Graphic by Isabella Castillo

Blast from the Past: Laser Shows Are Still a Thing

Written by Isabella Castillo Category: Performing Arts Issue: April 2017

This spring at the Arizona Science Center, phones are ringing off the hook: It’s the ‘70s calling, and they want their lasers back.

Through June, the Science Center is holding a series of events called Lasers and Liquor Nights, and they’re just as far-out and groovy as they sound.

I had to experience one of these #FBF events for myself, so last month I revisited my old childhood field trip stomping grounds. This time, there were fewer animal crackers and a lot more booze.

The scene was exactly what you’d expect: Mostly young Baby Boomers and old Gen Xers eager to recreate "Dark Side of the Moon" experiences, crowded around a small table with an overworked bartender in a black button-up, the array of alcohol and liquor an odd juxtaposition across from the paper airplane exhibit.

Eventually, about 60 or so people crowded into the planetarium and settled in with their concessions as a man in a galaxy print lab coat and a ponytail past his shoulders gave everyone the lowdown on how the evening would progress.

This particular night was grunge-themed. The pre-show chatter about drugs and “the good old days” gave way to a playlist including songs by Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters and Alice in Chains.

As the music began to play and the planetarium went dark, I expected to be, at best, wryly amused. After all, I was here ironically. But instead of laughing at the absurdity of a bunch of adults coming to a science museum for children to stare at lasers, I became oddly mesmerized. Neon images of bibles, blood and mysterious women flashed across the domed screen in an experience that felt nostalgic for a time that never happened — like watching "Back to the Future" and realizing 2015 has already passed, and we still don’t have flying cars.

What seemed like the height of technology 30 years ago still seems sort of cool and futuristic today, and I have to admit, I had a lot of fun. My only gripe is that toward the end of the show, the soundtrack crossed the line between grunge and metal – an unfortunate misstep if you ask me.

Regardless, I still recommend putting the movie tickets aside and giving the lasers a chance (but only one chance — trust me, your retinas will thank me later). Each Lasers and Liquor Night has two unique shows at 8 and 9:30 p.m. Upcoming themes include:

POP Night, April 27
Lasers are choreographed to pop hits by artists ranging from Justin Bieber, to ‘N Sync (*N SYNC? NSYNC? The Internet cannot answer this simple question) to the Beach Boys. The first show will consist of mostly 2000s-era pop, while the second show’s playlist will cover, well, basically everything before that.

Pink Floyd Night, May 26
Need I say more?

Summer Scaries, June 30
The first show of the night will feature spooky songs like Thriller and even spookier artists like Alice Cooper. The second set is 40 minutes of pure Metallica.

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10. Come back for round two for $2 off.