“Ain't no cure for the summertime blues.” So why fight them? Thousands of goth rock devotees took that cue this summer and found their own Cure in the form of attending Curiosa. Many fans even insisted on defying the sweltering heat, with their fully made up faces and nearly all black attire, to stand in bright open fields or amphitheatres across the country. Cure leader Robert Smith planned the successful two-stage, 26-city, festival-style tour to showcase some of his favorite young bands, as well as allow his own band to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Led, as always, by lead singer/guitarist Smith, the Cure line-up since 1994 has included bass player Simon Gallup, guitarist Perry Bamonte, drummer/percussionist Jason Cooper, and keyboardist Roger O'Donnell. The main stage hosts The Cure, Interpol, The Rapture, and Mogwai, and a second stage features alternating acts, including: Muse, Thursday, Cursive, Melissa Auf Der Maur, The Cooper Temple Clause, Head Automatica, and Scarling.

The Cure also released a brand-new, eponymous CD (its thirteenth studio album) in June, and, after spending the spring and early summer headlining festivals in Europe, the band arrived in the US in July. Abbey Rosen Holmes returns as the band's lighting designer (having worked on the band's 2000 Bloodflowers tour and its 2003 concerts in Berlin, which were filmed for the Trilogy DVD).

“The band recorded this album quite differently than they had in the past. Instead of going in and playing one at a time, they went in and played together live in the studio, and they did that standing in a circle,” Holmes explains. “When they started the first of the festival shows in the spring, they carried that idea through by standing in a circular configuration onstage. So, we ended up carrying that into the shapes of the rig and the backdrop and the floor and everything in halves of circles. Everything actually fits around a center circle.”

Although most of the audience never sees them, there are concentric circles coming out on the stage's floor pattern. The flooring was printed, from Holmes' artwork, by Hangman in the UK. The set, built by Total Fabrications, have risers that curve around into the circle shape, as well. “We played around with curved shapes and half-circle shapes and experimented on all of those festival shows,” Holmes says. “We ended up with a combination of truss brought in for us along with truss that one of the venues had, which was similar and that we liked a lot.”

Because the band is positioned much closer together than last time, Holmes designed the truss arches to emphasize the fact that they are gathered together underneath the small arch truss. The smallest arch is custom made, and there are custom-made plates that hold standard truss into the shape of the big arches. “There is a bit of a void between them and the outer rig,” she says. “It's brightest at the center and darkest at the outside edge. They are quite close together. There's quite a lot of empty space around them on a big stage.”

The arched trusses lend themselves to creating one of Holmes' favorite lighting looks: horizontal beams that cut across the band. “It's very interesting to me to look at how this rig looks different from the 2000 rig,” she says. “That rig had separate towers, so the lighting felt like it came in chunks. It felt like the stage was broken up, in a way. There's something about the shape of the arches that's very unifying. It feels more like one single stage entity, instead of pieces of gear onstage, which I like, for a change. Also, it's a little bit of a shock for me to have it be completely symmetrical. It was anything but that, last time.”

Originally supplied jointly by VLPS and PRG (which merged into PRG Lighting in June), the tour's lighting rig includes Icon luminaires, VARI*LITE VL2000 Series Wash luminaires, and VLMs (mirrors), which are used in one song only, “Labyrinth.”

“We also have a handful of our favorite conventionals: Diversitronics dome strobes, Martin Atomic Strobes, American DJ Star Strobes, and Lowell Omni photo lights, some truss scrollers [Chroma-Q Color Changers], and some police beacons [LSD Turbo Beacons],” Holmes says. “We also use a lot of smoke. We have eight Reel EFX DF-50 Hazers, and I sometimes wish there were 12.”

Some of the specials in the rig date back to the 2000 tour. “I had thought of not having a lot of them back, but Robert had developed a fondness for some of them, like the lights under the risers,” Holmes says. “They're just ETC Source Four® PARs, but they had become sentimental favorites.”

On previous outings, Smith had favored little movement from the lighting. “We do move the lights a little bit more, but I don't think we move them very much,” Holmes says. “Last time, we specifically talked about every time the lights would move. There was actually no stricture this time against having them move. I just don't do it much anyway. It depends on the material they're doing. Some of what I loved last time was really stripped-away looks, but this tour just doesn't lend itself to that. Obviously, I don't want it to be boring. Some songs do call for movement and color. We're running five chases sometimes, but, philosophically, I believe in not doing much more than you need to do. Although, I can't really claim minimalism anymore. My rigs aren't really very small.”

Holmes' lighting programmer of choice, Kille Knoble, worked with her to put together the lighting looks. “But I am more interested in the video in some ways this time,” Holmes says. “It was more of an adventure.”

Arguably, few bands play such visually atmospheric music as The Cure. Many songs are dark and intense, but there are also some (dare we say) happy — ok, cheerful — tunes. All encompass a deep series of sonic layers that lend themselves to a wide range of video imagery, and the band is playing from a list of 53 songs from its repertoire. “It is just amazing how much technology has changed and what we can do now, even in the few years since we did the Trilogy shows, because the projectors have gotten brighter,” Holmes says. “We're able to do some types of imagery that just wouldn't have shown up over the lighting last time, which has been great. We're also really enjoying our Mbox.”

The show's video is a combination of content created on the new PRG Mbox media server and some done the old-fashioned way. Holmes worked with a variety of people to create the video, including Richard Turner, who worked with Holmes and the band in 2000. “He's an amazing English freelance video artist,” Holmes says. “Drew Findley did our Mbox programming, and he was also amazing.

“So we have footage that was filmed for us and then heavily manipulated, always,” Holmes says. “We also have original pieces of video art that were created using Adobe® After Effects® and Final Cut® software, and we have content that is manipulated in the Mbox. A lot of what the audience sees is a combination of two or three of those at once.

“That process was really fun, passing back and forth these projects from one to the other to get the most out of them. You could do that forever,” Holmes continues. “We got quite a lot done in rehearsal, because Mbox lets you do some things very quickly that would be slow in After Effects. Not every song has video, but it's still a lot of video to create.”

Before the tour began, Smith cited specific songs and the video images he wanted for them. “It was consistent with the last tour in that new material got more heavily treated with original video at the beginning,” Holmes says. “Some of the older material is getting its video added in as the tour goes on. Robert sent a laundry list of things we should go find or make footage of. The last time they were playing a three-hour set, and, this time, they're playing 90 minutes. So, out of a list of the same depth of material, each audience is only seeing a teeny sampling of the imagery on any given night. The shows are radically different in mood because of that. Some nights, you hit stuff that's really pretty; some nights, you get all the stuff that's super edgy, and some nights you get all the really simple stripped out songs in a row, and there's just no way to predict it. So, it can feel quite different from one night to another.”

Holmes also received video input from Rodd McLaughlin, who did some work in After Effects at the start of the American tour, and two filmmakers in Los Angeles, Juliana Brannum and Sasha Mueller, shot some street footage, which was heavily manipulated to use for “Fascination Street.” Holmes continued to create more every day while on the tour.

One of her favorite pieces was for “Lost,” which often opened the show. “When it starts, it looks like we left the shutters open — like it's a mistake,” Holmes explains, “but it's actually zoomed all the way in on a still of Robert's eye, and it takes you about halfway through the song before you can tell that it's an eye. It's just very slowly zooming out, and three-quarters of the way through the song, you can tell it's his eye. Then, on the very last note, it blinks closed and fades to black. What I love about it onstage is that it doesn't look like anything at first. You just think it's light spill, or you don't think it's anything, and then, you gradually notice what's up there.”

Holmes is using an Icon Mbox Camera Server, which PRG developed at her specific request. It can now switch up to six cameras from Mbox. While Holmes is using an Icon console, Mbox can run on any lighting board. “I run most of my cues with a master cue (snapshot), which loads and clears chases and looks,” Holmes explains. “These same master cues load and clear most of the video cues. Sometimes, they're together, and, sometimes, the lighting or the video runs on its own, if required.”

While Mbox does have its own catalogue of images, Holmes didn't cull much from it. “We do use some purchased stock footage, but it's pretty heavily manipulated by the time you see it,” she says. “I don't think any of it's played in its original form. There are still photographs that I stole off the computer of our sound guy and 30-second video clips that I shot off my little cheesy digital camera. We came up with almost everything ourselves. There is a feature in Mbox where you can make effects by putting your own gobos in and using them as alpha channels, and we do that a few times. They're kind of fun.”

All of the images, from fun to strange to outright disturbing, appear on a 50'×30' white screen made out of overlapping panels. “They're almost invisible once it's stretched, but it does allow wind to pass through it. It was very clever, and I had a lot of help with that from Atomic Design, who made the soft goods.

“I would say, overall, that the difference of having Mbox is so amazing,” Holmes concludes. “We had someone wonderful moments playing back our video last time, but I realize, now, that if I control it myself from the Icon desk, I make the choices to manipulate it in different ways because it is so easy to give it more cue points. So, I am using it in different ways — more cue-intensively than I did in 2000. I'm really enjoying that, and it's become more dominant in the show. Video was always a strong element, but I feel now that the show is really about that.”

And with media server technology continuing to grow, lighting and video design keep overlapping, like concentric circles.

The Curiosa Festival 2004 Tour

Lighting/video designer

Abbey Rosen Holmes

Lighting programmer

Killie Knobel

Mbox/lighting programmer

Drew Findley

Video designer

Richard Turner

Video content

Rodd McLaughlin

Video footage

Sasha Mueller
Julianna Brannum

Lighting crew chief

Steve Arch

Lighting technicians

Mike Lee (B Stage operator as well)
Anthony Ciampa
Josh Levin Frank
Shields

Guest appearances (as lighting technicians) by:

Niall Ogilvy
Paul Saddler
Dave Prior
Adam Burton
Dean Richards

Stage manager

Tom Wilson

Production Manager

Bill Leabody

Set construction

Total Fabrications

Lighting supplier

PRG Lighting/Curry Grant and John Lobel

Soft goods

Atomic Design

Lighting Equipment:

Control:

1 Icon Console
4 Icon UGLIs
1 48×2.4kw ETC Sensor Rack
23 ProPower 17-Way MCB
4 Opto Splitter DMX 8-Way Rack Mount

Media Server:

2 Icon Mboxes
1 Icon Mbox Camera Server

Automated Lighting:

34 Icon Fixtures
35 VARI*LITE VL2000 Wash Luminaire
4 VL2000 Wash (spare)
12 VLM Moving Mirrors

Lighting Fixtures:

4 Martin Atomic Strobes
24 Strobes Diversitronics Dome
30 ETC Source Four® Par
12 Par64 Snub Can, Black
210 American DJ Star Strobe 120V
5 Lowell Lights 1K with Stands
4 Tubular Ripple/Whitelight Projector
8 LSD Turbo Beacons

Truss/Rigging:

22 8' Sections of 20.5" Medium Duty Truss, Black
2 4' Sections of 20.5" Medium Duty Truss, Black
19 1-Ton CM Chain hoist
4 32 fpm Half-Ton CM Chain hoist
1 CS-800 Motor Control System
1 Skjonberg Computer Control System

Miscellaneous:

8 Reel EFX DF-50 Hazers with Turbo Fans
1 12 Station Clear Com Intercom System
12 Chroma-Q Color Changer Par 64
2 Truss Borders

B Stage Gear

Control

1 Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® II Control Console (Includes Back-Up)
1 Opto Splitter DMX 8 Way Rack Mount

Luminaires

8 VL2000 Spot Luminaires
7 ETC Source Four 26° Lekos
9 6-lamp bars ETC Source Four Pars

Lighting Truss

2 6' Sections of 20.5" Medium Duty Truss, Black
6 8' Sections of 20.5" Medium Duty Truss, Black
2 CM _ Ton Hoist Motors
5 CM 1 Ton Hoist Motors

Miscellaneous

1 48 ×2.4kw ETC Sensor Rack
1 DADCO 12 Channel 208V distro