Has Burning Man sold out? As most such mega-events do, this one began quite simply, as a San Francisco beach party thrown by Larry Harvey and a handful of friends in 1986. Since then, the party has grown to include some 25,000 attendees. "Some people lament its passing as an underground event, but it never was," said Harvey in a recent phone interview. "It was just obscure."
Harvey denies the sellout charge. He points to the fact that Burning Man doesn't accept sponsorships or license the image for sale, and he draws a firm line between commerce (as in the $125-and-up tickets) and commodification. And in Harvey's experience, those who say the event has gone mainstream usually haven't been there. "If they came, of course, they'd see it couldn't possibly be mainstream," he says. "They'd be really surprised at how much weirdness there is in normal people."
From the July 26-August 1, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.