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Techies storm Texas and Mexico for crazy eclipse parties

An illustration of old buses in a desert under a blacked-out sun, with people cheering on top.
Source: AI illustration by Jesse Rogala/The Standard

Bill Perkins was searching across the country for a translucent tent. The founder and managing partner of Houston-based Skylar Capital and author of the book Die With Zero was just days away from hosting 200 people at his lake house in Austin to celebrate Monday’s full solar eclipse.

The problem: The forecast called for thunderstorms, and most of the clear tents in the vicinity had already been spoken for. 

But not even rain and lightning could dampen Perkins’ extravagant ’70s “celestial themed” blowout, featuring a petting zoo, astronomy lessons, high-quality telescopes and live performances from Sofi Tukker, OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder and rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def). 

“I’m always looking for a reason to throw a party,” Perkins said. “[The eclipse is] one of those things that reminds us that we’re on a small blue ball, with a sun, spiraling through space.”

Perkins is just one of a galaxy of tech investors, executives, employees and founders looking to party in the path of totality, which stretches in a 115-mile-wide band from the Newfoundland coast to northern Mexico. For these eclipse hunters, the rare astronomical event is also just another excuse to throw massive, Burning Man-adjacent festivals or private themed parties. 

Sheel Mohnot, general partner at Better Tomorrow Ventures, is heading from San Francisco to his friend’s ranch outside Dallas, where 45 people, many from his Burning Man camp, Camp Glenn Jones, will gather for the eclipse. 

The group is staying for three days—mostly to avoid traffic on eclipse day—and camping in tents or RVs on the property. They’re bringing in extra bathrooms (smart, given the current port-a-potty shortage in Austin), cooking and peering through high-tech binoculars. In the case of rain, Mohnot and his cohort found a spot about three hours away from the ranch that they’re willing to drive to in order to catch the eclipse. 

Mohnot concedes he’s not entirely clear on what the endeavor entails. “If I'm being honest, I don't really get it,” he said. “So, what happens? It just becomes night for a few minutes in the middle of the day? Sounds like, OK, not that big of a deal.” 

'We're all nerds here'

Aziz Gilani, a Houston-based managing director at venture capital firm Mercury Fund, said that there seems to be more Californians than cattle in Texas this week. “I’m having dinner with someone from California every night, starting last night, up until Saturday when I’m driving out to Central Texas,” he said.  “It’s like a mini South by Southwest.” 

With its location closer to the center of the path of totality, Texas Hill Country seems to be the hot spot to watch the eclipse (provided the weather holds up). Joshua Baer, the founder and CEO of venture investor Capital Factory, is hosting a 200-person event for friends, founders and investors at a mountain bike park in Marble Falls, Texas. Famed computer scientist, physicist and mathematician Stephen Wolfram is speaking, and as a surprise, Baer and his team hired skydivers, carrying American flags, to jump out of their planes right at the end of totality. 

Gilani, meanwhile, is headed to Chevron exec Kinan Romman’s 315-acre ranch near Camp Wood, Texas. Gilani said they have “a bajillion people coming over” including a group of SpaceX employees based in Los Angeles and Boca Chica and a group from the European Space Agency who are bringing some “advanced scientific instruments.”

“It's a fun time and excuse to hang out with friends and play with overpriced scientific equipment,” he said. “We're all nerds here, so that’s what we like to do.” 

‘A bit of a mini-Burning Man’

Though some eclipse tourists are sticking to friends’ events and ranches, others were trekking to massive concerts and festivals, held in the path of totality. There’s a Vampire Weekend concert in Austin, where the band will play through the eclipse.

And, in Burnet, Texas, about 90 minutes outside of Austin, the Texas Eclipse Festival was supposed to run through Tuesday, featuring concerts, art installations, astronaut talks, “yoga, movement and mindfulness.” However, organizers said Monday they were ending the festival early due to expected severe weather.

Jenefer Palmer, the founder of skincare brand Osea, was headed to the Burnet festival, with her husband, son, daughter and daughter-in-law. After the festivities, they were going to sleep on-site in an Airstream Sunday night and catch the eclipse on Monday. 

“I think it’s going to be a bit of a mini Burning Man, but instead of burning the man, we get a full solar eclipse of four minutes and 20 seconds,” she said. “Kind of mind-blowing.” 

Not everyone is staying domestic for the event. One of the most elaborate happenings is down in Mazatlan, Mexico (also on the path of totality), where California Burners and bohemians are gathering to listen to DJs, meditate and party. The Eclipse Experience is a four-night festival run by Insider Expeditions, a travel company that previously hosted an Antarctica trip with Diplo. 

The trip starts at $1,000 per person and includes hotel rooms—there’s an option to add on flights to and from Los Angeles on the Eclipse Experience’s charter jet. Activities include qigong, sound healing, a comedy show and many dance parties. “I’m just very excited to create some music and some vibes for everyone who’s going to this experience down there,” said Julia Sandstorm, a DJ based in Los Angeles and Ibiza who’s performing at the event. 

Similar to Texas, the Mazatlan weather forecast also includes a chance of clouds. But even the jacked-up flight and hotel prices and the looming threat of rain and paralyzing traffic jams can’t stop eclipse-watchers from feeling excited about the chance to celebrate a truly cosmic event. 

“It’s going to be kind of like a zombie movie or something,” Mohnot said. “Our plans are in flux, but we’re going to try to chase the sun.”