Credit for all photos: F. Hunter Jones
DENVER, Colorado -- Four bands synonymous with 1990s alternative rock - Everclear, Soul Asylum, Eve 6 and Spacehog - hit the road this summer on a tour dubbed "Summerland" with some of the most memorable throwback tunes of the decade including "Father of Mine", "Runaway Train", "Inside Out" and "In the Meantime", respectively, lit creatively by Richard Ehmcke, better known to the lighting world as "Shaggy."
The third annual tour - brainchild of Everclear's lead guitarist and vocalist, Art Alexakis - started in mid-June in Florida and wraps up in mid-August in Yonkers, NY, after hitting more than 30 U.S. cities.
"I run all four bands on an Avolites Titan Mobile," says Shaggy on a mid-tour travel day in the Midwest. "What's cool with this desk is that I try to make it look like there are four lighting designers at FOH. With the versatility of this little console, I'm able to do so. It really does look like there are four different guys running the show. For me it's like going left-brain, right-brain all day."
Asked if he was familiar with all the bands prior to this tour, Shaggy responds: "I grew up in the '90s. Yes I was." That familiarity helped creatively, but his goal is also "to build a show through the course of an evening. I save tricks for the end [of each band's set]. I knew all the music."
The Titan Mobile's versatility works for Shaggy in two ways on this tour: 1) on each band's different lighting plans, and 2) each venue's unique lighting rigs.
"I'm not carrying any lights at all, so I'm putting the console itself and my mind through paces. So if today's an all-LED gig, okay, cool. I've got all the LED programming playback stored in the playback pages, so let's bring that back down and put in some handles, and we're an LED deck. Last night was 180K of par cans. Cool. All the LED programming goes back into playback storage, and let's pull out the par can pages, and touch everything up here. It doesn't bog down the 60 pages of 10 faders I've got because I can just take the programming of not using and throw them into storage for tomorrow. It's fun manipulating a console that way. The Classic Pearl sure didn't do that."
"I've been a Classic Pearl guy for my whole career," says Shaggy. "My phrase used to be, 'There's nothing you can do that I can't do on my Pearl.' And then a couple of years back I bought a Titan console and went to training in London, and I realized the folly of my previous statement."
Shaggy admits there was a learning curve to go from Classic to Titan. "Once you get it, what a difference! I'm constantly learning different things I can do with it. The cool thing about Titan is that it's super user-friendly and intuitive, and my custom scroll blows people away! Titan has so much more to offer."
Shaggy first tested the Titan Mobile on a short tour for Pepper, a three-piece Hawaiian punk band for whom he's off-and-on long designed lighting. "We were playing 600-seaters, ski bars, and that sort of venue. It was fun to have such a small footprint. I would set up on the FOH rack and the sound guys would say, 'Oh, look at you.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, check it out. This is all the space I need'," says Shaggy, who has previously helmed lighting design for Marilyn Manson, Flogging Molly, Megadeth and Snoop Dogg, so he's well familiar with massive requirements.
On that same Pepper tour, the Titan's versatility of being able to handle far more lighting power emerged. The band was booked at The Joint in Las Vegas, boasting a big Art-Net [protocol] six DMX rig. "I did a fixture exchange, and played because that's what it does. Once your programming is built, it fixture exchanges and plays. The customability is what I love most about it. It can control up to 12 universes via Art-Net or four hard universes with the DMX on it. I haven't come across a rig yet that I haven't run on it."
Shaggy cites High End Systems' beta test of Titan Mobile on one of the Summerland dates of a brand-new fixture, the Shapeshifter, that only appeared on a couple of stages, including Dave Matthews. "No one had seen this fixture on the Avo side of the world. And it ran seamlessly. It was a really great day. Its personality was solid. Putting that fixture through its paces was really fun."
Among the Titan Mobile's features Shaggy most appreciates, the pixel mapper is "so good. It lays out easily. As long as you’re accurate with the way you lay out your map, you can go into that same place where you make that custom scrawl for your labeling and build colors, run them across a huge video wall or LED fixtures - whatever you happen to have today. It's so cool and easy."
The small footprint and portability has its benefits transportation-wise as well. "I love it because my whole rig fits in a Pelican 1510, and into a plane's overhead bin or under the seat in front of me. I fly with it all the time."
"Being a Classic guy, I love buttons and faders, which are what I was missing on my little panel until I understood how to get the touch screen on my computer to do the bitting a little bit better. What I always will miss are tangible buttons and faders. I haven't purchased the Wing for the Mobile yet. It's on my hit parade eventually. In the meanwhile, I found a MIDI panel that had a whole lot of buttons, and even some knobs and faders. The sound guys love it when they see me executing lighting tricks with knobs. It's pretty funny. The MIDI mapping is really cutting edge. To be British for a moment, that's a nice bit of kit."
Asked if he has any favorite moments in the show on this tour, Shaggy responds: "There's a moment in the Soul Asylum set where the two guitarists get really small in front of the drum kit, and they'll play this little solo and it's really groovy. I sneak the lights down to them and get a little go-go action happening, and they become loud and raucous again. During the Everclear set, all the moving lights go to the guitarist because it's a bigger-than-life solo - so everything pays attention to him. During Eve 6, there are a couple of highlights of the drummer and groovy rhythm things that happen with gear for them. For Spacehog on its big hit, the whole stage kind of goes UFO.”
"I'm a believer," Shaggy wraps up by adding. "I love Avolites and the way they do business. I never thought I'd be a console owner. Previously, I always rented. But I really needed and wanted the extra time to have the tool to do my own homework on. This small console was affordable to me. If it was a $20,000 panel, I wouldn't be able to own one, but because it's $5,500, I'm able to afford it. And it gives the power and push of all those other consoles. That's why I bought it. Man, I love my little desk! I love the portability and the power. It's the smallest footprint and most bang for your buck."