John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
Nudity, shrooms, the worship of “decommodification”—it’s all here in song.
You might think you’re safe from Burning Man in Brooklyn. But then, out of frickin’ nowhere, a half-nude, goggles-wearing man rounds a corner belting out “Oh I want to seize the day with Eric Schmidt, Larry, and Sergey/When I get to Black Rock City I’ma party with Elon and Diddy!”
Yes folks, some nightmares do come true. That is the opening scene of “Burning Man: The Musical,” an in-development saga that “celebrates the ecstasy and agony of Burning Man, an annual festival of community, self-expression, and radical self-reliance in the desert of Nevada.” Producer Matthew Werner and his New York-based crew have released the first song on YouTube; if their Indiegogo funding comes through, they hope to make two more numbers and eventually a full-length extravaganza.
The protagonist is the ambitious techie "Joe” who wants to leverage the festival’s social connects for his personal advancement. There’s also “Sparkle Pony,” a loopy Burner and love interest; “David,” Joe’s best friend who fears being the lone black dude at Burning Man; and “Hal the Hippie,” a “Yoda-like character” whose mind is scrambled from years of LSD.
Here’s the plot synopsis from the musical’s website:
Joe is a young, driven techie in Silicon Valley. He sees Burning Man as his shot to network with Silicon Valley elites who can jumpstart his career and help him achieve his lifelong goal of becoming a multimillionaire by age 30. He crashes a techie plug-and-play camp at Burning Man. Chad and Bill the Billionaire recommend he go on a vision quest by taking mushrooms and going into the deep playa. A dust storm comes when Joe reaches the trash fence, and he nearly dies from dehydration and exposure. Hal the Hippie comes out of the dust storm to rescue him, and like Yoda, he takes Joe under his wing to train him in the ways of Burning Man.
In the second half of the musical, Joe wrestles with several questions. Will he continue making his drone-delivery app to profit off of this festival centered around decommodification? Or will he change course, now that he's seen a different way to live? Will Sparkle Pony return his unrequited infatuation? Or will Catherine turn away from her father Bill the Billionaire to join Joe on a new adventure? Will Joe make it out of the desert alive? Or will his blind ambition and naive want to profit off of Burning Man do him in?