Entec provides a versatile lighting solution for Alice In Chains’ 2019 European tour.

American rockers Alice In Chains crossed the Atlantic in May to begin a six-week tour of the UK and Europe, enlisting Entec’s support as their lighting provider. In the experienced hands of production manager Paul Binder and tour manager Gage Freeman, the current six-week itinerary sees the band follow their latest and most successful album to date, the Grammy-nominated Rainier Fog, with an astonishing show that has been spanning arenas, festivals and theatres.

Now 32 years into their career, the Seattle four-piece – Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, Mike Inez and William DuVall – toured Europe last year with Entec supplying fixtures, control, rigging, motors and crew, and this was a formula that Paul Binder was keen to preserve, having originally encountered the west London rental company on Josh Groban’s Stages tour in 2015.

Said Paul: “Entec has a collaborative relationship with our US vendor, Premier Global Production [PGP], based out of Madison, Tennessee, and I deal directly with [Entec MD/head of lighting] Noreen O’Riordan who is one of our industry’s best – she never fails to come through for me. I once asked her to supply some chandeliers for Josh Groban and she found the perfect type by getting in touch with a wedding specialist. That’s just one example of how she and the company go above and beyond what’s expected.”

The entourage arrived in mid-May to finesse the specifications of two distinct lighting packages: a floor lighting combination travelling in two trucks to fulfil the general run of European shows and an expanded four-truck package that covered three major arena dates at Braehead Arena in Glasgow, Arena Birmingham and Wembley’s SSE Arena.

Paul commented: “Our stage manager Albert Bermudez, our lighting guys and I went to Entec to prep the floor package, then the lighting boys stayed to work on the arena rig while Albert and I went to Dublin where the band rehearsed for a few days at Camelot Studios before their first date on May 20th [at the Olympia Theatre]. To prepare for the arena run of shows we loaded into Glasgow a day early so we had enough time to program the larger rig, and we’ve had nothing but amazing comments from everyone.”

Alice In Chains’ PM since 2016, Paul, who heads west coast production firm California Music Express, Inc., explained that the intention of the show design – by Scott Holthaus – was to allow audiences to focus on the band with little distraction. “This is a band that could have six PAR cans on stage and still rock, and that was partly the inspiration behind Scott not wanting to get too fancy and eliminate all front lighting,” he said.

Despite the minimalist aspirations, however, the show makes a feature of four 6ft x 8ft custom floor pods that contain a total of 192 PAR 64 lamps running on Avolites ART 48-way dimmers, and 24 discreet Ayrton MagicBlade-FXs. And there’s a twist: the reverse sides of the pods are fitted with LED screens and, at various points in the show, the pods spin around to reveal video content, with the MagicBlades firing beams of light between them.

COLLABORATIVE

Lighting director and programmer Matt Guminski joined the team late last year after his predecessor Marty Postma came off the road to take a position with Robe as a regional sales manager. Once Matt added his own ideas to Scott Holthaus’ original design, the show effectively became the end result of a collaborative effort that blends moments of high theatricality with full-on rock’n’roll.

“It’s now an amalgamation of creative ideas,” explained MG Lighting Design’s founder. “I’m not taking anything away from Scott’s concept or Marty’s contributions; I’ve simply added an extra layer. I learned early on that AIC are a very mood-centric band with a dark, brooding element to some of their music, and Scott translated that so well with his design. That’s why I’m using a lot of saturated reds and ambers, but when the mood lightens I’m going into CTOs and CTBs.

“What I’ve tried to do is drive the focus so when Jerry Cantrell is playing a big guitar solo, I pull a bunch of fixtures on to him, allowing the others to fade into the background. It promotes that high school feeling of excitement amongst the crowd, like you’re hearing it for the first time.”

Entec’s floor package consists of 24 Ayrton MagicBlade-FXs and 10 MagicBlade-Rs, four Elation Cuepix WW4 blinders and eight Martin Stage Bar 2 LED battens, along with a pair of Base Hazer Pro units. For the arenas, the spec was boosted to include an extra 20 MagicBlade-FXs plus 20 Robe MegaPointes, 13 Martin Atomic 3000 LED strobes, 10 JTE PATT 2013s, six Thomas 4-Lite Molefay and draping.

The fixture choices for the arena shows, said Matt, were inspired by those used on a smaller scale during the preceding American tour. “We chose to major on the use of the MagicBlade-FX which I really like because of the versatility and homogenisation of color it offers. There are several moments in the show where the MagicBlades give us single point source looks and by zooming them out I can achieve a beautiful, giant wash. I hadn’t seen these fixtures before but Entec has a lot of them, and for the arena design we added 10 MagicBlade-Rs on stage left and right poles because while they have a tight, narrow-focused beam, they punch through haze really well.”

IMMENSE

There is an air of narrative about the way the lighting builds throughout the performance, incorporating simple spots and MagicBlade waterfall effects in the first two numbers, and then PATT 2013 tungsten softlights and Megapointes in the fourth song, leading to a breathtaking chorus. Matt noted: “There’s a distinctly old-school flavour at the beginning with modern textures creeping in as the show progresses. When we finally revolve the pods to create a video wall, the MagicBlades blow through with this immense brightness.”

Matt controls both lighting and video content from FOH. It will come as no surprise to some that his console choice is a High End Systems Hog 4 full-size with a playback wing. When he is off the road, the Boston native serves as a beta tester for High End’s Hog 4 Software Development and is a certified console trainer for the platform. “I have been a Hog devotee for as long as I remember and I’ve never wavered,” he claimed. “Being able to seamlessly cross from the Hog 3 platform to the Hog 4 platform was a huge bonus.”

LIBERATING

The tour is also carrying the increasingly popular SpotTrack automated follow spot system which PGP shipped over to Europe to work in conjunction with Robe BMFL wash beams supplied by Entec. Aside from the health and safety benefits of not having crew working at height, the system frees Matt from the burden of calling spots during the show.

AIC’s SpotTrack system consists of three PC terminals, a DMX interface and a Go-Pro video camera that is set up on the back truss to transmit a wide view of the stage to the spot operators backstage. The operators are then able to follow the performer with a mouse.

Matt noted: “For the sake of consistency, we usually assign two of our truck drivers to partner with our lead operator Andrew ‘Willis’ Johnson at the SpotTrack terminals. This just leaves me to control the intensity and colour of those spots, so it’s quite liberating. That said, if at any time there is a problem, I am able to fire a macro that inhibits the system and sets it to a general mic focus position.”

For the full European tour, Ian ‘Mac’ MacEwan is Entec’s general technician. He was joined on the arena section by Sudip Shrestha and Will Mashiter, who worked alongside AIC tech Keenan Bevans. Said Matt: “This is my Entec début and although Paul had mentioned them in favourable terms, I didn’t know what to expect. Noreen and [assistant lighting manager] Adam Stevenson were top notch at providing the gear we needed, and from the moment we stepped through the door, we had Entec’s undivided attention. All those guys – from the office team to the crew – are at the top of their game.”

He continued: “Although our rig isn’t huge, some aspects are complex. When we arrived at Entec’s warehouse, Patch Cleaver and Lee Stennett were our go-to people, and they couldn’t have been more helpful. Our pods were already wired and assembled, with our 110v PARs replaced with 220v versions. Within a day, they had everything in pre-rig truss and built all the looms, enabling quick rigging at each show. We were completely taken aback by such a quick, efficient and friendly service. You really get the impression that Entec is a family business and I would to go back to them in a heartbeat.”

Alice In Chains’ European itinerary comes to a close in Athens on June 24th and will be followed by a six-week American tour as co-headliners with Korn. A satisfied Paul Binder commented: “It’s all turned out so well on this leg, particularly the arena shows which looked absolutely fantastic. The band and I were very happy, and Entec continues to do us proud.”

Noreen O’Riordan congratulated Paul and his team for their sterling work, and said: “Having been present at Wembley, I have to say that the show looked much larger than a four-truck tour. There are very clever placements of overhead structures and layering of fixtures that give a lot of texture and drama to the rig. We are very honored to be involved with this tour and wish the guys all the best with Korn!”

http://aliceinchains.com

Photography by Joe Okpako • https://www.projoe.photography