Kacey Musgraves “Oh, What a World” Tour

by Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • in
  • Designer Insights
  • March 2019
• Created: March 7, 2019

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KACEY MUSGRAVES © Steve Jennings

At the 2019 Grammy Awards, Kacey Musgraves was honored with wins for her album, Golden Hour, named Album of the Year, along with three other awards: Best Country Album, Best Song (“Space Cowboy”) and Best Country Solo Performance (“Butterflies.”) We caught Musgraves on her “Oh, What A World” tour, which kicked off Jan. 9, when she performed in San Francisco in mid-February. The tour recently expanded with more dates planned in August and September. We spoke with lighting and set designer Chris Reade, lighting director Chad Peters and, from Gallagher Staging, Tye Trussell.

KACEY MUSGRAVES © Steve Jennings

Chris Reade
Lighting and Set Designer

Chris Reade originally met Kacey though her former tour manager, Luke Reynolds who he had met on a tour a few years earlier. Musgraves was headlining the C2C Festival in the U.K. last March and asked if Reade was available to come along for lighting. “This was Kacey’s first time headlining an arena level show, and there wasn’t much time to prepare. I of course had heard Kacey’s music, my schedule was open that week and it was something I was very excited to do. Kacey is very involved in how she is presented, and that creative spark is exciting. From doing these shows, and a few others, it naturally progressed into designing something for this tour.”

“Jay Ballinger and I (KYVA Design) had discussed Kacey as an artist we’d love to work with for some time. When the opportunity came to design something for her, it took a while to narrow down what would actually be realistic,” Reade expands. “We knew the tour would not carry a full rig, and the “wants” overpowered the reality. We were informed that video would be too much of a reach for the current tour, but they wanted a big look. That led us to trying to create a vibe consistent with Kacey, and her current album, Golden Hour. On the cover of the album, she’s holding a Japanese fan, so that was a natural progression, and Luke Reynolds [Kacey’s previous tour manager] was an important part of this process as well. We thought between us, ‘What if we incorporated the fan idea in a big way into the tour visuals?’ Thus, the three giant fans.”

Reade showed Kacey some renderings, and she loved it. They made some changes after going over everything with her, including what the actual fabrics would be. Regarding the set, they went with standard shapes, as they would need to reconfigure the stage setup based on venue sizes. “We chose the lighting instruments that we thought would give us beautiful, layered looks, and we’re quite happy with the result.”

Jay Ballinger took this idea and drawings to the guys at Gallagher Staging to figure out how to make it, as well as how to make it easy to actually achieve on a day-to-day basis. “We’ve worked with Tye (Trussell) and James (McKinney) many times, so there’s a trust there. Once the structures were hashed out, it came down to the paint and fabric, which Kacey was very involved in. It had to be just right, and I feel we nailed it, as well as set ourselves up to use the fans as projection surfaces in the future. That was something Jay and I were very interested in, and hopefully we will get to that in the future.”

Reade says he’s worked with Christie Lites account rep Rod “Red” Gibson with quite a few artists, noting he and Red go way back, and actually toured together back in the 90’s. “It’s a great relationship, and so easy to work together. It’s not the typical relationship because we have that background, which translates into a much easier process through design changes and bidding. We all share a love of hockey as well, which makes it fun as well. Christie takes care of us for the US tour, and Siyan Ltd. (Tom Grant) took care of us for the Europe portion of the tour, and all in all, it’s been a great process.”

Considering this design was to be a floor lighting rig, Reade wanted the vibe and looks to be consistent, with the venues providing the overhead and the followspots. The main thing he wanted was the GLP impression X4 Bar 20’s. “We put them in three rows horizontally across the stage on the floor, so it basically looks like lines of light. They are located on the downstage edge of the stage, just in front of the set mid-stage, and again behind the set.” He calls the X4 Bar 20 “a wonderful instrument — we’ve used it on quite a few designs. We also chose Martin’s Mac Quantum Profiles for breakups, energy and punch. Another excellent light, very clear, low power and perfect for what we needed as a floor instrument.”

“Chad Peters… what an absolute pleasure to work with. He did the programming, with little time, and he gets it. I was super excited when Chad was hired to be the touring LD, after having met him previously when he was working with Paramore. He’s very skilled, and his personality is just wonderful. From top to bottom working with Kacey has been fantastic. From management, to Kacey and her band, to production manager Travis Bing and the crew- Jay and I could not be more pleased with the experience, and are grateful to be a small part of it.”

KACEY MUSGRAVES © Steve Jennings

Tye Trussell
Account Rep, Gallagher Staging

Gallagher Staging’s Tye Trussell and James McKinney were brought in to work with lighting and set designers Chris Reade and Jay Ballinger. “With both of them actively touring, they bring a different aspect to the design process,” says Trussell. “They try to accommodate the different realities that goes along with today’s concerts and tours. They realize that whatever is designed is not always going to fit and will need to have scalable options for different days, from headline days in an arena to the dusty days of a daylight festival. When we first got the designs, we sat down and got the concepts and general ideas of what they wanted to achieve.

“After the initial meeting and preliminary sketches, the design went through some changes and modifications based on artist conversations, venue sizes, build time, transportation details, etc. Chris and Jay really wanted to make sure the set mimicked the fan on the album cover and didn’t end up looking like sea shells or a gas station logo. I let James get involved with the details and the mechanics of the build and design changes.”

Once Trussell had the initial consultation, he really let McKinney run with this project, as he had worked with Chris and Jay in the past on different projects and was able to interpret “designer speak” very well, he notes. “James brings to the table more than 25 years of touring experience and an attention to detail that designers appreciate. He was able to sit with the designers and translate their concepts and ideas into a viable tourable product. His understanding of the artistic side of the design as well as the logistical side enabled him to offer up some options, choices to enhance the project while keeping within the constraints of the budget, time, travel, and day of show logistics.”

Going into this project, Trussell and McKinney knew that it was going international and needed to travel by many different modes of transportation. Because the broken down set pieces need to fit into a plane, a European truck, a U.S. truck and a sea container, there are specific dimensions to make the set carts loaded with pieces fit into all of these.

“Starting with the finished stage dimensions for look and scale, we were able to design the structures to fit within the shipping dimensions.” Trussell says. “Also coming into play was the size and footprint of the pieces as built and wind loads in an outdoor festival scenario. When designing the structure, we took into mind the requests from Chris and Jay to have the dimension of a traditional fold-out Japanese fan. They wanted to keep them as authentic as possible while minimizing the number of pieces to make it easier to transport and build daily. We incorporated the base structure to act as ballast to counter the “wind loads” that may occur. The upper portions of the fans were designed to be light weight and quick to assemble on stage. “

As with any production, there are always budget concerns and limitations. “We were able to work out some substitutions and alterations to the design to be able to keep the overall concept without sacrificing the important details that really mattered. There was concern that these large pieces would be overwhelming and take over the stage. They needed to be covered with materials that would look good on their own as well as accept light and possibly projection.” James was able to navigate the designers through the myriad of options in scenic fabrics and came up with a double layered fabric combination that gave both stand-alone dimension and an excellent backdrop for lighting effects.”

“We appreciate every design team we have the pleasure to work with,” Tye adds. “The KYVA Design team and Kacey Musgraves production team were great to work with and we look forward to future projects together.”

KACEY MUSGRAVES © Steve Jennings

Chad Peters
Lighting Programmer/Lighting Director

For lighting programmer and director Chad Peters, pre-production was not really an option as late as he came into the gig this time. It’s never as much time as you would like, he notes, where there were three rehearsal days at Millennium Studios in Bedford, UK. “Believe it or not, the band rehearsed almost 10 hours of each of those days, making it difficult to program during that time. We are only carrying a floor package of lighting, which, in my opinion, is the most difficult level of touring as an LD. The difficulty really lies in keeping the show consistent for the artist. In this day and age, we are held accountable by social media. The audience is able to share their experience immediately through their smartphones, but it doesn’t encapsulate the live experience. The balancing act is making a live experience that somewhat translates to what a smartphone sees, and then is immediately shared with social media.”

Peters says he has always wished for a time coded show. “Unfortunately, my skill set is highly based upon manually pushing “go” as many times as the show requires. I have been trying to add additional cues to the show as we progress through the tour. I have also changed many of the cues throughout the tour as it is a continuous collaboration with Kacey. I receive regular feedback from her on the lighting aspects of the tour. It is awesome to work for an artist who pays so much attention to the work that we all do, band and crew. It continuously makes the show better every single night.

“The tour is playing a wide range of venues.” Peters adds. “In the air we are carrying a Kabuki style Ryman colored drop, and a mid-stage black-out which hides all of the backline and set. The morning production meeting, along with the flexibility of the venue, dictates how difficult the day will be. We try to be creative to preserve as much of the integrity of the show as possible.”

Kacey Musgraves “Oh What a World” Tour

Crew

  • Lighting & Set Designer: Chris Reade & Jay Ballinger/KYVA Design
  • Lighting Director & Programmer: Chad Peters
  • Lighting Co: Christie Lites
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Will Flavin
  • Christie Lites Rep: Rod “Red” Gibson
  • Tour Manager: Pamela Harris
  • Production Manager: Travis Bing
  • Stage Manager: Nate Stone
  • Carpenters: Mikey Jirku, Nate Stone
  • Staging Co: Gallagher Staging
  • Gallagher Reps: Tye Trussell, James McKinney

 

Gear

  • 1       grandMA2 Light console
  • 30     GLP Impression X4 Bar 20’s
  • 12     Martin MAC Quantum LED Profiles
  • 12     Elation ZW19 LED wash fixtures
  • 16     Glow Motion Technologies beach balls
  • 1       DF50 Hazer
  • 1       Radiance Hazer

More Kacey Musgraves tour photos by Steve Jennings:

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