By: Gibson Johns
There was something massively different at this year's Ultra Music Festival held in downtown Miami. It was ominous and powerful and elicited a feeling of danger. It was Pip Rush and Bertie Cole's 50-ton Arcadia flame-shooting metal Arcadia Spider, which stood in for the Resistance Stage at Ultra 2016.
Making its debut in America, the Arcadia Spider was truly a sight to behold at the electronic dance music festival. It housed DJs in a suspended centerpiece during their sets and allowed for a completely new, unique experience for festival goers.
As we walked around the festival grounds, the energy at neighboring stages couldn't even come close to matching the electric atmosphere underneath the Arcadia Spider.
We sat down with the creators of the Arcadia Spectacular, Pip and Bert, to talk about what it's like seeing their creation in a new environment, how it came to be and where they're going next.
See photos from Ultra 2016:
Check out our full conversation with Pip Rush and Bertie Cole, the founders of the Arcadia Spectacular:
We actually just checked out the spider, which was crazy! It's so awesome – could it ever possibly get old seeing it in the venue?
Pip: Especially when you take it to new places, it's fantastic. It's really, really exciting -– it's a whole new country with loads of different cultures. So, putting it in there, firing it up and inviting people to come and experience it is really a kick.
Bert: Never had palm trees on the dance floor before!
So is this the first time the stage has been in Miami?
Bert: Yes, first time in America!
What did you change this time, versus other times that you've set it up in other places? Do you change things about it?
Pip: Yes, we try to work with the environment we're in and the local culture and music. We try to make sure that each show is at least slightly tweaked for its environment.
What did you tweak for Miami?
Pip: The collaboration with Resistance music was a big thing, so we've started to change the way some of our effects operate. Just really getting in the rhythm of it. We've made some tweaks in the show.
Bert: We've added a finale at the end!
What do you think about the energy in Miami?
Bert: It's interesting.
Pip: Yes! It's really pumping. It's nice to come and contribute to it and feed off it -- that's really exciting.
And have you seen the reactions from the crowd? Has it been amazing?
Bert: Yes! It's really refreshing as well, because we do massive stuff but people have come to expect the stuff that we do, but here it's all new. So the reaction is amazing.
Can you guys talk me through the process of how this became what it is? I'd love to hear from your perspective.
Bert: We're both from the underground background, and we started off going to festivals as kids. We went to the rave scene and it had quite a big effect on us. Pip's in an artistic sculptural background, and he really does amazing things and I was putting up huge structures for events around the world and doing parties. When our paths crossed, we realized that there was a formula to what everyone was doing. The stages were linear, people stood watching them like you watch TV, and we felt there was a lot missing. A lot of things were pixelated.
Bert: We realized we wanted to change it and set about to turning it on its head. We both get a real kick out of working with plain materials so we did a tour of scrap yards all over England and found some amazing scrap –- some military stuff –- and we put it all together and built the first incarnation. We've still got it –- it's a small, 4,000 capacity venue. It's a really cool thing, lots of good effects. Once it all came together in a melting pot, the reaction was incredible. All of those elements played with each other to create the atmosphere that Arcadia is. It's grown in scale.
Pip: It's been a really exciting adventure. We're really pleased with where it's gone and we hope it's got a long way to go.
How many different attempts did it take to get it right?
Pip: It's been quite crazy –- it evolved and evolved and evolved.
Bert: And every time it evolved a bit further, we tried to involve engineers and different people to expand it.
Pip: And then one year, we just really went to town and we suddenly stood and looked at it and were like, this is like a Christmas tree with too many lights. So we actually went back to the drawing board -– that was the year that it went from this twisted abstract structure to actually being a structure. We refined it, we hired some engineers with really good eyes, added the DJ booth underneath. It all came together!
What do the DJs that have performed in that space say to you about the experience?
Pip: They absolutely love it, because it's completely unconventional and unique. They're the heartbeat of this mechanical monster that's just pumping. If they can get into it and create music that's got drops and builds in dynamics that we can work with, it's a real collaboration. It's like a jam.
Bert: Yeah, the DJs absolutely love it. All the huge names want to play!
Have you had any particular memorable moments throughout this experience?
Bert: Everywhere's got it's own thing –- we were in Bangkok –- whole different vibe, whole different city, whole different crowd. But still, everyone's coming together and having a good time. And then coming here is just another twist to the journey. It gets more and more exciting.
Bert: It also gathers energy: The more places it's been, the more energy it has. It brings a bit of that with it.
Pip: Actually, the landing show is the first of the trilogy. The next show is much bigger –- we have lots of stuff happening around the arena. We have some mechanical spiders that are about the size of a car that move on zip wires overhead and pick people up and move them around!
That's so special that you guys get the opportunity to keep trying new things and testing things out. What's next on your agendas after Ultra?
Pip: Top secret! You have to go through quite a journey to make these dreams a reality, so I'm not going to speculate yet.
Bert: Yes! But we're really proud to be here and to be part of the resistance thing, so we're really just focused on this at the moment. Until the next thing! I think most productions start with a design being drawn out on the table. We're almost the opposite way around, so wherever we go we spend a lot of time looking at scrap yards and what's here and quite often we find the right pieces, which give us the right ideas, and then the right people come along. So we're going through that inch by inch. I'm really excited about what's going to come out.
What do you think makes your dynamic work so well together?
Bert: I think it's all about the dynamic. We both come from creative backgrounds and technical backgrounds and those two worlds meeting and understanding and respecting each other is the spark of the whole thing. What's been really brilliant is that from that, we've met artists and engineers and they all gelled with that too. You can throw all the money in the world on a group of people and tell them to go make a show but if they didn't have those relationships, I think you'd struggle to get that cohesion.
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