Platinum recording artist J. Cole is currently capping off his Forest Hills Drive Tour by selling out signature venues across the country like Madison Square Garden and the coveted Staples Center. LMG Touring is providing video, audio, and lighting in support of his “Hollywood” act, which will conclude a massive three-act stretch.
The popular summer tour is based off his 2014 Forest Hills Drive album, which is the first hip-hop album to go platinum in 25 years with no guest artists. The album, named after the address of his childhood house in Fayetteville, North Carolina, is considered to be a self-described personal statement.
The tour’s theme follows the album’s title and cover photo, which allows for J. Cole to personally deliver his message to the crowd about his journey from childhood to stardom. Despite advice to the contrary—Cole decided to perform the entire album from start to finish, track by track.
The songs on the album were born from his experiences and memories of where and how he grew up. “He actually went back to North Carolina and bought the house and now provides it to less fortunate single mothers.” explains Ray Rogers, J. Cole’s Production Manager and Audio Engineer. “This tour is really all about him growing up and the impact of that house.”
The set, built by Gallagher Staging, features a replica of the actual Forest Hills Drive home, and consists of a ground support designed to angle up into a LED screen that provides a ramp for the artist. The theatrical design is lined with Robe CYCFX4s, while the Solaris Flare strobes shine through the windows. A flown set piece, also lined with Robe CYCFX4s, completes the illusion of lying between two houses and looking into the sky beyond. The triangular truss is the final touch that brings all of the elements together into a single, synergistic visual.
LMG’s 7.5 MM LED tiles, with content being driven by Catalyst media servers, are used to illuminate custom staging elements, which mirror the mood and emotion of Cole’s performance to heighten the experience for his fans. A live band is positioned between the riser LED screen and the upstage screen, which creates a unique and personal listening experience for the audience. One unique feature that the audience doesn’t see but makes all the difference to the crew are custom designed frames and set carts for fast load in and load out.
Video for the tour includes a seven-camera, 4A switcher package that marries GrassValley LDK CMOS cameras, Sony RoboCams and spy cameras together seamlessly.
The video elements of the show are enhanced by a powerful lighting design that features ROBE Pointe, VL3500 WASH, VL3500 WASH FX and Quantum Wash fixtures. These lights were selected for their variety and versatility. “We sent Kevin Maas the design of the set and he was able to design the lighting package to fit the house perfectly,” states Rogers.
LMG hung twenty-four K1 cabinets supplemented by six K2 down fills, twelve L’Acoustics monitors and twenty SB 28 subs. The SSL 500 digital audio console handled every channel at FOH and the Digidesign Venue Profile 48 console was a workhorse for monitors. An SSL Live recorder is used to multi track every show and for virtual sound check. LED is not the only department with efficient and convenient packaging. LMG built custom amp rack carts so that they could roll them in and roll them back out smoothly and quickly.
The audiovisual elements had to be dialed in from the get go. There were no second chances. Due to the lack of onsite rehearsal time, LMG provided an ESP Vision Pre-Viz system and Catalyst Media Servers for 10 days of pre-programming. “We did not have a dress rehearsal for this tour, and we pulled it off for the first show…it was miraculous,” raved Rogers. “It was just a great start for the tour.”
"This is a great looking and sounding tour, very theatrical with a big visceral impact," states Craig Mitchell, LMG's Director of Touring.