Burning Man 1991

The experience at 1990 was positive, with Larry Harvey and most participants vowing to return for labor day weekend, 1991. The Cacophony Society again was heavily involved, advertising the event to its members, and helping spread news via word of mouth. Around 250 participants showed up this year, although the early year head counts are pretty speculative.

While Burning Man had received some press attention in 1989 and 1990 for the Baker Beach burns, in 1991 it received a major boost. The Capp Street Project provided Burning Man a grant to do an installation of the man on a barge at Fort Mason in San Francisco (the raising of the man is captured in this very poor quality video). This event helped break the news of Burning Man outside of the limited circle of people who were in some way connect to the Baker Beach Burns or the Cacophony Society.

The look and feel of the 1991 event was fairly close to the 1990 gathering. The crowd was larger, but the days were still mainly spent talking, driving on the playa or visiting the local hot springs. There were some guns, as in the prior year. One RV returned. The yellow Ryder truck that carried the man was back too. The biggest aesthetic change was John Law’s addition of Neon to the Man. which was still being constructed under Dan Miller’s lead.

The Man was ignited by two fire twirlers: Nell Friedman and Teresa Dynaberg. They were circus performers with Make-A-Circus and friends of John Law.

Year two, the Man was lit by literally the first fire-twirlers at Burning Man if not in this era’s Western festival world, in its present “modern tribal” incarnation anyway.

“It wasn’t a thing yet,” John Law says, “when these two women lit the Man on fire that way. Their names are Nell Friedman and Teresa Dynaberg. They were circus performers with Make-A-Circus and friends of mine. ‘We wanna do something!,’ they said. So they made things to twirl fire with and they twirled fire.”

“Year three,” Law says, “Bobby Gellman and his girlfriend both lit the Man by shooting burning arrows into him. Gellman was the second drummer at Burning Man after Dean Gustavsson the first year. They had full drum kits. There were no bongos yet.”


1991 flyer.jpg