What the fucking fuck? Donkey somehow convinced the Paper of Record to let her spew bullshit about god damn fucking Burning Man, a god damn festival for rich, white people who have too much drugs and god damn time on their hands. God motherfucking dammit.
The Progeny of Burning Man
Burning Man Spawns New Age Festivals
It was 3 a.m. in Bradley, Calif., in the middle of a dusty dry lake bed, and Carl Weiseth, 33, was shoeless, shirtless and regaling a gathering crowd about last night’s escapade. “I didn’t make it back from the dance floor until the sun was starting to rise,” he told his audience, adding that he “passed out to the gentle vibrations of thumping electronic music for three to four hours.”
A 1960s Volkswagen van was painted with the words “Give Peace a Chance,” surrounded by fresh-faced bohemians sporting flower crowns, acid-washed jean shorts, seapunk teal-dyed hair and psychedelic leggings. “It’s the feather-and-leather crew,” one festivalgoer said.
To the casual observer, this post-New Age convergence of monumental art, all-night dancing and “Kumbaya” spirituality could be mistaken for Burning Man, the weeklong arts festival in the Nevada desert. But unlike Burning Man, which marked its 28th year last month, this festival called Lightning in a Bottle offers paid lecturers, headlining music acts like Moby, and V.I.P. packages with deluxe tents and fresh linens for $2,500.
“L.I.B. is one of the pinnacle festivals of West Coast conscious culture,” said Mr. Weiseth, using shorthand for Lightning in a Bottle, among a new type of gathering called “transformational festivals.” They could be described as the slightly smaller, psychedelic-art-and-electronic-dance-music-centered, commercialized progeny of Burning Man.
“It is the ultimate convergence of visionary art, electronic music, yoga, spirituality, nutrition, fashion and dance-culture, where people gather who appreciate both nature and spiritual consciousness, and who want to co-create an unpretentious dance party in celebration of sacred art and community,” added Mr. Weiseth, who attends dozens of similar festivals a year, where he sells handmade pinecone necklaces for upward of $360 under his lifestyle business, Third Eye Pinecones.
Held over four days in May and billed as a “heart and mind expanding oasis,” Lightning in a Bottle, in its ninth year, drew 15,000 participants, one of the largest and more influential of these festivals.
Such festivals have spread beyond their West Coast stronghold and now take place year-round throughout the United States, as well as Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America. They are an amalgamation of several cultural forces: the rise of electronic dance music, the maturing of the rave culture, the popularity of TED-like talks, the mainstreaming of yoga, and the YOLO spirit of festivalgoers who spread the word on social media.
Unlike more mainstream music gatherings like Coachella and Lollapalooza (with their focus on pop music, celebrities, alcohol and fashion brands), transformational festivals embrace feel-good values like ecological sustainability, organic food, community building and wisdom sharing. With names like Beloved and Wanderlust, Envision and Lucidity, these festivals seem like bastions of the nouveau hippie, grandchildren-of-the-Woodstock generation. And, to a certain extent, they are.
At Archaic Revival, held June 6 in a plantation outside of Houston, revelers spent three days dancing (including a form called “Flowetry in Motion”), meditating at sunrise in a drug-and-alcohol-free zone. At Costa Rica’s Envision Festival, held last February in beachfront jungles, participants covered themselves in “healing mud,” chose among two dozen yoga instructors and bathed in bamboo showers with filtered water.
“This is not a retro-nostalgic Woodstock,” said Jeet-Kei Leung, 44, a documentary filmmaker from Vancouver, British Columbia, who has chronicled this scene in a web series called “The Bloom,” as well as in a 2010 TEDx talk. “This is a forward-thinking culture that is embracing social entrepreneurship, permaculture, spirituality, self-actualization and conscious living.”
It was the first day of Lightning in a Bottle, a blisteringly hot Thursday with temperatures over 95 degrees. A yellow school bus and trailer drove to the far end of the San Antonio Recreation Area, a lakeside camping ground in central California, and dropped off mounds of gear and festivalgoers, some in elaborate costumes.
Three men in animal-shaped onesies (a giraffe, a red bull and a white cartoonish character) inquired whether there was any chicken to eat. (There was not: It is officially a pescatarian festival.)
Attendees, clutching their still-charged iPhones, pored over the schedule. There would be countless opportunities to dance, do yoga, see art, sit in workshops, watch performances, listen to speakers and meet like-minded truth seekers.
Moby, Phantogram and the avant-garde circus troupe Lucent Dossier shared the five stages with acts like the Polish Ambassador and the Earth Harp. There were poets, Ayurvedic yogis, West African drummers, gong masters, professional hula hoopers and essential oil “wizards.”
For those seeking a more mind-expanding experience, there were more than 100 workshops and talks on topics like organic food (“Seitan for the Masses”), plant medicine (“Reishi Mushroom & Spiritual Consciousness”), gender studies (“The Art of Healthy Feminine Leadership”) and sex (“Tantric Lap Dance Workshop”).
Among the first-timers was Alicia Henry, 27, a model and actress from Los Angeles. She was lying under a tree on what is called Meditation Mountain, wearing a flower crown, a bindi, velvet olive floral fringe kimono and Minnetonka boots.
Accompanied by a group of friends from Venice, Calif., she had prepared for the festival by repeating her mantra, “Heart open, mind open.” She came to Lightning in a Bottle in search of a “magical, sacred experience,” she said.
That language of neo-spirituality and personal growth is common.
“This is a safe space — a space free of judgment, criticism, punishment,” said the effervescent Dream Rockwell, a festival founder, who was standing backstage while a man played a didgeridoo, an ancient Australian instrument. “Creativity is accepted in all forms. ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’ obviously does not apply here.”
These festivals, after all, are billed as more than just a dance party in the woods.
“People are transformed every year,” said Jesse Flemming, another founder. “Their minds are completely blown by how nice people are to each other. They think, ‘If 15,000 people can be like this here, why can’t we be like this at home, instead of being mean.’ ” It may sound hippie, Mr. Flemming said, “but the world needs a little more of that,” adding, “Maybe with a little less tie-dye and patchouli.”
Maura Malini Hoffman, 49, a former Procter & Gamble executive who now gives spiritual talks at festivals, put it this way: “Transformation is about realizing there’s more to life than making money, having a good job, fame and fortune. People go to these and they’re never the same. They don’t just go back to eating McDonalds and watching TV.”
Even here, consumerist pressures exist. This year, organizers offered a luxury EZ Camping option. The $2,500 packages, which included a prefab tent, plush bed, cooler, private restrooms, power outlets and a “skinny mirror,” were sold out.
One of the luxury tents went to Misty Meeler, 29, an interior design assistant from Houston, who came with her 37-year-old sister. Ms. Meeler wore a gold headdress, rainbow bikini, a leather utility belt and purple leg warmers. Speaking through a heart-shaped dust mask, she explained that Coachella was too “Hollywood see-and-be-seen” for her taste. This festival, she said, “has a hippie scene that makes the whole experience better, whether you’re looking to eat healthy, live clean, meditate, yoga or want to party the whole four days with no sleep.”
By 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, an air of exhausted bliss had settled across the 250-acre festival site, and a small crowd had gathered at Amore’s Casino, a burlesque club set up in the middle of the festival.
The crowd included James Oroc, a writer from New Orleans, who was waxing philosophical. Best known for his psychedelic tome, “Tryptamine Palace,” he is an outspoken and sometimes cantankerous critic of festival culture.
At 6-foot-2, he cut an imposing figure, wearing a gunmetal fur robe, gold shoulder pads over a pinstripe suit, leather top hat and huge fossilized shark’s tooth necklace. A veteran of Burning Man, Mr. Oroc hadn’t been to this festival in a while and wanted to check in, he said. His verdict? The crowd was “very hip, very beautiful,” he said, though he was concerned that the festival had become too “fashion” and “very L.A.”
“You get a lot of Burners who haven’t actually been to Burning Man,” he said. “They just have the clothes.”