Robe for Black Plumas

Mar 1, 2024

This article originally appeared on TPi Magazine

Lighting designer Marc Janowitz from E26 Design lit the current “Chronicles of a Diamond” world tour by Black Pumas, united the talents of the FOH lighting team as programmer Meagan Metcalf and Lighting Director Alyssa Milione worked closely with him.

The lighting kit had to fit into one truck so Janowitz crafted an aesthetic for the band utilising the integration of lighting and a multi-dimensional scenic backdrop to produce results with Robe moving lights right at the heart of the visual magic.

Janowitz wanted Robe fixtures on the rig for brightness, the small size, and light weight, which meant he could squeeze a few more onto the rig, together with the wide range of features offered by a lively combination of ESPRITES, Spiider wash beams, MegaPointes, Spikie+s and Tetra2s.

Janowitz’s first design for Black Pumas was in 2021 when they played five nights at Stubb’s. The design for those shows evolved into a tour design that launched in August 2021. There have been several other high-profile shows since then, and in December 2023, the new world tour launched.

Wanting to formulate a fresh look, Janowitz’s ideas involved dovetailing Black Pumas developing brand identity and album art, and as part of this process, having a link to previous successful live show styling. He described it as “a kind of a shapeshifting through-line” permeating the work.

The striking Puma-based logo was a major visual starting point, transformed for this tour into a practical 3D dimensional curtain & lightbox.

Janowitz knew early in the design process that plenty of split beam lighting effects would be required to produce abstract physical manifestations of diamonds with beams shooting through faceted glass, so three 24-inch mirror balls were added to the overhead rig, paired with three 24-inch half mirror balls on the deck. He wanted the capacity to emulate some of the colour bleed-through effects of the album cover artwork, so lighting the backdrop from behind became integral to the plan, and in turn, the puma eyes and teeth of the backdrop are made from transparent material.

To assist with this part of the design, he turned to the fabric and stage ‘softs’ experts at Rose Brand. 10 Robe Tetra2 fixtures light the negative space behind in the backdrop, combined with pixel dot fixtures built into custom light boxes positioned behind the teeth and eyes, all working together to optimise a theatrical lighting trickery that gives the backdrop a truly 3D quality.

When Janowitz was considering beam-factors he chose Robe MegaPointes. Four MegaPointes are rigged on the upstage lighting truss, which is in front of the rear scenic truss, with four of the other 12 MegaPointes deployed one each on top of four onstage vertical truss towers, and the other eight scattered around the stage floor.

The 16 Spikie+’s are rigged in four ‘whisker’ positions, two above and two on the deck. The two overhead whisker bars are in the upstage corners, each rigged with 4 Spikie+’s and are secured at 45-degree angles via drop bars from the truss, and these are matched on the floor by two customised truss stands giving the same angles in the mirror positions below, both also with four Spikie+’s each.

Three Spiiders on each of the four side / floor towers light the band and the downstage area, with two additional Spiiders further downstage on the floor covering lead singer, Eric Burton.

The seven ESPRITES are on the upstage truss and function as workhorse back lights. Marc comments that they are “perfect for the size, weight and features with a nice flat beam, great shuttering, and excellent value”. Lighting vendor for the US legs of the tour was Gateway Studios & Production Services.

The challenge of integrating lighting and scenic elements was a good one for Janowitz, Meagan and Alyssa, and Marc underscores the importance of building a ‘dream team’ to produce a show like this.

“Meagan is a talented designer in her own right and brings meticulous programming skills to the table, she’s great at dissecting the music and weaving together sequences, and Alyssa’s programming skills and lighting instincts are also invaluable as well as her ‘road-smarts’ and practical eye when touring the design internationally,” commented Janowitz.

Melanie Devlin was also essential to the creative process, providing her scenic art talents in integrating the painted elements with the crystals creating the backdrop’s diamond eyes and teeth effects.

Marc praised the “commitment and attention to detail” of Gateway who “fully embraced” the project as a service provider, co-ordinated from their side by account manager David Haskell and project manager Adam Ellis. By popular request, Joel Muir returned to Black Pumas as Lighting Crew Chief from the previous run of shows, and he worked alongside technician Blake Miller.

Keeping everything rolling during the road is Black Puma’s Tour Director Mitchell Kenne, Production Manager Chris Worley, and Tour Manager Joel Pryor.