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Tales of the Desert Carnies of Burning Man



An essential Burning Man origin story, BUILT TO BURN chronicles the wild uncertainty and creative chaos of the early days in the Black Rock Desert, when the event's future was under constant threat and the organizers were making everything up as they went along.
It's a tale of struggle and survival, of friends made and friends lost, as Coyote and his misfit crew battle raging storms, crazed livestock, angry townsfolk and each other, locking horns with the real-life cowboys, Indians, outlaws and outcasts of Nevada's high desert frontier. 


BUILT TO BURN tells the story of how Tony, a San Francisco blues musician, became Coyote, builder of Burning Man’s legendary city in the desert, and how he came to lead a ragtag band of circus runaways, freaks and geeks that would become its Department of Public Works. 


In 1996, Tony was making a decent living as a musician, but his creative juices had run dry: one night onstage, he realized he’d just played an entire sax solo while thinking about his laundry. So when a wild-at-heart friend invites him to something called “Burning Man,” he grabs his backpack and hops in the car, unaware that the experience ahead will not only turn him inside out, but alter the course of his life. 


Told with wry humor and a bit of cowboy philosophy, BUILT TO BURN invites the reader to experience Burning Man as it was before it got civilized, when it was as wild and untamed as anything out of the Old West.

Published by Burning Man Project


...went down so good, like a frothy margarita guzzled from a cracked Tiki mug in the middle of a long hot dusty day.

-Erik Davis
Author, High Weirdness

Tony Perez, a man of uncommon parts, is a born storyteller with an epic tale to tell. However you think you know Burning Man—as a believer or a skeptic—Built to Burn will recalibrate your compass. 

-Neil Shister
Author, Radical Ritual: How Burning Man Changed the World

Raucous, outlandish, and riveting, Tony "Coyote" spins a yarn that could only have really happened at Burning Man.

-Jennifer Raiser
Author, Burning Man: Art on Fire

A must-read for burners and burner curious alike as it captures the birth and struggle of our community in the desert.

-Chip Conley
Author and Founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and Fest 500


Despite my brother (Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey)'s renown as “the spark,” Burning Man has never been a top-down phenomenon. At its deepest core, Burning Man is built upon the toil and sweat of a thousand often unacknowledged souls sweltering in the dust and sun to create something greater than themselves. At the center of that effort is a dedicated gang of rowdy reprobates known as the DPW (Department of Public Works). At the center of the center is Tony Coyote.

Recreating something from nothing requires a volatile mix of incredibly hard work and high octane spirits. In the process, they formed a community of rowdy builders who muscled, blundered, and cavorted their way to ragged glory. Without them, there would be no Black Rock City. These are Tony’s tales of that glory. Some are tall, others taller, but they all manifest a sacred truth: nothing legendary is achieved easily or without an abundance of laughter.

-Stewart Harvey
Author/Photographer, Playa Fire: Spirit and Soul at Burning Man

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