Metric ‘Art of Doubt’ Tour 2019

by Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • in
  • May 2019
  • Wide Focus
• Created: May 3, 2019

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METRIC © Steve Jennings

Canadian indie rock band Metric, which toured with Smashing Pumpkins last year, paired up with Mexican rock band Zoé for a co-headlining tour in February and March in support of their seventh studio album, Art of Doubt, released last fall. PLSN caught up with the tour at a sold-out show in San Francisco, and we spoke with lighting and production designer Meagan Metcalf and lighting director Ben Silverstein about the tour design. Metcalf’s tour credits include designing, programming, directing, co-designing and production-consulting tours for artists including St. Vincent, Chromeo, Phantogram, Death Cab For Cutie, Janelle Monáe and The Strokes.

METRIC © Steve Jennings

Meagan Metcalf

Lighting & Production Designer/Programmer

For the current tour, Meagan Metcalf started the design process by watching film from the last tour to re-orient herself with what worked and give herself a reference point from which to grow. “I think everyone involved really felt we created something special on the last one, which can be a tough place to start from, as there is the added pressure to recreate that magic. I knew I needed to compete with the raw power of that rig, but wanted to find a way to do so while creating a cleaner, more restrained look.”

Metric Singer Emily Haines

Metcalf worked with Solotech for both the tour’s lighting and video. With Rob Kennedy as the account manager and Martin Kyncl as the project manager. “My team at Solotech is a dream to work with. They are incredibly responsive and very solution oriented. I have no doubt we are a small tour for them, but I never feel like our show isn’t an absolute priority. The budgets got trimmed substantially pretty close to the start of the run, so Rob and I were in constant communication making changes and substitutions to try to keep the integrity of the design and maximize the impact. Rob fought really hard to help us get as many lights out as possible.

“We had some challenging parameters on this one, with a smaller budget than the last tour. Venues range from small clubs to amphitheaters. We have less truck space, less time on show days to get built and programmed due to it being a co-bill with both bands doing full sets, plus having an opening band. But honestly, I love well-defined constraints — it’s what guides a concept into reality,” Metcalf says.

METRIC © Steve Jennings

“The band had sent me a reference photo of a structure that had its arches lined in LED pixels that sent me down a forced perspective concept rabbit hole, but is probably what planted the proverbial seed for my idea,” says Metcalf. “I knew what constraints we were up against, and having had a video-like element on the last tour, I felt it was important to not walk back from that. We went through a lot of ideas before this concept popped into my head out on a hike. I instantly knew this was the solution I’d been trying to find.”

Metcalf envisioned building the wall in ladder-like sections so they could easily drop columns if needed to get into smaller venues and so it could collapse down to save on truck space. “Our tour manager, David Timmons, was really instrumental in pressing for an option to be able to change the spacing to account for shorter trim heights. Martin Kyncl had photos of a mock up hanging in their shop back to me in a matter of hours after we chatted through my fabrication concept. He pretty well nailed it on the first shot.”

Metric’s Jimmy Shaw (guitars) and Emily Haines (vocals, synthesizers) are pretty involved up until things start to get more technical, notes Metcalf. “We went through several rounds of design concepts based on our initial conversations, but they eventually just said ‘Build something that you’re going to be excited about.’ I ended up presenting them with a deck based on this design with a variety of add-on options and variations, and they let me know which way they wanted to go from there. I will say, there was a bit of a leap of faith on their part with the custom [Martin VDO] Sceptron wall, as even with renders and pixel-accurate videos, it was hard for me to represent the wall to them in a way they could really wrap their heads around. I really appreciated the trust they put in me on the idea.”

METRIC © Steve Jennings

Metcalf had eight days of pre-production and two of rehearsal for this show, but notes this design and programming had grown in stages since June of last year. “There have been three different designs, each with elements represented in the current package, which we will then add to for the Canadian arena run in April,” Metcalf tells PLSN, speaking prior to that run of shows last month. “We started from the show file from the last tour and have added and adapted it as we’ve gone. Emily Bornt took the show out at the beginning of the album cycle, and did a great job advancing the programming and cleaning up the file. We had 28 songs in good shape by the time we started this run. The band is always working towards a set list they can lock in, but it tends to shift little by little for a good long while until they are happy with it.”

The show is mainly time-coded, with some loose song endings here and there, and a few songs that don’t have tracks and are cued live. “We are running content through Resolume, which isn’t necessarily the easiest media server to deal with for this type of show, but it’s tough to argue with what you get for the price. And we are also doing an Art-Net merge in the [Martin] P3 processor to use the Sceptrons as lighting fixtures as well.

“I’m in awe of the team we put together for this one. It’s still a dream to me that I was able to get both Michael Brown and Ben Silverstein involved in this project,” Metcalf says. “Michael Brown did an amazing job with the content. He has such a unique style, is super efficient and easy to work with. We got approval for the content budget ten days out from pre-production, and he managed to create a full set of content in time for me to work with on day one of programming. Then I was able to hand off the show to Ben [Silverstein], whom I have known for years. I have absolute faith in his taste and abilities. The daily schedule is really tough with the co-bill situation, and we really needed someone with Ben’s skills and experience to be able to get the job done. Our crew chief, Yolanda Do, is absolutely killing it out there. She is delightful to work with, and makes a difficult gig look easy on a daily basis. I’m so grateful for this team!”

METRIC © Steve Jennings

Ben Silverstein

Lighting Director

“I can’t quite remember when I first met Meagan,” says Silverstein. “It’s possible it was at Primavera Festival in Barcelona. Funny enough, I think Meagan was there to take Grizzly Bear on tour for Michael Brown, who did the video content on this Metric tour. But when we both starting touring, we would always try to toss each other tours and help each other out when we could.”

Silverstein says everything runs through a grandMA2 Light console and onPC as a backup. “Most all of the show is triggered through timecode, depending on new songs in the set, or last-minute changes that I don’t have time to timecode that day. For those additions, Meagan had such a clear vision of the whole look of the show and how every song should feel. So, if any updates or new songs needed to get programmed in, I would just follow her ‘road map.’ It made that aspect of the tour really quite simple.”

Silverstein says the most challenging part on this tour really is just time, “which obviously is the deal on most tours and feels like a funny thing to say — because who doesn’t wish they had more time. With new house rigs to clone over everyday, then right when everything is set up, it’s time for sound check, then, it being a co-bill, the other bands of course need time to focus and program, so… that’s when the previz comes out. But again, Meagan had a clear vision for what house elements to clone over if needed. Plus, our crew chief, Yolanda, is absolutely incredible every day, and has the rig up and running as fast as humanly possible.”

METRIC © Steve Jennings

Metric Art of Doubt Tour

Crew

  • Lighting & Production Designer/Programmer: Meagan Metcalf
  • Lighting Director: Ben Silverstein
  • Lighting/Video Co: Solotech
  • Solotech Account Rep: Rob Kennedy
  • Solotech Project Manager: Martin Kyncl
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Yolanda Do
  • Video Content: Michael Brown
  • Tour Manager: David Timmons
  • Production Manager: Matt Fish

METRIC © Steve Jennings

Gear

  • 1       grandMA2 Light
  • 1       grandMA2 onPC
  • 16     SGM P-5 Strobes
  • 8       GLP impression X4’s
  • 16     Claypaky Show-Batten 100’s
  • 168  Martin VDO Sceptron 10’s (for custom backdrop)
  • 2       Base Hazers
  • 1       Resolume Arena 6

 

More Metric 2019 tour photos by Steve Jennings: 

 

 

 

 

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