Now that Burning Man has passed on by and we look back at the week that was, we wanted to find out what makes our favorite daytime celebration on the playa tick. San Francisco-based Pink Mammoth has been providing an incredibly satisfying dance floor for patrons who want to move their feet on the desert dust for the better part of eleven years. That’s nothing to gloss over. Pink Mammoth is known as a beacon for top shelf music and they consistently curate some of the industry’s best performers to help them craft the perfect vibe. There is an unmistakable feeling of warmth and excitement when pulling your bike up to the camp that is hard to find anywhere else. You’re greeted with smiling faces everywhere and everyone’s spirits are high.
The most fascinating aspect about Pink Mammoth is that with the rising notoriety of Burning Man itself as well as it becoming a premier stage for underground performers, they have consistently stayed true to their roots and regularly give to their community back home. They are an important piece in the fabric of the dance culture in San Francisco and should be considered a benchmark for how to do things right. SoundPark sat down with some of the core members (Jonathan Will, Derek Hena, Rob Adelmann and Zach Walker) to discuss what Pink Mammoth means not only during the one week in the desert, but all year round.
Tell us a little bit about Pink Mammoth. Let us give our less knowledgeable readers on you a little crash course Pink Mammoth style. JW: Pink Mammoth is a DJ and arts collective dedicated to providing a unique vibe for unforgettable parties. We say "arts collective," because it's not just the DJs that come together, but also the production team, participants, and fans. Of course, we are most known for our incredible day party that runs weeklong at Burning Man. This will be our tenth year.
So, who is at the creative core? Give us a little info about your backgrounds and how you all came together to make this dream a reality. JW: Telling you how we all came together could fill a novel. We have 12 people at the core, and for sake of space I'll mention a few of them. Derek Hena (who also runs Mighty in San Francisco) and Ryel K. (who now lives in CO and is a big part of what we do there) are co-founders, and resident DJs of Pink Mammoth. There is also Joe Trujillo, who is our BM Camp Director and decor genius; Rose Goldthwait, who graces us with our design; Erin Needham, who heads CO operations; and Annie Willis, who is our General Counsel.
Most active of the SF Pink Mammoth DJs are Rob Adelman (Gravity), Zack Walker, Derek Hena, and myself. Even we have a 'role' helping out behind the scenes. In addition to doing the lineup that shapes our unique sound, marketing and show production: Gravity does our website; I manage the Pink Mammoth Podcast on Soundcloud and Zack helps with a bit of everything; but mostly he keeps us young, connected, and fresh.
I always thought of us like the Wu Tang Clan of house. Okay, maybe not as famous, nor rich. What I mean by this is: we each have different styles... and when we come together for an event or even tagging...it works in this unique synergistic way that is special.
How did Pink Mammoth come about, what drove the founders to curate such a project? Pink Mammoth's roots stem from Pinkys, a former daytime house music camp located at 8:30 and G. Ryel Kestano was camping with Pinkys and met Derek Hena in 2003 while working as ski instructors at Mammoth Mountain. Derek and Ryel instantly connected through their love of house music and producing events. After many years of Pinkys, the founder of the camp decided it was time for him to pass the torch to Derek and Ryel, just as long as they didn't call it "Pinkys." Hence the camp was renamed Pink Mammoth. Ryel and Derek then moved to the Mission District in SF where they set up their headquarters in a converted carriage house with adjoining hayloft. It was there Pink Mammoth hosted many events in this mixed use space including art shows, dinner parties, yoga, poi instruction, and of course the legendary "Barn" parties that sometimes lasted days.
Pink Mammoth found itself growing quickly thereafter, participating in the Love Parade/Lovefest/LovEvolution, Hawaii Electronic Music Festival, Winter Music Conference, and performing at major venues in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nice, Calgary, Boulder, and Denver. Ryel moved to Colorado and with some devoted PM members has helped establish deeper roots with the Burner community. Pink Mammoth's welcoming and uplifting vibe has matured over the past 11 years as participants are given the platform to contribute their talents, skills, and creativity. Its strength stems from fostering people's positivity and love to be a part of something special and unique.
Burning Man has rapidly evolved due to an increase in both popularity and notoriety. How has Pink Mammoth evolved with it? JW: I'd say that PM has evolved in a slow and organic way. We are not trying to be something that we are not. Our goal is not to be the biggest dance party. The vibe is more important to us than anything. There are years that we get bigger or invest in upgrades like Opus sound or a new steel structure, but we still try to keep the feeling intimate.
You put together events both on and off the playa. What are the significant differences in how you manage and produce these dramatically different types of events? JW: Well, for one, our events off the playa have to make money, as a fundraiser, and give it all for free on the playa. It's a huge investment, as you can imagine (open bar, superb sound, steel structure with shading, trucks, gas, storage, latest DJ equipment and about 20 things I'm forgetting) - it all quickly adds up.
Also, at Burning Man, we have the additional complexities of the desert, dust, storms, other strange weather conditions, about 120+ people camping with us, and a huge influx of visitors. That is why we are grateful for people like Joe Trujillo, our Camp Director, and Rose Goldthwait and Annie Willis, who help with placement and volunteers respectively. We simply could not do what we do without their help.
You dream up some impressive fundraisers throughout the year – Can you tell us about some of them and the purpose they serve? JW: The obvious answer is to fundraise. But seriously, on a deeper level, it’s about bringing our vibe, sound and experience, as well as a slice of the playa, to wherever we are throwing a party or performing. That is what makes me excited: bringing a piece of this experience beyond Burning Man, from people who have yet to experience to those who cannot wait.
For example, a big fundraiser we have the Pink Mammoth Boat Party coming up after the burn on September 28th (yes, we start fundraising that early!). We’ll have an all-star lineup of Lee Burridge, Crew Love (Soul Clap, Nick Monaco, Pillow Talk), Deep Blue, PM DJs and a ton of other great talent.
Year to year, you have been known to consistently curate the best line-ups on the playa. What are your stand out sets from last year? JW: Thank you, but you are being too kind; we are one of several camps that have amazing lineups and we constantly get inspired.
My highlights were eight hours of Lee Burridge all day on Sunday. Vivian from BLOND:ISH b2b with Philip from M.A.N.D.Y. (Get Physical) for a sunset set that you never wanted to end. There was also Osunlade, Rob Garza from Thievery Corporation, Eli from Soul Clap…and of course several local 'secret weapons' like Galen, Mikey Lion... the list goes on.
The burn can mean so many different things to different people. What drives you to keep going, year after year? JW: The opportunity to unplug, be with your friends, do art for art sake, and be inspired.