As frontman for the band Jane’s Addiction, and one of the founding pioneers of the archetypal traveling music festival, Lollapalooza, Perry Farrell has already made a considerable impact on popular culture. For his third act, the restless artist has set his sights on Las Vegas.
No, Farrell is not staging a glitz-filled, overpriced, retrospective stage show for a casino resort on the Strip. The musician has something more ambitious – revolutionary even – in mind.
Along with his creative partners, Farrell plans to meld live music and sumptuous street food with visual media, theatrical production, special effects, and other immersive storytelling elements (the kind used to design sophisticated theme park attractions) to transport visitors to a mythical Southeast Asia outpost dubbed Kind Heaven. It’s a $100-million gamble in a city that embraces the audacious.
It's a bit difficult to succinctly describe the concept, but Farrell takes a stab at it. “I consider Kind Heaven to be a great social experiment,” he says. “One in which Las Vegas excitement plays off the latest technologies, while various live entertainment platforms perform as a symphony. All this [will] mix within our Petri dish.”
Set to open in late summer 2019, the experience will begin in a bustling train station where passengers will board a locomotive bound for an Asian night market (defying the logic of space and time as well as the lack of a trans-Pacific tunnel.) The simulated journey may take its cue from Universal Orlando, where the Hogwarts Express shuttles guests, quite convincingly, between the two Harry Potter lands based in the resort’s facsimiles of London and Hogsmeade. The market will feature a few dozen food vendors peddling delicacies from Bangkok, Singapore and elsewhere, as well as craftsmen making amulets and other items.
Visitors will also be able to explore a music city with seven stages divided among three nightclubs, including one known as Surging Dragon. The clubs will be modeled after ones found in Tapei, Vietnam and Cambodia, according to Cary Granat, a movie producer, studio executive and one of Kind Heaven’s creators.
The bands, many of which are being handpicked by Farrell, will play short sets. Over the course of a two- to three-hour visit, audiences would be able to sample a number of acts as if they were at a mini music festival.
There will be more music and food in a forest environment. When guests want to escape the din, they could head to Kind Heaven’s sanctuary and enlightened zone. Inspired by the mountainous regions of Kathmandu and Bhutan, Granat says designers will use a variety of multi-sensory techniques to convince visitors that they are wandering in Nepal or the Himalayas. There will be gentle breezes; the temperature will drop; rain, snow and mist will fall (from the kind heavens?); smells will waft in the air; and sounds, such as a ringing crystal bowl, will be heard.
The experience will be interactive. For example, “you will be able to pick up a candle, write a prayer on it, and send it up in the sky,” says Granat.
There will be robotics, powerful hidden projectors, scent cannons and all kinds of other high-tech trickery making the faraway environments possible, but Granat says the technology will remain largely invisible. That should allow guests to accept the illusions and enjoy Kind Heaven on an emotional level. He emphasizes that although the attraction will be creating virtual spaces, guests won’t have to wear goggles or any of the other trappings associated with VR.
To return to Las Vegas, visitors will walk in tunnels and proceed through “customs” operated by SEATO, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization modeled after NATO (which actually disbanded in the 1970s).
Why Southeast Asia? After visiting the region, Farrell was moved by the spirituality, the culture, the people and the vibrancy he discovered there and had a dream about sharing his experiences with the world. That dream, he says morphed into Kind Heaven. As for his role in the project, Farrell says that he fancies himself as the “Admiral of Public Assemblage. A scene-maker. I’ve had the best time showing people to the best time.” Kind Heaven, he adds, will present “superb entertainment to fill the head.”
Kind Heaven will be located at the The Linq Promenade, a dining, shopping and entertainment complex on the Strip. Other attractions include the High Roller, the world’s largest observation wheel, and Fly Linq, a zip line that will be opening this November. Pricing has not been established yet, but visitors will be able to pay using cryptocurrency. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Kind Heaven will be geared to families. At night, it will reopen as a more adult-focused experience.
It may sound somewhat esoteric and avant-garde, but with a $100-million price tag, Kind Heaven’s developers are clearly building a major project. They will want to appeal to a mass audience, not a niche one. Still, Granat acknowledges, “We’re trying to do something different and deeper here.”