ONDON – There’s a good reason why words like “dreamy” and “ethereal” pop up often when critics write about Oh Wonder. The tightly woven male-female voices and lofty synths of this alt-pop duo seem to wrap themselves gently around listeners, sweeping them up in a transcendent musical swirl. On their current tour in support of their album Ultralife, the group’s free-flowing sound is supported by an appropriately imaginative and far-reaching Ben Mansfield lightshow run on a ChamSys Magic Q MQ500 Stadium supplied by LeSmurf Lighting.
“There is no one set look for an Oh Wonder show, but many different looks,” said Mansfield of Tourlite Design. “I wanted to create an isolated performance environment that flows with the music. The idea is to create a canvas that I can build on, something that goes in different directions on different songs to reflect the scope of these two artists.”
Mansfield has his entire show timecoded. He builds cue stacks on this ChamSys console and runs them through with the timecode rolling, recording the go triggers with the “Record TC” function. To trigger bumps, flashes and executes, he records a macro that references external TC. “One of my favorite ChamSys features is being able to open a cue and change data without including it into the programmer,” he said. “I do this all the time during shows.”
Key to Mansfield’s design concept for the Ultralife tour was the creation of evocative visuals that could transition smoothly into a wide variety of venues on the US leg of the tour. “We really wanted a design that would convey the energy and vibes of the Oh Wonder show to anyone who sees it, wherever they may be, from an 800-capacity club, to a 6,000-capacity music hall, to a big festival in the day or evening,” he said,
Mansfield selected the Magic Q MQ500 Stadium for this tour in part because he wanted to ensure that his rig had the versatility to meet the varying demands of different venues. “ChamSys can morph to any local rig very quickly and simply,” he said. “I chose the MQ500 for this tour because of its accessibility and larger format. My system is very parameter heavy, so even though an MQ100 would have been perfectly adequate for the show, the console design and layout of the MQ500 has made the work flow so much easier. I make a lot of changes during every show, and the way that ChamSys lets me do this is fantastic.”
Regardless of where the band performs, Mansfield’s lightshow is built around the same 8’ luminous O and W letters. The LD had these letters built for Oh Wonder when he started working for them in 2015, and they’ve been in every one of the band’s shows since.
“When I hit the drawing board for this tour, I knew that I had to one up myself in my overall design, yet still keep the O and W part of the show,” said Mansfield, who used 130 pixel-mapped strips driven by Resolume to build the letters. “We gave the letters color and movement through the pixel-mapped fixtures, which really brought them into the sweeping movements of the show.”
In addition to colorizing the O and W letters, the pixel-mapped strips are used to accent the outline of the stage, creating a framing effect that focuses attention on the artists. Mansfield’s rig also includes 22 high-output battens that serve as the main light source of his show. The battens use six universes and the letters one. However, he has patches that allow him to expand his rig to 30 universes for larger festivals.
“This rig was designed to expand and contract so we can deliver the same experience to every audience regardless of the site,” said Mansfield. “We even will bring out an MQ80 for some of the smaller gigs.”
The space of venues on this tour is of secondary importance. What really matters is the show that takes audiences on a journey that transcends space. Oh Wonder does this with every song regardless of venue, and Ben Mansfield matches them with a lightshow that’s as expansive as his client’s music.