From a sold-out concert at Radio City Music Hall to a 24-city U.S. tour running August through October and a New Year's Eve performance slated for Madison Square Garden, Scharff Weisberg is lending its support and expertise to Marc Janowitz, lighting designer/director for noted indie band, My Morning Jacket.
"We came into Radio City already carrying a floor package that we used for other venues on our mini-tour. I needed a local company with NYC experience to provide my full overhead design for Radio City," explains Janowitz who had worked with Scharff Weisberg on a number of other projects. "Radio City was a big date for this band coming 10 days after their record release, and we wanted to make a big impact. Scharff Weisberg had the gear, the people, the resources and the experience. Radio City is not the venue you want to walk into unprepared."
The band, whose music has been described as southern rock with a psychedelic undertone, wowed fans at "An Evening With My Morning Jacket" at Radio City Music Hall on June 20. Playing two sets with many tracks from their new "Evil Urges" album, My Morning Jacket rocked the historic venue with a performance enhanced by Janowitz's dynamic lighting treatment. In turn, Janowitz was supported by a complement of moving lights from Scharff Weisberg consisting of VARI*LITE VL2500 washes, VARI*LITE VL3000 spots, Martin Atomic Strobes with Color Changers and Martin Mac 2K Performances.
"Our first show with Marc and My Morning Jacket at Radio City this summer was a huge success," recalls Scharff Weisberg project manager John Healy. "Marc then asked us to go out on the band's fall tour, and we accepted gladly." My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges Tour includes post-Labor Day dates in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, Minneapolis, Detroit and Chicago before the band heads off to Europe in November.
"Scharff Weisberg is not known as a concert touring vendor," he points out. "But I knew that in their ranks were some very experienced touring veterans. Combine that with the excellent quality of their equipment, the attentiveness of their staff and my long relationship with them, and it was a no-brainer to work with them on this tour. It worked out better than anticipated, and we are now in the midst of a very successful concert tour with a smoking light package!"
Janowitz describes his lighting design for the tour as "a beast...literally. We designed a custom backdrop that Jim James (the band's lead singer, songwriter and guitar player) calls 'the eyes of the monster.' The overhead design is an extension of that. Sometimes the beast is sleeping and calm and other times it is a raging smoke- and fire-breathing beast. The band's dynamic either calms or wakes the beast. The album itself, 'Evil Urges,' is suggestive of the potential evil in all of us."
Janowitz's approach to lighting the band has always been based on his feeling that "the light should emanate from them as opposed to being directed at them from far away." To achieve that, "I place floor fixtures as close as possible to them from the ground, the sides and low from behind," he explains. "I want it to seem that what the band does onstage musically is what's making the atmosphere change and morph around, within and through them."
Scharff Weisberg built the full touring rig in the company's new 95,000-square foot warehouse where it also devoted several days to programming for Janowitz before the band went into rehearsals in Nashville. "It was a great learning experience for us and the touring crew as we tweaked things over the course of a few days to get them the perfect rig," Healy reports.
The rig's DS straight truss features Martin Mac 2K Performances and ETC Source 4 PARs while the US truss consists of a 40-foot sub-grid curve made with Tomcat Hinge blocks and straight trusses hung on CM motors. The sub-grid supports 5 eight foot "pods" which hang at different heights. The whole arrangement looks a little like a train wreck or a long piece of truss that collapsed. "I told the band that it was as if they rocked so hard one night that they just broke it..." the shoguns ended up on their cases, one behind each band member on the upstage edge...
The pods themselves consist of five eight-foot swingwing sections each of which is loaded with VARI*LITE VL3000 Spots and VARI*LITE VL500 Washes. From the US Soft Goods truss hangs the custom My Morning Jacket drop with a tear-away parachute silk, which is removed halfway through the show to reveal the band's artwork.
"We designed the overhead package to be extremely flexible," Janowitz emphasizes. "In most cases we are hanging a sub-grid pre-rigged with half-ton motors to pick up five sticks of swingwing truss. The design is asymmetrical, and the location of the sticks is somewhat erratic so the sub-grid allows us to hit six standard rigging points in almost any venue and then have all the swingwing sticks fall in a consistent location.
"In some cases, where low trim is an issue, we can reconfigure the sticks to hang straight on two or three points," he continues. "I think we have A-G versions of the rig. Only two versions actually require us leaving equipment on the truck; all the other versions accommodate all of the equipment, just in different configurations." The rig features more than 60 moving lights.
Janowitz notes that "early load-in strategy was to get the overhead package rigged and hung in the first four hours of the call," a time he and his crew have been able to beat handily. "On our first load-in to rehearsal, with a skeleton local crew, we were up and running in 2.5 hours," he reports. "On a daily basis, the overhead is flown in 2.5 hours or less, and the entire lighting package, including a substantial floor package, is up and running in under four hours."
"We're proud of the touring system we designed," says Healy. "We've been able to support Marc's cutting-edge design with a pretty slick lighting rig. Marc's show is awesome -- exciting, bright and different -- something everyone wants to see. And the fans let him know that."
Front of House is controlled by a High End RoadHog and IPC with most of the show playback on a Hog 3 full rock wing.
"The Scharff gang went above and beyond the call of duty to get this rig to happen as specified, on time, and on budget," Janowitz concludes. "They kept the shop open for several overnights and through the weekend to make sure that we could prep the way we needed to and get on the road. The project managers rolled up their sleeves and were rigging truss and fixtures with us to make sure it happened the right way."
On the Evil Urges Tour Eric Mayers is the production and tour manager and Ben Price the lighting technician. At Scharff Weisberg Chris McMeen handled sales for the project and Erik Perry served as tour package manager.
Scharff Weisberg and Video Applications, firms with extensive histories in the presentation and staging markets, recently announced a co-ownership agreement. While continuing to operate independently the two companies work together strategically to provide clients with state-of-the-art audio, video and lighting equipment and services. With a strong presence on both coasts Scharff Weisberg and Video Applications are able to deliver a large array of cost-effective services on a national level. For more information, call 212-582-2345 or visit our website at www.scharffweisberg.com. For more information on Video Applications, visit www.videoapps.com.