Creativity lives on the edge, or so the saying goes. It is in that uncertain area, balanced between two opposite, and often contradictory, forces, that that new ideas seem to flow more freely, and blossom more beautifully.
Lenny Sasso has no argument with that. The prolific designer, who has worked for a number of popular metal and alternative bands, finds that his creations become more powerful, and better reflect the music of his clients, when he threads the needle between lightness and darkness.
“It’s funny, I got into this business because I love light, but as time’s gone on, I’ve found myself being more drawn to using darkness as a design tool,” said Sasso. “Playing with shadows makes the darker moments feel darker, and the brighter ones feel brighter.”
Sasso has been balancing these opposite forces to conjure up some edgy and deeply evocative looks for UnderOath, on the Grammy-nominated band’s current 24-city Blind Obedience Tour.
Keeping his front lighting “to an absolute minimum,” and sticking with monochromatic or basic two-toned colour schemes, Sasso is endowing the stage with a brooding, underground aura that fits his client’s brand of metalcore music like a well-worn leather glove.
Critical to creating the light that plays out on the stage against the shadows, often from side or off-centre back angles, are 13 CHAUVET Professional COLORado PXL Bar 16 motorized tilting battens, which, like the rest of the rig, was supplied by Sonus Productions.
“I have the PXL16s side loaded to cover a side-washed look,” said Sasson. “This has allowed me to create some very cool half lit shadows on the band members’ faces that gives you a sense that they’re somewhere between light and darkness. I am also using the battens for some very moody silhouette looks.”
Sasso is mounting six of his COLORado PXL Bars (two apiece) on down stage, mid-stage, and upstage side poles. From these positions, the units fill the downstage edge, and the mid-stage, as well as the space between the band members on the risers. The seven remaining battens are arranged in a straight line across the upstage deck, directly between the risers and the spot towers. This creates a wall of light behind the band that, in addition to providing a potent backdrop, serves to hide the spot towers in the rig.
The Colorado PXL16 fixtures are being run entirely over ethernet. “For the first time ever, I am using virtually no DMX on stage,” said Sasso. “My entire PXL16 run is done over ethernet. I mainly did this because I’m using each fixture in the 186ch Tour Mode. I was really excited about that idea!”
Since UnderOath thrives on audience interaction, Sasso made sure to include a healthy serving of crowd lighting in this design. “The band has several moments, such as the bridge of ‘Dangerous Business’, the bridge of ‘Writing on the Walls,’ and the bridge of ‘Hallelujah’ that are characterized by massive crowd chant moments,” he said. “When this happens, you can bet that I am pointing every PXL toward the audience and throwing them in the widest zoom possible.”
These audience lighting passages are among Sasso’s favourite looks in the show. Another is at the opening of “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear” when he does a slow fade into a wide open gobo look that compliments the droney guitar sound.
Although the looks at these, times and throughout the show, have an air of spontaneity, they are, in reality, the products of careful planning. Sasso has timecoded almost every accent hit, every big snare roll, and every fill in this show in an effort to have the lighting follow the music seamlessly with a palette that reflects the mood on stage.
“We carefully chose the right colour for every moment,” said Sasso, who added that everything in the show “was intentional” in its delivery… including the ever-important placement of shadows and dark space.
Photo credit: Randy Edwards, @randyedwardsphotos.