Coldplay LED wristbands are high tech

The band’s audience accessories illuminated the crowds at Glastonbury – but how do they work, and what’s next for crowd interaction?

When they played Yellow, they went yellow. It doesn’t take a genius to programme Coldplay’s Xyloband wristbands, but the effect – at a Glastonbury that even the normally Pollyanna-ish Michael Eavis dubbed the “muddiest ever” – was to add a touch of closing-night glamour to a sodden Worthy Farm.

The Xylobands have become a proprietary part of Chris Martin’s sets, filled with red, yellow and blue LEDs. These are synched to a radio transmitter, allowing them to be manipulated in time with the music, creating vast rivers of coloured light, like the slush-ballad mid-set lighter experience for the age of the e-cig. Their inventor, Jason Regler, claims to have had the idea while watching Coldplay perform their mid-set slush-ballad Fix You.

Since the group began adopting the technology during their Mylo Xyloto tour in 2012, Regler has grown the initial idea into a range of offerings to suit various occasions. The Household Cavalry slapped wristbands on to their horses’ hooves for their Music Ride. They’ve been used in the Cancer Research Night Walk, the Arsenal kit launch, and My Super Sweet 16-style outre birthday parties. Xylobands now also offer lanyards and beach balls filled with LEDs.

Coldplay LED wristbands
IMAGE SOURCE: Webvideopreis Deutschland | FLICKR

In 2012, Chris Martin was complaining that the bands cost too much. A scheme to hand them in at the end of the night had to be abandoned after the band’s lawyers warned this might transmit herpes or TB. Which is partly why Baltimore electronica godhead Dan Deacon has invested in an app, which he encourages fans to download before his shows. At a crucial point, they all put their digital diamonds in the sky, and he can synch their screens of their phones to the song he is performing, creating a DIY LED show, and a roomful of people without enough battery life to order a Uber home.

Yet as impressive as they are, the wristbands are still only one-way. In the age of the Fitbit, a new wave of biofeedback-led technologies is gathering. A US company, Cantora, has invested in a device that tracks users’ heartrates, and could thereby be used to morph or mix concert visuals, or even music. In 2014 at Cannes, Saatchi & Saatchi debuted a device that lit up in response to wearers’ physical engagement with films they were watching. A double-edged sword that would work well for Coldplay, who ended their set with Barry Gibb belting Staying Alive and Michael Eavis bawling My Way, but few artists ever want to know the full biofeedback effect of the words “And now, something from our new album.”

video source: Daniel Gasienica | FLICKR


Also published on Medium.