- by Richard Olson
in Wide Focus
LD Ed Warren Updates the Looks as the Band Adds New Songs; Par Cans Still Play a Key Role
“I never toured as a light tech. I was a merch guy, and one day I found myself behind a lighting console, running lights for a band. By the end of night, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.” And so it began 13 years ago for Ed Warren as he, like so many others, got into a different part of the business through a twist of fate. He’s out once again designing the lights for the globally famous band Mumford & Sons, as he has done for the last seven years. And yes, he’s still into Par cans.
Mumford & Sons are touring North America again this summer, still supporting their third studio album, Wilder Mind. With it, the four-piece band expanded in size as well as music as an era of electric guitars and drum sets joined their already popular acoustic set of songs. While changing musical styles between albums certainly has been the downfall of some bands, it’s definitely not the case with this act. The 25,000 people in attendance June 11 in Québec City’s Baie de Beauport venue seemed to revel in both new songs and old.
Customized Silver Par Cans
Warren’s rig had many parts to it. He has 230 silver Par 64 fixtures with narrow bulbs and no gel in any of them. In place of the gel are some custom gel frames that slide onto the Pars’ edge and hold a circular ring of RGBW LEDs. These were the LD’s idea and, after a few different prototypes over time, the current model was fabricated by his friends at Light Initiative in the U.K.
Named the “Halo 64,” each Pix ring utilizes 24 channels of DMX, so Ed is able to chase the colors around the circular opening. Each Par has its own dimmer as well. So pixel mapping the Pars as well as the LED rings on the Pars plays an integral part in the show. The back wall of lights contains 120 of these. In addition, this year Ed has a high-powered white strobe model on 30 overhead Pars.
Ed makes use of ChamSys consoles to run his show; he has sworn by them for years. “When I started out with these guys seven years ago, it was just me and a floor package against the world. I would go around the lighting shop to work on my downtime, and there were two guys over in a corner of the shop developing the ChamSys brand of consoles. I fell in with them and ended up taking their desks on the road. To be honest, no other console is capable of doing what I’m doing — pixel mapping and playing back video files. Another desk would need a media server to do this. Who wants to bother with that?”
Lighting and Rigging
Solotech provides the rig, which has three U-shaped trusses of Par 64’s in a concentric design that resembles a chandelier at times. The trusses constantly reshape themselves and attain different heights through a digital Raynok hoist system. Show Distribution, a rigging company out of Quebec, supplied the 27 Tour Lift Hoists necessary for the moving design. Behind the band and under the U shaped grid are a row of single 8-foot Tyler GT trusses with a six-lamp bar on each. These move upwards as well. Behind the band is another 10 vertical trusses with more Pars.
All the moving trusses as well as the stage and risers are lined with rows of Elation Alkalite LED strips, which Ed is using to replace the Martin Sceptron fixtures he used in Europe. These thin lines of LED lights behind frosted lenses are driven by DMX and pixel-mapped as well. They chase and add hard lines to the overall look of the lighting.
On each stage side, Warren has trusses running up and down stage with Sharpy Wash fixtures on them. “I tend to use these wash fixtures as key lighting a lot as well, to keep the front light out of their eyes. We don’t use spotlights at all, but I still need to keep some light on them for the side screen I-Mag shots.” On the floor are some Clay Paky B-Eyes that can shoot right through the open-faced risers. They alternate with some BMFL spots.
“I’m loving the beams I am getting out of the BMFL’s,” states the LD. He has 37 of the Robe fixtures scattered around the whole stage, and they provide the needed hard edge and occasional gobo pattern. There is a row of them along the front truss that trims quite high and can be used for key light as well, when not doing aerial effects.
“The band doesn’t care for video imagery on the show, so we have no screens or imagery upstage. I have a virtual wall of lights there taking up that space. With my pixel mapping, I may just have the world’s lowest res video wall. When there’s no wind, we will hang a backdrop, which I light with Robe CycFX fixtures. We are using side I-Mag screens because as you can see, the people in the back are pretty far away,” Ed states.
Solotech is the one-stop shop, as they are providing lights, video and audio for the tour here in America. Says Lee Moro, the account rep from Solotech, “We have been looking after Mumford & Sons for the last two tours, and they are just a great bunch to work with. This is the first date of their new North American leg, so I’m here just to show some support and make sure every department has what they need.”
Leading the light crew is U.K.-based global lighting crew chief Adam “Moon Unit” Morris. This is his second trip around the world with this band. He says one of the hardest parts of his gig is “sourcing the 230 silver Par 64’s we require wherever we go. As soon as I mention this to someone in, say, Africa — where we just came from — the phone goes quiet. They are not as bountiful as one may think.” Adam runs a six-man lighting crew.
Rocking and Rolling
Solotech has these cool dimmer and amp rack carts they use on this tour. They take a four-by-eight-foot cart and fill it with a large dimmer rack and several AC distros. The whole whole thing stays wired together and just needs a set of power cables run to each cart. The multicables going up to the grid stay plugged in for the whole tour — with this system, the cables coil straight onto a bin on top of the cart as the trusses lower. The carts weigh a lot, but “who cares what they weigh when it cuts down so much time? They are just being pushed from a truck onto a stage.” states Adam.
Video wise, director Debora Collins is cutting the cameras on a Barco FSN 150 switcher while Serge Bergeron covers engineering duties while shading cameras. The crew utilizes five manned cameras, three lipsticks and one hothead. Solotech has provided the tour with side LED screens made of SL Pro 8 LED tiles.
Visual effects other than lighting include a spectacular pyro waterfall effect provided by Strictly FX. Warren also made use of some small lasers to augment his system. The tour is renting some BeamBurst lasers from ER Productions. These little units emit 100 watts of power through six DMX channels that Warren controls from his ChamSys. He mounted three on the front truss and put the others behind the band.
Another visual spectacle of the show is the designer’s use of 46 Ayrton MagicPanel 602 units. He has them lined up in horizontal rows on the front, rear and floor trusses. Mounted at an angle that faces straight out at the crowd, Warren gets some stunning slow rotating looks out of the continuous pan feature.
The band keeps the set list rotating daily, so no show is ever the same. “And they don’t necessarily adhere to that, either. Sometimes I think they are messing with me when they start a song. They find it funny when I miss a cue — which doesn’t happen often,” Ed says. “Nothing is on timecode out here, and why should it? I couldn’t handle that, not having every little thing at my fingertips.”
The tour takes a six-week sabbatical this July before picking up with more shows. The tour plans to conclude with three last shows in Austin, Texas this October.
Mumford & Sons 2016 Summer Tour
- Production Manager: Steven Gordon
- Lighting Designer/Operator: Edward Warren
- Production Assistant: Marie Burgard
- Tour Accountant: Alexander Macleod
- Stage Manager: Phillip Ryder
- Universal Lighting Crew Chief: Adam Morris
- Lighting/Video Co: Solotech
- Solotech Rep: Lee Moro
- Lighting Crew: Mathieu Lavallée, head lighting tech; Anthony Michon, Shawn Thériault, Louis-Marc Plante, lighting techs; Frédéric Jacques, Xavier Pugnet, Kinesys techs
- Video Director: Debora Collins
- Video Techs: Serge Bergeron, Jean-Francois Marin, Tony Doucet, Nicolas Gagnon
- Laser Tech: Seth Griffiths
- Strictly FX Pyro Tech: Steven Joseph
- Rigger: Robert Powers
- Carpenters: Morgan Shevett, George Werner
- 1 ChamSys control setup w/backup
- 230 500W Silver Par 64s
- 120 Halo 64 Pix LED gel frames
- 37 Robe BMFL Spots
- 36 Halo 64 Strobes
- 46 Ayrton MagicPanel 602s
- 19 Clay Paky B-Eyes
- 12 Clay Paky Sharpy Washes
- 10 BeamBurst Lasers
- 16 Elation 4-lite bars
- 56 Tyler GT truss sections
- 14 Linear 4 light moles
- 1 ETC dimmer rack setup
- Numerous Elation Alkalite RGBW Octostrips
- 27 TourLift variable speed motors from Show Distribution
- 1 Raynok Imperium automation console from Show Distribution
LD Ed Warren can be reached through his website, www.nextlevellights.com.