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The Process of Illumination

by Jefferson Waful on April 02, 2014

The author's work

Back at the Beacon Theatre, the balcony is shaking as fans dance wildly to Umphrey’s McGee’s cover of “Rock The Casbah,” the first song of the encore. The lighting console has still not crashed, although all of the touch screens keep freezing randomly in one-to-two-second increments, an eternity in live music. For the most part, the board is still operational and the lights continue to move. While everyone else in the room seems to enjoy the overwhelming energy of the moment, at the light board, it’s “too many mind.”

Stylistically, the Umphrey’s McGee light show draws from many different influences. Joshua White’s innovative projections are referenced about once a night when the lights create dripping and spinning effects on the backdrop. The deliberate, slow audience sweeps that Candace popularized and Kuroda perfected are incorporated into more regular movements throughout each song, creating constant slow motion. Like Hoffman, there are rhythmic hits accented on the downbeat. And like Williams used to do back in the ‘90s, there are jarring, quick moves from the stage to the audience’s eyes. There is also significantly more haze used in this show, which gives the beams more texture, creating complex geometric shapes and vivid, high-contrast color combinations.

As the second encore draws to a close, the lights stretch to the ceiling and then black out amid a triumphant drum fill. As luck would have it, the light board has managed to limp along through the show’s final note, before promptly crashing 30 seconds later as elated fans file out of the venue while high-fiving a very relieved LD.

It’s just another happy accident in the world of lighting design.

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