PEDG’s (Performance Environment Design Group) Doug “Spike” Brant and Justin Collie have worked with veteran programmer Felix Peralta on numerous projects over the last several years. The similarity in their work styles, their artistic instincts, and their confidence in each other’s understanding of the design vision made Peralta the perfect fit as director of programming for Bon Jovi's Because We Can: The Tour when scheduling conflicts required Spike to be away during the early stages of programming. Peralta tells Live Design about the successful collaboration and the work of integrating lighting and video on the tour.
Live Design: Tell me a bit about how you came to be the director of programming and what that role entailed on this project.
Felix Peralta: When Spike first approached me, it was because of scheduling conflicts that meant he wouldn’t be able to be there for the initial start-up of the project. He made me programming director so that I could oversee things while he was away. Spike described to me what he was looking for, and he trusted my eye. Since we have done many shows together, he knows what energy I bring, and I appreciated that he trusted me with his vision and gave me an integral part in helping to build the show. I enjoyed the fact that, as director of programming, I was able to take a backseat to having to actually touch the console; I was instead able to look at the big picture and help shape the art of the show. It was also nice to be able to tap into some great young programming talent with Eric Marchwinski [lighting programmer] and Kirk Miller [CFS video programmer]; these two guys are definitely up-and-comers. The whole team was on the same page, working to handle all the integration challenges and everybody rose to the occasion. It was a solid team across the board. That is what I think is the secret sauce: the people. You have to get the right people in place. Spike knows how to do that, and it made my role easier.
LD: Talk about the arc of the show and how the programming develops through the show.
FP: Broadly speaking, the way we interpreted it is that there are the anthem Bon Jovi songs–“You Give Love a Bad Name.” “Wanted Dead or Alive”, “Livin’ on a Prayer”–that are big rock songs, big rock moments. So as we were developing the art, we knew the well-known songs would be the more expected big rock looks. The newer Bon Jovi songs from the more recent albums would be our opportunity to be more artful and artistic in our presentation and approach to those songs. Jon Bon Jovi was a big proponent of that approach, so that gave us the high contrast approach we took in the arena shows. In stadium shows, it was more about big looks and balancing the show's visuals for the scale of the audience. You want to be able to reach the farthest seat in a stadium so you can’t do the same things that might work in an arena.
At the start of the stadium shows, the first six or seven songs are pretty much in daylight. So we knew we couldn’t go for very saturated color or be subtle in the approach at the beginning of the show. We decided the top of show is about establishing the car and showing everybody that they are going to be taken for a big rock 'n' roll ride in “Sofia” [Jon named the car after the first show in Sofia, Bulgaria]. Then as it gets darker, we become more artistic, and we can texture the car. When Jon moves to the B-stage in the middle of the show, we kind of take the car away, play it down, and give the audience a visual rest. Then moving through the end of the show, we again have great fun with the car. The car really created a great canvas for us to work on both video-wise and lighting-wise.
The Tour's Lighting
FP: We had the X4 washes and the Best Boys in the arena, and I was pleased that both were also being used on the stadium shows. The Best Boy is excellent; it’s my favorite hard-edge fixture. The colors work great, and the shapers on the Best Boys are very fast. We got a lot of mileage out of them. It really is like people say: the Best Boy is the Swiss Army knife of hard edge fixtures. I also liked very much the GLP X4s. That little wash light is fast and bright. The Clay Paky Sharpys were a strong accent light, and the Bad Boys in the stadium were also a strong light for us. Certainly they were the right light for those stadium shows.
LD: Were you able to spend more time on the integration between lighting and video for the stadium design?
FP: Yes. We prevized at PRG in Burbank, CA, and then we went to Belgium to put it together in the lead up to the stadium tour kicking off in Sofia, [Bulgaria]. In Belgium, we had a good 10 to 14 days to work on the integration. We were able to do three or four passes of the entire set list to really put it together and refine everything. We went through each song and said, "Okay lighting, we’re going to hit our accent here. Why don’t we have video drop out?" Or "Video wants to hit an accent; we could have lighting drop out." That time gave us the opportunity to do that. We would do these passes, take notes, and do them again. We had a great time working on the integration.
LD: It all goes back to collaboration and the team brought together by Spike.
FP: Absolutely. Spike is one of those designers who is not afraid to take on the impossible tasks. He does a lot of high profile shows that usually don’t have a lot of time for programming, and because of that, he has assembled over time a sort of team of Navy Seals for lighting and video that can come in and handle these types of projects. Spike brings together people that are going to go above and beyond the call of duty, just because of the relationship and trust that we have with each other. There is never a dull moment with Spike and Justin. They are great to work for because, even though the projects may have stressful requirements and timeframes, Spike and Justin create a very relaxed, creative work environment that brings out the best in everybody. I think that is a key to their success on a project like this tour. Everyone was really passionate and brought something to the party. In the end, the arena and the stadium tours are two distinctly different looking shows that are, I think, indeed both dynamic and powerful. All of us are very proud of what has been created.