Kentucky rock band My Morning Jacket’s seventh album, The Waterfall has had critics and fans enraptured with its eclecticism and solidity as a multi-genre piece of musical art embracing attitude and individuality … and there’s never a dull moment with the band’s live shows either … as lighting designer Marc Janowitz will attest.
The recent U.S. leg of the current Waterfall tour campaign saw him using 26 x Robe BMFL Spots and 10 x Pointes as the primary moving lights on a rig supplied by VER together with other moving lights.
The BMFLs were deployed on three overhead trusses - five upstage, seven on the mid-truss and six on the front truss, with another eight on the floor behind & wrapping around the band - all adding to a dramatic and intense show that has delighted audiences across the U.S.
The Pointes were also positioned on the floor, sitting on flight cases in a straight line upstage.
Marc has worked for MMJ since 2006 and has a great rapport with the band when it comes to conveying the look, feel and concepts for their live stage work, His creative starting point for the production design on this tour was the visual notion of ‘fluidity’ in reference to the album’s title, ‘The Waterfall’.
Lighting, scenic and video were discussed at the start of the tour though the band opted for a lighting only-option to help convey the visual energy and emotion of the live show.
With so much emphasis on lighting, Marc wanted a profile fixture with some serious power to slice through the other illuminated design elements with clarity and definition, and the BMFL Spots provided a perfect solution.
It was his first time using BMFLs, and he’s “very impressed”.
He found the fixtures so versatile that they were used for almost everything! The texturing options with the gobos and animation wheels feature extensively in the show. “It’s so bright you can put in a load of texturing AND a saturated color and still have more than enough light coming out the end!” he declared.
From that extreme, he went to using them as tight beams with variable frost to add to his palette of available wash units.
“For a rig with relatively few fixtures, having a workhorse that can do all ... is quite a bonus!”
It was also his first time using Pointes which he also rates as super-dynamic. “Obviously you can get the classic beam / pin-spot look, but there are at least two other luminaires lurking in that body – it’s great as a profile and, adding the frost, you have yet another wash!”
Lighting is a crucial element of any MMJ show in terms of supporting, augmenting and emphasizing the music, and the range is hugely dynamic, from raw, moody ballads to raging rock-out scenarios, all of which have to be delivered with equal impact … another reason why multi-functional lights can make such a difference.
The first time Marc specified a Robe light on a design was 2012 - the MMX Spot for the Trey Anastasio Band, “For the size of the light you get a great feature-set and at a good price”.
He feels – and sees - Robe’s trajectory rising steeply right now, although personally he’s always thought highly of the brand, “Going back to the ColorSpot 1200E AT … you still see them out there, and properly maintained, they can still absolutely rock!!”
MMJ didn’t carry lighting production for the UK and European sections of the tour which followed these U.S. dates, but Marc was pleasantly surprised by the number of venues which offered Robe as part of the house lighting set ups.
Marc – who is also currently production managing the MMJ tour – is based in New York and works internationally via his company e26 Design with a wide variety of innovative artists and theatre groups. Lighting became his passion at age 11 after operating a spotlight for his 6th grade school play; as a teenager he cut his industry teeth working at local roadhouses and concert venues throughout the northeast. He started off studying Lighting Design at Boston University but changed his major partway through the second year. He graduated with an honors degree in Philosophy – a qualification that’s been completely invaluable in equipping him for a life in the concert industry.
Photo: Adam Kaplan