Lasers bring us together

Notes from a dazzling and dated fantasia at the Alliant Energy Center.

Notes from a dazzling and dated fantasia at the Alliant Energy Center.

Photo: A laser-light show takes place against a purple background.

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Making the drive to the Alliant Energy Center was an all-too-familiar act. Like most on the isthmus, I’ve spent countless hours in the Alliant parking lot, sitting, waiting, anticipating, stressing, all to eventually have a stranger shove a giant q-tip up my nostrils. And here I was again, this past Sunday, sitting, waiting, anticipating.  


But this time, I wasn’t waiting for a COVID-19 test. No, in the year of our lord 2021, I was there for a laser light show.

The event’s promoters describe the ordeal on Facebook as “The most spectacular laser show you have ever seen and it’s set up just like a Drive-in movie only WAY WAY BETTER!”

How could anyone say no to that?

Personally, I had never been to a laser show. My only experience with such an event is that one episode of Bob’s Burgers and an end-of-the-night-mostly-fireworks-but-some-lasers show at Disney World as a child. So I really had no idea what to expect.

Pulling into the parking lot of the Alliant Energy Center evoked an eerie feeling. As mentioned, the majority of my time at the Alliant has been spent waiting for COVID-19 tests, so going to the same venue for an actual event—in the midst of a COVID-19 resurgence—felt a bit sinful.

But as I pulled into our designated parking spot, (most of) those conflicted feelings melted away. For one, there were children everywhere, which for some reason, I didn’t expect. But given the fact that the show started at sundown and ran for a tight 60 minutes, it totally makes sense that nannies and babysitters would bring carloads of kids to an event where they can run around hopped up on 12 kinds of sugar with glow sticks. And good for them! 

Just like the past year’s brain-tickling swabs, and later vaccines, the laser show brought everyone out. From families in minivans to couples in Teslas, lasers proved to be a unifying force for the extended Madison community. 

The show itself felt like an expedited acid trip. The visuals were solid and the accompanying chaotic playlist truly brought something for everyone in the audience. Classics from Queen appealed to the ’80s dads who were taking shots and undoubtedly reliving their glory days, and TikTok bangers gave the littluns something to sing along to. Each song played for a solid 20- to 60-second period, which was honestly the perfect amount of time. Turns out you only need mere seconds of a Kanye throwback to get a crowd pumped up. The sole exception to this was “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was played almost in its entirety. 

Along with lasers and smoke machines that projected into the crowd, visuals played on two big screens at the front of the parking lot—just like a drive-in movie, only better, as advertised!

Recurring animations like dancing teddy bears, a copyright-compliant version of the dude from Tron, and a character that looked like a mix of a Xenomorph from Alien and a robot Funko Pop danced across the screens to music. 

The show was well-executed and complete with a rainbow-galaxy-colored merch tent emblazoned with the phrase “Everything must glow!” The finale featured, you guessed it, all of the lasers accompanied by some mild pyrotechnics. 

Pulling out of the parking lot and driving into the real world of regular lights and sounds was a haze. With the way COVID-19 cases are trending, I fear that the next time I return to the Alliant Energy Center will be for a much less pleasant experience than lasers. But at least if and when that time comes, I’ll have a light show to play in my mind. 


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