The South Carolina State Museum (SCSM) kicked off its annual Friday Night Laser Lights series on June 17, which featured music from a rotating catalog of artists like The Beatles and Elton John as multi-colored lasers danced across the museum's planetarium.
The series occurs once a month during the summer, showing many different artists. In the past, the shows have often sold out, making it one of the museum’s most popular recurring events, according to David Dickson — the public relations manager for the SCSM.
“The summer (show) — it’s great — it's a way to get out of the heat that we know so well and get into the air conditioning and see some really cool music that we know and love, kind of shown in a new way,” Dickson said. “We’re excited with a big, new lineup this year to show it off.”
That lineup includes artists like Prince, Queen and a night dedicated to highlighting music from different decades. Dickson said that the mix is able to reach multiple generations.
“We wanted to bring in some of the classics and as well as crowd pleasers, but we did want to kind of cover our bases a little bit. And in August, we have decades night — sort of covers '70s, '80s and '90s,” Dickson said.
In the series first showing for the summer, which highlighted Elton John’s work, the show sold out as people gathered inside of the planetarium to listen to hits from the singer like “Crocodile Rock” and “Rocket Man.”
One attendee, Maggie Hadley said she has always liked Elton John and decided to come with friends to watch the laser show featuring his music.
“I'm a big fan of his music, so seeing the lights bring the stories to life within the music, that was cool,” Hadley said.
The shapes and movements of the lasers are programmed to match the lyrics of the music, which are interpreted by the producers of the show who analyze every song included in the setlist, according to Planetarium Manager Liz Klimek.
“They are creating artwork, sometimes graphics, sometimes abstract patterns that are designed to be a representation of the music,” Klimek said.
According to Dickson, the producers of the laser lights show, who work for a company outside of the SCSM, vary in their interpretation of the same song, creating different versions of shows for one artist.
“Sometimes, they really take interpretation pretty abstract, and other times they take it very literally, like take for example, ‘Crocodile Rock’ by Elton John. Some people might interpret that in their head as just a fun little dance song — other ones might actually put a crocodile in the video,” Dickson said.
Even though these shows are already programmed, Klimek said that she gets to decide how the show is performed by adding her own visual effects, such as stars. The type of effects she uses, she said, are dependent on the crowd.
“That's the wonderful thing about live is sometimes, I don't know what I'm gonna add on a particular night, and you kind of feed off of the energy from the crowd,” Klimek said.
Klimek said sometimes she feels like she’s “painting the sky” with the visual effects she uses and is able to speak with the audience through the visuals she uses in the dome.
“It's different from a face-to-face conversation, but you're communicating in some weird way through the music, and it's special,” Klimek said.
The Friday Night Laser Lights series will continue throughout the summer on July 15 and Aug. 19. Anyone looking to attend the show can purchase tickets on the SCSM website.