Wilco Tours with Custom LED Drop and Production Design by Jeremy Roth

by Nook Schoenfeld
in News
Wilco photo by Rick Levinson
Wilco photo by Rick Levinson

BROOKLYN, NY - Jeremy Roth, who designed the production and is out running the lighting for Wilco's 2016 shows, is surrounding the band with a large number of individually controlled pixels arrayed on IFR 1/2 grid mesh from Rose Brand.

More details from Rose Brand (www.rosebrand.com):

"My approach to lighting Wilco is pretty straightforward," states Roth. "People are there to see the band, so I keep most of the lighting on the band. If the lighting is overly distracting from what the band is doing or you just cant see what the band is doing then I'm not doing my job right."

Wilco's music catalog is very diverse. On top of the many straight-forward rock songs like "I'm the man who loves you" and "The late greats" their many songs vary from soft and delicate to sheer noise. Jeremy tries to approach each song with a color palette that matches the feel of the song. “Throughout the song I will often modulate to variations on the original palette without straying too far from the original colors, unless the music calls for a sudden shift from warm to cool or vice versa. Using subtle shifts in color help me to add movement and feeling to the more delicate songs without distracting from the music.” he states.

Jeremy was drawn to the idea of using a large amount of individually controlled pixels in an array above, behind, and around the band. He showed Jeff Tweedy (Wilco's lead singer) various concepts including one that had 1000's of pixels hanging on individual wires in a somewhat random formation that resembled a 3d representation of the night sky. They decided on a concept that would have a similar aesthetic but be slightly more uniform and symmetrical.

The designer explains, “I designed the gently arcing cut of the three mesh drops and came up with a layout for the pixels that wasn't a standard grid, but wasn't completely random either. Rose Brand helped me to come up with the perfect material; an IFR 1/2 grid mesh that was rigid enough to hold up 1850 pixels, 10,000 zip ties, and 1/2 mile of interconnect cable. The pixels came from Benjamin James at Cool Neon. The downstage and midstage drops slightly overlap each other and the upstage drop and are partially obscuring the midstage and upstage electrics. Because they are made from such an open mesh they are nearly transparent so all of the lighting and beams upstage of the drops can be seen clearly through the mesh. When none of the LED is lit up you can barely even see the drops at all even though most of the lights are behind them.”

During the show Jeremy uses a mix of static and dynamic imagery on the LED drops. Resolume Arena drives the media content to the pixels. He adds, “I really like Arena because I can do almost all of my programming and effects directly in Arena's intuitive UI without having to program video from the lighting console encoders. The console is only mapped to basic functions like layer opacity, master levels, clip selection, and some master color layers that help to keep the media content blended to the color palette of the lighting looks.” The LED drops were fabricated at the Stageworks Seattle shop by Jeremy, Melissa Brynn, and Simon Clark.

I was really excited to see the Robe PATT2013 show up at LDI just before the start of this tour. I had been looking for some old vintage large format film lights that could be restored and retrofitted with newer bulbs. The PATT2013 is exactly that. Holly Russell and Mark Huber from TMS were able to get a set of four ordered just in time that the lights showed up on Wilco's loading dock the 24 hours before we loaded the truck.

I didn't see them turn on until the first show day. I'm really happy with how the lights are looking in the show. Not only do they have a a great retro vibe to the body and face of the light, the light emitted from them is extremely soft and warm. I use two of them on the downstage corners to cross light the band. Some days on a narrow stage the lights are only 5 -10 from the nearest musician and because the beam is so diffuse It hasn't caused any issues for the performers."

Wilco photo by Rick Levinson