Supported by throngs of devoted fans dutifully singing along (not your garden variety group — these loyalists know all the words before a new album even hits the market), Linkin Park has been on tour since early 2003 in support of its hugely successful Meteora album.
And this fusion rock/hip-hop band doesn't let all the hoopla swell its collective ego, either. Linkin Park tries to “keep it real” by charging low prices for tickets, starting out last year with several smaller club shows before headlining an arena tour. Lighting designer, programmer and director AJ Pen has been along for the ride, transforming the production accordingly over the last year.
“We've gone through all kinds of rig configurations,” says Pen, whose credits include designing and/or programming for acts ranging from Harry Connick, Jr. to Marilyn Manson to TLC. “We started small with club dates, then we went into full production for the arena tour.”
To some extent, Pen based the design for the arena tour on its club-style predecessor. “I originally programmed the show on the Grand MA Light. This allowed me to run the same cues and keep a lot of the overall look we used previously but add more as the show got bigger,” he says.
Pen explains that tweaking the show for the grander scale was a painless process. “The evolution from the smaller to larger shows was totally natural,” he says. “Based on my particular cueing style, which has developed over the years, I had already determined which parts of the show I wanted to accent, so I tried to maintain much of that on a larger scope.
“The Grand MA Light allows me to organize my show really well,” he continues. “The fixture schedule is divided into layers, so instead of just grouping fixtures by type, I label layers as tasks for set, audience, performers, etc. That way, I can handle any venue, whether I'm designing for a full tour or a festival situation. I can also decide which type of fixture will assume particular roles in the show.”
This plan has proven its worth to Pen time and again, especially on overseas festivals. “One day, I might have a rig that looks very much like my original design, but the next day we might have a completely different rig,” he says. “The console allows me to reassign new fixtures very easily.”
Since last year's production, Pen has added 24 lights. “The great thing about getting bigger is already having the details programmed,” he says. “I try to program in groups of six, so if I can add fixtures, I add to the task. This way, if I have a situation where I don't have as many lights, my tasks are still covered. The scope is really easy to change, partially because of the console, but also because I try to think of the big picture of the whole tour.”
The show continues to evolve, according to Pen. “I keep adding details,” he says. “As long as I have a light that fulfills my predetermined task, it usually works out, even if the lights are hung in different locations from the original design.”
Spotlights are an integral part of this production. “The first priority with this band is spotlights,” the designer readily admits. To keep the band illuminated, Pen employs eight spotlights — four Robert Juliat Heloise spots on the upstage truss and four Juliat Ivanhoes on a front of house spot truss. Both spotlights are 2500W HMI sources, but the Heloise has a 15/29 degree zoom, while the Ivanhoe has a 9/21 degree zoom.
“Flying my own truss and bringing my own spots on the road gives me consistency that you don't always get from the house lights in a venue,” Pen says. By bringing along the Juliat spots, the designer has more control over the visual look of the production. “I don't have to worry about the lead singer's spot being dimmer than the bass player's because everyone is lit evenly night after night. I'm enjoying the Juliats because of that.”
There are six members in Linkin Park, two of which remain static during the show: DJ Joseph Hahn and drummer Rob Bourdon. They are both situated on 8' × 8' risers on stage left and stage right, approximately 20' from the downstage edge. Here, Pen uses the new Robe Color Spot 1200 AT, which is manufactured in the Czech Republic.
“I use the Robe lights as a key light and the back light on the DJ and the drummer,” he remarks. There are also 10 Robe Color Spot 1200s inside Pen's cosmetic logo trusses. “I'm very happy with the Robe lights,” he says. “They have a great output, and the zoom is unparalleled. It goes extremely wide, extremely narrow, and if you are using a gobo, it will stay in focus from a wide to narrow zoom.”
After spotlights, Pen's next major consideration is audience lighting. “I want to make sure that I can bring up the audience at any time, and the guys in the band can see the kids singing,” Pen explains. To that end, he has 20 20-light MR16 blinders spaced approximately four feet apart on the downstage edge of the downstage truss and six more spaced approximately four feet apart on the downstage edge of the spot truss.
Instead of using the standard molefays with a DWE bulb in it, Pen takes a somewhat different approach. “I use EYC and EYJ bulbs for their directionality. The EYC bulb is the MR16-wide equivalent of the DWE; the EYJ is the narrow MR16 bulb,” Pen notes. “I have far shots and near shots, so I can isolate specific parts of the audience. It's a trick I have to credit to noted lighting designer John Broderick — I picked it up from him when we were out playing stadiums supporting Metallica last summer.”
The MR16 blinders are hung on unique clamps. “The clamp is a custom made product from Doughty,” says Martin Kelley from Christie Lights of Toronto, who provided the bulk of the trussing. “It's a modified version of Doughty's standard trigger clamp that was custom-built for Christie Lites.”
Pen's fixture list features a considerable amount of Martin gear, including four Martin MAC 2000 Profiles on either side of stage left and stage right truss pieces, as well as four on the downstage truss. “I rely heavily on the Martin MAC 2000 Profile,” Pen says. “It's one of my favorites. It's reliable, bright, and quick.”
Pen also has the ever-popular Martin MAC 2000 Wash in his rig. “I wish we had the budget to put the MAC 2000 Wash lights everywhere,” he admits. Currently, he has three on either side of the stage right and stage left trusses, each with a very special modification. “I put a super wide lens on them, and, all of a sudden, I have a moving light that looks like a mole with a color changer on it.”
For effects, Pen relies heavily on the Martin Atomic 3000 strobe. He has one placed on the upstage right corner of the DJ riser, another on the upstage left corner of the drum riser, two on either side of the stage, as well as 22 on the standard trussing and on the “LP” logo truss. “They're the best strobes I've ever seen,” he says. “They're so reliable. You can leave them on all day, and they don't thermal. They also have a duration effect I use judiciously four or five times throughout the show.”
Pen also uses Laserwurx LX1 lasers on several songs, which are positioned on the stage right and stage left stage extensions and were christened “screamer decks.” There's also a unit directly on the centerline positioned between the DJ riser and the drum riser.
“It's a plug and play laser,” Pen explains. “We don't need a laser guy out on the road, and we don't need to run water to them. We just put them down, and they get masked. They're reliable and very powerful.”
The LX1 is, essentially, a laser in the body of a moving light controlled by Pen at his Grand MA Light console. “I have nothing but good things to say about the lasers, and Laserwurx has been great in supporting us,” he says. The lasers, which are highlighted in the songs, “Crawling,” “A Place for my Head,” and “One Step Closer,” are also used extensively by P.O.D, who is on tour with Linkin Park.
Listening to Linkin Park's music, it seems natural that Pen's color palette would be dominated by bold, intense colors. “I tend to use pretty rich and saturated colors,” Pen admits. His color palette, which will occasionally stray into steel blues and, of course, whites, fits Linkin Park's music perfectly. “I really try to stay away from magenta and pink. They really don't work for these guys.” While there are muted tones in the show, Pen isn't afraid to make bold use of congo and flame in a variety of songs, like “Somewhere I Belong” and “Crawling.”
Of course, Pen's color palette isn't limited to his automated fixtures. He also has color in the spotlights. The Heloise truss spots utilize 1/4 CTO (L206), apricot (L147), primary red (L106), medium blue (L140), primary green (L139) and bright blue (L141). For the front of house spotlights, Pen chose 1/2 CTO (L206), apricot (L147), primary red (L106), steel blue (L117), bright blue (L141) and deep lavender (L170). “The apricot is a really nice skin tone,” Pen says.
Another major part of the visual production is a 42' × 18' LED wall concealed by an upstage kabuki and combined with High End's Catalyst Version 3.0. The video wall doesn't come into play until about a third of the way into the show for the song “Lying from You.” When the kabuki drops, the word “cuidado” appears. From this point on, the video, produced by video director Kimo Proudfoot, is an integral part of the production.
“The band doesn't like to use I-MAG, unless they're in a stadium,” Pen explains, “so the screen is just used for video content.” The LED wall, provided by Screenworks, features a variety of content, from still images to animation. “All the video cues are controlled through my console, running through the Catalyst.”
Pen's rig also consists of five major pieces of trussing: a 55' upstage truss, two angled pieces on stage right and stage left, a 50' downstage truss, and a 24' spotlight truss positioned over the front of house position. Finishing out the trussing configuration are eight pieces of truss that articulate (with the help of a computerized motor control system from Skjonberg) several times during the show to eventually form the Linkin Park logo (a capital “L” and a backwards capital “P”). The angled truss pieces on stage left and stage right articulate, as well.
The sides flip up from the Christie Lites D-type trussing and pin into position to create a catwalk. “Christie Lites D-Type truss is much stronger than most flip wing style trussing,” says Christie Lites' Kelley. “It requires fewer pick-up points and withstands heavier loads.” It doesn't use separate truss dollies or bolts, as opposed to other flip wing style truss. “Since we use pins that don't require tightening like bolts, assembly is much faster.”
Pen finds that proper planning and use of advancing technology help ease the challenges of a hectic production schedule. “Doing your homework is important, especially the more advanced you become,” he says. “Using PDFs, for example, has been a huge benefit to the industry. I can send drawings and specific instructions for venues overseas and get feedback so quickly that when I show up, there's very little to worry about. Then, the challenge just becomes fun.”
The crowd surfing, bouncing fun of Linkin Park's Meteora tour ended in mid March in Los Angeles, although UK fans can catch them this summer during the Download Festival.
Additional reporting for this story was done by Marian Sandberg-Dierson.
METEORA 2004 TOUR
Lighting Director, Lighting and Visual Designer
Lighting Crew Chief
Joel Van Netten
John Van Eaton
DJ Tech/ Backline Crew Chief
|18||Martin MAC2000 Profile|
|14||Martin MAC2000 Wash|
|24||Robe ColorSpot 1200AT|
|44||Martin Mac 600NT Wash|
|26x||Martin Atomic3000 Strobe|
|3||Laserwurx LX1 Moving Head Laser Fixture|
Christie Lites Ltd.