P H A R O S
For those of you here for quick takeaways and pictures, let’s get to it.
- The Labor Day event in Joshua Tree, CA, was one of the most amazing and mysterious experiences of my life.
- The Pharos album is not like anything Donald has done before — soul, jazz, vocal, and funk. If the album at all resembles the show, it’s almost a new genre altogether.
- Atlanta FX is revolutionary and Donald continues to impress in every facet of entertainment.
Pictures and video below.
2016 has been a solid stretch for Donald Glover, who was recently featured on the cover of Adweek as an under-40 Young Influential shaping the industry. He’s taken the world by storm with his new FX series, Atlanta, and keeping fans on the edge waiting for a glimpse of the new Pharos album (release date yet to be announced).
In between TV and movies, Donald hosted a camp-style gathering to perform his upcoming album. I was there for the “tour,” held exclusively in only one venue, for only one weekend.
Setting the stage.
Having never been to Joshua Tree, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect setting for this adventure, and scooped up two new friends from the East Bay to join. (~ 8 hour drive from SF)
For access, you needed a ticket, and had the option of whether or not you’d like to camp. The official “PHAROS” app provided a virtual ticket and some rules in the guidebook. Most notably — wear blue, no irony, and only “real” talk allowed.
On the experience, Donald had this to say:
“I remember going to Japan, and I felt like I was like 6 again because I was completely out of an element that I understood. I think telling people to put their phones away really forces a person to be present, as yoga-friendly as that sounds.”
JOSHUA TREE, CA. Enter the Institute of Mentalphysics, Joshua Tree. The selection of this venue alone was mind blowing, but the most suitable location imaginable. Perfect weather, lots of open space, and beautiful scenery. As for Mentalphysics… It’s defined as an experiential method of self-realization that teaches the oneness of life embodied in all substance, energy and thought. The campus is used for retreats, meditation exercises and so forth. A great event venue with (desert) camp grounds, gardens, psychedelic decor, and housing for the production crew. Aside from a scorpion scare, no issues at all.
Near the campgrounds was The Hub, a central spot with food trucks, ping pong tables, charging stations, guest services, bathrooms and water fountains. Just passed The Hub was the concert dome. People started waiting in line hours before their designated show time, having no clue what to expect on the inside. I had a ticket to the midnight show.
At dark, searchlights were pointed over the dome to create a pyramid visual. It was time to get in line. After a brief wait, the doors opened and attendees ran through the aisles, high-fiving each other on both sides of the fencing. Tons of energy and anticipation! Good vibes.
Once inside, we were treated to a full 360° projection on the dome walls, showing a sky setting with stars stretched across the inside. Here’s a look at the dome from Vortex Immersion: (updated 11/1 with video from Pharos, uploaded by Vortex Immersion on Facebook and Vimeo)
After another brief wait, Gambino appeared on stage rocking a tribal costume complete with body paint and dreadlocks. Donald let out a powerful yell, and it was show time.
He performed exclusively new songs during the performance, meaning the crowd was relatively calm, taking in each lyric carefully. In what seemed like an experiment or test, a true creative shift, Donald moved away from his hip-hop style and exhibited a completely new style of music. Gospel choir, 60’s-70’s funk band, tribal decor and falsetto vocals creating a new and funky genre altogether.
To top it off, Donald had a projector set up for prerelease screenings of a few Atlanta episodes. Couldn’t have been more thrilled about this after missing the screenings at the historic Star Light drive-in theater in Atlanta a few weeks prior.
So, when will the album drop?
In true Donald Glover-fashion, there have been no leaks or hints related to the release — we’re playing his game, on his terms. Donald did have this to say:
“I approached the album the same way I approached the show, which was a test in feeling,” he says. “So I’ll probably release it when it feels right.“
Pictures & Video
This video from YouTuber, Alex Mendoza, does a great job showing the scene.
Pictures I took.
If you’re interested in more on Donald and his new show, here are few articles I recommend: How Donald Glover is a master of multimedia world-building, ‘Atlanta’ Star Donald Glover Wants to ‘Make People Feel Black’, and “Atlanta”: Donald Glover’s Best Effort Yet.
Bonus: In a recent Vanity Fair interview, Donald revealed a few of his favorite things. Book – Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, stating it’s very pertinent right now. TV Show – O.J. Made in America. Actress – Sarah Paulson. Live Music – Outkast. Movie – The Counselor, becoming obsessed with a Brad Pitt clip, watching it upwards of three times a day and predicting the movie will become a classic.
P.S. Congrats on the newborn, Donald!