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Bishop Museum sets stage for brightest act in town

What's better than listening to your favorite artist? Your favorite artist plus laser lights.

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  • | 12:50 p.m. June 30, 2022
Laser Fantasies has pre-programmed laser shows for many of your favorite artists. (Courtesy photo)
Laser Fantasies has pre-programmed laser shows for many of your favorite artists. (Courtesy photo)
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It’s just like listening to your favorite artist at home.

Except there’s a laser.

The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature has been hosting Laser Light Nights this summer, a production that brings streaming music and dazzling light displays to their planetarium three nights a week. There’s an incredible array of acts involved, and you can see psychedelic stalwarts like Pink Floyd or even bubblegum pop artists like NSYNC and Bruno Mars.

This reporter, a child of the 1970s, chose the masters of thunderous percussion and primal wailing, Led Zeppelin, for his close-up experience with the indoor fireworks.

And it’s hard to imagine a better choice. From the moment the music starts to the moment you file out exhilarated, the lasers etch out pulsing patterns and figures and never really take a second to breathe.

They intensify in speed and color to the pace of the riffing, and with Led Zeppelin, that means a wild ride.

How does it all work?

The Bishop Museum leases cutting edge projectors from a company named Laser Fantasy that has been doing these shows for decades. They warn you, before the show starts, that lasers are potentially dangerous and to stay seated for the show.

Bruno Mars is one of the contemporary acts who gets a laser light treatment along with classic rock favorites. (Courtesy photo)
Bruno Mars is one of the contemporary acts who gets a laser light treatment along with classic rock favorites. (Courtesy photo)

Why do they do that? Because they don’t want you to turn around and hurt yourself.

The shows are conducted with Class IV lasers, which can blind a person instantly.

Laser Fantasy’s website cautions that “it’s important to treat high powered lasers like power tools,” and in this case, that means not peering into the projector. The Bishop Museum has blocked off certain seats in which an extremely tall person might be at risk, and they urge visitors with epilepsy or conditions triggered by intense sensory experiences to take caution.

But for everybody else, it’s just a rollicking good time with a rock-and-roll playlist.

The Laser Zeppelin show hits all the highlights you might expect, exploring both the explosive and cathartic aspects of the artists but also the slow and romantic side. You’ll hear Robert Plant shrieking like a banshee on D’yer Maker, and you’ll ride along with Jimmy Page as he plays out the iconic guitar lines to Black Dog and Whole Lotta Love.

John Bonham’s propulsive drumming on Rock and Roll gets its own laser light solo.

Do you think you’re getting out of this room without hearing Stairway to Heaven?

Not this time, pal. Don’t make me tap the sign. And don’t blink, because you might miss an interesting detail.

The planetarium seats ease all the way back, and the lasers play all over the curved dome ceiling.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Hello Laser Lights. (Courtesy photo)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Hello Laser Lights. (Courtesy photo)

They move in patterns, drawing out shapes that repeat themselves in different sizes, colors and proportions.

It’s eye candy of the very best kind. And it isn’t all abstract art. You may see Led Zeppelin’s trademark dirigible in some songs, or you might see a petaled flower or an intricate animal drawn.

If you see an Elton John show? That probably means that you’ll see pianos and tiny dancers plaeyed out by lasers, and also maybe a Rocket Man? I don’t know. I’m speculating.

But here’s what we know for sure. Laser Light Nights are currently scheduled to run through Aug. 13 at the Bishop, and they’re shown on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

There’s an artist and a light show for every taste. The Bishop Museum has multiple evenings scheduled to play the Beatles, and there’s also nights with Prince and David Bowie.

Do you like high volume? AC/DC and Metallica are primed to assault your eardrums and eyes. There are Van Halen shows and Nirvana shows, not to mention Aerosmith and U2 shows.

Laid-back Bob Marley gets a chance at a laser show, and so do Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters.

The audience, your fellow travelers, are with you all the way, clapping at the end of some songs and singing along with others.

You’re all taking the same visual journey, but without the deafening crack of fireworks or the interminable line to move out of the parking lot. And there's one final fringe benefit.

The next time you play your favorite artist, you may find the lasers are forever imprinted upon your imagination.