But not too long ago, the annual festival looked a bit more like “Mad Max” set on the playa.
A video clip from 1997 has resurfaced that shows a news crew from ABC’s “Nightline” discovering Burning Man for the first time.
The reporter in the video described the event as “a loosely organized, frenetic explosion of community, creativity, and chaos,” while footage played showing attendees dance and riot around a burning human effigy (a long-standing Burning Man tradition). There are no luxury camps in sight, or electronic dance music DJs throwing it down before a crowd high on drugs.
A young man explained to the camera that he used to be shy and reserved.
“I thought if I came out here — in such an open atmosphere — I could really be myself,” he said.
“It sounded like it was the last cool thing to do,” another attendee, dressed in monk’s robes and sunglasses, said.
The reporter said that the event is so remote, festival-goers must bring their own food, supplies, and lodging. Most so-called burners still rough it on the desert floor, but a growing number of attendees drop into for-profit, luxury accommodations, known as “plug-and-play” camps.
Often at these sites, hired help assist the camp with production and concierge services around the cafeteria and lounge spaces. C-suiters shell out as much as $10,000 for a reservation.
Entrance to Burning Man in 1997 cost just $75. In 2017, it was $425.
The sea of costumes and nudity was just as shocking two decades ago. People shown in the ABC news report wore Native American-inspired garb, tuxedos with masks made from tree branches, and pleather— lots of pleather. An occasional nude bicyclist rides across the frame.
Oh, yeah, and this happened:
If you’ve seen “Mad Max: Fury Road,” you might think that instrument-wielding burner looks familiar. The flame-throwing guitarist on wheels from the movie became a cult favorite.
Watch the full news report below: