Alibi V.28 No.41 • Oct 10-16, 2019 

Aural Fixation

Uncanny Valley

At the Holographic Concert

The Roy Orbison Hologram
The Roy Orbison Hologram
Courtesy BASE Hologram

I am going to title this article after the effect humans sometimes experience when exposed to cybernetic organisms mimicking meatworld mannerisms and methodologies, thought music critic August March.

The effect—one of uncomfortable ennui at the realization of the close but altogether unearthly similarity of certain of such entities—was sure to be an issue at the concert March was invited to attend last weekend.

A group known cryptically, yet corporately, as BASE Hologram, had sent the local music critic an invitation. The invitation called on March to visit Popejoy Hall on Sunday, Oct. 6 for a concert commencing at 7pm.

The concert would feature two rocanrol giants, Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison. Of course they really wouldn’t be there, thought August as he scanned through the electronic missive.

And he was right because the letter was in fact an invitation to a holographic event. Highly rendered, super accurate and quite entertaining digital replicas of the two aforementioned rocanrol icons would be performing the work of these two legendary artists, the letter informed him.

Further, these holographic presences would be backed up by a real band with real backup singers (just like Steely Dan, March mused) and a classy theatrical presentation, too.

What do I have to lose, he thought as he parked his dinosaur-juice powered chariot in front of Saggios Pizza. Then he walked over to Popejoy Hall and got his ticket at the box office.

At this point he was reminded of the reason he rarely took in shows at Popejoy. It had to do with the other patrons for this performance. Like many others, this show was filled with “Popejoy Presents” season ticket holders. They were mostly older than him and visibly affluent as well.

March was certainly one of the youngest folks to make it out for this show. The only other kids comprised a couple in their thirties who looked like they just flew in from Malibu for the Balloon Fiesta; her gladiator style pumps and his camel hair sports jacket were worth at least $5000 in any discrete combination, thought March as he eyed them sadly yet hungrily.

At that point August March felt really out of place in his Doc Martens and Savage Surfboards T-shirt. But he entered the venue anyway, looking forward to whatever the future held for him and for those in attendance.

Now, his ticket allowed him to be seated right up front with the rest of the city’s elite. He lounged for a few minutes and looked back at the projection equipment as he waited for the lights to dim.

At approximately 10 minutes after 7 in the evening, the lights did just that. As the curtain rose, a very skilled rocanrol band located center stage started playing a vamp. A large screen descended upstage. It was filled with vital historical and pop cultural information about the time.

Suddenly a mist appeared in the midst of it all, swirling and full of light. In less than a second, the mist coalesced into a human form.

It was Roy Orbison himself. Except that it wasn’t. The hologram was bright and very detailed. But it was obviously based on a body double, too. It only superficially looked like Orbison. And though the representation was remarkably three-dimensional, the figure’s limited movement and sparkly resolution gave the illusion away.

The music was awfully good though and the real-life musicians backing up the hologram seemed to really be enjoying themselves, playing their hearts out to all of the icon’s hits.

Buddy Holly, though, was hard to take. When he sparkled into existence at Popejoy, the resemblance to the real person was fleeting. March thought the hologram looked more like a young Christopher Reeve than it did the singer from Lubbock. For some reason, the hologram was wearing a bright blue suit and round tortoiseshell glasses—facts that seemed to defy the very brand that the image was based on, but which escaped the audience because none in attendance had probably ever seen him in person to begin with.

Afterwards, March called his wife to tell her all about it. Here is what he said: It was fun but also sort of creepy, not quite magical but totally technological. It’ll be better in about 10 years. Then you won’t be able to tell the difference and the difference won’t be so unsettling, he said as he turned onto Lead Avenue and headed home while asking his AI assistant to find something to listen to by the Traveling Wilburys.