The long-running "Daft Punk at the Trash Fence" prank at Burning Man has mutated into something entirely different.
At this year's event, thousands flocked to a location in Black Rock City—a camp called "Dusty Throwdown"—after reading an advertisement submitted to the Rockstar Librarian Music Guide. The ad promoted performances from RÜFÜS DU SOL, Kerala Dust and an unheralded musical act called Persephone, who were said to be playing on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.
But they found no camp under that name—and none of the artists. It was a hoax.
Kerala Dust had heard about the fake ad in advance and tried to dispel the rumors over social media, but it was too late.
Perhaps the Librarian herself—who publishes the guide in which people voluntarily submit—was in on the ruse. She marked the camp as one of her recommendations in the 41-page guide of camps, artists and art cars.
The fracas that unfolded turned back the clock to 2009, when a cloak-and-dagger "Daft Punk event" became the stuff of Burning Man legend.
2009 Daft Punk incident
In 2009, a small themed camp wanted to throw a second annual party playing music by Daft Punk and Kraftwerk to pay homage to the legendary electronic music groups. The previous year, the hosts listed their party as "Kraftwerk/Daft Punk." The next year, they changed their listing to "Daft Punk/Kraftwerk," and mayhem ensued.
Hundreds of people showed up convinced that Daft Punk would be playing in their 750-square foot tent. The crowd blocked streets in four directions and wouldn’t disperse, even though they were shouting on bullhorns that "Daft Punk isn’t here."
The story has since been ironed into Burning Man lore.
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Legend of "Daft Punk at the Trash Fence" prank
After the "Daft Punk/Kraftwerk" incident, Burners started spreading rumors that "Daft Punk is playing at the Trash Fence." Many over the years have even dressed up as Daft Punk at the trash fence to fuel the rumor.
Over time, this story has morphed into a cultural narrative of sorts, cautioning people not to trust every guide. It mocks DJ chasers who are willing to risk their entire Burn racing to events and throwing caution to the wind by robbing themselves of natural discovery on the playa.
In 2017, SkiiTour and Rumpus donned the robots' helmets for a "legendary performance" at Burning Man, making many believe that Daft Punk indeed showed up.
EDM.com was planning to report on the origins of the "Daft Punk at the Trash Fence" phenomenon after this year's burn to see if it stood the test of time. We were curious to find out if the prank was still alive after the agonizing release of Daft Punk's cinematic "Epilogue" video in 2021, when they revealed their shocking retirement by imploding themselves on the playa.
But we never expected to hear the prank would be revitalized by an intentional mastermind determined to keep the ruse and narrative alive—this time with new talent.
RÜFÜS DU SOL event prank – Burning Man 2022
While the origins of the Daft Punk prank are reported to be unintentional, this year’s caper involving RÜFÜS DU SOL quite the opposite. Matt Mihaly, a 50-year-old video game designer from Novato who goes by the pseudonym "Dr. Yes," is taking full credit.
"I could tell you I'm sorry, but do you really want me to lie to you?" reads Mihaly's confessional. Watching thousands of burners fall for my prank was the absolute peak of my Burning Man experience this year!"
"I did it because pranks, shenanigans, and fuckery that don't hurt anyone are some of my favorite parts about Burning Man, and I saw an opportunity to create a prank that a lot of people could be part of, if unknowingly in the moment," he continues.
The moral of the story? Always remember there are no definitive guides to Burning Man. That’s the beauty of the Burn.