May 27th, 2024

Here’s how Phish is using the Sphere’s technology to give fans something completely different

By Josh Cornfield, The Associated Press on April 19, 2024.

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Phish opened its four-night stay at the Sphere Thursday with a four-hour show that used the advanced technology in the $2.3 billion arena to deliver a show that even the band’s most ardent fans have never experienced before.

“We came in really wanting to do a show that was a great Phish show,” said co-creative director Abigail Rosen Holmes. She said the band and its creative team wanted to mix the Sphere’s technical capabilities and consider “what can we do for Phish that we maybe couldn’t do for any other artist?”

Here’s how Phish is creating a set of shows that even fans who’ve seen the band perform hundreds of times won’t have experienced before.

TAKING THE MUSIC ON SCREEN

While Phish shows usually get their visual punch from lighting guru Chris Kuroda’s massive lighting rig, these shows are completely different as the band uses custom visuals on the 160,000-square foot 16K-by-16K LED screen.

Three-dimensional blue bars moving and spinning in time and growing to meet beams of light falling from the ceiling. Live video of the band playing, cut into pieces. A wall of psychedelic-colored cars blinking their lights with a long improvisational jam. Easter eggs from Phish’s history – like the vacuum cleaner drummer Jon Fishman sometimes plays – falling from the ceiling. A naturescape that then morphs into a fantasy world.

Holmes sits in the center of the arena controlling the visuals in real-time, mixing the elements created with Montreal-based entertainment studio Moment Factory to match the band’s performance.

Kuroda sits beside her, using six light towers behind the stage plus spotlights to find the right moments to bring people back to the band on stage.

Toward the end of Thursday night’s show, Kuroda started to spotlight individual members of the band, sending a simple black silhouette onto the wall. The silhouette then burst into a reddened field of 20 silhouettes throughout the arena.

“˜PINPOINTS OF SOUND’

There are 1,600 permanent speakers, along with 300 mobile speaker modules, that use a 3D audio beamforming and wave field synthesis technology to spread sound throughout the venue. The system allows for individual instruments to be heard from different parts of the arena. “It’s like pinpoints of sound and thousands and thousands of them,” says Phish’s Trey Anastasio.

GETTING FULL FEEL FOR THE MUSIC

There are 17,500 seats inside the Sphere, every one of which will be filled with a Phish fan this week, along with about 2,500 standing on the floor. The seats use haptic technology, so every bass line and drum kick from the band can be felt from your chair – for those actually sitting and not standing up and dancing.

WHY PHISH IS ONLY DOING FOUR SHOWS

U2 performed 40 shows to open the Sphere. Phish sold out its four shows this week within minutes and considered doing more, but decided they wanted to create four unique visual and music experiences to match the band’s history of never repeating the same show twice.

“I don’t know that we could have done it any other way,” said Page McConnell, Phish’s piano/organ/keyboard player. “We do it for us. We do it for the audience. It keeps it interesting for us and it keeps it interesting for them. And it’s what people like about us.”

PUCKS OF LIGHT

There are 1.2 million LED “pucks” that make up the 580,000-square feet exosphere, each of which can display more than 1 billion colors. The display has become an instant tourist attraction in Las Vegas, seen from hotel rooms around the Strip and from planes above. It cycles through various funky visuals, including a giant yellow blinking smiley face and a furry creature. This week it includes a digital billboard for Phish.

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