Burning Man, the notorious “counter-culture” festival held in the Nevada desert, may be physically cancelled for the second year in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but organisers are determined to make it happen – in cyberspace.
And Friockheim-based oil worker Brent Lawson, who has been described as the dance music industry’s “best kept secret”, is ecstatic to be on the line-up.
Brent runs two underground record labels – Pro B Tech Music and BTechNoir Records.
He describes his own music as progressive house and, while his label Pro B puts out progressive, melodic tracks, his label BTechNoir is a harder techno sound.
“I was asked to create a two-hour live mix, video recorded,” says Brent.
“This will be included in the Burning Man Virtual Festival playing out in the ‘Multiverse’.
“I was hugely honoured and excited when the Celtic Chaos team contacted me and asked if I would be interested, of course, there was no question.”
The “Virtual Burn” has been designed to replicate as much as the annual festival known for its music, art, nudity and sex as possible, complete with the huge traffic jams to get in.
Half a million people are expected to show up virtually for the event over the next few days, as they did for the first Virtual Burn last year.
Brent said creating the mix was one of the hardest things he had ever done, with so much reliance on a combination of “technology, lighting, ‘green screen’, webcam quality, computer spec and OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) systems”.
“I had to ensure no kids or dogs came in mid-set!” he says.
“It’s done and now it’s all about waiting on the real deal next year!”
Brent’s set will be played out “at some stage” between September 3 and 5.
“They’re only announcing sets day by day, so I’m not 100% sure when I’ll be on,” he says. “But it’s pretty exciting.”
Raised on a steady diet of 80s synth music, Brent has always had one foot on the dancefloor.
A clubber first, it was a fateful trip to nearby Arbroath that first opened his mind to the possibilities of electronic music as a DJ.
“I had a love for the electronic sounds created by Jean Michele Jarre and from that point I was drawn into electronic music,” says Brent, who cites the Rhumba Club as a favourite venue from his youth.
“This night has informed so many years of my clubbing history and is responsible for everything that I have done and will do.
“The late 90s were a fertile time for those venturing into DJing.”
And for Brent, gigs came quickly, progressing him up the ladder. But he soon found the pressures of family life meant he needed to concentrate on providing a stable environment for his children.
Now his kids are grown up, Brent is free to refocus on his music and his company Probtech Management, bringing with him the skills of his day job – as a self-employed maintenance planner for the oil industry.
On top of his own work with the Pro B group, Brent has taken on a new role with MOAI Radio Spain as the UK and Ireland consultant.
He is also a director and resident of AATM Radio, Proton Radio Monthly resident, and soon to be taking on a new residency with Beach Radio.
Brent is also making his first forays into the production world with a few releases under his belt, including music with Hernan Cattaneo, Soundexile, Quivver, Blue Amazon and most recently a new released on Balkan Connections.
Burning Man Festival is an annual, nine-day gathering in the Nevada desert.
Despite the fact a virtual alternative is running this year, some die-hard festival-goers known as “Burners” have insisted on a real life event and set up their own unsanctioned Burn in Black Rock City, Nevada.
A spokesman for the event said: “We have had to adapt to the twists and turns of a global crisis, complex public health information, and the growing hope that we can start rebuilding our lives together soon. We have decided to set our sights on Black Rock City 2022.
The online Burning Man gathering, an alternative to the physical event, is about creating an opportunity to glimpse the “future of virtual creativity in action” and describes itself as an immersive means of showcasing art and community on a massive scale without an iota of physical impact.
The virtual experience is free with a requested donation, while the real life annual festival cost $500 per person in the past.
An extended “experience” pass will allow guests to visit the broadcast over and over again for up to 30 days after the virtual festival ends.
In previous years, thousands of camps, pop-up bars and fancy art displays would emerge form the red-dust desert, surrounded by jagged mountains 100 miles northeast of Reno in Black Rock City for a week.
Virtual reality developers have spent a year trying to replicate that scene as they also took advantage of the new technology to give festival-goers an experience they only would have had in past years if they were high on hallucinogens – with flying and teleporting avatars and Porta Potties that lead into a world of art.
They aimed to build a city out of thin air where participants can live in a utopian society that follows the principles of “decommodification” (not needing money to obtain goods and services) and “radical inclusion”.
As in years past, the climax of the week-long festival will be the burning of an effigy on September 4. The site will take place both digitally and in real life at an undisclosed location from where it will be livestreamed to the virtual world.
- Check out burningman.org/event/brc/