Posted by
Feb 062012

Now that’s some cool stagecraft! What was the last great integration of technology or gadgetry you saw at a rock and roll show? Conversely, what was the worst deployment of technology in the service of Rock you ever witnessed on stage?

I look forward to your responses.



  11 Responses to “Science!”

  1. I can’t think of an onstage scientific feat to match that one, HVB. Oh, I’ve got one: we opened for Flaming Lips in 1987, I believe, when they were “nobodies.” The bassist worked a combination light-and-smoke show with foot pedals – while he played. It was AWESOME.

    The worst deployment of technology was when I saw New Order and the drummer frequently left his kit, letting a sequencer play the eighth notes, so he could stand behind his girlfriend/wife (?) and literally place her index fingers on the proper starting notes for each song.

  2. 2000 Man

    Wow, that’s some Mach Schau! I want to do that, but I bet they don’t make that suit in Short Fat Guy.

    I really enjoyed Blue Oyster Cult and Buck Dharma’s wrist laser beam way back a long time ago. I wanted one of those really bad! The propane cannons The Stones used in 97 were really cool, too.

    I think the thing I dislike the most is the jumbotron TV’s. It seems like they think this is a legit reason to put you three miles away from the stage. So long as you can see the TV’s at midfield, then you should feel it was money well spent. Boo.

  3. When I saw Spinal Tap live, they were supposed to be slowly lowered down to the stage by wires during their first song. Well, wouldn’t you know it, something went wrong and Nigel’s wire got stuck when he was still a few feet off the ground. It took several roadies the rest of the song to free him.

  4. Bronzed Nordic God

    My favorite gadget was done by the organist for the Bomboras (surf/garage revivalist). He would create a pool of lighter fluid on the top of his organ and set it on fire. For most of the show, it would just smolder along. However at key moments in any song, he would shake the organ creating a brief wall of flame. Ingenious. The look on the club owner’s face was priceless. This was all pre-Great White, so I doubt they could still do that today.

  5. The Butthole Surfers used to have a visually packed show in the 80s, complete with horrifying medical films…naked dancing gal, strobes, smoke and Gibby pouring lighter fluid into an overturned cymbal, setting it alight and smacking it with a drumstick, sending flame shooting up to the rafters (apparently, he briefly set a few venues on fire doing this).

    One of the most memorable to me was also one of the simplest. The last time I saw Tom Waits, when he did the song, “The Eyeball Kid”, he put on a derby that was dotted with small, circular mirrors, so when the spotlights hit them from different directions at once, beams of white light shot out of his head.

  6. ladymisskirroyale

    He sort of stole that idea from a famous Paul Taylor Dance Company dance, 3 Epitaphs, which is set to New Orleans jazz. The dancers wear mirrors on their heads and on their hands.

    I learned an excerpt of it (probably illegally) and it was very very fun to do. I can’t find any video footage of it, but for a 1956 ballet, it was way out there.

  7. I heard Lukather pulled all available video.

    In all seriousness, what do you mean by you learned an excerpt of a dance possibly illegally? I have NO idea how choreography is developed and taught. In the movies they always cut to the point when the dance instructor places his hands on the dancer’s hips in a suggestive manner. What is transmitted before that point?

  8. 2000 Man

    Dancing is illegal in some places. Haven’t you seen Footloose?

  9. My most 21st-century stagecraft moment came at a Coheed and Cambria show where the groovy, psychedelic projections on the screen behind the band suddenly turned into a blue screen with a Microsoft window reading “The application has unexpectedly quit.”

  10. That makes sense, as Tom and his wife are pretty closely associated with the legit theater world. It definitely came off as more “theatrical” in the classic sense of the word (as does most of his stagecraft), rather than the stadium rock light show type of theatrics.

    What IS the deal with your “illegally” learning an excerpt from that piece? I, too, am clueless as to what that means.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    Sorry guys, I didn’t see your comments until today.

    The most famous choreographers closely guard their dance secrets. In order to perform a particular piece, it has to be licensed from the choreographer or his/her estate. Production, lighting, costuming, recording, etc. is very tightly controlled. In the case I referred to, someone who had legitimately performed the piece taught us sections of it. It was a lot of fun and for a “ballet” piece from the 50’s, very different in the movement and costuming.

    Choreography is taught in a number of ways: through demonstration (you follow along), watching video/dvd recordings, and/or dance notation (like shorthand, with symbols to reflect the steps and their relation to the music).

    Some dances (typically well-known, traditional classical ballet) are in the “public domain” so that anyone can learn them. That way traditional choreography is passed along. For this crowd, you just have to say, “The Kitri Variation from Don Quixote” and people will know exactly what you are talking about.

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