The Smashing Pumpkins ‘Shiny and Oh So Bright’ Tour

by Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • in
  • April 2019
  • Tour Lighting
• Created: April 8, 2019

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SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

The Smashing Pumpkins, led by frontman Billy Corgan, who formed the band over 30 years ago, hit the road with their Shiny and Oh So Bright tour in support of their album of the same name, released in Nov. 2018. The band’s musical history over that period includes a mixture of Alt-Rock, Psychedelic, Progressive, Goth, Metal and even Dream Pop. We spoke with the creative team — Linda Strawberry (Creative Director/Co-Producer/Video Content), Doug “Spike” Brant (Production Designer), Joe Bay (Lighting Director/Programmer) and Luke Stratton (Lighting Director) — about the tour’s design.

Linda Strawberry, along with her creative position for the tour, is also a musician, editor, director and artist, also sharing a company — Coloma Productions with her director, husband Justin Coloma. “I run most of my productions through my own company because figuring things out from the very beginning is most important to my creative process. Billy (Corgan) and I have worked on many different things together over our 18-year friendship. He has supported my creative endeavors all throughout our friendship, but on this particular job, he really bet on me and put a lot of trust in me. I’m very grateful for that opportunity.”

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

Linda Strawberry

Creative Director/Co-Producer/Video Content

Strawberry didn’t have much pre-production time on this tour. Corgan called her in late April with his narrative outline, she filmed in June and landed in Phoenix on July 1st to put it all together. “For every song, Billy gave me an outline of the story he wanted to tell, and if it was to be a filmed piece, animation, or lights and architecture. I broke it all down into pieces and hired several artists to do different projects. There were so many things to figure out for our content heavy three-plus-hour show that I spent many, many hours breaking everything apart and making sure I was on the right track. A few of the projects I assigned out didn’t come back to Billy’s satisfaction, so we re-did those pieces on site.”

With a solid set list, every piece was timed out and planned, notes Strawberry. “Billy was very creatively involved. We are a creative team, so I kept him updated on everything that was happening and got his feedback. He personally created the animation for ‘Disarm’ and the beginning of ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ He also sat with me on edits at times. Spike Brant, along with video content creators Scott Peterman and Andrew Hildebrand and I, all worked together to bring the entire show together in that last two weeks before the first show. So I was blessed, because there was creative alchemy between Billy and I, and also with the rest of our team.”

It was an abstract way of telling the story of the songs and the band during a particular time period, notes Strawberry. There was also another layer about fame, dissociation, and alienation, she says. “Having known Billy and the band for a long time, I got some of the more abstract references and understood the emotional meaning. I also love The Smashing Pumpkins’ aesthetic. It’s fun creating for such an artistic, risk-taking band. I feel very lucky to have had this experience and to get to do more work like this. It was a real treasure falling in with the team and learning from them and watching it all come together.”

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

Doug “Spike” Brant

Production Designer

Spike Brant notes that Billy Corgan and Linda Strawberry were the creative directors for the Shiny and Oh So Bright tour. “Once we got the script from Billy, and Linda applied visuals to it, that became our bible for putting the whole show together. We then manifested it into the design and, in the end, Billy liked everything about it and wanted it all. The tight collaboration with Linda created a great partnership that continues to this day on different projects.

“I met Linda for the very first time on this show, and when you meet new people, you have no idea how it’s going to turn out, and she’s turned out to be a great collaborator. She’s very hard working — a true visionary — and I think she really brings a wonderful point of view into entertainment and live events. We were honored to work with her.”

PRG (Las Vegas) was the tour vendor for both lighting and video on the tour. Brant notes he worked with Curry Grant on the lighting end and Skip Twitchell on the video side. “Having known both Curry and Skip for over 20 years, it’s an easy and fun working relationship.”

A key component of the integration between automation, video and lighting working together was bringing on Control Freak for screens and system control, says Brant. “Having Joe Bay was very instrumental on the integration of all of those elements through the process on the grandMA.”

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

Joe Bay

Lighting Director/Programmer

Programming lighting, video and automation for this tour is Joe Bay. With the show artistically demanding these three departments for tight integration, it made sense to have the execution contained to a single show file and operator. “It took just over a month to program, as well as numerous weeks prior in prep,” says Bay. “We had time at Tait dedicated to integrating Navigator with the grandMA2. It required hundreds of Navigator rules to allow this extremely dynamic show to work both visually and safely. We also spent time at Control Freak designing the control system and network infrastructure. The network on this show essentially had every department aside from audio on it, so it needed to be carefully-thought-out and robust. Once we got into programming the show, the routine mostly consisted of myself behind the console while Felix (Peralta) was overseeing the lighting visuals of the show as well as interfacing with the rest of the creative team. Working with an industry veteran like Felix is always great and was invaluable in letting me stay immersed in the programming.

“I was on the road as the lighting director for much of the tour, then Luke [Stratton] took over. We had 32 songs programmed and we knew going into it that we would have the same set list, which was a total bonus! With the show being the same each night, we were able to add another layer of detail to transitions in between songs to help tell the narrative of the show. The show tells a story from the moment house lights go out to the encore, and each song is precisely positioned to tell that story.”

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

If you’ve listened to The Smashing Pumpkins before, you’ve probably noticed that they have some pretty dynamic songs, notes Bay. “That said, there were quite a lot of cues for the show, most of them being manual accents on top of a base cue. In some numbers, my hands would be full for the duration of the song. It was also a rather long show, roughly three-plus hours. Out of the 32 songs played, six were timecode.”

Bay says they had a pretty good idea of what fixtures would be a good fit for this show. “I would say the GLP X4 Bars were one of the stronger fixtures for us. They were lined along the chords of the moving trusses as well as on the Periaktoi (rotating device that turns scenery to another side) in a scenic arrangement. We had enough of them that we were able to just use different arrangements at a time to give us a variety of looks throughout the show. The Mythos were also extremely versatile and packed effects that were appropriate for this style of show.

“This show was quite unlike anything I’ve worked on before. I would consider it a large-scaled, theatrical-style rock ‘n’ roll show. While the lighting was a major component of the show, the automation and video components were just as important. There were a lot of moving parts, and it took a lot of choreography among the band and crew for everything to work together. I’ve worked with Spike numerous times in the past and have a good idea how he likes to work. I feel that having a strong relationship between the technical team and the creative team is essential for shows like this. It allows you to push boundaries in the design while also making sure you can pull it off. While this show presented many challenges for us, I’m confident we created a spectacular product.”

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

Luke Stratton

Lighting Director

As lighting director, or more aptly titled “show director,” he notes, Luke Stratton is in charge of driving all of the lighting, video, and motion control elements for the show. This includes executing a mix cue-to-cue and timecoded song sequences, adding lighting over the top, sending automation movement position and cue data to their Tait control console, and controlling the Mbox media servers. “Also, as on tour programmers, Joe and I would add and tweak cues and programming on a daily basis. Often we would try out new color schemes for songs or add additional cues or executors, so we’re always stepping this up. For example, about halfway through the tour, we switched the color palette for ‘Porcelina of the Vast Oceans’ from warm white to a mix of royal blue and CTB, and we added a subtle wave dimmer and tilt effect to the JCD1s to create an ocean effect over the crowd. It was a relatively simple change, but a very effective one.”

There was a large pixel element to the show, and they pushed them to the max, notes Stratton. The GLP X4 Bar 10, GLP X4 Bar 20, and Claypaky B-Eye K20s were all in full RGBW pixel mode, and they utilized a variety of different elements to get the most out of them, including detailed effects programmed on the grandMA2 as well as Art-Net mapped video pixel mapping via the Mbox media server. “Claypaky Scenius were our key light work horses, and two vertical towers of Claypaky Sharpys as well as six motor controlled trusses filled with Claypaky Mythos were bright enough to create stunning graphic looks with minimal haze. In Europe we subbed out the B-Eyes and Mythos for Robe Spiiders and PRG Icon Edges, respectively, and having gotten my hands on both fixtures, I must say I can’t wait to use them again.”

As mentioned, only six songs in the set list were fully timecoded, as most of the catalog, especially the more well-known rock songs like “Cherub Rock,” “Today,” “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Zero” do not have backing tracks. “There are many video and motion elements throughout the show, and all of these are fired by the MA. On songs without timecode, the basic song structure is cue-to-cue, and then much of the eye candy — hits, strobes, bumps, etc. — are punted over top.”

Stratton gives a shout-out to the lighting crew chief Jason Dixon, saying that without him, the tour just wouldn’t have been the same. “Not only was Jason a fantastic leader for our daily build and load out, but during the show he would man the second lighting console, resetting troublesome fixtures, controlling key light and video logos between songs, and calling all of our followspot cues. While these tasks often fall in the lap of the director, with so many elements in play, Jason really helped me pull off an awesome show that wouldn’t have been nearly manageable had he not stepped up to the plate. I also wanted to thank Doug Hallman, the video tech from Control Freak Systems. He’s really the brain guy on tour. I’ve never met anyone more hardworking or knowledgeable about equipment, both in and out of his ‘department.’ If there was ever a technical issue I couldn’t sort out, Doug was the guy for the job.”

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

The Smashing Pumpkins Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour

CREW

Co-Producer/Creative Director: Linda Strawberry (Coloma Prod.)

Production Designer: Doug “Spike” Brant (Nimblist)

Lighting Directors: Joe Bay, Luke Stratton

Lighting Programmers: Felix Peralta, Joe Bay

Lighting Co: PRG Las Vegas

Lighting Crew Chief: Jason Dixon

Lighting Techs: Rudy Orona, Tom Mayer (dimmer), Patrick Warrington (moving)

PRG Rep/Lighting: Curry Grant

Video/LED Content: Linda Strawberry, Scott Peterman, Andrew Hildebrand

Video Crew Chief: Evan Cervantes

Control Freak Tech: Doug Hallman

Video Tech: Phillip Johnson (LED 2)

Video Integrator: Troy Giddens

Video Co: PRG Las Vegas

PRG Rep/Video: Skip Twitchell

Video Control: Control Freak Systems

Control Freak Rep: Michael Goodwin

Tour Manager: Doug Goodman

Production Manager: Greg Dean

Production Coordinator: Maya Gas

Staging Co: Gallagher Staging

Gallagher Rep: Chris Bier

Periaktos Fabrication: Tait

Motion Control: Tait Navigator

Tait Rep: Matt Hales

Soft Goods Co: Sew What?/Rent What?

Sew What? Rep: Megan Duckett

Zero Statue Prop: Southwest Scenic

Stage Manager: Sean Robinson

Lead Rigger: Brian Collins

Automation Tech: Rich Perkin

Lead Carp: Carl Young

Set Carpenters: Kyle Rossier, Chris Bier

Carp/Asst. Rigger: Martin Coffey

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

GEAR

Lighting:

2                grandMA2 Full consoles

1                grandMA2 Light console

2                grandMA2 onPC

1                grandMA2 MA3D PC

9                MA Lighting NPU’s

32             Claypaky Sharpys

54             Claypaky B-Eye K20’s

56             Claypaky Mythos 2 fixtures

10             Claypaky Scenius Profiles

48             GLP JCD1 LED strobes

98             GLP X4 Bar 20’s

42             GLP X4 Bar 10’s

11             GLP X4 fixtures

32             GLP X4s fixtures

6                GLP Atoms

16             Vari-Lite VL4000 Beam Washes

3                “Pumpkin String” work lights

24             Tait laser cut mirror panels

29             8’ PRG Bat Truss

27             10’ PRG Bat Truss

6                Tait Periaktoi truss enclosures

12             Tait NavHoists

1                Tait Navigator automation system

1                120’ traveler truss

14             Pathport Octo nodes

6                PRG S-400 72-way Soca Racks

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

Video:

2                PRG Mbox Designer v4

2                Brainstorm SR112 units

2                Rosendahl MIF4 MIDI interfaces

2                Tessera M2 processors

156           ROE Carbon CB8 video tiles

 

More Smashing Pumpkins Shiny and Oh So Bright tour photos by Steve Jennings:

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