At any festival or rave, one of the most essential bits of kit has to be the stage. The bigger the event, the more awe-inspiring it has to be, especially if you’re hosting an event for over 10,000 people. It only stands to reason that the stage and the DJ booth has to be part of the main attraction. It doesn’t get much bigger than the Arcadia Stage, otherwise known as the Spider, as that’s exactly what this behemoth of a set up is. The Arcadia Spider looks like something reminiscent of the Mad Max trilogy.
It sits quietly waiting for the darkness before the extraordinary Lords Of Lightning and the Fire Tornado start the impressive fire show that spits out from the Spider. It’s a huge structure, and looks like some sort of alien machine more than just a stage for DJs to perform from.
Weighing in at 41 tons, it’s 15 metres high and forms a 19-metre triangle. It takes four days to set up and boasts an impressive array of audio-visual armoury. The 50K Funktion One soundsystem makes sure that the tunes are just as impressive as the three C02 spinning cranes that ‘burn the sky’ with breaths of fire.
Arcadia has been a regular fixture at the biggest festival in Europe — Glastonbury — for many years, and this is where we got to see this monster set-up in all its glory. For this year’s show Arcadia set up camp in a new spot next to the Other Stage, a testament to the pull of the stage show and the production that goes into their event — as well as the increasing number of people who now make Arcadia one of their destinations of choice at Glastonbury.
Started in 2007 by Pip Rush, creative director, and Bertie Cole, technical director, Arcadia started as a sculpture-based organisation. Then the idea of bringing the sculpture and music together to produce a mind-blowing experience was born and the rest, as they say, is history. Each year the Arcadia show gets bigger, brighter and more spectacular. Pip says of the set design, “It’s a bit chicken and egg really! We didn’t sit down and design the spider right off, it’s more the result of a long evolutionary process that has shaped it into its current form. The seed, I suppose, was our debut stage, the
Afterburner, which we rolled out of a little farmyard in 2008 and watched in amazement as a huge party erupted into life! We’ve been running with the 360-degree concept ever since…”
This 360-degree concept is one that seems to give most to the crowd. The experience is more interactive than most, as the lucky ones are directly under the Spider and get to really experience all the madness and mayhem. Bertie says, “The plan is to immerse the audience, but it is a very personal thing and different from every angle. It’s also affected by people’s respective states of mind, that’s the magic really, no two experiences are the same.”
The Spider is made from 99% recycled materials, largely from the military and other government agencies, and according to Bertie is, “a huge part of our ethos and makes a huge difference to the end result.” It is reminiscent of the installations and vehicles you see at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, an event becoming increasingly popular with UK festival-goers.
The pair made a trip to Nevada last year and said, “It’s quite incredible really, it’s much more about the arts and the visual stuff than about the music. You can walk out into the desert and suddenly a triple story boat built on an articulated lorry will pass you by. It’s amazing.”
For many, Arcadia are recreating that fantastical experience here in the UK at various festivals — not just Glastonbury. Their show, a visual feast of mind-boggling acrobatics, laser-blasting sculptures, booming sounds and flame-throwing, is perfect for the night side of Glastonbury, especially when the flames shoot out and you’re looking up at the performance — it feels like you’re in outer space.
The music over the weekend is varied but high-octane, and the energy around the stage is palpable. The industrial look of the stage is matched perfectly to the dirty beats and the sounds that resonated around the whole enclosure.
Arcadia also took the Spider to Boomtown Festival and the original Afterburner Stage to T In The Park, making sure that the Arcadia festival experience was experienced by as many festival-lovers as possible.
Pip sums it up: “Every element is very much intertwined in the experience… it only comes to life when all of the elements come into play, then it really kicks off.”
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