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.
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.
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.) Regardless, I bypassed the snoozy effect of Pink Floyd and focused on the sheer luxury of truly zoning out, not having to think about a plotline as you do with TV shows or or movies, or even attempt to pay attention to six dozen things at once (which is how the Internet feels to me most of the time, because I'm the guy who always has multiple windows full of tabs open). It was cool to just sit back, chill and take in the strange laser sights.
But this being Colorado in 2014, all I could think was, I kind of wish I was watching this laser show on weed. I'm by no means saying that this show isn't spectacular on its own, but I just think that if weed is your thing, then laser Pink Floyd might also be your thing.
Last weekend my boyfriend and I went to a legal weed store for the first time. (I assume many people who live here and, like us, don't have medical cards also rely on an old-fashioned, semi-shady dealer. What can I say, we like the sketchy weed experience at regular prices!) We bought an edible from a dude who definitely looked like he was running the weed shop as a front for something else (but maybe they all look like that?) and he couldn't really tell us how high we would get from the giant cookie we purchased. Next thing you know, we're half a cookie down, standing in line at Liks waiting to order ice cream and too high to even call 911 when the customer in front of us passes out and smashes his ice cream into the counter and all over the floor. What I'm trying to say is, I could have definitely saved that weed cookie and used it for the laser show.
But even if you don't like weed, the summer Laserium shows at Gates Planetarium are worth at least one trip. I personally like the smell of a fog machine and enjoy any excuse to not be glued to my phone for a whole hour out of my day. Plus, on one of the hot-ass days we're eventually going to experience when Colorado is done being weird and rainy and cold, stepping into the cool darkness of the planetarium will be worth the ticket price on its own. Trust me, transplants: Even though we are humidity-free, Colorado gets stinking hot in the summer and we are all about overdoing it with the air-conditioning.
Now, go get your laser show on.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.