Unpredictability is what gives Widespread Panic such a loyal and rabid following among fans who never know what to expect at this jam band’s live performances. Guessing what direction any given show will take is part of the excitement for “Spreadheads,” or, as lead vocalist/guitarist John Bell puts it, “Surprises are something a lot of people dig—we’re trying not to be predictable.”
So when drawing up plans for Panic’s 28-date US tour this fall, lighting designer Candace Brightman wanted the visual show to be as free-wheeling and spontaneous as one of the group’s marathon jams. To accomplish this goal, the much-celebrated Brightman, who served as LD for Grateful Dead for 20 years, worked with Andrew Gumper of AG Light & Sound which assisted in the programming and visual design of the show.
The duo chose a gear package built around eight Power Spot 575IEs and 32 Power Wash 575Es moving heads from Elation Professional. Three truss arches were constructed over the stage, with the Power Spots positioned on the center arch. The Power Washes were placed on four separate strips of trussing encircling the stage, two extending diagonally at the front, and two running along the sides of the stage perpendicular to the arches.
“Candace was looking for something different,” says James Watral of AG Light & Sound. “The Power Spots produce an amazingly varied palette of colors and array of effects over center stage. They can create virtually any visual look you want.” Among the Power Spot 575IE’s abundant effects: a full-functioning Iris, 11 colors plus white and UV, 16 replaceable gobos on two wheels with gobo overlaying, a built-in 4.9mW red laser, and a 3-facet rotating prism. The Spots’ versatility fits in with Candace’s creative vision of “having a mish-mash of everything coming together in unison,” says Watral.
The Power Wash 575E wash effects are used to splash color around the stage and out into the audience. They feature CMY color mixing, which produces smooth gradual color transitions in an infinite spectrum.
In addition to their versatile range of options, both of the 575-watt fixtures were also chosen because of the “brightness versus cost” factor, according to Watral. “They’re brighter than 300s, but very reasonably priced for their high output.”
Upon seeing the Power Spot 575IEs in action at the tour’s first stop at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Brightman said she found their brightness “amazing.” She also was impressed by the Power Wash 575Es 8°-22° zoom.
Another benefit of the Power Spot 575IEs and Power Wash 575Es is that they come in a compact case the size of a 250-watt fixture. Their small case design, along with their lightweight electronic ballasts, make them ideal for touring, notes Watral. “The Power Spots and Washes are definitely good to work with,” he adds. “From a service standpoint, they stand up really well on tour.”