When Steve Aoki hits the Pageant on Monday, fans will have the chance to check out the DJ/producer's much-lauded new stage show, the "Neon Future Experience." At 50 feet wide, the monster set explodes with animation and LEDs that highlight Aoki's last name spelled out for the crowd.
Created by San Fernando Valley studio V Squared Labs, the set merges the sci-fi world of Aoki's recent studio work with the artist's interactive style of performance. "It's definitely an ambitious project," says V Squared head Vello Virkhaus.
Aoki is no stranger to big productions. Back in 2009, when he landed his second Coachella gig, he wanted more than the standard DJ booth. He bought rafts and Supersoakers and hit up thrift stores to get brightly colored fabric that he and his pals could turn into cloaks. Then he commissioned an artist to make large boxes that lit up. "I spent more money than my guarantee," Aoki recalls.
But the expense worked out for the DJ. Photos of him riding a raft above the crowd made it into press coverage of the event and spread online. Kanye West mentioned the raft to Aoki. It's fair to say that this event helped catapult Aoki into the upper echelons of EDM superstardom.
As Aoki's reputation increased, stagecraft became more important to his live show. In 2011 he joined the Identity Festival. Because this was a large-scale tour and Aoki was about ready to release his album, Wonderland, he decided to go all out on the production.
"That was the first time where I spent six figures in developing those Aoki letters," he says. Since then, the stages have grown even more elaborate.
For V Squared, there were a few issues to take into consideration with the project. The biggest one is that Aoki's tour will take him to venues of varying sizes. For designer Amanda Hamilton, the challenge was to create a set that could swell and shrink depending on the size of the stage itself. The "Neon Future Experience" can go as large as 50 feet wide and as small as 30 feet wide.
"It was kind of like playing Legos with these grids," says Hamilton, "making sure that each piece could be reused for every venue."
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