Describing Jon Batiste’s uplifting appearance at Coachella’s Outdoor Theatre in a few words is as impossible as applying a single label to the festival itself. Even by the standards of an event famous for its soaring diversity and originality, the multi-Grammy winning artist stood out for the sheer breadth of his brilliantly nuanced performance.

Starting off with “Tell The Truth,” a lively R&B classic and moving on to funky songs like “Freedom,” and the spiritually tinged hit “Butterfly,” Batiste, his band, and a variety of special guests took fans on a musical odyssey that included everything from covers of Beatles songs, to the classic from his hometown, New Orleans “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

The set on Batiste’s stage reflected the rich diversity and creative spirit of his music, with a tree in the middle of the stage, a clothesline to the left, a recording studio to the right, and a utility pole thrown in for good measure.

Accenting the inspired set pieces and reflecting the captivating quality of Batiste’s music and stage persona was a Shepherd Lowrey lighting design on a rig that featured 12 CHAUVET Professional Color STRIKE M motorized strobe washes from Ariel Afar and his team at SLX Productions.

“We were thrilled to use Chauvet’s Color Strike M fixtures at Coachella,” said Afar.  “These lights packed a punch, thanks to their impressive brightness and vibrant color range. The Color Strike M’s versatility allowed us to offer a dynamic lighting fixture to both the LD & the artist. Additionally, the fixture’s IP65 rating ensured reliability and ease of maintenance, even in this challenging outdoor environment. Their robust design and seamless operation made them an essential part of our setup.”

Describing the vision behind the production of the Jon Batiste show, Lowrey said: “It was all about the tree of life. Once we surrendered the right of way to the tree, everything made sense. We used some light as roots that carried this electric current of the tree. Others, like the Color STRIKE Ms, were almost like budding flowers, or maybe even weeds underneath the tree, depending on the roll they played for each song.”

Lowrey achieved this effect by positioning the Color STRIKE M fixtures upstage left and upstage right, as well as across the downstage deck.  He ran the high output fixtures at 65-perecent to achieve the desired level of brightness and coverage.

“In this show, I used the Strikes for candy light,” said Lowrey. “Like candy, they were not absolutely necessary for your everyday diet — but they were oh so delicious. They were really used to accent the music as opposed to washing the stage or keep anyone visible. The Strikes had no responsibility to keep anyone covered, so we could use them freely to spice up the show with stabs of white or chase effects.”

On the subject of white light, Lowrey said “ain’t nothing like a blast of white to break it up!” He used white lighting in the show to accent drum hits. “We wanted to support the drums with blasts of white so that the sound connects with the lighting and locks the whole thing in for an immersive experience,” he explained. “White is full on. So, we gave the down beats blasts of white to command the visuals.”

As is so often the case with productions that move audiences on a deep level, Jon Batiste’s Coachella show was the product of many collaborative hands, which in addition to Lowrey included the SLX team, creative director Jemel McWilliams, production designer Eighteen Twenty-Six Studio, scenic designer Winston Studios, content designer Cameron Leahy, and video director Raux Rau.

Among the many engaging looks their collaboration created was one of Lowrey’s favorites, a strong silhouetted scene for “CRY,” when light is project through the tree to backlight Batiste and his backup singer. “The song has so much power,” said Lowrey. “It felt appropriate to give them good light and create a mood that made you feel like they beamed in from another dimension to take over our world.”

Photo credit: Charles Detwiler of Mach Shot.

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