Garbage may be one of the least straightforward bands on the current touring circuit. Underlying pop melodies are often paired with aggressive lyrics, and hints of disco or classic rock sound bytes are teasingly woven in with thoroughly modern machine tones. With last year's release of Version 2.0, the band continued to build sonically on the textured samples and computer-generated sounds that pulsed through the melodies on its wildly successful self-titled debut.
LD Carl Burnett has found that the visual perspective of band members Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, Shirley Manson, and Steve Marker can be equally contradictory. "They have this really weird way of explaining what they want. They'll say to me: 'We really don't like lights, but we think lights are great.' For some reason, I seem to understand what they mean by comments like that. It helps that they're such a lovely bunch of people, which makes them a refreshing bunch to work for. But Shirley and I communicate particularly well, which is good because she is the main visionary. The rest of them do have input, but not as strongly as she does."
Burnett joined the band's crew while they were on the European festival circuit in 1996, then did a Japanese-Australian leg in 1997. So for the subsequent tour that began in the US last autumn, Burnett knew he needed a lighting system to match the band's intricacies. "The band is very high-tech--there is a lot of equipment onstage because they trigger samples from the drum set and the guitar pedals. You need a lighting system that can keep up with that. That's where the [15 High End Systems] Studio Colors(R) and the [15 Light & Sound Design] Icons(R) came in. It didn't have to be Icons, but it had to be the Icon desk, because it's the best desk ever. The Studio Colors are very fast, and you can get a lot of techno effects out of them that work well for this show." The LD also specified two custom gobos for the luminaires. "The Garbage globe is used twice, once in blue, the wrong color--orange is for the walk out. The other one is the 'Push It' gobo."
Supplied by main lighting contractor LSD, the lighting equipment includes: 16 Deathstar strobes, 12 5k lamps, two Reel EFX DF50 oil cracker machines, 20 Wybron 4-lite Colorams, and 16 Thomas PAR-36 ACL units.
Using such a disparate array of gear gave the LD a lot of flexibility. "I wanted really bright strobes and lots of them--it's an effect that can be completely overused, but you put color changers on them, it really expands the number of effects you can create. The 5ks are to dilute everything else, because we've got so much technology up there. It's a completely different light, and one that's not really used in rock and roll much. The whole idea is to bring you back down to reality. When you program a little chase for them, they just lumber around; you cannot flash them on and off, which is great, because I can do that with everything else I've got."
While PAR cans are still commonly seen on rock tours, Burnett was interested in getting different looks from them. "I had the 16 PAR-36 ACLs all on separate channels, because 99% of the time, they're used in a fan configuration. But they're such tight, bright lights that they can be used in many other ways. They're never actually focused either. Every day, I let the crew do them however they want to; the first time I see them is when the show starts."
Burnett had originally planned to have two front truss spotlights, but the tour was booked into such a variety of venues he decided against it. "There's hardly any frontlight on the band at all--just two 5ks and they're pointed at Steve and Duke, not Shirley, because she gets the house followspots. One of the aspects they really like about the show is that while lights are very prominent, none of them are lit like pop stars. There are always places onstage that they can hide, not necessarily behind equipment, but in shadow. They like leaving something to the imagination, especially the boys, although they are all highlighted at points. Shirley knows it's part of her job to be in the spotlight most of the time."
Throughout the show, Burnett takes full advantage of the rig's automated luminaires to light up the audience. "The band members all use in-ear monitors, which makes it impossible for them to really hear the audience. The lighting shows them that the audience is having a good time, and gives them a bit of feedback. Also, I've always felt that with any band doing a concert, the audience likes to be lit as well. Not too much--they get bored with having lights in their eyes--so for most of the time, they're sweeping through them, or go on for the chorus to get an atmosphere going."
The band is currently touring Europe, where Burnett was given the opportunity to add onto his design. "We added a 16' (5m) piece of trussing upstage above Butch's head, with two Icons and a 5k on it. We've also added a backdrop designed by Roy Bennett, which is a stunning piece of equipment. It looks almost like a copy of the album's cover; it's an inflatable, so it has a quilted effect. And it's gray so you can color it whatever you want. But to make it look as stunning as it deserves, you need a lot of light. So we've got 24 four-lites with color changers aimed right at it. It was designed by Roy to be lit from the back, but we'd need so many more lights that we're just lighting it from the front. Its texture creates a bubble effect, so when we project gobos on it, we get some really distorted images. We've also added a black and gray backdrop in front of it as reveals, so we can change the look of the show as it goes on."
Burnett's US lighting team included crew chief Ron Crume and dimmer technician Dave Convertino. In Europe, Peter "Fats" Parchment took over as crew chief, and Crume stayed on as a technician. "The guys LSD sent out have been incredible, both at their jobs and as people. They all fit in fantastically."
The band is touring Europe through the middle of the month, and will then return to the US to open for Alanis Morrissette in arenas through the spring. "Shirley fully expects the tour to go into 2000," says the LD. "We can at least guarantee going until the end of the festival season in 1999."