Space Bubble Concerts: The Gig Experience Of The Future?
While many have speculated on what solutions for socially distanced performances may entail, The Flaming Lips have kicked off 2021 with what could be the gig experience of the future – performing a live show to an audience contained by Zorb ‘space bubble’ protective balls.
The Flaming Lips performed in their home state Oklahoma at The Criterion Theater, with the shows including an audience of 100 people. The space was marked out in a square grid for each bubble that was able to contain up to three people. The band also performed in their own individual bubbles, getting into the spirit of the show.
The Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne explained that the show’s format was the next logical step to him in finding a solution to the problem of performing in the pandemic – he has been known to regularly crowd surf in a bubble back in the pre-pandemic times.
Plans and preparations for the shows started taking place last year, however the performances had to be put on hold until 2021 due to rising coronavirus rates in the area.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, the singer said:
“I don’t want anybody to think this is some kind of freak party, it’s a very restricted, weird event. But the weirdness is so we can enjoy a concert before putting our families and everybody at risk. And I think it can actually work, but just not when it’s this serious here. I think it’s a bit of a new normal — you might go to a show, you might not, but I think we’re going to be able to work it out.”
How do the bubbles work?
The bubbles had a number of practical, comfort, and safety provisions inside them to make the experience a safe and enjoyable one – a speaker inside the bubble ensured the sound quality was great for the audience, while drinking water, fans, towels, and written signs to signal to staff were also provided. Masks were worn by all when outside of the bubbles, and the venue even provided leaf blowers to cool down the bubbles of audience members who became too hot.
Putting on the show
Cameraman Nathan Poppe shared his fascinating log on Twitter of how he and the crew prepared and put on the show, which has made waves as a potential live performance solution for further gigs and shows.
This is me. pic.twitter.com/FiIvYDmAkd
— Nathan Poppe (@NathanPoppe) January 23, 2021
Poppe live-tweeted his experience, highlighting the practicalities of the night, but also described seeing “the very first space bubble concert marriage proposal. I believe it was successful but hard to tell from up here.” And explained how strange the lack of audience interaction was in tweeting “I love the people who clap by punching the top of their bubble. There’s no real way for me to hear the audience.”
Could space bubbles become a fixture for the future?
While several different solutions have sprung up throughout 2020 in order to find ways to create performances through the pandemic that have included drive-in shows, outdoor performances, and socially distanced experiments in theatres, it could well be a likelihood that we add ‘space bubble shows’ to the list.
With audiences adhering to safety, hygiene and social distancing measures, it seems that The Flaming Lips can count their pioneering performances as a success, and not merely a ‘gimmick’ – the band, venue and all involved clearly worked hard to ensure that people stayed safe and have set the bar high in terms of the future potential this platform could have. Hopefully other artists and venues will be able to follow suit, and live performances can return in some way in 2021.