Did the Artists Den Succeed in Bringing Soundgarden Back ?
When I first learned the PBS-concert-supplier outfit Artists Den was putting on an immersive Soundgarden concert experience, a full film of the band’s 2013 Los Angeles stop on the King Animal tour, I brimmed with anticipation. Carried away in my imagination because of some recent virtual reality experiences and a friend’s professional focus on virtual and augmented reality, I pictured a circular dome. Gigantic concert footage would be projected on the dome, and we would feel closer to Soundgarden and the late Chris Cornell than ever before. There would be a psychedelic light show, fog, and we’d wear 3-D glasses while running and dancing around the dome tent. The night would end in tearful smiles and stranger hugs, as we capped off this long, strange period of mourning for rock music and its most prolific and talented star.
But the debut of the actual experience, a 2-D concert film of Soundgarden’s well-loved appearance at the Wiltern and screened in the same venue, did not begin auspiciously. Okay, fine, starting late is very “rock”, but nearly everyone in the crowd was over 35 and paying babysitters, and it was a movie, not a true concert.
Things started rolling about 45 minutes after the planned start time, with guitarist Kim Thayil walking onstage and introducing a show producer. Geeking out over 360-degree sound ensued, and we gazed somewhat hesitantly at the array of screens — big, but not huge — hanging on the Wiltern stage. Accolades for the speakers aside — would this feel really real?
Soundgarden shows either start broody or loud, and this one is the former, with “Incessant Mace” tipping things off. We only enjoyed a few minutes of music before the picture went completely out of sync with the expensively recorded audio. These had been recorded separately and timecoded together — but for whatever reason, not optimized to play together flawlessly. We heard “My Wave”, but Cornell looked as though he was singing an entirely different song.
Fans stared at each other aghast. Everyone was thinking, This is awful. Kim is here. Vicky [Cornell’s widow] is probably here. And his kids. What a way to dishonor him.
“It works better if you close your eyes,” assured a tall guy next to me. A woman’s put-out face said, I paid too much to close my eyes. I desperately…