Preston Hoffman provided a dynamic lightshow with a difference for the third consecutive year at the annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam. He decided to use GLP’s new compact impression X4S almost exclusively, bolstered by few other discharge or conventional tungsten effects.
The Pulse Lighting designer is no stranger to GLP’s impression series (or the U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, NC where the show takes place). Last summer he pulled 12 of GLP’s larger impression X4 fixtures for the Red Rocks show by Slightly Stoopid, so he knew all about the strength, intensity and flexibility of the lightweight LED sources.
For the 25th edition of Christmas Jam, Dizzy Gosnell at Bandit Lites’ San Francisco office — described by Preston as “one of the best in the business” — provided 56 of GLP’s next generation impression X4S for the special Christmas show, enabling the technician to group 36, divided into four backlight sets and create an ACL-type effect, while the remaining 20 were placed on the front truss to function as key lights. Bandit again donated the equipment to help support the charity Habitat for Humanity, the beneficiaries of the event.
“The show was essentially LED,” Preston acknowledges, “although I did have a few traditional hard edge fixtures and audience blinders. I have never used such a high ratio of LED fixtures before, primarily because until now I haven’t been able to get everything I need out of them.”
As an early adopter of LED front light, he says the X4S outperformed any moving LEDs that he had used previously. “Their versatility never stopped impressing me; the one thing that I have not seen until now is the ability to get a crisp beam out of a moving LED fixture but I was able to get beautiful looks out of these by zooming in and focusing them to look like a hard edge fixture.”
Preston says the design of the DS truss proved a great asset. “With a multi-artist show, front light is forever changing position, and often guests would join bands onstage at the spur of the moment. Having 20 of the X4S units on the truss allowed me amazing flexibility to deal with this on the fly, when Lekos would never have never cut it.”
As for power feeds, he notes that the amount of cable necessary was greatly diminished from years past, while the compact size of the GLP heads allowed him to fit many into small spaces between the bigger fixtures.
A further advantage was that in the morning, as each band set up, he could “really dial in their front light including keeping the front wash tight on the band and not over the stage.”
So having proven the merits of the X4 at Red Rocks, why the switch … and what features other than size impressed him about the X4S? “Christmas Jam is a show that I get to try new things out on and I was ready to experiment again,” he replies. “Dizzy told me that [Bandit] had just purchased around 90 of the new heads, so I was eager to put as many as I could on this show to see what the smaller version could do — and this year was like a home run in that regard.
“I had an idea from using the X4 — but found it to be more than just a smaller version, as it has its own characteristics,” he appraises. “For instance, the small face allows you to get really tight beams as opposed to a high output, large faced wash light. In fact I was not thinking of these as wash lights at all, but as an independent layer that filled a lot of space with beautiful fans and ACL looks. However, I was not prepared for exactly how stunning they would be in reality.”
The dynamic was achieved by placing 12 heads around a circle that contained a video wall with 24 on a straight left to right truss. Preston notes how beautiful the fixtures looked on video and pictures from the pit. “There was always something interesting going on behind each musician which is something that I think is generally missing when you see concerts on TV. When I see cameras close up on musicians the light show is usually totally lost, however this show had great looking close ups!”
And Preston’s ‘champagne moment’ within the show? “I particularly liked how the X4S on the US Truss turned out. It was sort of old school meets new school in that I was using new equipment to deliver old school ACL looks.”
Summing up, the LD says, “Everyone I talked to had nothing but amazing things to say about the show from a lighting aspect; this year was supposed to be over the top and it certainly was. To exemplify the point, Phil Lesh Quintet, Gregg Allman & Warren Haynes, John Scofield & The Uberjam Band, Keb’ Mo’ and Gov’t Mule all performed, in many collaborations, along with Widespread Panic, who closed the opening night, not leaving the stage until 4am!
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