Having proved her point that female artists on the same bill can pack in the crowds as well as--or in many instances better than--all-male bills, Sarah McLachlan has decided that three summers of full-scale Lilith Fair festival tours was enough. Quelling criticism that the first tour's roster featured mainly white singer/songwriters, this year's bill was the most diverse yet, with rap, R&B, and country acts added to the lineups.
LD Graeme Nicol designed the tour's lighting rig, which is used by all of the festival's rotating artists. Large and flexible to handle almost any performance, the driving design point was an ease of setup.
"I cut down the number of moving light focuses--well, actually, I just made them less player-specific," Nicol explains. "I used geometric 'M's and 'W's, which meant that on show days I only had to focus the moving lights on the three front line positions and touch up the audience lighting and the mirrorball cues. There were also no scrollers, because of all the outdoor venues. Although it was a large system, we were often up, focused, and done before lunch."
Supplied by main lighting contractor Westsun, the rig's shape included two large, septegon trusses over the mid stage, and the luminaires included High End Systems Studio Spots(TM) and Studio Colors(R) as well as six VL7(TM) automated luminaires. "The VL7s were great," Nicol says. "I knew we wanted to go for one big fixture, and it was either that or the Coemar 1200. But I felt the Coemar lamp was a bit clunky and didn't have as much finesse as the VL7. I'd really like to use them again, because on this tour I was just kind of testing the waters. The color fading in that lamp is so awesome."
"We never had any trouble with any of the lamps," Nicol says. "And I was totally impressed by the 250 Studio Spots. We used them as floor and fill lights and they were really bright and fast and they have great gobos in them. Of course, we also had a 36" mirrorball. And the kids seemed to really like the UV effect--especially with the mirrorball. The cheapest gags work the best. It never fails."
All the bands used the same lighting rig, but McLachlan and Sheryl Crow were the only two acts that performed in complete darkness. Kathy Beer ran the lighting for LD Paul Guthrie's design for Crow's show. "They had the three video screens for Sheryl Crow, which was great because it made it look like we had two different rigs up there," Nicol says. "We were really the only acts that benefited from the lighting, although Tracey Ploss ran the board for the Pretenders and the Dixie Chicks. We were definitely short on band LDs this year--but we made up for it with monitor and FOH consoles."
McLachlan's audio engineers, Dave Pallett on monitors and Gary at FOH, did not have to handle the sound for any of the other bands on the tour, although they have in the past. Westsun also supplied the tour's audio equipment. "Some artists didn't have engineers, so I would take care of their monitors," Pallett says. "But on this tour, it was easier for the tech to jump in and do it. He sets the system up and knows how the patch is done so he's more on the inside. The same is true for the FOH position. The system techs have set up all the gear so they're more familiar with the equipment."
The rest of the tour's massive crew included production manager Paul Runnals, road manager Dan Garnett, stage manager Grant McAree, production coordinator Catherine Fry, production assistant Courtenay Brandt, lighting designer/director Graeme Nicol, monitor engineer Dave Pallet, FOH sound engineer Gary Stokes, lighting crew chief Dale Lynch, FOH lighting technician Tracey Ploss, lighting systems technician Duncan Keith, automated lighting technician Darryl Magura, lighting dimmer technician Danny Maynard, audio technicians Gord Reddy and Adrian Dennis, FOH audio technician Darrell Biwer, audio monitor technician Dave Reston, PA Systems technicians Julia Dimitriou and Deborah Hutchins, audio recording engineer Tim Oberthier, head rigger Dave Heard, rigger Chris Jones, head carpenter Isaac Kinakin, and assistant carpenter Colin Reade.
"The best part of the tour was that it was so easygoing," Nicol says. "Someone said it's like the McDonalds of entertainment--you're just trying to get it all out there as quickly as possible. We do strive for quality, but as long as everyone enjoys themselves, that's what really matters. A lot of people who worked on the tour went away from it feeling good about it."