Band stages unique ‘space bubble’ concert to get COVID-creative

26 January 2021, 11:28

Rock band staged October test-run for ‘space bubble’ concert
Rock band staged October test-run for ‘space bubble’ concert. Picture: Flaming Lips/YouTube

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

You could soon be watching a performance of your favourite Beethoven string quartets from the comfort of a giant inflatable bubble...

The world’s first ‘space bubble’ concert has taken place in Oklahoma, as a US band found an inspired way to share music during the coronavirus pandemic.

Flaming Lips performed two shows, each accommodating 100 bubbles which could hold up to three people.

For the duration of each concert, both audience and band members were encased in individual inflatable capsules, even the drummer and his entire kit.

If a concertgoer needed a toilet break, they tapped a sign within their bubble, unzipped it and put their mask on, for a staff member to escort them to the bathroom.

“I think it’s a bit of a new normal,” said frontman Wayne Coyne, who coined the idea after years of crowd-surfing in a Zorb ball during gigs.

Read more: Cellist stages ‘swimming pool concert’ for social distancing era >

Inside each bubble, audience members would also find an in-bubble high frequency supplemental speaker, to help with sound muffling, a bottle of water, a battery-operated fan and a towel to wipe down condensation.

There was also an emergency ‘too hot in here’ sign inside each capsule. If pressed, a leaf blower would refill it with cool air.

To discourage concertgoers from rolling around in their bubbles, a grid was taped to the floor, with room for one bubble per square, according to cameraman Nathan Poppe who documented the night on Twitter (see below).

“It’s a very restricted, weird event. But the weirdness is so we can enjoy a concert before putting our families and everybody at risk,” Coyne told Rolling Stone last month.

The rock band performed one song in the bubbles on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last June (see below), before holding a test show in October that would have prepared them for a December gig, which had to be cancelled due to a spike in coronavirus cases.

Flaming Lips performing on Stephen Colbert’s chat show
Flaming Lips performing on Stephen Colbert’s chat show. Picture: Flaming Lips/The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/YouTube

Speaking to TMZ last year, Coyne explained that you need a lot of open space around the venue, and plenty of time – he suggests around 45 minutes – beforehand to get everyone fitted in their personal bubble.

According to a video on the singer’s Instagram, at the end of the concert everyone rolled their bubbles to the exit door. Once outside, attendees unzipped their bubble and left the venue.

It remains to be seen just how COVID-secure the concert was, as some medical professionals have questioned the reduced risk of transmission. If deemed safe, it’s a format that could, seemingly, be replicated for other concerts and other genres of music-making, provided the right venue is available and local restrictions allow.

Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen inventive ways of bringing back live music for socially distanced audiences – from a repurposed swimming pool to plexiglass screens and drive-in operas.

Time will tell whether ‘bubbles’ will catch on for classical music...