SANTA MONICA—The 31st Annual Twilight Concerts kicked off at the Santa Monica Pier Thursday, July 9, to thousands of spectators. While most came to enjoy the live music, dance, eat, and swill summer cocktails, few were aware that they were going to be an integral part of the first-ever interactive L.E.D. (Light Emotion Data) light show.

The L.E.D. Lanterns lining the Pier.
The L.E.D. Lanterns lining the Pier.

Concertgoers throughout the greater Los Angeles area were drawn towards the coastline for the event presented by TrueCar, a flourishing Santa Monica-based tech startup whose mission is to simplify the automobile purchasing process. Through data-driven market assessments and proprietary technology, TrueCar provides customers easy-to-understand car options and pricing.

People swarm the beach to relax and listen to the show.
People swarm the beach to relax and listen to the show.



For this summer’s concert series, TrueCar brought its data-grinding algorithms to life in the form of crowd-powered lighting. Using structures that measure sensory information, L.E.D. lights arranged throughout the pier change or speed up based on the collective emotion and movement of the crowd. According to TrueCar’s press release, the lights respond to four different inputs:


  1. Crowd density — how many people show up.
  2. Audio reactive control — analysis of audio frequencies from the stage
  3. Emotion — A mobile-website,, processes facial expressions in selfies sent from the crowd
  4. Gestures — activity influences the colors and speed of light of the centerpiece

All four inputs are computed and conveyed through a flat screen television next to the centerpiece, revealing something like a rhythmic heartbeat.

L.E.D. towers spotted throughout the crowd.
L.E.D. towers spotted throughout the crowd.

Before the psychedelic light show debuted Thursday evening, TrueCar Vice President, Tyson Weoste, took a moment to speak with Canyon News to explain how they took emotion, movement and musical inputs and created a dazzling visual experience. He stated, “when we look at something like this we see that there is a lot of energy and emotion going on at a concert, so if we took the same approaches like we normally do for TrueCar, do all of the hard math and translate a thousand different people doing a thousand different things and translate that into something that is both interesting and beautiful.”

The TrueCar screen analyzing and processing the data collected from the crowd.
The TrueCar screen analyzing and processing the data collected from the crowd.

Leading the artistic direction of the revolutionary light installation was Bradley G. Munkowitz, also known as GMUNK. In the Minneapolis-born graphic designer’s original vision, a fire sculpture stood at the very center of the pier. He stated that a, “campfire was the big metaphor that they would say on call— a campfire is the place where everyone gathers around and you would put things in the flame which would change color and warm all of the people and create a community.” However, because of safety and fire hazards, the “centerpiece” L.E.D.-infused light structure was placed towards the pier’s northern wall. In addition to incandescent flames, GMUNK and his team also drew on inspiration from the geometric piping and curvature of church organs to help shape the mesmerizing sculpture.

GMUNK and a friend in front of his centerpiece in all of its glory.
GMUNK (right) and a friend in front of his centerpiece in all of its glory.

Before the show began, GMUNK expressed uncertainty about the installation’s reception saying, “like all art, you never know how it is going to be perceived.”  Even during the day, the unlit centerpiece was quite an attraction. Its safety two-way mirrors captured the blazing southern California sun, reflecting light into crowds of dazzled onlookers and photo-takers. And once the sun went down and the music swelled, people were in a trance amidst the structure’s glowing L.E.D. lights.

In addition to the centerpiece sculpture, lights surrounding the venue flickered to the beat of the crowd’s emotions.  L.E.D. lanterns arched the edges of the pier, replicating the TrueCar curve and 15 L.E.D. towers, measured at 10-feet tall, dotted the landscape, all connecting at the Centerpiece lined with 65,000 L.E.D. lights. With light and emotive information rapidly flashing through the crowd and actively responding to its collective experience, the pier seemed to transform into a thinking human brain.

This project has been in motion for 3 months. Santa Monica-based TrueCar, determined to really start connecting with its neighbors, sought out the Santa Monica Pier Administration’s help to bring its vision to life and enhance the already uber-popular summer series for the community.

Tyson Woeste stated that, “[the] wildcard in all of this is the bands – I think we got all of these audiences and we never know what they are going to do and who is going to drop by.”

Thursday night, two special performances were more than welcomed on stage. Opening up for Morris Day & The Time was Dam-Funk whose rhythms lit up the Pier.

Check out to view the full summer lineup.

The Summer Twilight Concerts take place every Thursday from 7-10 p.m. and go until September 10.

Admission is free.

Sponsors included Snapchat, Verizon, Fandango and dozens more.  You can check out all the partners at:

"The Centerpiece" by GMUNK
“The Centerpiece” by GMUNK