As of this writing, Korean pop smash “Gangnam Style” has over 840 million views on YouTube. Back in Austin, Christmas fanatic John Storms isn’t doing “Gangnam” numbers, but a video of his holiday light display synced to the song has racked up over 1.2 million views.
There’s good reason, as it’s not just any light show: Storms spends hours each holiday season syncing seasonal favorites and pop hits alike to a 25,000-bulb light display adorning his house in Cedar Park.
“We pick songs that we like,” Storms tells KUT News. Regarding “Gangnam Style,” he says “my kids came home singing this song that they did in P.E. to exercise to. We listened to it, and were like, ‘Wow, this is a lot of fun.’”
So how exactly does the show work? The lights are triggered through a computer program, independent of the actual music. “It’s kind of like a spreadsheet, and you define where all the beats are going to be, and then you start going through and breaking up the song just like in music class: ‘OK, this in my foreground sound, these are my background sounds, these are the vocals,’” he says. “And every channel controls a snowflake, or a wreath, or a tree, or a string of lights. And then, you go through the process of saying, ‘OK, well for this part I want this on, this off, I want this to flash.’ And you just go through the whole song like that.” You can find detailed instructions on Storms’ website, Listen to our Lights.
And while music booms in the dozens of videos Storms has posted to his YouTube channel, there’s no loudspeakers on his property. Instead, he relies on a low-powered radio transmitter "with just enough juice to get the signal out to the street,” hooked up to an inexpensive netbook playing an MP3. Light watchers can then tune into Storms’ frequency and marvel at the show.
Storms and his family have held the coordinated light show for three years, the first year at their former house in Round Rock. In fact, when looking for their new house in Cedar Park, the light show was a big consideration.
“We looked for a house that’s on a loop, not on a cul de sac … We looked for a place that’s not going to have any neighbors that are directly facing us. … We were also looking at the symmetry of the house. … I looked for something that I thought would look good with the lights.”
“My wife really rolled her eyes when I would bring that stuff up,” Storms says. “But you know, it’s important. It’s my hobby, its important to me, and I want it to look good.”
And plenty have noticed. Storms’ “Gangnam Style” video has already been featured on CNN, German media, local news outlets and more. “We’re actually very, very surprised, and a little taken aback and a little scared about it,” Storms says. “It’s been popular in the past, but this years it’s really taken off. We kind of underestimated the power of “Gangnam Style,” I think. … You don’t want the entire city to show up at your doorstep.”
To that end, Storms says “I don’t give out my address, and I don’t give out my neighborhood, because were trying to keep the house from being the gift that won’t stop giving to the neighborhood. … You want to convey the awe and majesty of Christmas – that’s the purpose of the lights. And you don’t get that when there’s a mile long line of cars honking and people fighting.”
Here’s some of Storms’ greatest hits:
"Angry Birds Theme Song,” as performed by Pomplamoose:
"Holiday Road" by Lindsey Buckingham:
“The Hampster Dance:”
“Firework” by Katy Perry:
And of course, “Gangnam Style” by PSY: