Phish's High-Tech Show Bounces Around the Arena for 4 Hours

Bass and drums can be felt through the seats at the Sphere in Las Vegas
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 19, 2024 5:30 PM CDT
High-Tech Phish Show Lights Up Las Vegas for 4 Hours
Phish rehearses on Tuesday in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/David Becker)

Phish opened its four-night stay at the Sphere in Las Vegas on Thursday night 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. Co-Creative Director Abigail Rosen Holmes 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 what the show involves, per the AP:

  • On-screen music: While Phish shows usually get their visual punch from lighting guru Chris Kuroda's massive lighting rig, these shows are different, as the band uses custom visuals on the 160,000-square-foot, 16K-by-16K LED screen. The elements include 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.

  • At the controls: Holmes sits in the center of the arena controlling the visuals in real time, mixing the elements created with 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 onstage. 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," said Phish's Trey Anastasio.

  • Seats that play along: There are 17,500 seats inside the Sphere, every one of which will be filled with a Phish fan this week. The seats use haptic technology, so every bass line and drum kick from the band can be felt from every chair—for those actually sitting and not standing up and dancing.
  • Pucks of light: There are 1.2 million LED "pucks" that make up the 580,000-square-foot exosphere, each of which can display more than 1 billion colors. The display has become a 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.
As for the music, Rolling Stone's headline called the concert "Jam-Band Bliss." The review and the set list are posted here. (More Phish stories.)

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