One of the lasting images from the 2015 film "Mad Max: Fury Road" was the character Coma-Doof Warrior playing a flame-throwing guitar. The scene actually generated increased interest in pyrotechnic guitar performance. However, musicians should remember that these instruments and other equipment that produce flame or flash during live performances generally require specific permits. The art of pyrotechnics has a long history in the music industry and live performances specifically. It calls to mind KISS stepping in unison to the beat of "Detroit Rock City" surrounded by towering flames. However, these show-stopping effects can sometimes stop the show and even get downright dangerous. In 2003, The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, went up in flames following a pyrotechnics incident that turned deadly. The band Great White included flames in its performance, unaware of the fact that the sound insulation foam being used in that smaller venue was flammable.
Interest in pyrotechnic guitar performance grows
Although potentially dangerous, pyrotechnics remain popular, especially after being heavily featured in one of the top films of 2015. While many props in movies are fake, the flame-spewing guitar in the latest film in the Mad Max franchise was quite real.
"The first version of the guitar - I think I put too much into the flamethrower, not enough into the reverb," Colin Gibson, the production designer for the film, told MTV. "And yes, the flame-throwing guitar did have to operate, did have to play, the PA system did have to work."
Gibson wasn't the only one to design a flame-throwing guitar, however. YouTube personality and inventor Colin Furze published a video featuring a flamethrower guitar and another showing how to make one. The popularity of these instruments may inspire musicians to include pyrotechnics in their own performances. While they are absolutely free to do this, there are certain legal requirements to consider before integrating flamethrowers and similar devices into a show.
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Keep track of local pyrotechnic permit requirements
In both New York and New Jersey, musicians planning on including fireworks or pyrotechnic devices in performances are required to obtain permits beforehand. Also, it helps to have licensed pyro technicians around to work these events and handle devices that emit flames. Otherwise, musicians could place themselves and their fans in danger, in addition to breaking the law. When acts are on tour, and thus perform in various states, it is important to keep track of pyrotechnic permit and licensing requirements in each location.
Given the many legal issues surrounding pyrotechnic performances on the road, musicians with fire-spewing guitars or other flame-throwing devices should stay in contact with their lawyers. The complexities of keeping track of permits and licenses for various states can be difficult without help. These dangerous effects can be great fun for the fans, but they are heavily regulated and for good reason.If you're considering including pyrotechnics in your live act or have any questions regarding how to secure a permit so you can put together your very own pyrotechnic guitar performance, contact me, Ron Bienstock, to learn more about state-based regulations and how to keep your flame-throwing compliant.