Vents is excited to be speaking today with respected music guru and entrepreneur Jorge Perdomo; welcome to Vents, Jorge! Before we start talking about some pretty exciting stuff you have coming up, how has the year 2021 been treating you thus far?
Happy to be here! I think we could all say 2021 is looking better than 2020, but it still has quite a way to go as the pandemic certainly isn’t over yet. Unfortunately I’m relatively confident in saying that no industry was hit harder than the live mass entertainment industry (other than perhaps cruise ships that were similarly affected by being 100% shut down with absolutely no way to operate). Unlike restaurants and other places like that, we aren’t really able to do a takeout event, and as what we offer is mass shared community experiences, that also can’t really be downscaled or digitized. We are in the industry of bringing people together, so when that quite literally is not allowed, we’re up the creek a bit.
That said, it is getting better! The vaccines have finally allowed mass events to begin again without major restrictions, and because of that I’ve finally been able to get back to producing my first show back in Los Angeles on Oct. 9th – The Fluffy Cloud Experience. It feels incredible to finally be able to wake up in the morning and have some true purpose and urgency in things that need to get done. There’s nothing worse than being forced to be idle, particularly for a workaholic like me. So, in summary, we aren’t out of the woods yet and I’m still nervous about what delta or some other variant might throw at us, but we can’t keep living in fear of that. It’s for this reason that I’m full speed ahead on this new production and just need to hope we don’t have more bad luck. Get vaccinated, people!
On October 9 the wonderfully titled Fluffy Cloud Experience is landing at the doorstep of music aficionados in Los Angeles. First things first: What precisely is The Fluffy Cloud Experience?
The Fluffy Cloud Experience is my attempt to redefine what a live arts experience is and create a one-of-a-kind acoustic, visual, and community space that will leave people with incredible memories – not something that would fade into the background. There are many elements to the experience, and I’m afraid I can’t go into all of them as I am trying to keep this a bit of a surprise for guests, but at the very least I can describe some of the already publicly known elements.
Without a doubt, the star of the show is The Fluffy Cloud itself. Picture it: a towering 3-story tall (and equally wide) art installation with 33,000 sound reactive LEDs that quite literally looms above you like a UFO mothership coming to take you to your meeting with the Galactic Federation. It really is quite hard to get a sense of the scale of it until you see it yourself. It has 2 floors and fits over 30 people inside the Cloud itself – however, the main effect of the Cloud isn’t necessarily going inside of it even though its 360 panoramic views are pretty cool. The main effect is what you can’t see in the pictures. Hidden inside of its fluffy psychedelic exterior resides a 60,000 watt, 5000 pound, 28-cabinet custom sound system unlike any other.
It’s pretty wild. Not only is the sound system capable of reaching frequencies 35% lower than any other system on the market (which means you can really feel it in your body when that bass drops), but the very way the system is arranged in a down-and-ring fired arrangement creates what I can only call an “acoustic sandwich” where the sound is raining down on you and giving you a unique full-body feel that shakes you to your core. It is so unique and unprecedented in design that we have a couple of patents pending on the overall design concept as well as the technical setup.
As powerful as it is, the cool thing is it’s not overly loud. Because it has one cabinet individually dedicated to each major batch of frequencies (low, mid, and high) and it is also point-source (we aren’t deforming the wave to shoot it farther), AND because we are 360 (which makes the distance we need to send sound much smaller in any one direction), we can create a space where the sound feels like it has mass while not hurting your ears. Combining all of this with the unique sandwich of sound pressure we form shooting down at the ground as opposed to across it makes this cocoon of sound that is super cool and unique.
It’s really something that no description, video recording, or picture can accurately do justice. To put in the words of The Burner Podcast, “…it’s like swimming through sound.”
However as special as the Cloud itself is acoustically, it is NOT the entire Fluffy Cloud Experience. We have a LOT more special activities and effects we’ll be integrating into the experience. I can’t go into too much detail there but there will be a lot of things for guests to play and interact with. For example, the Cloud’s lights themselves will be available for attendees to control from an iPad. There will be several other major scale interactive art pieces, activities, and other fun things that will make the Fluffy Cloud Experience really more of a one-day carnival of the weird and unexpected – inspired heavily by the interactive art ethos of Burning Man. Let’s just say it’s going to be…. Electric. I kind of wish I could make this thing all ages, but the liability goes up too much and we need to keep insurance costs reasonable. 😉
What makes The Fluffy Cloud Experience even more timely and needed in this rather oddball era we currently find ourselves in?
As much as I love the sound experience created by the Cloud, what I love even more is the unique 360 format it creates. One of the biggest motivators for making the Cloud, a driving inspiration or goal, was to create a more connected live music experience. I started to realize at my first Burn in 2018 that these live experiences weren’t as connected as I thought. Even with all your best friends around you, you were all basically starting at the back of each other heads with eyes glued on the stage. It kind of felt like watching TV. We weren’t connecting with each other. I wanted to take us back to a more connected space, similar to an old village fire where community truly was born. A space where people can actually see the faces of others in front of them as they enjoy a shared experience.
In today’s world where we are not only isolated by our phone addictions, but where we have been forced to be apart for so long during COVID, I think a space designed for direct human-to-human connection is really what we need.
What is the Secret Origin story of The Fluffy Cloud? How did it come into actually being?
Oh man, this is a long one, but I’ll try to be as concise as possible as we’ve covered some of my motivators already. But it all started in 2018 after my first Burning Man. For the preceding 6 years I had been the inventor and co-Founder of a hardware tech company called goTenna that made devices that let phones communicate directly with each other through a long-range encrypted mesh networking system – a concept that was born when I was not precisely sober at EDC Vegas 2012.
I loved that company, all the products there were my babies as the head of technology and product. But as is often the case with technical co-founders once the company gets to a certain point, I was starting to get really bored as the products had stabilized and we now had to focus on selling instead of building – which isn’t as much my jam to be honest. I spent 175 days in a hotel in 2018 giving the same presentation to customers all over the world. To be honest I wasn’t very happy, and knew I needed a change, but didn’t know what that change could be.
It was in the midst of this that my first Burn happened, and without boring people with my tales of personal growth, I came out of the desert that year a different person and with immense gratitude for what that community had taught me. I wanted to create something to give back, to participate, to build something again.
As I had always loved music, I knew I wanted to do something in that general space. I was also struck by my favorite art piece of BM 2018, a project called “This Too Shall Pass – Moondancer” by an Indian artist, Lekha Washington. This piece was awesome. It was a weather balloon that was made to look precisely like a real moon that was driven around the playa. It played with perspective and distance, which made it look like there were 2 real moons in the sky. It was wild. My hypothesis was that its power was drawn from its ability to take something natural and celestial, something we know intimately since we were single-celled organisms, and change it when it has NEVER changed. It strikes something deep inside us, and I wanted to do something similar, but again – I didn’t know what.
It wasn’t until I was at the closing event of Output in New York a few weeks after BM2018 that the idea finally came to me. I had always been a fan of cloud-like lamps I had seen online that looked incredibly like real thunderclouds. I realized Clouds have no discernible “front”, so just like that I had the idea. A flying Cloud would meet my desire to make a 360 non-focal music experience, while also messing with the celestial and hopefully blowing people’s minds like the Moon did. My original vision was actually to suspend the Cloud from a crane and fly it over people’s heads, but I got nixed on that only a couple months before the Burn. It almost killed the project, but in the end a little spaceship came out instead 🙂
Anyways, for the first time in a few years I suddenly felt alive again. Sparked. On fire. I felt the kind of passion and excitement to make the Cloud as I did when I first started goTenna. It was a chance to build again, but this time with the added benefit of building something in the world of music I loved so much. I’m by no means a morning person, but I was up at 6AM for days on end researching how to do this, writing design specs, decks, etc.
More importantly, I was happy again. I was building and motivated. For the next 2 months I felt incredibly detached from goTenna and all I could think about was making the Cloud a reality. It was then I realized that it was time for me to go. As the company was closing its Series C and the products were stable, the time had finally come where I could take my hands off the wheel and the ship wasn’t going to crash into the shoals. The time had come for me to make the next big leap in my life, so with that I left goTenna at the close of 2019 and dedicated myself full time to making the Cloud a reality and self-sustaining artwork that I hope to be able to share all over the world.
Pre-Fluffy Cloud, there was a sense of a slight lack of innovation in most live music experiences. How does Fluffy Cloud course-correct that path towards banality for a lot of live music and steer it back towards something that attendees will talk about for days and weeks to come?
Absolutely. The Fluffy Cloud was something I thought up precisely because of what you describe. Even as a long term aficionado of live music experiences, I was becoming increasingly bored, jaded perhaps, with the production quality I was seeing. Every show was basically the same.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some absolutely beautiful productions out there. But 99.99% of them are basically just lasers, smoke, fire effects, and an LED screen. If you get lucky you might find some kinetic or 3D shows, but that is incredibly rare and only at the most well-funded productions. However even then, at the end of the day, they’re incredibly similar. They’re all front-to-back productions with different kinds of sparkle sprinkled over them. The facades may change, but little else does.
I hope, and truly believe, that the Cloud’s redefinition of the concert format into a full circle, plus its unique sound design, and my focus on adding additional major interactive elements to the show will be something that, at the very least, no one will be able to say “I’ve seen that before.”
What logistics went into making The Fluffy Cloud come to life and to what extent was extensive teamwork called for in order to make this wonderful dream become reality?
I always intended for the Cloud to be a big group collaborative project, like most Burning Man art projects are. But unfortunately it didn’t really turn out that way. I spent months trying to pitch people in the community in New York to help donate to the project, to help build, to help in any way and the honest truth is that very few did – but those who did will be in my heart forever.
I think the problem was a combination of the idea being so crazy, plus people not thinking a guy that had only been to the desert one time could pull off something of this scale. I don’t really blame anyone for not hopping on board when, in hindsight, I can see it was quite the crazy train.
But luckily a small batch of people did believe. I had some old friends that helped a bit on the cash side of things, but that barely covered 10% of the final budget. More importantly, I had 2 absolutely amazing volunteers that took the lead on the design of the lighting (Gene Harrison) and the sound (Deniz Akyurek). These guys were with me in the trenches on weeknights, weekends, and the Burn itself to make my dream a reality unlike anyone else, and I would consider them to be fathers of this project alongside me. There is no way this could have happened without them.
Now there were many more people involved: engineering, metalwork, and so forth – all from the Burning Man community itself, but they were working on the project as contractors; not volunteers. I am happy I was able to support the artisans and engineers of the community as I built my dream, even though I would have liked if it wasn’t so expensive ;D In the end, there is no way this could have been done without their incredible experience, dedication and patience with me as I stumbled around building this monstrosity for the desert.
I also have to acknowledge the great support the Burning Man Artery and heavy equipment departments gave me in helping review everything for safety, as well as on-site resources. They were absolutely critical and this couldn’t have been pulled off without them.
Was The Fluffy Cloud quick to catch on, or has it been more of a slow build?
I’d say it was pretty quick to catch on, although that has to come with an asterisk due to COVID cancelling everything right as it was getting started. At the very least I can say that as a first-year project the lineup of international artists that volunteered to play on the Cloud for free was far beyond what I ever expected. We had artists like Flume, Diplo, and another 40 or so all playing with the Cloud which was pretty cool. That doesn’t ever really happen for new projects by newcomers.
Immediately after Burning Man we were invited to go set up during Art Basel in Miami, and then got a grant from the Love Burn Regional in Miami to bring the Cloud there too. It was going pretty well, and we had bookings all over the country, even finishing up with a Middle East booking at the end of 2020, but then COVID struck and everything was cancelled. The Cloud has been in its transport trailers since early February 2020, so it’s been a long time coming to get back in action. That’s why I can’t wait to go all out with the comeback show in Los Angeles in just a few weeks!
What sort of music fan is The Fluffy Cloud geared towards? Is it pretty all-inclusive?
My vision for The Fluffy Cloud is to make it a platform for all sorts of arts, not just electronic music. In fact at Art Basel I had a classical cello performance, at BM19 I had sound immersions, and I’m looking into possibly doing some other acoustic shows soon. The Fluffy Cloud appeals to everyone of all ages (although The Fluffy Cloud Experience is 21+). We have ticket sales ranging from 21 up to age 75 so far, and we’ve only just started selling tickets a couple days ago. I love that so much.
The Fluffy Cloud is open and the place to be for everyone who loves live music and interactive arts. This one night in LA will start with an immersive sound-based wellness practice led by some amazing facilitators, will then evolve into an acoustic/electronic live ensemble performance, before finally closing with some of the best deep house, melodic techno, and progressive music out there right now.
Longer term when we have more momentum and capital, I hope to be able to do longer “residencies” in cities where we stay for a few weeks. That would give us the ability to host and amplify a whole range of live experiences. There’s nothing stopping us from turning the Cloud into a dinner affair, or yoga studio, film screening, or anything else we can imagine. It’s kind of like the world’s first truly pop-up experiential venue, and we are looking forward to working with all sorts of other producers to make wide varieties of experiences come to life.
I know that the lid is being kept pretty tight on the lineup of artists participating in The Fluffy Cloud Experience, but is there any chance you can drop a wee hint or two as to what lucky fans can expect?
Ok just 1 small hint. If people really want a hint at what we’re about, they can see our lineup from BM2019 that is posted early in our Instagram @realfluffycloud, and I can say 1/3rd of the lineup for Oct 9th is on that list. The other 2/3rds are big new surprises.
In the end the reason I’m so closed-lipped about the lineup isn’t because it isn’t amazing. It really it is. The reason I’m trying to keep it on the downlow is because I really don’t see this as a concert: it’s more than that. There are plenty of traditional festivals and concerts for attendees who focus on the performer on the flyer as opposed to the overall experience. I want to create something special for people who seek out new experiences, and who are willing to step a little into the unknown and trust us with their time. With the amount of investment going into this production, I can assure you it isn’t your neighbor down the street that just started DJing a couple months ago. 😉
Are there plans afoot to turn the Los Angeles leg of The Fluffy Cloud Experience into an annual event if it proves successful enough?
Absolutely, at minimum I would like to bring it to LA once a year. If things go very well, who knows where life might lead us. Maybe next time we will come for a couple of weeks as a kind of temporary pop-up experience and that would enable us to do all sorts of experiences as we can amortize our significant operating costs over multiple productions. It all really depends on how this first comeback show goes, though. Unfortunately it takes a LOT of capital to produce something of this scale so we have to start slowly.
What do you hope fans walk away from The Fluffy Cloud Experience feeling?
I want them to feel whatever the feeling is when you watch an amazing movie, or go to an epic theme park, some super fun carnival/fair, or any other impactful experience. Happiness, magic, wonder? I’m not sure what word would be, but it certainly shouldn’t just be “fun” – it’s more than that. I want The Fluffy Cloud Experience to be something that people never forget.
This epic October 9 event is not just one specific thing; there are a multitude of events wrapped around The Fluffy Cloud Experience including art installations, an artisan marketplace and food vendors. As October 9 slowly approaches, can fans expect even more surprises from the event?
Oh absolutely. I think I covered a bit of this before but just to reiterate this is going to be an interactive arts and music experience, not a concert. There will be a lot of things to play with. Not sure how much we will reveal ahead of time but if we do decide to share more hints it will be on our Instagram.
Were there any notable concert events from the past that sort of served as an inspiration for The Fluffy Cloud?
Not really, there isn’t anything like this I can think of. I’d say the main inspiration is that Moon art piece I mentioned before, plus the work of the many online artisans making cloud lamps. I’d say the main inspiration I got from previous events is the drive to try to do something radically different.
Can you envision taking The Fluffy Cloud Experience out on a national or even global tour?
That’s the dream. I’m hoping if this show goes well I can take it to other cities soon thereafter and hopefully have the first true national tour in 2022. But like most things in life, to scale up you need additional support, which as a 1 man show right now I don’t precisely have, so I have to take it slow.
Right now my plan is to crawl, walk, then run when the time is right. This LA show is the first true Fluffy Cloud Experience, but it is NOT the end of it. I plan on adding more and more with every show so that people can always expect all sorts of new magic every time they come to see us.