Mediation and Neighborly Behavior

This has been a topic that has come up quite often in the community lately in many forms. During a meeting last year at the Red Lightening camp hosted by the Burning Man Theme Camp Organizers admins and Placement where it was a seriously addressed issue by the head of Placement/DMV “Retro” making it clear that sound in the city limits was being taken seriously.

If you know Red Lightening they are a venue with performances and education series usually positioned on the Esplanade and are a relatively quiet, if not busy, camp with a lot of foot traffic. As we held our meetup at 11pm on a Wednesday night the camp next door started playing death metal and we could barely hear each other talking. In the not so far distance we could hear the Mayan Warrior on it’s way out of the city with the trademark drums beating announcing it’s arrival.

The look on Retro’s face was awestruck but he understood campers point of view, as he and a placer who was with him at the time, explained they were working on creating new policies to address those issues.

Within our Queer Burner community there were some issues as well. The new sound policy felt like it was getting it’s legs in 2015 but already in 2016 we can feel the full force of these new policies. In 2015 BAAAHS was placed at 7 & D kitty corner from Camp Conception which both played amplified music. And across from both was Sun Guardians that holds yoga and meditation classes during the day. As mayor of SG I found both BAAAHS and Camp Conception amiable in helping me limit the amplified sound when I went to talk to them about it for our day-time classes.

Yet other neighbors complained for various reasons, but asking two sound entities placed in the city was like asking a cheetah not to run.

In another case that came up, Disco Château was not placed this year because of a sound battle they had with their neighbors AEZ (Alternative Energy Zone) and possibly others in 2015. Not being good neighbors, especially to a long established camp, earned them a serious black mark from Placement.

We can do better and are working to do better. BAAAHS did everything they could to be compliant and tried to meet the needs of officials who gave them feedback. Disco Château on the other hand had some renegades who really ended up digging a deep hole that pulled a few people down with them; forcing a change in leadership for 2016.

stole this from the Facebook post


It is not up to us to confront people over issues that cannot be resolved with a polite neighborly discussion. I found our neighbors helpful from my point of view when I explained we needed the volume down between certain hours in the middle of the day which was pretty reasonable.

If you are not getting a response then seek out a Ranger for conflict mediation. Black Rock City Rangers are trained for that very purpose. When these occurrences happen they are being recorded in a blotter that is reported back to Placement and will / could affect your placement in the coming year.

The old fashion term “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is still the standard. The “Fuck yer Burn” mentality of the past is slowly fading out with troll attitudes and crotchety veteran burners giving way to the flood of festival candy ravers who are flooding into the event.

If Rangers in the field cannot help, then go to the closest Ranger station and make a case for some escalated help calmly and probably with a bottle of booze. There is a strong desire to enforce sound policies this year and going forward that will support you. And if you are the one not complying, then you are inviting unwanted attention.


There was a post in the Burning Man Group that inspired today’s posting (link here) that inspored today’s post. The issues discussed with the named camps above were also issues I was mostly directly/indirectly involved with on some level. We need to have an open dialog with camps in violation of policies so they are not surprised with a denial of Placement the following year. While it may be assumed there should be no surprise, camps need feedback! While we have the benefit of the MOOP map for our cleanliness, we really need a report from Placement / Earth Guardians  or others if there are things we need to improve on.

There is a blacklist that exists that camps and participants do not have access to, nor the feedback necessary to make improvements with, that is a one-sided conversation and is hallmark of a very needed transparency with a department that makes huge decisions. Camps are putting out 10 – 20 – 30 thousand dollars a year to help build the city not to mention the price of a ticket only to be blackballed anonymously by a system rigged against its self.

It is an awful thing to consider. But we have learned to take these things in stride so far and move forward with what we can in spite of the odds. Volunteers make up most of the Burning Man troops and we appreciate their amazing work every year for something so many of us really believe is as close to Utopian ideals as we can imagine.

We all can do better with some effort. Be better humans. Be better neighbors. Be better participants. Be more accessible.

2 thoughts on “Mediation and Neighborly Behavior”

  1. In a follow up to the previously posted article. it seems like Disco Château and AEZ were both unhappy with the way it was written, but the details were confirmed by sources out of both camps. It is my duty to be supportive of our campers and our leaders, but in my capacity on this web site have called out camps in the past where there was controversy.

    The article paints us in a poor light. There were a few villagers that were really bothered by the sound from Disco Chateau. I didn’t complain, I didn’t have issue, I can sleep through most anything. However, they started the earth shaking sound at 3 am. That pissed off quite a few villagers. mostly because we talked to them many times about the late night sound level being way over the top loud. They were patient with excuses like, “its a different DJ tonight”. One villager in particular really got hot about it. Always the same attitude, “it’s Burning Man”. The Rangers kept saying, go talk to them. Basically the Rangers did nothing. Fact is, to register as a theme camp we have to agree to a set of guidelines to get placed. Sound requirements are no more than 90db. That’s the agreement they made to be placed. They violated the agreement. I don’t see it being any clearer than that. I personally feel they had a very cool idea, the camp was awesome, they tried to give a big gift to BRC, but they couldn’t have cared less about the neighbors. It was most likely only a couple people being dicks, but the camp as a whole is responsible for the public interface. It has always worked to meet the neighbors, talk about events we all plan, except this instance. – AEZ representative

    Being able to see ourselves and learn from the mistakes from others is paramount in learning to do better next time. As for Disco Château they have had a change of leadership in order to nip those issues in the past in the bud. We have to mitigate our own damages and according to AEZ the Rangers were not being effective. Talking to each other was not effective.

    In a writeup on Facebook with a camp in a similar situation, the effected camp went to the Ranger Station and pleaded to a Ranger supervisor to intercede.

    Bottom line, Placement is taking this issues seriously and we all have to comply. The difference between what happen (as the original article was written above) BAAAHS and Disco Château is the response of the two camps.

    The feedback from the article is a little one sided because AEZ chose to make a response while Disco Château declined.

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