Building Wo-man 2023: A Sustainable Festival Rooted in Community • Volume

Written by: Shay Coulson

Building Wo-man 2023: A Sustainable Festival Rooted in Community

Choosing to attend this year’s Building Man in Green River was more of a calling than a decision. Something drew me toward the event – and now I see why. I left with an entirely new crew of like-minded souls that I’m deeply proud to now call family. Building Man is more than just a sustainable arts festival powered by solar and wind; it’s a collective, healing event with all hands on deck towards a similar goal: building community.

I arrived around 1:30 pm on Thursday afternoon. The wind was picking up momentum as campers settled into their chosen spots. I picked a view of the overarching canyon paired with a group of colorful buses straight ahead. My initial sensation was one of acceptance and welcoming energy. Everyone stopped to smile and say hello, and it was common to hear a “howdy, neighbor!” as I set up camp. I came into the weekend with the intention of speaking my truth and allowing myself to be seen. It’s a rewarding yet uncomfortable feeling to travel to a festival by yourself with the intention of taking up space, but discomfort is the key to growth. Besides my set intentions, I had little expectations of the weekend ahead. I simply came to discover, connect and play in the desert!

As I curiously wandered the playa, I discovered sights of scrap metal, recycled sculptures, highway signs, bowling balls, school desks – you name it. The possibilities are endless here. It’s a create-your-own adventure in which you can actively participate in the building of the event. Whether it’s drilling together a pop-up tattoo studio or holding a ladder for someone to string lights, any helping hand is useful and celebrated. Stages and tents popped up before my eyes. Pieces came together to form beautiful art structures, flamethrowers and lounge areas. I’d never witnessed such remarkable teamwork in my life. 

Day 2 arrived after a formidably windy night. I awoke to the pleasant sight of my camp gear strapped down to my car. A stranger had taken the time to once again lend a helping hand in securing my gear as I slept. “An angel,” I thought to myself. 

I had a buzzing, high energy about today. The musical acts were due to kick off by evening and workshops were already in progress. An old friend of mine passed by and kindly invited me to join his camp called Wasteland Caravan. I was familiar with the community, who identify as “a radically inventive group of multi-faceted creatives who offer inspiration for how to thrive in this modern dystopian world”. Bingo. An immediate resonance washed over my entire being. I felt at home. 

Now under Wasteland Caravan’s supportive wing, we collectively danced to some seriously impressive musical acts, including Redfoot and Handsome Tiger – but my favorite act of the night? Alec Bang & the Cult Classics. They gave a sensual, riveting, raw performance which had the entire crowd on their knees by the end of it (literally). I traveled from the main stage to the Solar Saucer, an upcycled stage on wheels created from bits salvaged from All Star Weekend. There, I baptized my ears with trance, dubstep and electronic beats as the sun set for the evening.

Day 3 opened up with an invigorating three-part workshop consisting of a lovely cacao offering from Tkayah Bell, an ecstatic dance journey led by Hatama and a cleansing sound bath from Charissa-Joy. In the distance, a dome made entirely of hemp, called a hemp crete, was being built as festival-goers got hard to work. Live paintings by artists Vita, Trevor Dahl and Kuya Allen came to life. Shopping at Steeze Town – a pop-up clothing boutique – was a main attraction. A more intimate stage named Sol Lun housed cuddle sessions and dynamic performers such as The Backyard Revival and Unholy Ghosts. Building Man was in full swing.

I danced front and center to yet another notable act, Regular Ass Dude, who fulfilled my yearning desire for a taste of hip-hop. In the midst of all this beautiful chaos, nothing could have prepared me for headliner, Dirtwire. Attracting the largest crowd of the weekend, their versatile act provided a show-stopping performance that left everyone wanting more. I spent the performance dancing atop an LED-lit cube with my friends, which I deemed as a perfect core memory. 

My weekend wrapped up inside a limo which was restructured as a dancing stage. Conversations of the importance of community, vulnerability and mentorship flowed. As the sun rose above the horizon, we celebrated a new day along with surviving an epic weekend consisting of phenomenal music, talented artistry and deep connections.

Huge thank to Jenkstars for organizing this radical event, and to all the artists and soulful human beings who added to the curation of the magic!

Follow and @jenkstars on Instagram to feel the joy.

Mentioned artists (via Instagram):








Alec Bang & the Cult Classics: @bangalec @dirkl31 @trevordahhhl @bake_jarrett

Cacao: @tkayahbell

Ecstatic Dance:

Sound Bath: @isa.ofone

Live Painters: @vitarising @trevordahhhl @kuya.allen

Steeze Town Clothing: @sweetoliveshop @pink.flamingo.mercantile