A former floor trader shares sights—and insights—from his 15th visit to The Playa

By Alan Matthew

Burning Man, which bills itself as “the place to find out who you are and then take it a step further,” showcases human ingenuity and inspiration for nine days each year.Thousands of volunteers fuel “The Burn” by building and maintaining backdrops for the global event. This year, the volunteers dazzled attendees with 600 mutant vehicles and 400 art installations. To quote founder Larry Harvey, “Out of Nothing, Everything.”

This was my 15th year attending. My “virgin guest” was a Peruvian shaman with whom I have worked with for 25 years. We have experienced ayahuasca hundreds of times together in the Amazon. Overwhelmed by the multitude of people and profusion of art, he slept for two days after the event.

As always, standout art installations, such as “Monumental Mammouth,”mesmerized the crowd. My favorite mutant vehicle, “The Mayan Warrior,” is a multi-million-dollar jalopy with a 70,000 watt sound system and a series of Las Vegas-like lasers. I also photographed the dragon art car “Heavy Meta” and “Wet Pussy,” a mobile feline bathtub. 

Alan Matthew, former floor trader, is CEO of the venture capital firm Tribal Ventures, LLC

The Burning Man community gathered for the first time in 1986 and has grown into a mind-blowing temporary city of 70,000 revelers in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. It’s an annual mecca for artists, cultural iconoclasts and
Silicon Valley icons.