'Playing' the Lights with Louis the Child

by Bobby Boyer
in Wide Focus
A punted moment from one of the EDM duo’s recent gigs.
A punted moment from one of the EDM duo’s recent gigs.

LD Kendall Clark Keeps the Beat on the EDM Duo’s “Spring Tour”

In 2015, the EDM track, “It’s Strange,” from Chicago-based EDM duo Louis the Child scored 10 million SoundCloud plays, spurred in part by a fortuitously timed shout-out from Taylor Swift.

Since then, the duo, consisting of Robby Hauldren, 20, and Freddy Kennett, 19, have taken full advantage of their growing fame with an intensive touring schedule with a roster of performance dates that keeps growing and growing.

Their “Spring Tour” launched with a Jan. 25 show at the Majestic Theatre in Madison, WI and included five dates in the Midwest before hopping to the West Coast, Nashville and the Southeast, New England and back to the duo’s Midwest stomping grounds.

Along for the ride is LD Kendall Clark, who keeps to the beat with his “instruments” — a lighting and video control setup that includes MA Lighting’s grandMA2 onPC with a Resolume Arena media server. The setup also includes an Akai APC40 mk2 and DJ Tech Tools MIDI Fighter 3D to control the media server, but for live control only.

From left, Kendall Clark and Andrew Roman

Keeping the Beat

“I was a drummer before I got into lighting, so when I’m behind the console, I want to be playing an instrument, not just hitting GO,” Kendall tells a visitor during load-in for Louis the Child’s Feb. 24 gig at the Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA.

Like many designers of his generation who grew up with EDM, the 29-year-old Texan sees himself as part of the band — a performer who happens to create his performance in light, rather than sound.

This perception impacts every dimension of Kendall’s approach to his work as a designer, from how and when he uses his lighting console to the features he values most in controllers, software, and fixtures. “Versatility” is high on his list of attributes when evaluating gear choices, which isn’t surprising since his work (whether for Louis The Child or at festivals like SXSW and Decadence) are all busking affairs.

“All I do is punt,” says Kendall. “Nothing in our show is time-coded. Nothing is cue-to-cue. Sure, this means that we may miss something every now and then, but that’s what makes it fun. When you’re really on, you get that rush that only comes from performing live.” For this tour he operates.

Creative Production & Design provided a rig that centers on Chauvet lighting and video components.

A Musical Background

Kendall’s love of improvisation is understandable, given his background in music. A drummer since the sixth grade, he earned a B.A. in music with a focus on percussion, jazz drum set, and audio engineering from the University of Texas. After school, he toured internationally with the post-rock group Balmorhea. Getting off the road, he became a VJ at Austin’s legendary club, Empire Control Room, which ultimately led him to lighting.

“It was a winding path to become a lighting designer,” he says. “There are many similarities between what I do now and drumming. When you’re running lights for music, timing is everything, but beyond dexterity you need a strong sense of phrasing and musical form, especially when punting. Much like playing the drums, just because you can play fast and technical doesn’t mean that’s what will look best for any given moment.”

The setup includes 18 Chauvet Professional Rogue R1 FX-B fixtures and four of Chauvet’s Legend 230 Beams on the stage deck.

The Tour Rig

Keeping their rig simple and relying on some unconventional programming and punting to create varied looks, Kendall and co-designer Andrew Roman tend to value fixtures that can take on multiple life forms during a show.

This flexibility is on full display in the current Louis The Child tour, where a seemingly endless array of looks is created with 18 Chauvet Professional Rogue R1 FX-B fixtures, supplied by Austin, TX-based Creative Production & Design. The stage setup also includes four of Chauvet’s Legend 230 Beams on the stage deck.

“When we were considering different fixtures, Justin Jenkins surprised us with a brand new inventory of the FX-Bs, which we immediately fell in love with,” says Kendall. “They have so many different parameters, so rather than programming individual looks, we break out all of the more playable ones across our faders and executors. We can then tweak individual parameters to create infinitely evolving phrases, rather than jump from look to look.

“When you have such a strong element as the FX-B in your stage design, simple tricks can be really effective,” he adds. “I have the following tricks on independent executors that really allow me to create good looks with the FX-Bs: Medium looping outline chase, slow sparkle chase, N shot streaks (symmetric in/out, L > R // R < L), and 2-group strobe (six on-stage units / 12 off-stage units).”

Kendall and Andrew split the 90 individually controlled cells in their 18 Rogue R1 FX-Bs into separate A/B groups for color and intensity. This allows them to avoid programming a separate executor for every possible look. They expand their options even further by dividing the FX-B cells differently for sub group modes. For example in mode (A1/B1) all even cells were in A and odd cells in B. In the other mode (A2/B2) all even FX-B units were in A and all odd units in B.

The control setup includes grandMA onPC and Resolume's Arena media server.

Not surprisingly, given their fondness for original design, Kendall and Andrew tend to push their controllers to the limits. “Flexibility is the thing we value most in a controller, just as we do in lighting fixtures,” says Kendall. “Andrew and I spend many hours finding weird workarounds to bend the console into doing what we want.”

In some cases, the two will use video software to run pixel mapped lighting effects, as they’re doing with the 32 Chauvet Épix Strip Tour fixtures and 10 Nexus Aw 7x7 panels on the Louis The Child tour. The setup includes 32 Épix Strip Tours to fill in the volume under the FX-B crown and 10 Nexus 7x7 AW panels AW panels that come in handy for a variety of blinder effect and pixel tricks. The lighting looks pulse in sync with an LED display comprised of 14 Chauvet PVP X3 3mm LED display panels.

“These may be lighting fixtures, but we are controlling them with Resolume Arena,” Kendall says. “We find that Resolume is way more flexible than the pixel mapping features in lighting consoles. We mapped the Épix and the Nexus separately with unique content that’s separate from the main video wall. This allows us to solo each element so we can create greater variations in our look. We never want our lighting to fall into a predictable routine.”  

Louis the Child 2017 “Spring Tour”

Crew

  • Lighting Designer: Kendall Clark
  • Co-Designer: Andrew Roman
  • Lighting Co: Creative Production & Design


Gear

  • 1          grandMA onPC
  • 1          Resolume Arena media server
  • 18       Chauvet Rogue R1 FX-B fixtures
  • 4          Chauvet Legend 230 Beams
  • 32       Chauvet Épix Strip Tour fixtures
  • 10       Chauvet Nexus 7x7 AW panels
  • 14       Chauvet PVP X3 3mm LED display panels