Tenacious D ‘Post Apocalypto’ Tour

by Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • in
  • February 2019
  • Showtime
• Created: February 11, 2019

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The Post Apocalypto tour followed the release of the album and animated YouTube episodes last fall. Pictured here, the Dec. 17, 2018 show at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA. Photo and text by Steve Jennings

Lighting Co
Felix Lighting 

Venue
Various (Tour)

 

Crew

Show Designer/LD/Programmer: Dan Hadley

Lighting Crew Chiefs: Tess Falcone, Corey Mattonen

Felix Lighting Rep: Roger Pullis

Video Co: Fuse/Brian Andrews

Video Content: Dan Hadley, Tenacious D

Video Crew Chief: Dan Hadley

Tour/PM (and Bassist): John Spiker

Stage Manager: Lance Paden

Backdrops: Sew/Rent What?/Megan Duckett

Staging: Accurate Staging/Joey Kozlowski

 

Gear

1       grandMA2 lighting console

8       Martin MAC Quantum Profiles

4       Claypaky Scenius Profiles

8       Robe Spiiders

4       Chroma-Q Studio Force II’s (12”)

1       Base Hazer

2       Panasonic PT-RZ31K laser projector

1       MBox Studio media server

 

Tour Notes:

Jack Black and Kyle Glass founded rock-and-comedy duo Tenacious D in 1994. The duo have had a TV show on HBO, opened up for artists such as Beck and Pearl Jam, and have gained cult status over the years. The recent Post Apocalypto tour followed the release of the album and animated YouTube episodes of the same name last fall.

Designer Insights by Steve Jennings:

Tenacious D consists of the rock n’ roll & comedy duo Jack Black and Kyle Glass, formed in 1994. The duo have had a TV show on HBO, opened up for artists such as Beck and Pearl Jam, worked with Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters who played drums on their 2000 album release on Epic records, and starred in their own film-Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny and have gained cult status over the years.

The Show Concept

For Dan Hadley, the show concept, lighting designer and director for the Tenacious D Post Apocalypto Tour, the tour design was pretty different because their new album is so different in terms of structure. Hadley notes that it’s basically a musical, spread over six web-isodes that were released online, one per week, totaling about 70 minutes long.

Hadley was given the early episodes and was at a bit of a loss on how they were going to present the new material in a live situation, being that they all come from a cartoon world. Most of the tickets sold before the episodes were all available, so Hadley figured that people were coming to see the band on the strength of their legacy, not necessarily for the new stuff.

“The songs were catchy as always, but there was no obvious single to me, and I then realized that’s because they don’t stand alone without the context of all the other songs and the story that unfolds in the animation. The band’s classics like ‘Wonderboy’ and ‘Tribute’ have great story arcs within their four minutes, starting from scratch and wrapping up, but these all lean on and lead into each other in one long journey.

“Jack was very proud of the movie, and he screened it for a group of friends in his backyard, so I went and observed where the laughs were and to see what connected most with the people, coming away with no breakaway moment on which to focus.”

Hadley spent the next week totally flummoxed about what they could do before realizing they simply had to present the whole thing as a solid package, that the audience would have to take the entire “Post Apocalypto” journey with them.

“The next time we met, I told them I had an idea and that I didn’t know if it would work, but if it did that we’d have something different and a little special on our hands. They saw the potential and also realized we didn’t have much other choice, so we moved forward and ended up with a show that none of the fans expected when they bough their ticket. I was very glad the plan worked, there was no backup plan.”

Hadley notes that he now basically had two acts to work with, Act 1 being the whole new record, and Act 2 being the hits and the fan favorites.

“The first act required us to have a full-screen video somehow, but to also be able to feature the band, but also keep the band a bit removed from the audience so it wouldn’t be too crazy to shift gears back and forth between the live music and animations. Tenacious D has already succeeded in subversively infecting college dorms with musical theater, so our audience lets us get away with some theatrical gags.”

The perfect answer for Hadley was a scrim between the band and the audience giving them the ability to project the movie onto it, then black out that part of the screen and light the band behind it for the duration of a song.

“At the end of the song, we fade out to get back to the full screen animation, which carries the story forward to the next song — repeat the cycle. Once the story is complete, the scrim travels offstage and allows the duo to finally break the fourth wall and unite with the audience for a victory lap.

“In Act 2, the projectors keep working to set the scene on the false proscenium that we made using some vaguely anatomically inspired shapes which are open to interpretation at your own risk. As always, Sew What? delivered an impeccable set of drapes along with two sets of four-way tentacles that appear in one song. They’d never made these four-way air dancers, and I only saw them in a brief second of a video online, so with some trial and error and some last-minute expert cutting and sewing by the owner of the company herself, Megan Duckett and her team again successfully earned their reputation as absolute life-savers and we had them working perfectly.”

The few days of rehearsals they had to build the show mostly turned into a big editing session, as there was a lot of fear of demanding too much patience from the crowd, contrasted with not wanting to butcher their brand new animation that had barely been rolled out for the world to see.

“By the end of it we tried to cut out every second that wasn’t integral to moving the story to the next song and we ended up with about 30 minutes of animation on the cutting room floor and a show that we were happy with moved along at a good pace.” (The uncut version remains available in full online).

“We keep a pretty tight ship in terms of personnel,” says Hadley. “There’s nothing extra in the single truck we pack up, and it’s a decently full pack. We hang one truss that holds the false proscenium and the scrim, as well as light for the band upstage of it, which are all things that we can’t rely on a local rig having as we basically bisect the stage with soft goods, so anything that’s traditional front light is useless for the whole first act. I chose the Claypaky Scenius Profile so I could get the shutter cuts as close to the scrim as possible in order to keep Jack and Kyle lit when they’re only a foot or two away from it. Robe Spiiders provide a great mix of color wash, some good motion with the flower effect, and are compact enough to fit in the truss with all the drape. I chose [Martin] MAC Quantum Profiles for the floor package, their gobo package works great for us and the LED engine keeps us in a small power footprint and keeps the cabling on the stage nice and clean.

“Felix Lighting provided the package for this, tour and it’s just another in a long line of great experiences with them. They simply won’t rest until I have everything I need to get the show I want, it’s a real pleasure to work with them every time.”

Projection Details

The “Post Apocalypto” concept dictated that Hadley was going to be a projection show, and since they had a scrim as a projection surface, they needed a lot of firepower to make it look good.

Fuse was able to deliver with the new Panasonic PT-RZ31K Laser projectors, which were completely hassle-free and brighter than Hadley says he can say in polite company.

“This was especially great because I was the one setting them up and needed to be done quickly to get time to program the house lighting rig every day. Fuse delivered a flawless package and their reaction time to our last-minute rehearsals (I was coming directly from wrapping up an album cycle with Foo Fighters) was very impressive.

“The fun part with the content came once the tour was rolling along and we had a set list we were happy with and I had some spare time to start making new content for the proscenium, like the sausage portal for the song, ‘Kielbasa,’ or making the classic Tenacious Demon appear during ‘Tribute.’

“The band doesn’t see them during the show, so it gives them some surprises when they start scrolling through social media and they see a new look that I’ve snuck in. It’s great to have the near-total freedom they give me, and I try very hard to not abuse it, but how can you really go too far in a Tenacious D show? You can ask the flying vagina butterfly from the second song of the night, but she won’t tell you. It’s just a great small crew where everyone loves the show and the band and each other, which is as it should be. If you can’t have fun doing this tour, you should just hang it up.”

More tour photos by Steve Jennings:

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