Talk about a study in contradictions. According to longtime LD Andy Dunning, of Nashville-based Landru Design, "The best way to describe DC Talk's music is if you were to take Nirvana and Boyz II Men and Nat King Cole and fuse them together. They started out doing rap, but the last two albums have been everything but that. The newest record, Supernatural, doesn't have any rap on it at all, yet for this tour, they decided to have a DJ onstage. So they keep me guessing."
The surprises don't stop there. "People hear a Christian act is arriving at their venue, and they're expecting two straight trusses and a couple of followspots and we're all going to sing campfire songs." He laughs. "The show is everything but that."
In the seven years that Dunning has worked with the band, the members have gradually increased the touring production elements. "For this run, they wanted big, more monochromatic looks. One of them asked for a ceiling over the stage, and they were using words like futuristic, modern, and clean."
As the project evolved, the artists' visual wish lists turned into an arch downstage and a white cyc for both video and lighting effects. "The shape of the lighting rig is an ellipse because I didn't want straight trusses," Dunning explains. "Also, their newest record has the outside of a TV shaped like an egg with a rectangular screen. So we put the rectangle in the middle of the ellipse to mimic the record cover, which also gave me a place to lower a circle and a mirror ball through. That fulfilled the ceiling request, since the ellipse is filled in with a Rosco RP screen."
Completing the stage's look were a pair of quarter-circles that stand on end in each downstage corner. With the arches that were flown, they formed the four corners of a frame. "The only piece of truss in the rig that was not custom-made was the straight piece holding up the cyc," Dunning says. "All the custom pieces were made by Tomcat."
Through Scott DeVos of Delux Productions, Dunning hooked up with main lighting contractor Theatrical Lighting Systems (TLS), based in Huntsville, AL. "We were looking for a company that was big enough to fill our needs but small enough that we mattered, and they did great work," Dunning says. "And Vari-Lite, as usual, did a phenomenal job."
Dunning's design includes 15 VL5B(TM) automated wash luminaires, seven VL5Arc(TM) automated wash luminaires, eight VL7(TM) automated wash luminaires, 18 High End Systems Studio Spots(TM) and 16 High End Systems Technorays(TM). "I'm a real big fan of the VL5--I love that big, organic, incandescent, old PAR can feel you get out of it," says the LD. "I chose the VL7 because I needed a lamp I could use for specials on the guys as well as patterns on the cyc--and still give me some decent intensity. The Studio Spot gave me lots of spinning gobo options and a smaller size. I was real pleased with the way they all worked out."
One of the more unique lighting innovations concerned the custom gobos in the VL7s. "My father is a paper chemist, and in my parents' basement were a half dozen cases of electron microscope photographs that he'd taken years ago when he was in grad school," Dunning explains. "I thought they would look great on a cyc, so Vari-Lite had them run off and we ended up with four different patterns."
Dunning ran the show from a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog II console. "I've used it for the last three tours and I've been ecstatic with it," he says. "We also had a Leprecon 1536 console as an expansion wing for DMX on the Hog."
Throughout the course of the tour, the LD was able to constantly update the looks. "That evolution is half the fun of touring," Dunning says. "The tour played everywhere from theatres to arenas to sheds, so we did a lot of reconfiguring as well."
The show's video was produced by Eric Welch with direction from the band members. "He and I would also talk about color coordinating the video with the lighting," Dunning says. "We did video on seven songs, including the intro. I wanted to keep the rig in view as much as possible, yet obviously you can't block the video screen. So we did a fair amount of moving the rig via a Skjonberg motor control system, but we tried to do it in the dark."
Lighting crew chief Wes Wall ran the motor cues from backstage. The crew included lighting technician Chris Hummell, Vari*Lite technician Brian Carico, and rigger Matt Jumper. "I was really pleased how seamlessly the crew has been working as a team," Dunning says.
The band is currently scheduled to tour the US through September.