our experiences working together on Burning Man projects. Those experiences taught us how to build collective organizations where we find the resources we need and apportion the work necessary to accomplish our goals, without needing a profit motive or an employer/employee relationship or any of the usual trappings of a business.

And yes, sometimes we party like maniacs, too.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:48 PM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


- people have been complaining about how it was better in the old days since...

I didn't ever say it was better in the old days, but I can and do say that most all the things that made the event special for me are gone. I loved that when it was a three day event you could arrive on the Monday before to a city of a few hundred people, put up your tent, and watch Black Rock grow around you. I loved that it used to be really easy to get to know your neighbors under those circumstances, sharing tools and beers as you built your dome and they built their fern grove next door. I loved when it was cheap and easy to go and there was a lot more random craziness and art by one, two, or six people. I loved the landscape when only the Man was out on the playa and all the other art was in town. I loved working in the Cafe when there were just three of us on the 3-7am shift and only emergency, law enforcement, Rangers, and stone crazy insomniac nut jobs could be reliably counted on to buy coffee at those hours. I loved the solitude when you rode your bike out to the trash fence and no one was there at all. I loved getting the various newspapers delivered every day, and going out to see Java Cow at sunrise, and the fact that without cell service finding specific people was near impossible, but finding interesting people was incredibly easy. I loved that hippie kids and crust punks used to be able to go, even if it meant that they hitchhiked and snuck in (which used to be remarkably easy). I loved that sometimes big art projects that people were counting on sometimes never got built (which the org. didn't, and now everything has to be built a week before).

I don't say that good people and great stuff and fun things don't happen there now. For me, there used to be much more random chaos, reflective solitude, differences of scale, and general un-knowing during the whole event that really exalted the experience of throwing a crazy party in a harsh and unforgiving environment. I know why various changes have happened and generally feel that they were inevitable- I'm perfectly aware of the reason that shooting propane tanks with firearms of various types is no longer a sanctioned activity (well, it wasn't really sanctioned in '96 either, I guess). But you know, when commercials for Krug are being made at BurningMan it has become mainstream, and that's a thing that is worth marking, for good or ill.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:00 PM on May 17, 2012


Let me point out that Woodstock was MUCH more than a "concert".

If we had to vote on which one, Woodstock or Burning Man, had a more significant impact on our culture, wonder how that would turn out... please vote below.....
posted by HuronBob at 3:11 PM on May 17, 2012


Burning Man
posted by HuronBob at 3:12 PM on May 17, 2012


or Woodstock
posted by HuronBob at 3:12 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's been mainstream for a while. There was a joke about people feeling the need to go every year on the simpsons way back in 2000. I'm generally surprised when people -haven't- heard of it, even if their perception of it is usually pretty far off.

Huron, I see no reason for it to be a contest. I just don't think you can say "because woodstock happened, burning man could happen without expensive tickets".
posted by flaterik at 4:05 PM on May 17, 2012


>when commercials for Krug are being made at BurningMan...

Yeah, that's the point. No one but these Zoo camp organizers wanted this to happen.

I'm in love with the event. I have been for well over a decade. I agree with Mars Saxman about the event being a catylist for all sorts of off-playa art and transformation. I got involved living in an artspace after I went to burning man, but I also went to rainbow gatherings and sci-fi conventions before I went to burning man. (Sorry, Huronbob, not playing your voting game.)

So I saw at the sci-fi convention circuit in the 80s and 90s how old timers would complain about things changing. People get old, your tastes change, your involvement changes. What you found 10 years ago might not be there, and the wonder, awe and respect you used to get is harder to find. That's an issue with anything you follow with passion. Heck, you could go down to the community center and basketweave, or quilt or something for 10 years and have the same reaction.

But if the Burning Man org had wanted to, they have had many, many opportunities to sell out. I don't think they will. While Larry's not my favorite art-messiah, I don't think he's cashing out for as much as he could. (Though he could take up painting and sell a year's salary of art prints pretty easily on name recognition alone.)

In some ways, I'd love for the snark of the event to dwindle the population back to handfuls so it's just me, my mates and a headful of acid riding our bikes out to the trash fence. But see, part of what fuels this snark is that the event has Principals, and this day and age of internet, political punditry and cynicism sucks the soul right out of things. People become jaded. But I'm not willing to write off the event, because no matter how jaded I feel, going out there is my hope. Living my life by those principals (and they apply when you run funky artspaces just as well as out in Nevada) is what makes me a better person. And I include jackassery and negativity in my definition of radical self expression, too.

What these guys did for this champange company is not cool, not right and won't be tolerated when we see it happen again. They didn't ruin burning man because I'm not going to let them Fuck My Day. I mean, you have to have a thick skin to be there, else you are better off saving your ticket money and getting all hippy at a rainbow gathering. Or seeing if you can possibly get the permits in your local area to have a big wild party. (Just try... not easy or fun.)
posted by Catblack at 4:14 PM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Searched for "shark" and "jump", found the terms already appeared among these comments, so I'm moving along. Leaving it ambiguous whether my thought applied to Burning Man and/or Krug.
posted by dylanjames at 5:06 PM on May 17, 2012


How the hell did nobody at Burning Man HQ notice this had happened until now? Especially when they left their mess behind (a big no-no)? Plus they got CATERERS in there?

I'm so asking my friend who works for Burning Man how that is the case. I just find it hard to believe that nobody noticed say, a branded car at the DMV.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:26 PM on May 17, 2012


So next year, get together a bunch of Krug champagne bottles and pass them around for people to piss in. Make it the official bottle to piss in.

... Is that piss or champagne?


Wikipedia, and others, on Krug: "As a Champagne, it is distinctive and easily recognised by taste due to the house's policy of complete barrel fermentation and very extended lees aging, with a slight aftertaste of urine..."
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:38 PM on May 17, 2012


Lots of people noticed that car; it was LOUD AS FUCK.

But it didn't have any Krug branding that I saw. Since it looked like the waffle, I assume other people made the same assumption as me- that it was from the same people.

But while I thought the waffle was really cool because it was this huge structure that seemed to have formed itself out of 2x2s, the car seemed like... a truck with random lumber nailed to it, playing really loud bad music.
posted by flaterik at 11:24 PM on May 17, 2012


We witnessed one of their photo shoots as it happened, and we mocked it with our megaphones, as mercilessly as possible. The thing that really stuck out about them was their cleanliness on post-burn Sunday, and their feather Mohawks. Sexy Mohawk people, you are not sexy enough, we yelled at at them. Now look sexier! Oh, that is too sexy!

They had security guards on Segways, also, who glared at us as they drove by over and over again as we harangued them.
posted by drapatz at 12:16 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Next year: "Ronald McDonald, dressed as a new age hippy, does Burning man to promote McDonald's new Ham vegan burger."
posted by WestChester22 at 9:02 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


We witnessed one of their photo shoots as it happened, and we mocked it with our megaphones, as mercilessly as possible.

I'm honestly suprised no one flamed it. Literally. Even those stupid poofers would have worked, wouldn't they?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:27 AM on May 18, 2012


Sorry I called your poofers stupid. It was uncalled for.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:30 AM on May 18, 2012


nebulawindphone: "I stopped reading at "I stopped reading at...""

I stopped...
posted by Samizdata at 10:41 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


BOY do I have a good idea for my Balsa Man project this year!
posted by rdc at 3:21 PM on May 23, 2012


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