Chance the Rapper

by Steve Jennings (Photo and Text)
in Wide Focus
Accurate Staging provided the set. Photo by Steve Jennings
Accurate Staging provided the set. Photo by Steve Jennings

Michael Apostolos on the Design for the Artist’s 2016 “Magnificent Coloring World Tour”

Starting off as a freshman in high school interning at Performance Lighting out of Chicago, Michael Apostolos first started working in the shop prepping gear. Moving forward, he then got into designing and programming for his high school theater and upon graduation, pursued a career as a production and lighting designer.

Even though he’s been in the industry for a relatively short time — eight years — Apostolos has been very busy indeed. Upon leaving Performance, he began working as an assistant, programmer and tech on local shows and tours. Michael’s tech background helped to back his pursuit as a designer, and over the past four years he’s designed shows for Logic, Rae Sremmurd, Akon, Jeezy and Travis Scott, among others. We spoke to Michael about the “Magnificent Coloring World Tour” featuring Chance The Rapper, which gained huge fan momentum as it made its way from coast to coast Sept. 15-Nov. 13 before traveling to the U.K. and Europe in late November.

LMG supplied the lighting and video elements. Photo by Steve Jennings

“I’ve had the pleasure of designing and directing Chance’s live shows for the past four years, including festivals such as Lollapalooza and Coachella. While starting off, I’ve had the opportunity to work as a second LD to some bigger-name acts, and from there, I pursued my career as a lead designer independently.

“I met Chance before his first headlining tour back in 2013. Being that Chance and his team are from Chicago, I was brought on to design his tour through Pat Corcoran, Chance’s manager. That tour started off as a club tour, and I’ve been designing and directing Chance’s performances ever since.

Robe LEDBeams wash the stage with collimated beams. Photo by Steve Jennings

“When the first tour wrapped, Chance and I continued to work closely and grow together on our off time in Chicago between tours and shows. Since then, we have done over seven tours together and a handful of television performances. Starting off as Chance’s lighting designer, throughout the years, I have adopted the role as his creative director, taking on more projects outside of his live shows.

“Prior to this tour, Chance came to me with the idea of giving this show a very unique and theatrical feel. Within Chance’s music, you often hear a large choir, and we wanted to represent the choir live on stage. While maintaining the theatrical goal, we chose to create the choir using a blend of Chance’s energetic and vibrant aesthetics with a Jim Henson-like aesthetic. To create a theatrical and ‘vintage cartoon’ image, we decided to use animatronic puppets as the visual representation of the backing choir. Art director, OJ Hays, Chance and myself worked on the design of the puppets and, once completed, OJ and I created 3D renderings and models of the puppets. Following that, the designs were handed off to the animatronic team to bring them to life.

Solaris Flares and Robe CycFX 4 light the audience. Photo by Steve Jennings

“In pre-production in the studio, we worked together to create show flows and mapped out the performance from top to bottom. A large portion of time was spent working with Chance and his musical director, Peter Cottontale, on properly fitting the choir sections throughout the show. We also worked to add dialogue in between songs with Chance and his co-host puppet named Carlos. Carlos was a driving force in the show, who held conversation with Chance to help lead him through his journey onstage. Once we had all of the dialogue dialed in, I then worked with Bob Zegler, our video director, and Lewis James of our content team to create lighting and video cues that would help carry and enhance the show.”

This was the first time Apostolos worked with Craig Mitchell and the LMG team when it came to the tour’s lighting and video.

Chance the Rapper photo by Steve Jennings

“It was an amazing process, collaborating with LMG on making this show possible. I chose the fixtures based on the design concepts and images that I was working to craft. From that point on, we adapted the fixture choice based on availability within the short time frame that we had. I had a total of 32 songs programmed for this tour while our set list each night consisted of 26 songs. For the most part the set list stayed the same, but there were a few select performances where we did add in additional songs.

“As cliché as it sounds, this team is one large family that continues to grow. The entire team including Chance are very hands on and give every performance and every project their full devotion. The dedication of the band, the crew, and the backing team really shows in every performance. Chance is a one-of-a kind artist and it’s a blessing to be a part of this exceptional team.”

Chase the Rapper 2016 “Magnificent Coloring World Tour”

Crew

  • Production Designer & Creative Director: Michael Apostolos
  • Show Director: Chancellor Bennett
  • Lighting Designer & Director: Michael Apostolos
  • Art Director: OJ Hays
  • Lighting Co: LMG/Craig Mitchell
  • Lighting Crew: Blake Elkin (Crew Chief, Rigger), Bryson Williams (Tech)
  • Tour Manager: Kevin Puig
  • Production Manager: Ryan Resch
  • Production Coordinators: Lauren Watt, Darius White
  • Set Designers: Michael Apostolos, Kyle Bulmann
  • Stage Manager: Kenny Stahl
  • Video Co: LMG/Craig Mitchell
  • Video Designer: Bob Zegler
  • Video Director: OJ Hays
  • Video Content Creators: OJ Hays, Lewis James
  • LED Techs: Jason Keyes, Jabriel Perry
  • Staging Co: Accurate Staging
  • Staging/Props: Josh Cooper
  • Puppet Crew Chief: Robert Standlee
  • Puppet Crew: Toby Bryan, Onyx Langley
  • Animatronic Designer: Robert Standlee
  • Special Effects: Artistry In Motion, Cryo FX
  • Trucking: Ozark Trucking

Gear

  • 1               grandMA2 full size console
  • 26           Vari-Lite VL4000 Spots
  • 26           Robe Robin LEDBeam 1000s
  • 9               Martin MAC Viper Profiles
  • 42           Robe CycFX 4 fixtures
  • 17           Solaris Flares
  • 95           8mm LMG LED Panels
  • 2               Novastar LED Processors
  • 1               For-A Hanabi HUS-XT switcher
  • 1               For-A engineering system
  • 3               Grass Valley OCD 400 CCOs
  • 3               Grass Valley LDK 3000 cameras

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