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Can Plastic Bubbles Make it Safe to Go to Concerts Again?

The Flaming Lips performed a live concert this week. The band and all of the concertgoers stayed safe inside individual “space bubbles.”

Norbert Sparrow

October 15, 2020

For those of us who sorely miss live music — count me in — outré rock band the Flaming Lips has an idea — your own personal inflatable plastic bubble. Earlier this week, the band performed live in front of an audience in Oklahoma City. All of the band members and each member of the audience were ensconced in their own “space bubble,” as lead singer Wayne Coyne calls them. They only played two songs from their new album, American Head, but the word on the street is that this was a test run for full-scale shows the band would be touring in the not-too-distant future.

May I show you to your bubble? Image courtesy Flaming Lips/Instagram.

Performing in a bubble is not a new experience for Coyne — he has been doing parts of concerts crowdsurfing while inside a plastic bubble for many years. If you’re not familiar with the Flaming Lips, let me tell you that is the least bizarre aspect of their shows. But the bubble thing has taken on a new resonance in the era of COVID-19. “It seems absurd,” Coyne told Brooklyn Vegan. “At first we were doing it . . . as a kind of funny thing, and now it’s becoming kind of serious and real.” Vice reports that the band is planning to host a concert some time after the election with 100 bubbles in a 4000-seat venue. So, what’s it like actually attending a concert in a bubble? Vice spoke with a concertgoer who attended the Oklahoma City event.

  • Concertgoers were escorted to their assigned bubble and ushers in hazmat suits stuck a leaf blower in the zipper of the bubble and blew it up. “It was a surprisingly quick process and they filled up the bubble in less than a minute,” Dayzie Smith told Vice.

  • The sound was echoey inside the bubble, a little distorted or kind of underwater, said Smith. It wasn’t an issue given the type of music the Flaming Lips play, “but I’ll bet there will be no solo acoustic sets in bubbles.”

  • Condensation can be a problem, especially if you’re a dancing fool. “Some people who were dancing a lot harder [than me], their bubble just looked like it was full of fog,” said Smith.

  • And the question everyone is asking — what if you have to pee? Since it was a short performance, the point was moot. But for a full concert? “I would assume they would have to take breaks and re-bubble everyone,” speculated Smith.

That’s something that Coyne and his bandmates will need to think through before they take this show on the road.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.


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