An all Robe-rig illuminates Phoebe Bridgers

Spike Kienholz Inglis of Spike Design selects an all Robe lighting rig for Phoebe Bridgers latest tour. Photo: Louise Stickland

Phoebe Bridgers has been captivating an ever-growing fan base since her first album release in 2017 with Lighting Designer, Spike Kienholz Inglis of Spike Design lucky enough to have been lighting the artist since those early days. 

For the US leg of Bridgers latest tour, Kienholz specified a full Robe moving light rig – with 24 MegaPointes, 24 Spiiders, 16 Tetra1s and six FORTES – supplied by Gateway Studios & Production of St Louis.

Kienholz first encountered Robe’s products whilst touring Europe in 2014 and has been a big brand advocate ever since. He is delighted that Robe has become so successful and prolific in the US, and most of his tours for the last five or six years have featured either Pointes or MegaPointes. “They are simply so versatile, and even a few can go a really long way with a bit of imagination,” he remarked.

Five FORTES were positioned on the deck with the sixth used as a centre rear key spot flown on a mid-stage truss. The workhorses of the rig, 16 MegaPointes were rigged in the air with eight situated on the floor. “They look great and are extremely reliable,” he noted.

Eight Spiiders were housed on floor towers as sidelight, used in place of front lighting, with the rest positioned as flown backlight. Tetra1 bars were positioned along the floor behind the row of performance risers and were used for creating kinetic flowing effects.

While attempts were made to secure the exact same Robe fixtures for the fixtures in the UK, concessions were made as per availability. Eight Spiiders and eight MegaPointes were supplemented with other fixtures in place of FORTES and Tetra1s, supplied Colour Sound Experiment.

For all European headline shows, best attempts were made to secure as close as possible to a rig that was used on the US tour, and some shows, such as their Berlin show at Tempodrom, the local provider was able to replicate the all-Robe selection. For the final UK headline shows in Manchester and London, Adlib supplied a flown rig including upstage FORTEs and 16 MegaPointes.

The show was a careful blend of lighting and video, all cued from an Avolites Diamond 9 330 console in tandem with a disguise media server rack. Kienholz was also responsible for the design and creation of all the playback video content. Every song from the Punisher album was complimented by a corresponding page from a pop-up book. Each pop-up “spread” was based on artwork drawn by Chris Riddell, an English illustrator, author of children’s books, and political cartoonist for The Observer. Riddell also illustrated the artwork in the liner notes of the Punisher album.

“The music and lyrics lend themselves to great imagery,” Kienholz explained, and collectively he, Phoebe, and Riddell all collaborated on what general concept would be illustrated for each song in pop-up book form, to then provide a backdrop to the scene displayed on a primary upstage LED video wall. 

Kienholz felt that it had to be a real, tangible, pop-up book that would be created and filmed in order to match the quality of the music. To realise this, he had to find a paper engineer, a rare and highly niche specialist in the art of folding paper into unique configurations. After some weeks of searching, he was put in touch with Renee Jablow, who worked along with Kienholz and Riddell to develop the complex workflow needed. Ultimately, each illustration was formed into a physical pop-up page – as if they were making an actual book, which was then subsequently filmed by Kienholz and an LA-based production company called Sound and Vision Co.

These pop-up book video backdrops are combined with some additional digital animations in the live show – twinkling stars, fireworks, etc. – which come together to create a huge impact and look truly unique. There are also some additional video approaches utilised for songs not from the Punisher record, including one of a filmed diorama, which help break up the show and provide an element of variety.

Kienholz enjoys working with Bridgers for numerous reasons. She likes a lot of shadows, darkness, and mood onstage. He is very experienced at creating that ambience with a small number of fixtures, but this tour stepped up with production values and a much larger lighting rig. That, in turn, offered additional flexibility and dynamics, while being faithful to the base aesthetic. He has a good deal of creative freedom and is consistently able to experiment with different ideas.

“It’s interesting, exciting, and great fun to work on her shows,” he concluded. “She is a great communicator who has a fantastic rapport with audiences and is fully aware of how lighting and visuals contribute to that delicate equation.”

The tour is scheduled to continue touring Latin America in the fall, and on to early 2023, when they will visit Australia as part of the touring Laneway Festival.