On a trip to a reproachful LA, columnist Mark Beaumont found a new dome hideaway, but has he also discovered the future of immersive gigs?
What the hell am I doing drinking in LA at 46? This town is made of bars like scornful exes; every one of them has a sorry story to tell. Remember that time you were almost thrown out of The Standard Hotel at 5am for hosting an impromptu Raveonettes aftershow in your room that only ended when the cops showed up? Is this the bar where notorious indie rock wild man Anton Newcombe had to step in and save your ass when you were too drunk to flag down a cab? Is that the one where you gate-crashed Bernie Taupin’s birthday party? Oh, there’s the theatre where you fell asleep during the premiere of Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider, smashed on the limo whiskey Oxide & Neutrino were too young to drink. Have they closed the Cat & Fiddle, where you once spent an afternoon sitting in as one of The Thrills repeatedly asking Morrissey if he liked Dexy’s Midnight Runners for three hours straight? And was it the Four Seasons bar where you ran up a cocktail tab so monumental the major record label that was picking it up immediately put a cap on drinks expenses for everyone, forever?
I’m the motorcycle being ridden through the hallways of LA, the Rolls Royce in its swimming pool, the vomit in the hair of the golden god on its balcony. Sunset frowns at me, as if to say ‘you’ve got some nerve’. As I blearily push aside the wasted dregs of a vegetarian burrito in a hip downtown café, the song playing sounds like the subliminal voice of Los Angeles: “There’s nothing for you in this town…”
Thank god for the new scenes. Silverlake, Echo Park, now downtown. The last time I hit downtown LA was around 2001, for a Charlatans photo shoot on top of the Million Dollar Hotel. Back then, downtown was basically a crack den with Taco Bells; today it’s a haven of microbreweries, arts hang-outs and hotels ‘decorated’ like car parks. And it’s where, in an arts park called Wisdome, I’m here to witness the future of musical immersion, an audio-visual experience that takes you inside the music as deeply as Katy Perry shooting fireworks in your face, or being smacked in the gimp mask with a rotting lamb shank, mid-piss sex, by The Fat White Family.
We’ll call it dome rock. In one of Wisdome’s five huge domes, visitors lie on couches while a mind-blowing, vision-encompassing 360-degree visual spectacle plays out on the dome above them, to the tune of a live band. Okay, so my visit involved a Pink Floyd covers band playing along to visuals of new age gods and monsters stitched together from films by celebrated dome artist Android Jones which bore little relation to the songs – I can’t remember ‘Money’ being about Vishnu shagging a nymph goddess, unless I’ve drastically misunderstood the subtext – but my mind was expanded, my third eye fundamentally Optrexed, and a world of possibilities opened wide.
Instead of big screens at the back of the stage, imagine they made up the entire venue. Muse could put you in the middle of a Cydonian drone war, Roger Waters could trap his audience inside the wall with him, wee Bono could finally satisfy his Napoleon complex by becoming an all-powerful god towering over his audience and Nicki Minaj could clap gigantic buttocks so firmly in your face you’d swear you felt a breeze. I envision every major city building itself a gig dome and every band bringing along their own immersive world: you could watch Nick Cave in a virtual electric chair chamber, The 1975 playing inside the internet, Sleaford Mods putting you slap bang in the middle of their latest abusive Jobseekers interview.
You wouldn’t be watching a gig, you’d be in it. Imagine the possibilities of someone putting a dome over a stadium (mile-high paintball fight, Coldplay?) or putting an entire festival stage inside a dome. Kanye did. He pulled out of Coachella this year because organisers refused to build him a custom-made dome in which to perform his new hi-tech in-the-round show. Sadly we can only imagine what it would have entailed. I’m picturing croissants, fast ones, everywhere.
If only Billy from Fyre festival had thought of erecting a last-minute dome, whacked any Ja Rule video on it on a loop and linked a sliver of it up to Kendall Jenner’s Insta feed, boom, five thousand satisfied rich idiots. But for me, Wisdome was like an alternate-reality LA, one without censure or reproach, an escape hatch from the City Of Scorned Angels. My favourite new LA hiding place. May it never turn on me.