MORRISON, CO – It isn’t often that a rock star coming off three successive Billboard Top Ten albums takes time before a big show to hold a yoga class, but then Michael Franti has made a habit of defying expectations, whether it’s with his genre-bending music, or unconventional dress code. (He gave up wearing shoes in 2000 and hasn’t donned a pair since, save for the flip-flops he puts on to board airplanes.) Franti’s iconoclastic and richly fertile imagination was on full display at his July 13th appearance with his band Spearhead at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Supporting their multifarious performance was a beautifully balanced Matt “Jonezy” Jones designed light and video show run with a ChamSys MagicQ MQ80 console.
Kicked off after the conclusion of his “LOVE OUT LOUD YOGA” class, Franti’s show took the audience through a wondrously weaving musical journey that touched rock, hip hop, blues, dance, music and a host of other genres all sprinkled with the star’s unique poetic cadence. Jones’ lightshow moved along with the music, displaying a range of looks created with a rig that was meticulously arranged so as not to detract from the geological beauty of its setting in Red Rocks Amphitheater.
“I designed the light rig around the natural setting, with as much rock-viewing as possible,” said Jones. “Another goal was to have each moving head hit the rocks throughout the set. There were quite a few songs in the set that had long music-video-style content, so we had to include a video wall upstage center, but again we designed that structure to allow as much rock-viewing as possible.”
Jones also had to find a balance between big blustery looks and more mellow scenes in his design. “Franti has been making modifications to his musical style the past few years, generally becoming more dance-oriented,” said the LD. “He likes his live show to follow suit, being very big and dancey, but also with the ability to tone it down drastically for his acoustic or solo songs. Another thing we had to keep in mind is that Franti spends a lot of time walking around out in the crowd and playing on his B, C, and D Stages. This meant we needed the ability to light him anywhere in the 9,600-person venue.”
To add to the versatility of his rig, Jones set up a busk page on his MagicQ MQ80. Using the copy-linked feature, he found it easy to create a whole new busk page for his tech to operate for the opening artists. Discussing the busking-friendly nature of his console, Jones noted: “I punt a good deal during Franti shows. As I tell everyone, ChamSys consoles are the best-designed tools for busking. I always have a ‘sidecar’ consisting of a single Extra Wing managing speed and size masters for effects and different fixture types, so being able to do stuff on the fly in the programmer, yet having speed/size masters governing these effects, is massive for me.”
Not surprisingly, given the flexibility of his Red Rocks lightshow, Jones worked with a variety of control protocols: DMX for lighting, ACN for LED tape and ArtNet for video. His MagicQ MQ80 worked seamlessly with all protocols. There were no special configurations required for DMX or ArtNet. “The LED tape brains we got from our LED tape sub-vendor, work best with Unicast ACN, so I just specified an IP address for each universe,” he said. “After that we were off to the races.”
Jones used three DMX universes for the house and floor rigs, which included 72 luminaires, and ten atmospherics; one DMX universe for his B-stage rig, one ArtNet universe for his Resolume Arena 5 Media Server; and 14 Unicast ACN universes for the LED tape that he used throughout the main and B stages. His CADs were designed in VectorWorks Spotlight 2017, and the pre-vis was done in LightConverse.
The user-friendly features of the MagicQ MQ80 gave Jones ready-control over his complex rig, allowing him to focus more attention on punting during his client’s freewheeling performance. “There’s a lot about this console that makes my life easier,” he said. “Being able to use physical DMX, ArtNet and Unicast ACN outputs simultaneously allowed me to connect all my differing technologies together seamlessly from a single compact console.
“Another big plus for me is the higher resolution screen on this console,” continued Jones. “Then there’s the smaller overall footprint, which allowed me to fit more stuff on my FOH table. Think about it: I was running LED tape and video, in addition to standard lighting. It all called for more physical control of this show. The Wing and Resolume setup I needed wouldn't have been able to fit with my laptop on the table if I had a bigger console.”
After Red Rocks, Jones reflected on the day when he first encountered the MagicQ MQ80. “I bought it to do some one-off fly-date shows in Europe, but I loved it so much that I made it my go-to console. Its form factor fits my needs perfectly. Now I can easily transport my fully-functional, fully loaded desk and be under the domestic airlines weight limit, so it gives me the freedom to pick up and go.”
For a lighting designer who works with a break-the-mold artist like Michael Franti, such freedom is a very good thing indeed.