Death Guild Thunderdome was originally established in 1999 as a Theme Camp at Burning Man in the Nevada Black Rock Desert. It grew out of one of the longest running gothic night clubs, Death Guild in San Francisco, and was intended to “provide a place for some good music” at the Burning Man event, primarily as an alternative to the rave culture at the time. Taking its cue from the famous Mad Max series of post-apocalyptic films, Death Guild Thunderdome erects a geodesic dome as an arena for “fights” to take place, hangs bungees from the top with harnesses for participants to be strapped into, and provides foam sword “weapons” to each “fighter.” Participants swing through the Dome, pummeling each other while the music blares and camp members provide a post-apocalyptic ambiance and theatrical experience.

For over twenty years, Death Guild Thunderdome has attended Burning Man and more recently has also become a feature of the Wasteland Weekend event in California’s Mojave Desert. Death Guild Thunderdome occasionally puts on “fights” at events like Knotfest in Burbank and Ghostship in San Francisco.

The members of Death Guild Thunderdome are a diverse crew with occupations varying from doctors to mechanics, filmmakers to scientists, dancers to tech-industry executives, who all come together to create a shared art experience through the Thunderdome and its associated performance art. Although originally started in the San Francisco Bay Area, members now also hail from Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, and as far away as London, England.

The Rules for participation in Death Guild Thunderdome are simple.

  1. Bring your own opponent, we will not provide one for you.
  2. Fights last as long as we say.
  3. We are always right.
  4. Don’t bitch.
  5. And when the sign goes on, come line up to fight.

Night photograph of the exterior of the Thunderdome with lights on and spectators on the dome exterior.