Seemingly taking its cue from its hit song's title, "A Long December," the Counting Crows' most recent tour, Recovering the Satellites, lasted well over a year. LD Mike Duncan spent 14 months on the road with the band, creating different designs as dictated by the size of each leg's venue. "There were certainly a lot of changes and a lot of interesting opportunities along the way," Duncan says. "I've really learned a lot."Duncan's steepes t learning curve took place on the summer leg, when Counting Crows was paired up with the Wallflowers for an amphitheatre tour across the US. "The Crows were the headliners, but obviously they wouldn't have sold out sheds without the Wallflowers," Duncan says. "They asked me to handle their lighting as well, so it was pretty intense, but that experience taught all of us on the lighting crew how to go with the flow and do the best you can."
Duncan created his first design for the band in the fall of 1996. "It started very simply, with a very straightforward rig," says the LD. "Having the lighting towers was an idea I had always played with. I was trying to visualize it properly for presentation purposes, so I called Tom Strahan at Scale Design in San Francisco, and told him I was looking for structures to hang lights on, so I could get a lot of different levels. I wanted them to be really simple and to look good in profile. And his first set of drawings was perfect."
All Access Staging built the different towers, which were constructed out of mini trussing and include five Light & Sound Design Icon(R) automated luminaires, six Icon WashLights(TM), and 16 nook lights.
Lighting crew members were crew chief/Icon operator Charles Cochran, Icon technician Richard Wold, and dimmer/Colormag(R) technician Todd Metz. Light & Sound Design served as the show's main lighting contractor. "Icons were something I always wanted to use, but for money reasons I've always ended up with moving-mirror-type instruments. They're good, but they're certainly nothing like an Icon--I wanted to get the brightest, most versatile units," Duncan says. "This was the first time Charles had run a console, and he really stepped up to the plate in great fashion.
"It was a really good tour, and it's been neat because I've been able to do three different designs for the band over the course of the year," Duncan continues. "By the end of the last US leg, I'd gotten it stripped down to its simplest elements--the back truss is just all focused straight ahead. It's really unobtrusive and it lights the band well."
The set's centerpiece is the illuminated shooting star (above). "Adam [Duritz, lead singer] came up with the star--it's from their album cover and he's really fond of it," Duncan says. "The band is great to work with because these guys have a lot of good ideas. A lot of LDs don't get any input on their shows, but I'm fortunate we all seem to think along the same lines about how things should look."