For Zachary Matusow's design for Foster The People’s Torches tour, some more dramatic moments include a Kabuki drop after the first song, triggered by solenoids on the mid-stage truss. “The idea is that the Kabuki drape [from Rent What?] masks the entire theatrical landscape during the opening acts,” says Matusow. “At the end of FTP’s wildly industrial first song, ‘Miss You,’ the song reaches its crescendo, and boom, we reveal the world—sun, inflatables, LED screens, lighting, backdrop, etc.—dropping the Kabuki drape.”

But the overall design philosophy remained “no exhibition of technology on stage,” asserts Matusow, “and that it all had to come from within the world of the show.” Elaborate scripting was devised by Matusow, set/production designer Trevor Stirlin Burk, and the band. Matusow cites the visual gags involving Matchstick Man. “During the intro for ‘Waste,’ Matchstick appears in a playful moment shooting mini toy bubble guns out over the band members,” the designer says. “Seconds later, four high-volume Antari Bubble Machines kick in, filling the entire stage in a bubble storm. During ‘Don’t Stop,’ he reappears to torment the band by throwing paper airplanes around the stage, and seconds after, a team of people off-stage begin to launch more planes, thus filling the stage again with flying objects.”

The intent of this scripting—that the minor pranks generate the larger full-stage gags—is pulled off. During the finale, Matchstick Man appears for the last time for a techno remix of one of the band’s hit songs. His presence triggers a handheld confetti cannon out over the band, while the largest of the inflatables comes alive, all via the lighting console. “By the end, our inflatable monsters are towering over the band, bouncing up and down with their arms raised high, and the impression is that the world of these characters has finally taken over and invaded the performance,” says Matusow.

As for challenges in creating the spectacle, there weren’t too many in the design phase. In fact, perhaps Matusow has put himself in a Catch-22-esque situation, as he likes to be tied into the monitor mix for ultimate connectivity to the show. Band monitor engineer Francois Pare and FOH engineer James Lawrenson have provided him with an in-ear mix. “Having my own mix fundamentally changes the way I think about my job,” the LD says. “That said, when I am also calling spot cues, wearing a radio, and trying to vibe off the energy level of the audience, at times it becomes difficult to manage all the different devices, earpieces, microphones, etc. I usually wear in-ear headphones with the mix, wear a com headset over that, my radio on my left shoulder, and when something sounds funny, I feel like I don’t even know where to start looking.” Foster The People continues this current tour through October.

Read about the set and video here and about the lighting design here.

Vendors
Lighting
: Epic Productions (Don LoDico)
Video: Chaos Visual Productions (Marty Wickman)
Rigging: SGPS ShowRig
Staging: All Access Staging & Productions
Backdrop/Kabuki: Sew What? and Rent What?
Vacuum Forming: Global Entertainment Industries
Inflatables: Inflatable Design Group
Sound: Eighth Day Sound

Credits
Tour Manager: Scott Cadwallader
Production Coordinator: Maya Gas
Production Manager: Charlie Bradshaw
Stage Manager: Chris Knorr
PA: Sophie Reeves
Production Designer: Trevor Stirlin Burk
Lighting Designer: Zachary Matusow
Content Creation: Ethan Shaftel
FOH Engineer: James Lawrenson
Monitor Engineer: Francois Pare
Video Director: Steve Haskins
Video Programmer: Mat Stovall
Rigger: Billy Daves
Lighting Techs: Sam Raphael, Ryan Megaw
Audio Tech: Jay Rigby
Production Support: Frank the Plumber

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