Childish Gambino Embraces His Inner Musical Warrior at Pharos Shows
A typical album listening party was not enough for an eccentric creative like Childish Gambino, so the two-time Grammy-nominated artist set out to create an immersive event unlike any other in the middle of a desert park.
The rapper launched ticket sales for the three-day event via the Pharos app in June, inviting thousands into his world, ultimately dubbed Pharos -- a 150-foot diameter, 60-foot high dome planted in the heart of Joshua Tree, Calif. While the "sweatpants" rhymer kept the details surrounding the three-day concert series mum, he was on deck to present live cuts from his untitled forthcoming project -- his first since 2014's STN MTN / Kauai.
After hours on the road, the arrival to the camp site to Joshua Tree was made just in time to catch the 12 a.m. show on Saturday (Sept 3) -- there were a total of five performances over from Sept. 2 through 4. But there was a big rule to follow. All phones were secured in a Yondr lockbag because experiencing Gambino's event meant no social sharing or recording. Once that was taken care of, the crowd blindly entered the majestic dome to experience a rich audio and visual event.
Under dim lights and the brisk night air, Gambino's loyal fans -- 2,500 people fit into the venue for each show -- huddled near the stage to patiently wait for him to share his latest work of art. The set design, a cross between a combination of the aesthetic of Joshua Tree and a prehistoric cave (like the one from The Flintstones) provided some insight as to what Gambino had planned. It became obvious the artist was taking those in attendance on a futuristic ride -- where to and for how long remained to be seen and heard.
A little after midnight, a choir and band struck in unison. The lights came on and the entire supporting cast was dressed for the occasion. The lady on the keys wore African print garments and the bass player in a neon grass skirt. Everything came together when the rapper emerged dressed as a futuristic warrior from a tribe called Gambino.
Covered in glow-in-the-dark body paint, his hair in long blond cornrows, a neon pink and yellow straw skirt and matching shoes, Childish Gambino electrified with the opening song. The crowd went wild as the 360-degree graphics including tribesmen and their ghostly ancestors danced around the surface of the dome. Gambino, as creative director, partnered with Microsoft on design content while Mikael Gustafsson handled the 3D modeling and Alejandro Crawford and Brian Chasalow took care of the 3D animation.
No one could sing along since the music was so fresh and new, but Gambino and his choir didn't need any help. The energy radiating throughout the architectural structure was heavy. Some were glued to the stage in awe of Gambino's return while others whipped their heads around stunned by the backup dancers. The mood was set. Basically, don't close your eyes or you'll miss something.
After a killer introduction, the journey continued with Gambino and his tribe performing for an hour and 30 minutes straight. From ballads to tribal and dance hybrids and even a pop-inspired, island-infused ode to California, each track featured a different art display to complement the vibe. Hip-hop, soul, funk and blues were all part of the sonic experience. At one point, rain and rocks appeared as if it they were falling from the sky.
Overall, this took a listening experience to new levels. The sonic elements confirmed Childish Gambino as a vocalist, one with range, peaks and chops for days, while the visuals from the 360 technology, down to his George Clinton meets Massai warrior costume further drove the theme home.
If the Pharos weekend is the future of new music releases, count us in. Although a title and arrival date for the project has yet to be announced, it's clear this is one of the more highly anticipated releases of the year. With this forthcoming music and the premiere of his new show Atlanta, Childish Gambino is giving his peers some serious competition.
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