April 18th, 2011
09:58 AM ET
A cheer rose from the floor of the polo field as Arcade Fire took the stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - the sound of conquering heroes returning to an event that helped launch them.
"Coachella is really the first festival we ever played, so it has a special place in our heart, and we don't take it for granted," frontman Win Butler told the audience Saturday night.
The Montreal-based indie rock band made their Coachella debut in 2005, just after the release of their acclaimed freshman CD, "Funeral." In 2011, they return as winners of this year's top Grammy prize - "Album of the Year" - for their third disc, "The Suburbs." It's the ultimate indie success story.
If the group's majestic set wasn't enough to leave fans with a lasting memory, many attendees also went home with another lovely parting gift - an oversized white beach ball.
During the chorus of Arcade Fire's best-known song, "Wake Up," hundreds of beach balls floated down on the crowd from above the stage. The ethereal orbs glowed from the inside, magically changing hues from blue to red to green as they were batted about the field.
It was, as they say, a moment - and one that continued as fans took the globes home. As the polo field emptied out at 1 a.m., you could see red, blue and green balls moving down the road in the dark, changing colors as their owners walked.
The light-up beach ball extravaganza was the brainchild of The Creators Project, which partnered with Coachella to produce high-tech art installations intended to enhance the music experience for festival-goers - in many cases, making them interactive.
"It's not a case of the circus rolling into town," said Hosi Simon, General Manger of The Creators Project. "Our goal is to enhance the aural experience by combining technology and art. It's like a modern day music video."
Of course it helps that The Creators Project is a collaboration between media conglomerate Vice and Intel - a Silicon Valley company best known for making computer chips. "We've used some technology that isn't even on the market yet," Simon chuckles.
The beach balls were outfitted on the inside with L.E.D. lights and infra-red sensors. Festival-goers who were lucky enough to snag a globe can reprogram the lights on their own computers.
L.E.D. lights also figure prominently in the construction of the Main Stage, which has been designed as a self-contained art installation. In between acts, the stage's side panels slide inward, creating a giant cube of patterned lights controlled by computer. It's rolled out in a five-minute "show" - complete with its own soundtrack. The Cube made its world debut after Interpol's set Friday night.
"A good measuring stick is the amount of cell phone cameras going up," said one of its designers. "That's how you tell if something's successful these days."
At the Arcade Fire show, cell phone cameras were going up all over the place.
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