Brian Setzer Orchestra

by Steve Jennings (Photo and Text)
in Wide Focus
Brian rocks out with some classic Stray Cats. Photo by Steve Jennings
Brian rocks out with some classic Stray Cats. Photo by Steve Jennings

Brian Setzer first hit the big time as the frontman for the Stray Cats, the band that burst onto the music scene in the early 1980’s with a rockabilly sound from the 1950s. PLSN caught up with Bud Horowitz, LD for the Brian Setzer Orchestra, a swing band ensemble that recently completed its 13th annual Christmas Rocks! Tour. Today’s BSO shows include some of the classic Stray Cats songs with big-band accompaniment. Horowitz has also lit Setzer’s Nashvillians and Rockabilly Riot tours. He notes that, instead of getting too involved in the lighting specifics, Setzer turns to him for the lighting looks.

Bud Horowitz incorporates Martin MAC Vipers and Auras into the show. Photo by Steve Jennings

Bud Horowitz
Lighting Designer and Director

“I know from experience that he doesn’t like a great deal of movement or changes within each song. It’s really about finding the perfect look for each song. We really seem to mesh in terms of the ‘visual feel’ of the show. He’s not a big fan of followspots, so it’s something that I need to be very aware of every day.

“Delicate is my lighting vendor on this tour, and has been for quite a few years. It’s one of the few relatively small ‘family’ oriented lighting vendors around, and I’ve known them since they started in the early 80’s. I pretty much deal with Smoother Smythe, one of the owners of the company. Smoother’s son Spencer was my lighting tech on this tour. Delicate has always taken great care of us.”

The big band's set design features new LED fascias. Photo by Steve Jennings

The moving lights on the tour include Martin and Vari-Lite fixtures.

“I think the [Vari-Lite] VL3500’s are the best, most versatile wash light out there. A few years ago, I switched my hard edge lights from VL-3000s to Martin MAC Viper Profiles, for a couple of reasons. I find the quality of light and beam definition to be better for my purposes in the Viper, as well as a gobo load that works better for Brian’s show. They’re also a bit lighter, which really helps on the many days that I hang my fixtures on house pipes. I also switched from S4 pars to MAC Auras for my orchestra washes. It just saves so much time in terms of focus, as well as giving me so many options in terms of color and focus. There are only 27 lights in the air, so flexibility in fixtures is really important to me.”               

Delicate Productions was the lighting vendor for this tour. Photo by Steve Jennings

BSO is now touring with redesigned bandstands.

“The challenge was to come up with a new bandstand design that would reinforce the ‘big band’ and ‘swing’ feel of the show, without costing a lot or taking up a lot of truck space. In the past, we have used standard, inexpensive fold out bandstands that had been painted with the BSO logo. Originally, I spoke to some vendors about building a bandstand that incorporated all the physical aspects of the existing stands while also adding internal LED lighting for the logo, but the designs were getting too expensive and too bulky. I eventually spoke with Jamieson at Global Entertainment who had the idea of repurposing the existing stands and adding a facade that contained all the LEDs. I came up with a number of facade shapes and decor elements. Brian picked out the one he liked best, which I agreed with. The BSO logo and vertical ‘rays’ are all internally lit with RGB LED tape. They really add another layer of lighting that has worked out great.”

The design needed to work well in a variety of venues. Photo by Steve Jennings

Like the fixtures themselves, the rig needs to be adaptable enough to fit varying size venues.

“The size of the rig is really designed to fit into the occasional intimate venues we play, but still be large enough for the big venues. I generally hang my fixtures on house pipes and tie into the venue lighting for all my front light and specials. In a number of venues, like Foxwoods or the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, I will bring in my console and utilize the venues fixtures in the air. Some days it’s a mix and match, where I will use a combination of tour and venue fixtures. The state of current lighting consoles and software is what really allows me to do this fairly easily. We are really big on advance work, so we pretty much know what we are going to do daily before walking into the venue.

“I look forward to this tour every time I do it. It is an amazing bunch of people, from Brian to the truck drivers. It’s a small crew — nine people including merch — and we all get along famously. In all the years that I have been doing this tour, I have never gotten tired of the show itself. It’s just so much fun. Everyone leaves the venue smiling.” 

 

With 27 fixtures in the air to light Setzer and his band, versatile looks were key. Photo by Steve Jennings

Brian Setzer Orchestra Tour

Crew

  • Lighting Designer & Director: Bud Horowitz
  • Lighting Co: Delicate Productions
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Spencer Smythe
  • Production Manager: Michael Richter/Brian Wong
  • Tour Manager: Eric Fermin/Ken Denson
  • Merch: Lisa McLaughlin
  • Staging: Gallagher Staging
  • Orchestra Stands: Global Entertainment Industries
  • Trucking: Upstaging

 

The  most recent Christmas Rocks! tour was the 13th for BSO. Photo by Steve Jennings

Gear

  • 1               Whole Hog 3 Full Boar console w/ wing
  • 12           Martin MAC Auras
  • 9               Martin MAC Viper Profiles
  • 6               Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash fixtures
  • 23           Color Kinetics Color Blast 12
  • 6               Snow machines
  • 2               DF-50 hazers

More tour photos by Steve Jennings: