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Panic! At the Disco ‘Pray for the Wicked’ Tour

by Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • in
  • October 2018
  • Production Profile
• Created: October 13, 2018

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PANIC! AT THE DISCO © Steve Jennings

Pop/alt-rock band Panic! At The Disco from Las Vegas is packing arenas on their Pray For The Wicked tour, named after their sixth studio album, released in June 2018. Brendon Urie (vocals, guitar, keyboards) has a vocal range few can achieve and the other band members are also in fine form, treating fans to favorites such as “Hallelujah,” “New Perspective” and “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” among others. We caught up with key members of the production — production and lighting designer Guy Pavelo, lighting director and programmer Alex Specht, creative director and tour manager Tony Marino and production manager Spencer Jones. The tour, which launched in July, is covering North America, Australia and Europe with additional shows in Mexico, Japan and the Philippines before ending in the U.K. in late March, 2019.

PANIC! AT THE DISCO © Steve Jennings

Guy Pavelo
Production & Lighting Designer

The Panic! team reached out to Guy Pavelo and Steve Kidd from GP-SK Design, saying they were interested in a new, fresh approach to their show vision. “This was one of the few times an outside team was utilized for design purposes,” Pavelo says, adding that he and Steve Kidd “were definitely interested in a cohesive production, with all elements working together to complement one another, and not require to be ‘fully engaged’ at all times within every number… We knew rear video was needed, and knowing Alex [Specht]’s moderately aggressive programming style, a solid and forceful lighting package was needed. I also knew we were not interested in the stock 60-by-40-foot stage, and needed to come up with a different look, and wanted to push the FX a bit from the norm if at all possible. Our working motto became in part, ‘taking a different approach.’

“Steve and I definitely feed off one another, work in tandem and have been together long enough to know when good ideas can become real visions. Once the two of us are on the same page, I begin the work of putting it to working paper. As the concepts progress, Steve and I bounce things back and forth, making changes constantly, until we both feel it’s something worth showing the client. Fortunately, Panic! has a strong team as well, so when Steve and I showed drawings to Tony [Marino, creative director and tour manager] and Spencer [Jones, production manager], with some changes made — shape of lifts, suggested options and treatment decisions for example, it proved beneficial to the client. Steve and I worked with multiple vendors during the design process to make sure the options we put on paper were possible and legitimate in real life. GP-SK is not a firm that employs a more dream approach, but a more literal vision. Sure, pushing the envelope at times, but for the most part creating a build-able product on paper to move forward from. When it comes to the final down-and-dirty of building and timelines, Steve is definitely the stronger one, knowing what to discuss, to press the vendors both on time and delivering, as well as if any feet are being dragged and a boost is required.”

PANIC! AT THE DISCO © Steve Jennings

Pavelo wanted to make sure there was enough “beef” in the system to let the show make visual statements along with broad aesthetic working looks. He says he was also “pretty keen on, from the beginning, pulling the show system practically to the FOH location — as opposed to having the crowd just ‘watch the show.’ I worked with Alex about halfway through to make sure fixture types made sense,” he adds. They chose Martin MAC Viper AirFX “to trim the rear side of the rotary towers, due to weight concerns,” and also chose Martin MAC Viper Profiles “to make sure the units complimented one another. I’m a big fan of the PRG Icon Edge fixture, and utilized these as the main fixture in the over-stage rig,” Pavelo continues. He also chose GLP impression X4 Bar 20’s to trim the rotary towers, along with GLP JDC1 fixtures, “which, in my opinion, are fantastic.”

Pavelo notes that he and Steve Kidd gave lighting programmer/director Alex Specht a fair amount of latitude to complete the design details. “The conceptual visions proposed in renderings were big, broad and bold looks, both from the overhead systems, but also utilizing the rotating towers and fixtures hidden behind to have the show visually extend width-wise across the house,” Pavelo says. “Once the show was up and in rehearsal mode, we shared some thoughts with Alex regarding some of the conceptual visions and how to attain a few of them, option-wise, but we mostly let him take the reins and write the show as he saw fit. I handled programming in the server systems — Mbox 4 and TC-aligning the video content by Triggr & Bloom, making suggestions to Alex along the way — but trying to allow his creativity to shine.”

PANIC! AT THE DISCO © Steve Jennings

Pavelo and Kidd appreciated that the Panic! team was receptive to their ideas about the different stage and video approaches for the tour. “We were lucky to have Derek Burt with the Fuse (video) team obtain and employ some of the new ROE CB 5mm, which was a step up within our design,” Pavelo says. “I had seen and was utilizing a German concept with the rotating towers, and we discussed this concept with Eric Pearce over at SGPS and came up with the rotating system option — going back and forth from overhead rotators, to in stage deck rotators to different lighting systems on the towers to the big question of how to make the rotators tour friendly.

“For video I really like trying to break the system up and not have what some might call a ‘normal’ approach,” Pavelo continues. “It may make things more difficult for programming, to focus and to come up with new ways to conceptualize — it just might not work this time — but that’s how I feel and was taught to progress and come up with new, hopefully accepted ideas and visions.”

“Tony and Spencer made us aware that lasers were a thought, that Panic! has had pyro and FX in the past, says Pavelo. “We were able, with Ted [Maccabee] over at Strictly FX, to look into what has been done with Panic! in the past, but also in thoughts and ways to hopefully push visions into the future. John Lyons, a good friend and Panic!’s pyro shooter, helped moving product that Steve and I chose for ideas into feasible and more importantly, safe positions, as well as new in-floor fire treatment from Strictly’s housing flame bar containing more jets than we have seen in the past.” Doug Cenko with Strictly FX programmed the lasers. He is one of the best at this, says Pavelo, and he worked with me to attain bigger, more precise looks.”

“It was a pleasure for Steve and I to be included and incorporated into this installment of Panic!’s story, being able to bring a larger approach and scale of production to the team and see them grab it by the reins and wrangle it all into check. We are quite pleased with the end result and feel it made the impact we were looking to deliver.”

PANIC! AT THE DISCO © Steve Jennings

Alex Specht
Lighting Director & Programmer

Alex Specht says the Panic! team had been partial to a one-stop shop when it comes to choosing design companies. They’ve had luck in the past with production design firms that produce lighting and staging concepts and video content. This time around, however, they branched out and went through various companies separately providing all of those elements, one of which was GP-SK’s Guy Pavelo.

Specht credits Pavelo for the “‘go big or go home’ angle to his visions,” adding that Pavelo handed off a production show file for Specht to build the show program from scratch, but to his direction and knowledge of the band’s interests. “Guy introduced me to a multitude of avenues I had yet to explore in designing and helped bring out a new level of production and perception,” Specht says. “After working out some kinks, we came to agree on the final setup. We had to work out a lot of fixture placement —how it would fit, and what would be its purpose. We went with a lot of theatrical set lighting — not so much for the stage, as it was taken care of with side lighting, but for the whole picture. Enough animation from the stage, a handful of reversed set lighting to add depth and a few twists of audience light, to give the crowd a sense of inclusion.”

As far as preproduction, it was a photo finish, notes Specht. “We ran into a few snags with fixture placement and orientation that got our programming a little behind schedule. After being sorted out, I had a good week at home of previz, along with three days/nights on site while the rig was being constructed. The last night went towards time with the rig to see how everything came together with the fixtures before it was sent to full band rehearsals — which brought us to the first venue of the tour and gave us a couple of days to soak in the full view of the show prior to its release.”

PANIC! AT THE DISCO © Steve Jennings

As for time code, Specht says, “I make the joke of the magical Time Code fairy that takes care of everything. ‘Everything’s fine… it’s Time Coded.’ Ha! I had always avoided it in my lighting shows, except for video cues. Time Code is a 50/50 crapshoot of failure or success. I prefer the control and the comfort in knowing that any execution is on my behalf. Whether an accomplishment or a faulty lesson, I know it’s on me. After talking, I embraced the fact that it’s basically a recorded performance of my programming. I found a lot of benefit in TC. The most prominent factor is that you can troubleshoot issues and know that the cues still prevail. I basically program cues and transitions within TC, but all of my accents and punches are live. I like the skeleton of my cues to be taken care of via timing of my programming, yet I thrive on the musicality of a live performance. The Pray For The Wicked tour has turned out to be a phenomenal show that I am proud to say was an enlightening collaboration on all levels of production between all of those involved.”

Tony Marino started tour-managing Panic! At The Disco back in 2011. His first show as tour manager for them was their CD release show for Vices & Virtues at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles. Marino missed doing a few tours due to conflicting schedules with his other artists, and was glad to be back supporting the band with some familiar faces. “Because of our history, we work very well together, and between Zack Hall [road manager], Scott Nagelberg [manager] and myself, we tend to already know what singer Brendon Urie will and won’t like before we have to even get him involved, which is a huge help in the process. It lets Brendon be able to focus on his music and performances.”

PANIC! AT THE DISCO © Steve Jennings

Before reaching out to vendors for this tour, Marino spoke with Urie about any ideas he wanted so they had some guidelines to give to the designers. “One big concept he wanted to see in the designs was the P!ATD logo being a being part of the main focus — some type of thrust for him to use — and he wanted to incorporate lifts and toasters into the show for himself and the band.” Urie also wanted to make sure they had a B-Stage for him to use for a section of the show.

After seeing the initial design from GP-SK Design, Marino says they went back in and added the LED stripping around the thrust logo, the fly gag for the piano to go from FOH to main stage, and tweaked some of the lift and riser locations. “We worked on tweaking the design with GP-SK even further once we brought in SGPS to build the stage and what elements were feasible or needed to be changed,” Marino adds. “Once we began rehearsals for this show, we spent many hours fine tuning it, especially when it came to video content, special effects and overall show flow. This project had many curveballs, as they all do, but dealing with those is something I really enjoy handling and take extra pride in seeing the finished project to the end.

“Leg 1 of the Pray For The Wicked tour was a milestone for myself and Panic!,” Marino says. “This was our second sold-out U.S. Arena tour, and we are looking forward to Leg Two of the U.S. tour in January 2019. We are also taking the show over to Australia, Asia and Europe in the coming months. We have worked very hard on putting together a great core crew for us to tour the world with, which is part of the reason we all still love to do what we do.”

PANIC! AT THE DISCO © Steve Jennings

As both production manager and FOH engineer for Panic! at the Disco, Spencer Jones says there is a lot to juggle, but he has a great team that help. “A big part of my job is crew chief. When you have over 50 people to manage, there can be a lot of different personalities to deal with. Making sure the crew has what they need to get the job done, keeping everyone on task and being efficient is a big part of my job. I deal with freight, trucking, ordering and maintaining of gear, solving logistic problems that may come up, advancing and timing of shows, etc.”

Jones deals with the various companies in preparation for the tour. Every vendor has to be fine-tuned, gear-wise and personnel-wise, to fit the specific needs of the band and the production as a whole — all while staying within the agreed-upon budget. Along with those challenges, Jones needs to manage the logistics of pick-ups and drop-offs, and how to make their gear work within the various constraints at hand, and so on. Another big part is rigging — once the design is in place, Jones works with the head rigger and the companies providing the rigging, making sure all needs are met to get the rig in the air safely while coming up with a system that will work for the entire tour.

The tour makes use of 18 production trucks, which were very specifically laid-out for the needs and the routing of the tour. “We have two rigging trucks that would leapfrog across the country to make sure we had the rigging at the venue early enough to ensure the job could be done in time before doors open,” Jones says. “Sometimes we would even go in the night before at venues to do a pre-rig.

“The production in the other continents do vary,” Jones adds. “There is a lot to consider when thinking about trying to mimic the same show across the globe. You have to think about the size of the venues being booked, the overall budget, the timing of shipping gear internationally, the cost of shipping heavy equipment internationally. We are carrying our backline and some production/dressing room cases with us to Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the EU. The rest of the production is brought in locally, and we carefully fine-tune every single show to fit the venue and the budget at hand. We will be shipping some of our U.S. production over to the U.K. since we have the capacity to do it and can make some really big shows happen there, and it will actually make sense to bring some of the elements that are hard to recreate with any other vendors’ gear, since it might be custom or specific to a company.”

Jones notes that they did have to make some adjustments to the staging to make it all work. For example, they had to shorten the 32-foot towers to 24 feet to meet weight, safety and trim height constraints, which resulted in adjustments with lighting fixtures and placement. “Overall, there were several hurdles, but I think it’s to be expected for a tour of this size,” Jones concludes. “Lots of work, but I think it ended up being a great show, and one to be proud of.”

PANIC! AT THE DISCO © Steve Jennings

Panic! At the Disco 2018 Pray for the Wicked Tour

Crew
Production Design: Guy Pavelo & Steve Kidd/
GP-SK Design
Creative Director & Tour Manager: Tony Marino
Lighting Director/Programmer: Alex Specht
Production Manager/FOH Engineer: Spencer Jones
Production Assistant: Kristin Rinden
Road Manager: Zack Hall
Stage Manager: Aaron Draude
Lighting Co: PRG/Curry Grant
Lighting Crew Chief: Craig Kreider
Lighting Crew: Avi Meck, Cole Wheeler, Jennifer Kerbs, Todd Turner, Danny Rodriguez, Kurt Thormodsen, Matt Laroux
GP-SK Design Rep: Sydney Yuman
Rooftop Management Rep: Todd Cameron
Video Director: Jack Edinger
Video Co: Fuse/Derek Burt
Video Crew Chief: Jamey Malcolm
Video/LED Techs: David Cruz, Mark Inscoe, Tom Kozmuik, Nick Patronete, Dan Nieto, Jason Galayda
Video Content & Production: Panic!, Triggr & Bloom
Staging Co: SGPS/Eric Pearce
Automation: Juan Guerra, Rob Flood, Brent Foltz, Drew Odom, Josh Brewer
Riggers: Jerry Ritter, Troy Garcia, James Pisano
FX: Strictly FX/Ted Maccabee
Laser Tech: Jackson Frazier
Pyro Tech: John Lyons
FX Tech: Anthony Amato
Trucking: Ozark Mountain

Gear
Lighting:
2 grandMA2 Full consoles
36 PRG Icon Edges
37 PRG Icon Beams
46 PRG Best Boy Spot HP’s
12 PRG Best Boy Washes
72 Martin MAC Viper Air FX
48 GLP JDC1’s
84 GLP impression X4 Bar 20’s
5 Claypaky Sharpy Washes
4 PRG GroundControl followspot systems w/Bad Boys
15 Philips ColorBlast 12’s
1 PRG S4 LL DSF

Video:
287 ROE CB-5 W LED tiles
45 ROE CB-5 W Half LED tiles
4 Brompton Tessera SX40 processor
2 PRG Mbox Studio V4
4 Panasonic Studio 4K cameras
3 Panasonic robo cameras
2 Barco UDX-4K32 31K laser projector

More Panic! At the Disco 2018 Pray for the Wicked tour photos by Steve Jennings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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