It's always a baffling moment for me when one of the things many of us have joked about happening in the future actually happens in the future.
"One day we'll just talk to the TV to change channels," we'd say, goofing around as we maneuvered the broomstick taped to the channel changer dial on (yes, ON) the television set so we wouldn't have to get off the couch to change it (more) manually.
"Wouldn't it be cool if, like, we could go see Kajagoogoo in Cleveland this weekend, but just broadcast to us in the garage so we can chug Milwaukee's Best and do Whip-Its while we watched it?" we'd say, knowing Mom would let us borrow the station wagon to go see the New Wave megastars in Cleveland when pigs can fly or we can carry around all the books in the library in our pockets!
Yeah, like that'll happen. But only because Kajagoogoo broke up years ago (and it did NOT end well). Last weekend, I was able to watch several artists perform at Coachella live, as it happened, while laying on my couch. Not naked, but also not sweating or getting run into constantly by some wasted "raver" in a purple Adidas jumpsuit shouting "Play 'Our House!'" while I'm trying to watch Madness.
I don't think the latest watershed the-silly-future-is-now moment — Tupac Shakur appearing at Coachella in hologram form alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre — was part of the live broadcast through YouTube. But enough people have seen footage of it now that it has become a super-high trending topic on our digital future-boxes with the interweb and the series of tubes and whatnot.
I've been a bit shocked that the gimmick has elicited way more "OMG" responses that "WTF" ones. It is a neato technological trick and certainly warrants a lots of "Well I'll be"-type responses, but I've been bewildered that most of the commentary has been in the range of "tearful amazement" and "pure awe." This is based on some serious Twitter research, which has revealed how people like Katy Perry ("I think I might have cried when I saw Tupac") and Rihanna ("#IWASTHERE #STORY4myGrandKidz") reacted. I can only assume the "little people" feel the same way and are equally impressed.
If you somehow haven't seen it, take a gander:
I've made jokes in print about things like a "Hip Hopera," using it as something beyond the realm of possibility because it would be so cheesy and ridiculous. It's happenednumerous times since. Never that successfully, because, you know, it's a Hip Hopera.
I've used the dead-musician-hologram gag similarly — a far-fetched concept to play upon the ridiculous rate of technological advancement today and the greed of the music biz that might one day enable all the great dead artists of our time to be brought back to life as holograms and go on tour.
Older artists could go out as their vintage selves — The Rolling Stones circa Beggars Banquet or Wu-Tang Clan circa Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (… and EVERYONE shows up). "Bands" could do multinational shows simultaneously. And the only people really getting paid to tour would be the A/V geeks hired to run the equipment.
It's such a bizarre concept; it's not supposed to ever actually come true. That's the kind of thing that makes jokes dated. And it's why The Jetsons still holds up. Robot maids — that shit's hilarious!
As dazzled as everyone seems to be by the projection of a dead rapper fake-performing (even shouting out "Coachella," though, to be fair, they could have cobbled that together from a sample from when Tupac used to play Frisbee Golf there on spring break), could there actually be a market for a hologram act to "tour"? (Note: Yes, I realize the Tupac at Coachella wasn't actually a "hologram," so shut it.)
Promoters, apparently, are going to find out if reports are true that Hologram2Pac might go on tour with Dr. Dre. Since the ghost cameo was the talk of the entire festival, Dre and Co. probably started planning it immediately. Especially after Shakur's mother gave her permission for the Coachella use and was reportedly amazed by how it came off.
That could be a fun special effect as part of someone else's act, but could it ever go to the next level? Will there ever be a tour reliant on a holographic headliner? Would people pay to see that? I'm not equating a DJ concert with a film projection of a dead person, but put, say, hologram Elvis on Daft Punk's stage — with Daft Punk — and would it double or triple the usual Daft Punk draw on tour?
I don't know if "The 1969 Beatles on Tour" or "Eddie Van Halen and His Fabulous Rotating Hologram Singers" would find an audience at this point. But I'm constantly amazed by what people love. Reality TV? Now That's What I Call Music compilations? Karaoke? Bon Iver? Every sitcom on CBS? We can do better.
If you would have told me while I was listening to 2Pac's All Eyez On Me album in 1996 (and, honestly, trying to figure out why so many considered the man a genius) that one day within the next two decades a dead Shakur would be the talk of some huge festival ("It's like that Lollapalooza thing, ’cept it don't travel"), I would have spit Milwaukee's Best out of my nose. (Yeah, I didn't mature much.)
I've watched as the concert experience — the actual, go-some-place-type of concert experience — has evolved in the past 20 years. The most talked about today is the phenomenon involving young people fiddling with their phones instead of "not paying attention" to the concert. I was, like many, annoyed/befuddled by the perceived lack of focus, but I realized something while watching Paul McCartney's Cincinnati concert at Great American Ballpark last summer that has helped me take a deep breath and just accept it.
Everyone enjoys music — listening to it, watching it performed, absorbing it — in different ways.
It was especially evident at the McCartney show because so many people had deep connections to the music being played, but they showed it — or expressed it — in different ways. I was intensely attentive and a bit internally emotional. I didn't talk a lot. My epiphany came when my girlfriend spoke to me while Sir Paul was introducing the next song. I could not imagine how insane someone must be to TALK while PAUL FREAKIN' MCCARTNEY WAS TALKING?!
And then I realized how stupid that was. My way of experiencing the show was different than hers or from the hammered 60-something couple dancing with their eyes shut or the beaming kids with their parents or the teen with the smartphone tweeting. They all had fun. And they'll all remember it (and those who don't as well will have photos to help).
So if Hologram2Pac is the next wave of live concert entertainment, I probably won't go to any of those concerts, but I won't make fun of people who do. Well, maybe just a little. Mostly because I won't be able to stop thinking about the early Saturday Night Live "fake commercial" promoting a concert residency, not long after Elvis died, starring Elvis' coat. That's one old music biz joke that hasn't come true. Yet. (Though EP did "tour" as video footage on big screens backed by a live band. And it did pretty damn well, from what I remember.)
My recommendation is to do as I do, frustrated concertgoers. Accept our new hologram superstars. You never know — they might some day come to life and the world will be ruled by hologram images of great pop cultural icons originally crafted for beer commercials and personal appearances at car dealerships.
President Sinatra, I supported you all along.
(And now that I've made a joke about it, it has about a 600 percent better chance of happening.)