When holding a concert at a massive botanical garden/environmental center located in a large crater, there isn’t much needed to enhance the environment. But when French dance-electronica duo Air headlined at the summer music Eden Sessions at the Eden Project–an environmental biosphere set in a sunken crater in Cornwall, UK–Entec, Avolites, and James Thomas’s Pixel range team joined forces to enhance the visuals and sound.
Entec supplied both lighting and sound production for the UK and European legs of Air’s extensive 2004 tour, working with the FOH team of LD Dave Byars and sound engineer Paul Ramsay.
Light as Air
With Dave Byars in the creative control, Air’s lighting has touches of imaginative magic and visual invention. With the band primarily static onstage, lighting plays an important aesthetic role in the show. Byars wanted to keep the fixtures low, shooting through the band into the audience, in a visual attempt to transfer the energies of the live performance from the stage to the crowd.
The lighting rig consisted of 14 Studio Spots, 8 James Thomas Pixelline LED battens, and four Manfrotto stands on risers. For control Byars chose an Avolites Diamond 4. He first used the console on one of the US legs, and finding that it was lightweight, easy to hoist up the FOH towers, and still offered plenty of creative power, he decided it was essential to have it on the rest of the tour.
Byars thinks the desk is "brilliant;" he especially likes the way he can lay it out exactly as he wants, and the fact that all faders can be used as playbacks, so he never runs out of space or options.
Byars ran his touring Pixellines via PixelDrive Lite PC based software, giving two graphics layers, one mask layer and the PixelDrive front end, making programming straightforward and quick.
After the first site visit to the Eden Project, Byars was struck by the huge translucent spheres, known as Biomes, at the site. He was determined to light them–the opportunity of having the giant translucent structures as a backdrop behind the stage was just too good to miss. It would be the first time that the attraction’s famous Biomes had been illuminated with Pixel fixtures. Integrated into the live performance, they formed a beguiling multi-colored backdrop to the stage.
Chris Ewington of the James Thomas Pixel team arranged additional Pixel fixtures to be delivered to site for the Eden Project show, and Avolites supplied a second Diamond 4 console and another PixelDrive computer to control the in-Biome lighting.
Eden Project biomes lit with the James Thomas Pixel range
Twenty-four PixelPAR 90 (A) architectural firings were positioned around the Tropical Biome, chosen for this location because of their solid wash type of light output, and their sturdy weatherization–not flinching in the 98% humidity in the environment. The Temperate Biome featured less extreme weather, so the Pixelline 1044 battens were used.
Fraser Elisha of Entec handled the environmental lighting at Eden. Locally based Wavelength Sound & Lighting Systems run by Ade Bart also helped.
They used an Avolites eDMX system to control the Pixel fixtures. Scattered far and wide throughout the Biomes, conventional data cabling would have been unwieldy, time consuming, and impractical.
You Can Hear it In the Air
Entec supplied consoles, FOH racks, multicores, monitor control, specialist monitors, and all mikes for the sound department throughout the UK and European legs of the tour, including a full d&b PA for Air’s non-festival shows. Paul Ramsay used his own Digico D5 live console at every show, tying it in to any locally provided racks and stacks.
Ramsay’s effects rack included an Eventide H3000 and a TC D2 delay for the vocals, both MIDI’d to the desk, and he utilized all the D5’s internal effects engines. One of these "special" effects is an Electric Mistress guitar effects pedal, a flanger type effect which he uses across the snare on "Sexy Boy," replicating the effect Air used in the studio.
He mixes a smooth hi fi sound coming off stage, with fat low end and plenty of sub. Air are great to work with, he says, and are extremely precise in their sonic requirements.
Gerry Colclough, who carries his own Midas XL3 board, looked after monitors, they are also supplied by Entec. Air uses Neumann KN105 mikes. The only monitor enclosures carried on the tour were two pairs of Entec’s d&b E3s, used for keyboards and drums, with the other 5 pairs of wedges on the PA spec sourced locally.