I went to Burning Man a few weeks ago. It was the singular most incredible experience of my life. While I’d love to go again, I don’t actually need to go – it was quite sufficient as the Great Big Pivotal Moment in Mark’s Life.
I’m grateful to my colleagues last week for letting me land back into work gently. It’s strange to return to any “normal” life after Burning Man, even if “normal” is living in a summer house, overlooking a canal, 3 minutes walk from your office in Amsterdam, one of the most creative and interesting cities in the world. To be honest, I think it’s helped. Burning Man is of a scale and density very similar to Amsterdam. The layout’s similar too (U-shaped ring of streets). Except there aren’t any canals in the Black Rock desert. It’s hardly stopped raining since I got back to Holland, which I think is somebody trying to make a point. And everyone gets around on bikes.
And Amsterdam has Albert Heijn, which you don’t get at Burning Man.
I’m not sure how to explain the experience, really, so I’m going to start by listing out my Burning Man Spotify playlist, which I compiled a week before in London. I played it in the car as we drove north from Reno into the desert proper, with my friends Beth Whiteside and James Byous. It was a brilliant moment that I’ll never forget and set in train so much discussion about other music between us through the week.
The Journey to Burning Man playlist (it’s online here too)
1. “The Rolling People.” The Verve, off Urban Hymns
2. “Circle of Life.” Elton John
3. “The Winner Takes It All.” Abba, off Super Trouper
4. “Tosca: Vissi d’arte.” Maria Callas / Georges Pretre, Orchestre De La Société des Concerts
5. “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” Nina Simone
6. “Flash.” Queen
7. “Discreet Music.” Brian Eno
8. “Sweet Bitter Love – Demo.” Aretha Franklin, off “Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul”
9. “Twisted Tenderness.” Electronic
10. “There Must Be An Angel Playing With My Heart.” Eurythmics
11. “(There is) No Greater Love.” Amy Winehouse
12. “Eagle.” Abba, off The Album
13. “Burn My Shadow – Radio Slave Remix.” UNKLE, featuring Ian Astbury
14. “Leave Right Now.” Will Young, off Friday’s Child.
15. “Holiday Inn.” Elton John, off Madman Across the Water
16. “Gianni Schicchi: O Mio Babbino Caro.” Maria Callas
17. “Music.” John Miles
Bonus Tracks (added later)
18. “Head over Heels.” Tears for Fears
19. “Your Song (From the Rehearsal Montage Scene).” Craig Armstrong, off Moulin Rouge 2
Posted on 16 September 2013. (Photo. Fuelling up in the Castro, San Francisco, as we head out of town. James posing with pump. Me returning from arguing with cashier – “there’s no trust in this country”.)