Twenty One Pilots' Emotional Roadshow World Tour

Now underway, Grammy Award-winning Twenty One Pilots’ massive 11-month Emotional Roadshow World Tour is playing venues ranging from amphitheaters the size of Berkeley, California’s 8,500-capacity Greek Theatre to Pennsylvania’s 30,000-capacity Hersheypark Stadium.

The tour's design team includes Mark Eshleman of Reel Bear Media, creative and content director for the band since 2011, who worked with production designers Daniel Slezinger and Justin Roddick of Concert Investor. Tyler Shapard is the tour’s lighting director and co-designer. Tantrum, a company dedicated to visual media for live performance, is tasked with screen content, with Chris Schoenman as the primary content Designer and director and Molly Gray as the executive producer of content. Chris Woltman is Twenty One Pilots’ manager. VER provided equipment and technical expertise for the tour's lighting, rigging, sound, and video.

The TØP team works to bring elements of theatre to the performance and strives to create a storyline and underlying theme. “The hope is that at the end of the show you will have a feeling of meaning. You may not be able to immediately identify it but the emotions stay with you and evolve,” says Shapard.

Jay Blakesberg

The lighting and video looks for Emotional Roadshow are what Eshleman describes as complementary to the way the band structures both songs and albums, jumping from one genre to another in particular songs, but then the albums, he says, “are structured to act as someone’s favorite mix CD full of their 10 or so favorite songs right now. With that hopping and mixing, the content and lighting have to follow suit.”

With screen content having a major role in the Emotional Roadshow, Tantrum takes initial direction from Eshleman then allows the music and vision to fuse with Schoenman's deft artistic skills. Schoenman notes that the goal of the content is always “to aid Tyler and Josh in taking their fans on a journey. They have a great command of the crowd, so we are always trying to help set up moments and guide the crowd through this beautiful event when they perform.”

Gray shared that the content team worked to incorporate “bread crumbs” into the media, referring to “using design elements from previous content or other songs and working them in as hidden elements in the new content,” she says. “The Twenty One Pilots fan has a keen eye, paying close attention to what they see, so efforts we make to enrich the fan experience are not in vain, they are not wasted.”

Photo by Brad Heaton

With a 72-box Meyer Sound LYON linear line array rig, VER Tour Sound has been able to precisely scale the system to fit both the configuration and size of each venue. In addition, the individually addressable, self-powered loudspeakers can adapt coverage to deal with special requirements, such as strict regulations for sound bleed into neighborhoods adjoining outdoor venues.

Audio crew chief/system engineer Kenny Sellars of VER spoke about the setup at the Greek Theatre shows. “We have 12 LYON per side on the main hangs, and 12 LYON per side on the side hangs,” he explained. “However, the system expands effortlessly to a full 72-box rig for the tour’s larger venues, where main hangs are 20-deep LYON and side hangs are 16-deep LYON.”

Throughout the tour, Sellars has been constantly impressed with the Meyer Sound system. “The scalability has been super solid for me. That’s what I planned on, but the fact that it’s worked flawlessly and easily has been the key,” he said.

In the early stages of tour planning, Sellars considered taking the usual touring package using the larger LEO line array loudspeakers and LYONs as underhangs. However, when considering the difficulties of going back and forth between venues of greatly differing proportions, he decided to take all LYON to benefit from the extra flexibility in constantly reconfiguring the system. “LYON has plenty of horse power, it's not too heavy, and I can scale it up or down however I need to,” he said.

Video by Reel Bear Media

In many situations, every self-powered LYON loudspeaker has its own individual output on the Galileo Callisto loudspeaker processor, giving Sellars complete control over “every nook and cranny of the venue.” This facility allows the system to be tuned for even coverage throughout the venue and enables the systems tech to deal with municipal noise control regulations that limit allowable bleed outside the venue. At the Greek Theatre, for example, he was able to deftly shade down the levels of only the top boxes of the arrays to avoid disturbing the neighbors.

Shane Bardiau, Twenty One Pilots’ FOH engineer, has also been satisfied with LYON’s versatility. “I was skeptical at first because it is a smaller box,” recalled Bardiau. “But I was blown away. And to be honest, this 12-inch (LYON) driver is perfect for our music.”

The tour is also carrying a complement of LEOPARD line array loudspeakers, the smallest member of Meyer Sound’s LEO Family. The LEOPARD arrays are used as stage side fills to supplement the musicians’ in-ear monitors, and in some venues they are used as outfills to extend coverage to seating areas wrapping around the stage.

The 2017 Excellence Awards will be presented along with the Live Design Achievement Awards and the Products of the Year on June 12 in New York.

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