The Burning Man Festival may have been born as a pagan celebration on a San Francisco beach 25 years ago, but it has turned into something akin to a counter-culture brand name. It takes an act like The Mutaytor to show those who’ve never been there the kind of wildly innovative art that can emerge from Burning Man’s untamed universe.
Born out of Burning Man a decade ago, The Mutaytor has recorded three albums of trippy, funkified art-rock, including 2008’s Yelling Theatre in a Crowded Fire, and is working on a fourth, tentatively titled Unconditional Love—but it’s not just a music group. The 11-piece Los Angeles-based band travels with 15 physical performance artists, including dancers, fire-spinners and aerialists—but it’s not exactly a circus. Performances often include video-screen displays and pyrotechnics—but it’s more than just a concert stage-show. So what the hell is it, exactly?
If anything, The Mutaytor just might be a traveling microcosm of the world that appears and disappears every Labor Day weekend in Black Rock City. An often interactive combination of music, performance and visual art, it’s made up of people who came together basically as a makeshift pick-up group inspired by Burning Man’s anything-is-possible aesthetic. As Mutaytor vocalist Buck Down told the San Francisco Bay Guardian earlier this year, “We became a very tangible and recognizable part of that culture. … What we were able to do is provide that vibe.”
If you’ve never been to Burning Man itself, here’s your chance to catch that vibe—unless you’re afraid you might like it.