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Prepare to Get Your Mind Blown One Last Time as the Frost Museum's Laser Show Says Farewell

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science's current location is set to close its doors on August 30. And while you have until the end of the month to make peace with your childhood staple, one of the museum's most beloved attractions will be drawing to a close this weekend.

This Friday and Saturday’s Laser Fest Weekend will be your final chance to sit back and get your mind blown by the laser light show at the museum's planetarium. Attending these shows — which merged trippy laser lights with classic-rock music — have been a rite of passage for 40 years in Miami’s stoner subculture. The shows have been an intersection where scientists and hippies can cross — think Bill Nye the Science Guy meets Matthew McConaughey's character from Dazed and Confused.

The laser shows were started in 1975 by the planetarium’s executive director, Jack Horkheimer. Mark Bennett took over that position in 1988 and, for much of that time, was responsible for choreographing the fantastic visuals paired with Doors and Beatles songs. “I used to do it all,” Bennett tells New Times. “It would take two to three months of preproduction and several nights of rehearsal. Now we purchase the shows from vendors, but there’s always live components. It’s not like we put on a movie and walk away. We’re interacting with it whether it’s the motions of the star projector or the robotic lights we put on like from a nightclub.”
The laser light shows used to be held every Friday and Saturday night but were eventually whittled down to a once-a-month event that would draw a steady crowd of regulars. So many are expected that Bennett begs people to arrive early. “Don’t come at 10 [p.m.] expecting to get in the 10 show. They’re going to sell out.”

In his 27 years of putting on these events, there is one that sticks out in Bennett's mind and makes him proud — the laser show he created to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. “It lended itself well to visual interpretations, if that makes sense,” he says. 

Traditionally, the shows have featured classic rock, but they have also delved into other genres, Bennett says. “We had Lady Gaga and Britney Spears shows." But apparently "Oops!... I Did It Again" doesn't lend itself well to the cosmic revelations of the universe. "They did OK, but classic rock brings people in.”

This farewell Laser Fest Weekend will rely heavy on the classics, featuring Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, and the Beatles — with the one exception being the 8 p.m. pop show. “That features the music you hear on Y100," Bennett says. "The dancey, clubby type music. The kids all get up and dance in the front.” 
If you come early Friday night, you can even get an education out of it. The observatory will be open, and there will be a free astronomy lecture at 7.

For the past four decades, many psychedelic explorers have sunken into the planetarium’s cushy chairs or laid down on the carpeted floor with complimentary laser glasses on their noses, gazing up into the vast blackness of the universe while Pink Floyd narrated it all.

But it’s a more wholesome audience that sticks out in Bennett’s memory as he packs up the planetarium and prepares for its new downtown location to open next summer. “I remember a midnight show of Led Zeppellin where you had three generations who came together. You had the parents, the children, and the grandchildren seeing it as a family.”    
According to the museum's marketing manager, Joseph A. Quiñones, the museum hopes to continue the laser shows at the planetarium's new location. Though, at this point, it's hard to say what exactly those shows will look like or consist of. 

Below is the schedule for the final Laser Fest Weekend.

Friday, August 7
  • 7 p.m. — Free Planetarium Star Show
  • 8 p.m. — "Pop" Family Laser Show
  • 9 p.m. — Best of Pink Floyd
  • 10 p.m. — The Doors
  • 11 p.m. — Jimi Hendrix
  • Midnight — Bob Marley

Saturday, August 8
  • 8 p.m. — "Pop" Family Laser Show
  • 9 p.m. — The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • 10 p.m. — Queen
  • 11 p.m. — Led Zeppelin
  • Midnight — Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon

Laser Fest Weekend. 8 p.m. Friday, August 7, and 8 p.m. Saturday, August 8, at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, 3280 S. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-646-4200; Tickets cost $8 per adult; $4 per child. Each show requires a separate ticket. Tickets go on sale at the box office at 10 a.m. the day of the show. Laser show admission includes laser glasses.
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novels, The End of the Century and Yo-Yo, are available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland