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John Mayer World Tour 2019

Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • Designer InsightsNovember 2019 • November 10, 2019

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings

Treatment Studio (led by Sam Pattinson and Willie Williams), an award winning design and production company in the world of entertainment- touring, festivals, fashion, award shows, installations, creators of stage productions and visual content on a large scale (U2, The Rolling Stones, One Direction, Elton John, Louis Vuitton, Jay-Z), is once again working with John Mayer on his 2019 World Tour. We spoke with producer and set designer Sam Pattinson of Treatment Studio, the tour lighting designer, programmer and director Nate Alves, as well as video creative director Damian Hale (Treatment Studio) and video director Jack Banks.

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. ROE Visual CB5 tiles make up the back wall

Sam Pattinson
Producer & Set Designer

Pattinson says his focus is the stage design and video content. The first phase is developing the overall direction of the tour and finalizing the initial concept. Once they have a good idea of what the design will be they can start previz, finessing and working on plans with Nate Alves as well as working on logistics with production manager Chris “Feelie” Gott. Sam explains, “We then start to put the video content team together with the video creative director Damian Hale. We’re based in London, so we need to keep the client and team up to date, and communication is key when working remotely. The whole process takes around six months. The ambition has grown over the past two tours, but in essence the process is the same.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. The LED blended in with the flats on occasion.

Pattinson says they start with initial ideas from Mayer, which they explore and elaborate on. “The ideas are always good and completely varied. John always wants to progress and try something new. We gradually reach a decision on which is the strongest idea. We were interesting in creating a stage that was physical and theatrical, so the set was a response to that request, and the screen grew around it. Once we agreed on the initial design with John, Gareth Blainey (co-set designer) began to pre-viz the ideas in Cinema 4D. His input was crucial and instrumental to the look of the show as his artwork concerns elements like the scenic on trees and mountains. We also developed video ideas in tandem, particularly extending the landscape on to the video screens.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. The flats also worked well on their own.

The set includes a series of flats which, Pattinson notes, they can build the scene through the show…with trees, mountains, moon/eye palettes. “The flats are framed within an LED portal covered by a gauze. Nate can project silhouettes on the flats through the gauze, which means we can gradually reveal the set. The gauze eventually flies out so Nate can light the front of the flats and play with the depth of the set and palettes. We wanted to combine the physical elements, the lighting and the LED so that the people in the audience aren’t entirely sure what they are looking at, as it evolves/changes. Nate was absolutely key to this idea happening. From his CAD work and liaison with Upstaging and the other vendors, to his ability to light the set and combine with video, making the whole thing work.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Treatment Studio came up with the set look.

Nathan Alves
Lighting Designer, Programmer & Director

This is Nathan Alves’ fourth tour with John Mayer and his second with Pattinson as producer. He appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with Pattinson — “a rock star” — and Gareth Blainey as well. “[Gareth] is a phenomenally talented guy, and his dedication to the project, including getting us revisions at 4 a.m. his time some days, was exemplary. A few months ago, we discussed the original idea, and Sam sent me some rough animatics that John [Mayer] signed off on. The idea was something physical, that was primarily lighting- and scenery-based — a portal surrounding an actual set. As John put it later in an Instagram post, “your eye knows when you’re looking at pixels versus seeing something real.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Nathan Alves designed all the lighting.

Alves explains the process. “We sat down with Upstaging shortly thereafter and came up with an execution game plan for the flats/upstage scenery. I designed around those initial animatics and the subsequent scenic art that Gareth delivered. The idea was to be theatrical and avoid a big visible rig above the stage — to hide all of the technology that lights the scenic, especially. We used my Vectorworks drawings to price lighting and scenic with Upstaging. We actually moved into Upstaging for two weeks to get some lighting and video programming in the consoles and oversee the final delivery of the scenic pieces as we had a tight window to turn the show around once we arrived in Albany.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Alves textures the crowd with breakup patterns. Upstaging supplied the lighting.

Alves says that video is a large portion of the show this year, and they try to use it in a way that complements the overall stage aesthetic. “John delivers a set list anywhere from six hours to 30 minutes before showtime, and it’s different every night. Sometimes vastly so. The video team will give it a look over and ask me what color palette a song is in that night, if it’s a new one to them. Our disguise tech, Clif Jackson, will give me cue triggers for the individual video looks, and I trigger the entire show on a grandMA2 full size console.

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Gareth Blainey served as co-set designer.

“Having everything come through one desk lets me adjust levels in real time for all the elements. The left half of my console is a series of submasters for video, scenic, backlight, front light, etc. This keeps any one element from crushing the other. The majority of the overhead lighting system is comprised of ACME Solar Impulse fixtures; they’re hybrid lights with an LED source. Our Upstaging account manager, John Bahnick, proposed them as they are investing in the ACME brand at the moment. I wasn’t disappointed. The way they look on camera, the price point — they checked all of the boxes I needed for this application. The flats are lit by Chroma-Q Color Force II battens in the highest resolution we could get out of them. The flat wash those lights put out are perfect for our scenic needs.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Sam Pattinson served as producer for the tour.

With Mayer’s deep catalog there are roughly 60 songs in the desk that Alves has programmed. “We try to stay ahead of any requests John might have and keep enough content in the consoles, so any new songs or guest appearances are covered.” And there are changes, show-to-show. PLSN checked out the tour during its Sept. 16 visit to the newly-opened Chase Center in San Francisco, and on that night, local heavyweights Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and rocker Sammy Hagar were guests for two songs, covering Mayer’s “Queen of California” and The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Fire On The Mountain.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Contrasting colors separate the elements. Upstaging’s fabrication department built the scenery as well

Almost all of the lighting, scenic, and video moves are triggered by Alves every night. “The sheer amount of material and the non-scripted nature of a lot of it keeps us from locking it down to any type of time code,” Alves says. “However, there are a few elements that are in code. “Age of Worry,” when we perform it, has a lyric video that is locked to code, as well as the intro. Then there is the video for “New Light” — that edit is locked to code as well.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Acme Solar Impulse fixtures provided the beams.

Alves notes that everyone in this organization is at the top of their fields. “They’re all passionate people and committed to delivering the best art possible for John every day. They are also consummate professionals. I couldn’t speak higher of this team. As a matter of fact, I use the John touring model often when other clients ask my opinion on how an organization should be structured. John and his tour manager Ken Helie are detail people. Every piece of content, every look, all the renders, are approved by John. He’s very involved.

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings.

“I have too many compliments for this crew to mention all of them,” Alves continues. “But I’d like to especially thank Chris Gott, our PM for his willingness to tackle any crazy idea Sam and I had during this process; and our lighting Crew Chief Chris Coyle for his attention to detail and keeping all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed. This whole crew, they all work harder than me and this crazy idea we had works because they do.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. disguise gx2 servers in use with Notch FX.

Damian Hale
Video Creative Director

Damian Hale says it’s kind of a dream scenario working with Mayer, noting that the artist has a real vision for the show, has great ideas and is very engaged throughout the process.

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Bob Weir joins in for a song. Screenworks served as video vendor.

“This allows for a constant flow of ideas from initial conversations onward as we’d pass our thoughts, references and sketches back and forth. For this show the idea was always to go for something very theatrical and celebrate material and light with the physical set as the focus. With this in mind much of the video content was designed to augment and extend the physical set rather than being content in the traditional sense. Working closely with Nate we managed to really blur the lines between what was video and what was real lighting, which was really satisfying.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. NovaStar MCTRL4K units were used for LED processing.

Hale say’s he’s worked with Mayer for a few years now so he has a pretty big archive of content, some of which are old favorites for both them and fans, so it can be fun to revisit and tweak. “There were some definite references which we looked at including modern art, product design and graphic design and illustration. Much of the content is the product of a rolling conversation with us trying things out and going off on tangents. John needs to be able to change the set often, so much of the content has to be extremely flexible. This can be challenging but is also really liberating. Rather than building a piece to a specific song, we’d often design for a mood or atmosphere which could cover a range of songs which forces us into a more open minded approach.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Nathan Alves designed all the lighting.

The creative director adds, “John’s tour is always a pleasure from a design point of view as he has such strong ideas that really work, and he gives us enough freedom to take inspiration and run with it. It’s also a job where you really feel like all departments are pulling together, whether it’s the sound team going out of their way to keep us updated with the latest audio, lighting working with us to make sure our palettes are seamless or video ensuring the live cameras and effects balance the content.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Surreal camera images adorn the back wall.

Jack Banks
Video Director

Jack Banks says that by the end of the tour, the catalogue of songs over the course of the tour ended up being many, as the band freshened up old songs or John wrote new ones in the breaks. “We would normally get set lists about 30 minutes before John went on stage so the work to arrange lights and video would start then. We had some rules in place to help speed the process up, so for example we would take footage from Monument Valley for songs from Paradise Valley. Sometimes the set would change during the show, this is where Chris Gott, the production manager would dash round and make sure everyone was up to speed!”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. An eight-piece band backs Mayer on this tour.

Banks notes that he used a Ross Carbonite switcher and he had two disguise GX2c’s doing all the grunt work playing back content and running Notch Fx. “This was my first time working with John Mayer. Sam Pattinson put me forward and it was great to work with Gareth Blainey and the team from Treatment. The tour was a real pleasure to work on.”

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. Alves textures the crowd with breakup patterns.

John Mayer World Tour 2019

Crew

  • Producer: Sam Pattinson (Treatment Studio)
  • Set Design: Sam Pattinson & Gareth Blainey
  • Lighting Designer, Programmer & Director: Nathan Alves
  • Lighting Co: Upstaging/John Bahnick
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Chris Coyle
  • Lighting Techs: Andy Cimerman, Holly Lloyd, Josh Rahalski, Morgan Brownen, Nathan McClune, Jim Diekhoff, Gabe Vejar
  • Video Creative Director: Damian Hale
  • Video Director: Jack Banks
  • Video Co: Screenworks/Danny O’Bryen
  • Video Crew Chief/Engineer: Andy Glomski
  • disguise Technician: Clif Jackson
  • Video Techs: Gabriel Lopez, Jordan Tarquino, Josh Sayan
  • Tour Manager: Ken Helie
  • Production Manager: Chris “Feelie” Gott
  • Riggers: Tell Agerter, Roland Castillo, Phillip Nilsen
  • Carpenters: Ron Czajkowski, Bryan Davis, Skyler Czajkowski
  • Staging Co: Tait
  • Scenic Co: Upstaging
  • Special Effects: Strictly FX
  • Trucking Co: Upstaging

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. A simple look speaks volumes.

Gear

Lighting:

  • 2       grandMA2 Full consoles
  • 70     Acme Solar Impulse fixtures
  • 16     Robe BMFL WashBeams
  • 22     Solaris Flares
  • 48     Sceptron 1000’s
  • 16     Sceptron 320’s
  • 73     Chroma-Q Color Force II 72’s
  • 3       Chroma-Q Color Force II 48’s
  • 4       HazeBase Base Hazers

JOHN MAYER © Steve Jennings. NovaStar MCTRL4k were used for LED processing

Video:

  • 128  ROE CB5 1200 LED tiles
  • 2       NovaStar MCTRL4K LED processors
  • 2       disguise gx2 media servers

More John Mayer 2019 tour photos by Steve Jennings:

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