Coheed and Cambria

by Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • in
  • August 2019
  • Wide Focus
• Created: August 9, 2019

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COHEED & CAMBRIA © Steve Jennings

“The Unheavenly Skye” Tour

New York based progressive hard rock band Coheed and Cambria, led by Claudio Sanchez (Vocals, Guitar and Keyboards) and including Travis Stever (guitars, vocals), Josh Eppard (drums, keyboards, backing vocals), and Zach Cooper (bass, backing vocals) have a unique story that goes along with their music. Most of their albums having a science fiction / comic book storyline written by Sanchez that diehard fans follow intensely, hoping to find more hidden meanings along the way.

For 2019, Coheed and Cambria have been co-headlining a tour with heavy metal rockers Mastodon. Called “The Unheavenly Skye” tour, the trek’s title references Coheed and Cambria’s most recent album, Vaxis — Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures, and the 10-year anniversary for Mastodon’s 2009 album release, Crack the Skye. (Mastodon is playing the album in its entirety on this trek.)

To get more insight into the looks created for Coheed and Cambria on this tour, we spoke with the bands lighting designer and director Michael “Greek” Hionis, who is also co-show designer (with Blaze James and Ivan Ceron) and co-lighting programmer (with Kat Covell). We also caught up with Jason Reberski of JRLX, Inc., the lighting company for the tour.

COHEED & CAMBRIA © Steve Jennings

The Sci-Fi Saga Continues

2019 marks the sixth year for Michael “Greek” Hionis as the band’s lighting designer, director and programmer. Having been a huge fan of rock and metal, he was glad when a friend called him for some fill in dates with the band. Hionis prayed that they would eventually ask him to step in as lighting designer. “While I was more than happy to run some punted shows in the meantime, getting the chance to make a design for a band was one of my childhood dreams. 2014 was my first real design for them, and we’ve being growing the creative and visual aspects ever since. Each year we add more budget, and more toys, and some kind of visual centerpiece that the whole design can feed off of. The band never wants to do the same thing twice, and always wants to give the audience a fresh, immersive experience, both musically and visually.”

Coheed and Cambria have a very close connection with their fans because all of their music tells a story — not just isolated stories told through individual songs, but a narrative theme that connects the band’s albums. The lighting for the show must always follow that story and set the scene for each distant planet or city. For the album released last fall, Vaxis Act 1: The Unheavenly Creatures, the main characters are trying to escape a giant planet-sized intergalactic prison called the Dark Sentencer. This prison was the creative driving force of the tour. The top of the show starts with The Dark Sentencer emblem projected onto a 50-foot kabuki drop that eventually reveals the lighting design that is intended to trap and ensnare the band; it’s designed to make them feel encapsulated in this world of light beams and linear projections.

While most of the show is well cued out, there are hundreds of hits, frills, and beats that Hionis likes to play on the console like a keyboard. “I’m not a musician by any means, but there are some songs that are so rhythmically intensive, that I have to be 100 percent laser-focused to stay in sync with the guys. I tend to rely more on my fingers than chases, FX or timecode when it comes to the stronger percussive sections of the music. In addition to the grandMA2’s bitmapping abilities, (which, by the way, Kat Covell programmed flawlessly) I had a media server running Resolume via Art-Net sending and receiving DMX values to my grandMA2 console — primarily for the GLP Impression X4BAR 20s and JDC1s, both of which were run in full SPix mode.

“What can I say, I’m a big fader nerd,” Hionis states. “I have a Leviton NSI MC N7008 which became the perfect side-car to the MA2 — a “low-fi” solution to adding more faders. During the show I used it mostly as inhibitive submasters of the various band member specials. I also had a bank of “Oh No” handles when things like strobes, LED walls, movers, and front lighting all need to remain balanced.”

COHEED & CAMBRIA © Steve Jennings

Solid Support from Crew and Gear

Lighting programmer Kat Covell is known by many from her time at ACT. Always knowledgeable, very friendly and known by some as a “ninja” on the desk, Hionis says she’s the best programmer he knows. “Kat and I programmed the show together at the JRLX shop in Tinley Park, IL, near Chicago, in their brand new Technical Rehearsal Facility. It was a total blast and an absolute luxury to hang the entire rig! Two consoles, one show file, separate sessions; it was like operating a Jaguar together with both brains linked in a hive-like state. Her unique style and appreciation for the band’s catalog really helped create some of the best and most intricate moments in the show. We really needed someone to help get a lot done in a short amount of time with a lot of dynamism. She delivered on that.” (Kat Covell is profiled in this month’s “NextGen” column on page 55 —ed.)

Hionis says JRLX has given him the exact tools he needs for each job. “JRLX has top-notch equipment and is continually investing in the latest and greatest gear and packaging. The Robe MegaPointes are a great hybrid because they are both a perfect flat-field spot fixture and a beam fixture — the ‘Prism Engine’ is amazing. The Robe Spiiders are fantastic wash lights and FX lights. They also have killer optics that allow me to use the fixture in a super-tight beam when needed, but splay out into a gorgeous, high-power wash also.

“The GLP JDC-1 is my new favorite strobe,” Hionis continues. “The colors are punchy, the white tube in aggressive mode is a huge ‘face melter,’ and the tilt is a bonus I use more times than I actually thought I would. The GLP Impression X4 BAR 20 was the driving creative force of the show. I used them to envelop the band in sheets of light and give them a larger than life kind of vibe — we often ran video content through them as well. The Vipers were basically band member specials and custom gobo projectors. I needed a fixture that had excellent gobo projection with very precise beam control and the Viper has always delivered on those fronts.”

Hionis says he met Jason Reberski over a decade ago, and they immediately became friends. “Even though we didn’t have the pleasure of combining our forces until recently, he has always been one of those people that you keep on a short list in your phone. When I needed a programmer to help me out at my wedding six years ago, he was the only phone call I needed to make. He is such a passionate and generous person that he leaped at the chance to help me on my special day. It’s that passion that draws me towards JRLX. That, and the fact that Kevin Rosenhagen (the JRLX account rep and VP of operations) just knows how to put a tour together. He is a technical and logistics monster — the best, really. Plus, their new rehearsal facility is great for previz and live programming. They really let an LD go to town before the first show.”

Jason Reberski, president of tour lighting vendor JRLX, notes that the lighting rig was engineered to be versatile. While many venues were large amphitheaters, the lighting rig needed to be adaptable for some of the more compact venues on the tour. “The use of intelligently circuited GT truss and modular components allowed the rig to expand and contract as needed and still look proportionate,” Reberski says.

GLP Cosmic Truss F31P pipes were used for the GLP X4 BAR 20s and JDC1 strobes in between the slats of video wall and several configurations were provided so that the rig could proportionately adapt to a wide range of trim heights. It also reduced weight significantly.

This was the first use of the TMB ProPlex GBS Network Selector, used to swap between consoles while still maintaining high data bandwidth for the almost 14,300 control parameters (or 28 universes) of data. Jason expands, “It was actually the first of its kind delivered in the United States, and it worked perfectly. A very elegant solution. We provided space in our brand new Technical Rehearsal Facility, which has a fully rated and engineered roof for rigging, dedicated production office, large format multi-substrate printing department, and a dedicated previz facility. All were used by the tour for almost two weeks prior to shipping. It’s always an absolute joy to work with Mike to put a show together. He has incredible vision and loads of talent.”

Kevin Rosenhagen, JRLX VP of operations and Coheed and Cambria account rep, credits “the entire Coheed camp” and Hionis “for being “just awesome people. We have worked closely with them on multiple projects now and it’s always a truly positive experience.”

COHEED & CAMBRIA © Steve Jennings

 

Coheed and Cambria “The Unheavenly Skye” Tour

COHEED & CAMBRIA © Steve Jennings

Crew

  • Show Designers: Blaze James, Michael “Greek” Hionis, Ivan Ceron
  • Lighting Designer/Director: Michael “Greek” Hionis
  • Lighting Programmers: Kat Covell, Michael “Greek” Hionis
  • Lighting Co: JRLX, Inc.
  • JRLX Reps: Jason Reberski, VP of operations; Kevin Rosenhagen, Account Rep
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Mark “Chud” Williams
  • Lighting Tech: Scott “Stickers” Sheffield
  • Video Content Creative Director and Programmer: Ivan Ceron
  • Video Animators: Ivan Ceron, Chris May, Eddie Perez, T2 Visuals’ Tanner Thompson
  • Video Operators: Ivan Ceron, Chris May
  • Video Tech: Luke Dube
  • Video Co: Solotech
  • Solotech Account Rep: Paul Owen
  • Tour Manager: Chuck Andrews
  • Assistant to the Tour Manager: Ernest “Dirty Ern” Falconer
  • Production Manager: Scott “Shreddy” Edwards
  • Stage Manager: Scott Wolff
  • Rigging Co: To The Moon Rigging/Justin Argenio
  • Rigger: Andrew Volk
  • Trucking Co: Averitt Express/On Tour Logistics

COHEED & CAMBRIA © Steve Jennings

Gear

  • 2       grandMA2 Light Lighting consoles
  • 3       grandMA3 Network Processor L’s
  • 1       Leviton NSI MC N7008 Fader Wing
  • 60     GLP X4 BAR 20’s
  • 30     GLP JDC1 Strobes
  • 28     Robe MegaPointes
  • 22     Robe Spiiders
  • 12     Martin MAC Viper Profiles
  • 12     Elation CuePix WW4 Blinders
  • 12     Elation CuePix WW2 Blinders
  • 4       HazeBase Base*Hazer PRO units
  • 2       Antari Z1500II Fog Generators
  • 3       LEX 48-Channel power distros
  • 2       TMB Proplex IQ Two 1616 sACN Nodes
  • 2       TMB Proplex GBS Network Switches
  • 1       TMB ProPlex GBS Network Selector
  • 2       Gerriets Kabuki G-Frame 54 G2 controllers
  • 30     Gerriets Kabuki G2 release units
  • 19     Tyler GT Truss sections
  • 1       Kabuki (50’ x 40’ WxH)
  • 180  Saco Smartvision S-6 LED panels
  • 1       Resolume Arena 6 server running on an Alienware laptop, with APC40 mkii, Novation Launchpad MK2 & Numark Orbit controllers

COHEED & CAMBRIA © Steve Jennings

 

More Coheed and Cambria 2019 “Unheavenly Skye” tour photos by Steve Jennings:

 

 

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