At 5 meters high with Subsonica

At 5 meters high with Subsonica

A stage divided into five platforms, one for each member of the band, which rise and lower, exceeding 5 meters in height. “And I also suffer from dizziness,” jokes Max Casacci. After 5 years, Subsonica are back in the arenas: after the zero date in Mantua, yesterday they moved to Milan, to the Forum: tomorrow evening, Conegliano, then Rome, Florence Bologna and closing in their Turin on April 13th.

Behind the band, the screens with the visuals that represent the ideas of “Augmented Reality” which gives the title to the album released at the beginning of 2024. Don't worry, no mobile phones or applications for the audience to frame the stage and digitally “increase” what it shows. The concept of the tour, explains Casacci to Rockol, is “aimed at shortening the distance between the stage and the audience: our technological and spectacular design effort is absolutely not presented as a sort of carousel, or structure for special effects”.

The processing of the virtual reality tour

Part of the pre-production of the tour (the technical and artistic conception and preparation phase) has to do with virtual reality, rather than with augmented reality, explains Casacci: “For more than 15 years now we have had a consolidated relationship with a group of people who share our approach from a technical-technological-scenic-spectacular point of view. While we were still grappling with group philosophies on where to go in the world of the universe, of life, of art, of music, there were those who had already invented a stage capable of raising and lowering, divided into five segments, one for every single musician” he says.
And the band saw and tried it for the first time using an Oculus, a digital viewer: “Before moving on to the actual construction of what was just a project, they wanted to make sure that we had nothing against being able to stand on a stage capable of reaching those heights.

With an Oculus we experienced the sensation of what it would be like to stand on this stage, complete with an audience.” But the idea still remains that of a live show, not so much in virtual or augmented reality: “We don't want people to be holding their cell phones during the concert, framing us to discover things on the screen. The concept of augmented reality is underlined by the images, with the idea of ​​increasing certain passages, certain subtexts of individual songs, expanding them”. .
The idea, explains Casacci, is to transform the arena into a club “where the distances are physically closer, more restricted, and try to sensorially envelop a spectator who is physically further away or higher up. This is why the stage will be much closer to the stands than traditional stages.”

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The band is in a horizontal row – deliberately, to undermine the representation in which there is a frontman in front, a drummer behind, and the others on the side. “We on stage are an organism”, continues Casacci “We are all exactly equally involved in what happens. The stage underlines this aspect as it moves.”

The stage is 20m by 4 meters deep (10 meters considering the backdrop), transported via 8 trucks: 60 permanent people work there, plus a hundred local people for each date. The direction is by Jordan Babev, a historical collaborator of the band (but who after starting with Subsonica worked with Kooks, Editors, Jean Michel Jarre). The light and sound design is curated by MISTER X, the visuals are by the Turin collective HIGH FILES and the tour is produced by Live Nation. Accompanying the band on dates in the arenas of Milan, Bologna and Turin will also be Ensi and Willie Peyote.
The concept, explains Casacci, is not the hyper-spectacularization that is often seen in today's shows: “I'm not a big fan of large shows: generally, when groups arrive at shows of that size perhaps they no longer interest me so much musically.”

Casacci, however, recognizes the different panorama: the mere presence of hyper-spectacular shows poses challenges. “In the 90s and 2000s we tended to compete with the artists of pop music and more classic rock: we were automatically cooler because we were inspired by international productions. Today, however, the mainstream is made up of artists who greatly shorten the distances between the international scene and what happens in Italy: just think of what Salmo and Marracash do on stage”.

Casacci explains that the band can afford shows of this type because it works with companies that focus on innovation: “Many of the supplies we use are offered to us at advantageous economic conditions and above all with regards to the newest technologies, knowing that we we use them in a certain way. On the stages of artists who are used to doing bigger shows, the carousel tends to turn on and they risk getting lost. We have always been a bit of a nursery.” For example, on Instagram there is a nice video where an 85-year-old engineer tells Ninja how his company built the supporting structure of the platforms that rise.

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The setlist and visuals: “Let's think like DJs”

How much space does a stage like this leave for musical improvisation and how much does it require a written show? “Our schedule is generally quite rigid, but not so much for the issue related to scenographic issues, but for the story,” explains Casacci.

The show exceeds two hours and in the band's idea the time must have flown by: an effect that is achieved by working on the concatenation of the songs “as if I were working on a dance floor selection, we think like DJs basically. The same piece played, put in the set list before or after, can be tiring, it can be less fluid, less impactful. We think in terms of flow, trying to make new songs coexist with pieces we've been playing for more than twenty years. We're not like Frank Zappa who raffles songs before concerts.”
Then there are obviously the visuals, created specifically for the songs: “We have always been very rigorous in trying to use all the technological apparatus to expand the meaning of the individual songs, and not to amaze with special effects, not to shoot flashes”, explains Casacci.
The band, before going to Mantua to test the stage over the Easter weekend, spent weeks in the studio playing the songs from the setlist: “We have already played at least three zero dates to test the musical part as best as possible, we are able to play this setlist as if it were that of a consolidated tour, before even setting foot on this stage”.

After the tour

This stage will end with this tour, in a week: “It won't be able to have a subsequent life because when you go on outdoor tours you go to other people's houses”, explains Casacci. “On the tour of the arenas the whole machine is tested, this is when the design is expressed at its best. At festivals you can't have the stage dismantled to put yours up”, he concludes.

This is why we go to the arenas, before playing outdoors: “The ambition and the will were to do something big, impactful, enveloping, immersive, there you can build the maximum expression of the imagination of a album. An effort of a year and a half of work that lasts two weeks: this is also why we are documenting everything.”