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Hey, Seeing Any Concerts This Summer?

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There’s lots of really great stuff that’s happened this summer so far – everything from a new year of the summer orchestra series in Columbus, OH to Phish’s run this June.  Lots of great design has taken place, and the rigs have been huge.  U2’s new gig in Europe has been getting so much press it’s ridiculous – it is ginormous, after all.

When you’re out this summer at whatever show you’re seeing, keep an eye out for what the lighting designer is doing with the music.  There are so many different design styles out there, it’s great to go to a show that I love and get visuals from a designer I respect.  Some lighting designers deliver a really sharp punch with colorful flavor, some designers light with such a deep sense of mindfulness to the lyrics and themes, and some designers just have so much experience and tricks up their sleeve that you just get your face torn off.  Those nights are always awesome.  I remember seeing Coldplay back in the days where they used to play two-thousand seat soft-seaters – and even though Brian Leitch brought up a whole bunch of moving heads in yellow when they played “Yellow,” it was absolutely perfect and rocked my face off.

When you’re at the show, pay particular attention to how the color of the light affects your eyes.  Color shifts from blue to green, from yellow to lavender, and red directly to blue or green are interesting combinations for the eye to decipher quickly.  I love seeing the ShowPix running a really fast red, blue, and green chase – the faster it goes, the crazier my primary color aftereffects get in my vision.  If you’re not familiar with the equipment used in concert production, watch how smoothly the fixtures change color, and how the beam gets altered by the use of a template in the fixture.  One of my favorite effects is a bunch of moving heads with circle gobos running a large bally.  Staring up at a circle gobo is one of the coolest things – you don’t see the source because it’s blocked by the inside of the circle, and it’s like looking up a tunnel of light.

Watch the structure of the show – between songs, you’ll probably see a consistently used color for the band while they’re not playing.  A majority of folks use a blue – what’s your favorite band’s in between song color?  Also try to observe color combinations – I’ve learned so much as a designer by watching the color combinations of people doing rock and roll.  You’ll notice lots of really grand aerial shapes made with the fixtures – I don’t think I’ve ever seen two that were the same.  Take a moment to appreciate the interconnected three dimensional pictures that the designers are creating for you to go along with the music – most of the time they’re outstanding!

One thing about after the shows – the lighting guys really appreciate your thanks after the show, and they are all really glad that you had a great time.  If you say hi and thanks and they don’t have a lot of time to chat with you, notice how quickly they’re moving to get their consoles packed up and get outta there.  Never take it personally if they can’t or won’t stop and chat – you’d be at exactly the same amount of get-up-and-go if you were in their positions, believe me.  Just remember that they appreciate your kind words, they work their butts off for you.

Enjoy yourself this summer!  I hope your summer show plans are excellent!

“Lumia Domestica,” by Willie Williams

U2 lighting designer/director and rock and roll lighting legend Willie Williams has busted into the world of art lighting installations.  The show is closed at this point (December 12), but it occured at the gallery Wallspace, the art venue at All Hallows on the Wall in London.

The original article at TPI is a good read – my favorite quote about the exhibit, from Williams:

“This show serves two purposes,” he explained. “Firstly, it’s an end in itself because it’s an absolute joy to work on this scale with no brief and no client, just completely for myself. But also it really helps to realign the way I think about lighting.