Much like the city in which it was originally founded, the annual Burning Man festival has gentrified, and its wealthier attendees have been criticised for building walled-off compounds and bringing private chefs in the name of comfort. That's why a group of longtime Burners who also happen to be tech company millionaires decided to break off and start their own festival. The Guardian's Nellie Bowles takes us inside Further Future, a "Burning Man for the 1%", which just wrapped up its second annual gathering in the desert outside Las Vegas. (In what I suppose is a much nicer part of the barren Nevada desert.) The website makes it clear that it is different from that other place: "We are not that impossible, wonderful city on the Playa. We are not looking anywhere but forwards. We are not going to tell you who to be." And in the FAQ there is a pointed prohibition of nudity. It's also much smaller: About 5000 people paid at least $US350 ($457) per person for tickets — which did not include the $US250 ($326)-seat dinner the first night — among them Alphabet's CEO Eric Schmidt, who is kind of like the festival's mascot.
— Further Future (@further_future) May 2, 2016
What kind of luxuries might one find at Further Future? Here are examples from Bowles' too-perfect-to-be-true story.
The lodging: "No request is ever unattainable"
Party planners at Burning Man are careful to hide their luxury dwellings behind large walls dressed as art projects, but Further Future had no such pretension. Behind a chainlink fence was the VIP neighbourhood with airstreams ($5,000 [$AU6530]) and Lunar Palaces ($7,500 [$AU9794]) — 200 sq ft, 9ft high, custom-made luxury domes with wooden flooring and furnished to sleep four. These included something called an entourage concierge: "a personal, dedicated lifestyle manager and assistant ready to help you with any requirements or desires you may have. No request is ever unattainable."
The attire: Steampunk futurism
The aesthetic of the festival was "steampunk futurism" (latex underwear, fur coats, platform boots, metal headpieces). [Festival runner Russell] Ward was wearing a Hawaiian tank top, clear Gucci sunglasses, and a silver coated bobcat claw on a chain. "Burning Man, and we have great reverence for Burning Man, but there's always an element of arduousness. Here, we have spa treatments and green juice," he said. "There's already enough in life that's tough."
The diversions: Lavender lattes
In the Wellness Tent, there's a fitness class with people jumping up and down in unison. Nearby one woman advertises psychiatric services as: "tools and technology broken down for busy professionals." Another advertises "smudgie aura cleansing". To the side of the main wellness stage, a man is getting a transfusion in his arm from a bright yellow bag of fluid (a litre of saline and vitamins called Push IV). The patient reclines half asleep until someone accidentally knocks the bag over, jolting the needle in his arm.
An espresso line stretches 45 minutes long for lavender lattes.
The vibe: Don't sweat it
Robert Scott, the 42-year-old co-founder of the festival, said you don't need to sweat to have an epiphany.
"There's a lot of ways to find an epiphany. Being in the desert under hard conditions is one way to bring yourself into a receptive state, I suppose but here, all these things are putting you in the same place gently," he said.
Read the whole incredible account at The Guardian.
Top: Artist's rendering of what Further Future must be like, because we weren't invited. Image: Eyes Wide Shut