Laserium returns to the Gates Planetarium, and I'd definitely recommend seeing it on weed
The last time I saw a laser show at the the Gates Planetarium, it was during a time when everything I did centered around where I could smoke cigarettes. That time was the early '90s and I was fourteen or fifteen. I wasn't old enough to drive, meaning I ended up whereever my parents or someone with a car would drop me off. My friends and I went to the mall to smoke; we went to the skatepark to smoke; we went to the Paramount Cafe on the 16th Street Mall to smoke, and we went to laser shows at the planetarium to smoke outside in City Park after the show.
Photo of the actual laser show in progress, which maybe I shouldn't have covertly taken with my iPhone.
But beyond the appeal of a teenage chain-smoking venue, the laser shows of the time were totally sick! Which is why I was so stoked to get a chance to preview one of the new Laserium shows at Gates, which have returned after a roughly fifteen-year hiatus and will be playing on weekends all summer long.
It is as trippy as it looks, dude. Trust me.
If you're not familiar with a laser show because you were born in the '90s -- though the EDM community seems to have this shit on lock and the youngish folks clued in -- it's a show involving colorful, high-powered lasers made into shapes and patterns that are projected and synchronized to music, all manipulated live by a dude who is a trained laserist. In an age where nothing phases us and we're lucky if our attention spans hold onto looking at one thing for more than six seconds, laser shows can seem a little slow and archaic at first.
I took my nineteen-year-old sister to last week's preview of Laserium, and it was clear that she was bored within the first five minutes. I get that -- you can only watch squiggly lines dance around to Pink Floyd songs for so long. But I tried to be a model of appreciation, watching the laser show as fake fog was pumped in and beams of light cut through it and bounced off of strategically placed mirrors.
While I, too, found myself quickly disinterested, it more had to do with the music. Way back 500 years ago in the '90s, whoever was curating the laser shows at the planetarium was on-point. I remember seeing something along the lines of "Laser-Palooza," a Lollapalooza-themed show that made lasers dance to Smashing Pumpkins, Jane's Addiction and the Beastie Boys. There was also a laser Metallica show which, while hardly my personal taste, definitely aimed to please a younger audience of the era.
I kind of wish this summer of laser shows had been curated the same way -- while I get that there is definitely an audience out there for Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Led Zepplin and U2 (all shows you can see throughout the laser season), I have a heavy aversion to the dinosaur pantheon of rock-dude history. It would have been cool to see Laser Sonic Youth or Laser Outkast or Laser One Direction, even. (The Alamo Drafthouse has this concept on lock -- its '80s, '90s and pop icon-themed singalongs are fun because you get to sing in public to the best Britney Spears song of all time, which is "Toxic", if you were wondering.)