Journey and the Steve Miller Band are in the midst of their 2014 summer tour, and Clay Paky Sharpys and grandMA2 consoles are along for the ride that will take them to 30 cities across the U.S. and Canada. A.C.T Lighting, Inc. is the exclusive distributor for both equipment brands in North America.
The tour unites two of the iconic groups that helped define The San Francisco Sound. In careers spanning 40 years, Journey has sold 80 million albums worldwide and the Steve Miller Band more than 30 million records.
Tour Tech East Ltd. in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia is providing lighting support for the tour supplying 34 Sharpys, 20 Sharpy Washes plus a pair of full-size grandMA2 consoles with two NPUs. Senior account executive Tracey Ploss has worked with Journey and the band's lighting designer Kevin "Deuce" Christopher for eight years.
"Last year Deuce used a couple of Sharpys, but this year he specifically wanted Sharpy Washes for the tour so we added them to our inventory," says Ploss. "We've made a significant investment in the Clay Paky fixtures." Sharpys are very popular with Tour Tech customers for their output, size and low power consumption. Fixtures are currently out with Styx and Foreigner, and the Calgary Stampede deployed a large number for its famed rodeo.
grandMA2s are the "console of choice" across the board, too, notes Ploss and are "especially in demand for their networking capabilities."
Deuce, who has been lighting designer for Journey since 2004, says he "probably doubled" the number of Sharpys in his new tour rig. "There are 12 on the side trusses and four each per overhead truss for a total of 12 more. Plus one each on ten US Towers that top a wall of 20 Sharpy Washes," he explains. "A video display, comprised of PRG/Nocturne V-28 and V-9 LED panels, is directly behind the band above the towers. It looks like there's a wall of light with the video display resting on top."
He says he "wanted to do something a bit different" in creating an interesting background for the band, "but the budget didn't call for elaborate custom sets. So Tour Tech helped me deliver the desired effect without going custom."
Tour Tech fulfilled Deuce's idea of using black A-Type, 30x30-inch x 8-foot truss turned upright on casters. "At the bottom of each bay there is a wooden insert. Each Sharpy fixture is placed on the insert - all of the fixtures actually sit in the truss and none on top," says Deuce. "Using the truss as set pieces housing the lights allows us to have a tidy pack in the truck, ease of placement and removal from stage, and convenient movement for set changes with our three-band bill."
The Sharpy Washes enable him to "go from a very narrow beam for nice graphic geometry to a wide beam for a silhouette look on the band and wash out in the audience." Their light output also had to be able to stand out against the video display.
The Steve Miller Band's lighting designer, Andrew Richter of IOD Group in New York, has used Sharpys and Sharpy Washes "extensively" the last two years. "The pure power from such a fast and compact fixture makes it ideal for all but long-throw, wide-beam applications. I prefer the Washes in a mid-stage position for our non-shared rig due to their speed and depth of color rendering."
The scenic design for the band calls for Richter to block off the Sharpy Washes on the rear lower truss with a fiber optic drop and a full stage drop designed by Stanley Meyers for "Jet Airliner" in which the Sharpys play a key role.
"The 'Jet Airliner' stage drop consists of a large central jet aircraft pointing upward with layers of smaller aircraft in a Japanese rising sun homage," Richter explains. "I really wanted to create a sense of the jet in motion. My long-time colleague/programmer Scott McCowan and I worked on several different intensity chases and color bumps to a less than desirable effect. Ultimately, we thought of the old anime/manga 'speed racer,' where the primary subject is stationary and the windows show movement quickly zipping by."
They achieved a similar effect by deploying Sharpys from a side position so they "graze the drop with the imagery of lines of clouds zipping downward past the static aircraft wings and fuselage creating movement," he says. "It's the perfect synergy of the right light and brilliant programming to create the vision I wanted without video, without animation wheels but using purely the speed and position recall accuracy that only a Sharpy can deliver."
Deuce has been a fan of the grandMA "almost since its introduction," he reports. He recently migrated to the grandMA2. "I like the ease of taking a tour show file into a festival situation and having the same sort of consistent show in a few hours," he says. "The networking capabilities allow me to bring in as many universes as necessary."
On the summer tour the grandMA2 is controlling both lighting and video consisting of two Control Freak Multitap Custom Servers. Deuce programmed Journey's portion of the show and operates the board. "I really like the layout view for easy selection of fixtures and different video elements," he says. "I can work pretty quickly. I also like the larger work surface and screens."
Richter is also a long-time MA user and programmer. "The MA line of products has been my favorite for several years now. I really like some of the advancements the grandMA2 offers," he says. "I believe it's hands down the most flexible, tour-ready, reliable, and efficient console on the market today."
"I've had the pleasure of working with Deuce over his last few Journey tours - he's always thinking of new ways to bring their performance to life for the audience. I knew the Sharpy Wash would be a nice addition for them and I was very excited that he liked it so much. Tracey and the Tour Tech East team are also great to work with, so the entire project has been a pleasure for A.C.T," commented A.C.T Vice President, Automated Lighting, George Masek.
For Journey, Kevin Cassidy is the crew chief, Rob Kern production manager, Armando Figueroa in charge of power distribution and control, Oscar Carnales lighting tech, and Cole MacDonald FOH systems tech. Scott McCowan programmed the Steve Miller Band show.
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