Connor Sullivan elates Fall Out Boy crowds with Upstaging solutions

Lighting Designer, Connor Sullivan of So Midwest reimagines Fall Out Boy's TAWBOX-designed show with Elation Professional and Magmatic Effects solutions, courtesy of Upstaging. Photo: Andy Jauregui

Fall Out Boy released their first new album in five years in March, So Much (for) Stardust, and then kicked off their So Much For (Tour) Dust tour in style on 21 June 2023, playing a 27-song set at a packed Wrigley Field. Lighting design is by Connor Sullivan of So Midwest, Inc., who is using Elation Professional’s new Fuze Wash 500 on his tour design, along with Prisma Wash 100 lights from Magmatic Effects, supplied by Upstaging.

The new album has been described as ‘cinematic’ and indeed the tour’s creative directors Amber Rimell and Bronski of TAWBOX, along with Sullivan, talked about doing something for the tour that was more story-telling and theatrical. The entire point, says Sullivan, just like the new album, “was to show separation and difference while also showing balance. We have our outward sides that we show the world and our inside that we keep to ourselves, and we wanted to capture that on stage.”

Sullivan and TAWBOX conceived a captivating concept based on asymmetry, involving two distinct halves of the stage merging into a harmonious, balanced whole. Sullivan elaborated: “I explored the idea of intentionally overloading one side of the stage, while leaving the other side relatively bare. Stage right represents the facade, the outward-facing aspect that showcases theatrical elements, while stage left embodies the raw essence, stripped down to its rock ‘n’ roll core. It serves as the backbone of the show.” To accentuate the contrast between the two sides, Sullivan opted to minimise the use of horizontal trusses spanning from right to left, instead incorporating numerous torms. On stage left is a collection of hybrid fixtures capable of producing both beam effects and rock ‘n’ roll aesthetics, while on stage right, spotlights and wash fixtures dominate the lighting setup.

And where do the Fuze Wash 500s come in? Sullivan explained: “Positioned directly above the band, there is an automated downstage pod. One scene transports us back in time to when the band was just starting out in Joe’s attic and to bring this concept to life, we conceived an automation pod. Initially, I considered using parcans or moles, but I wanted something that offered greater versatility. The Fuze Wash 500 stood out with its giant lens and the perfect colour.” Sullivan reveals that the setup is a bit of an homage to the Nine Inch Nails Tension tour, with the pod descending right above the band’s head, unaccompanied by any other fixtures.

The automation pod is made up of 60 Fuze Wash 500 fixtures housed in two 30 ft by 4ft truss pods. Each pod contains two rows of 15 lights each. “They come down as a unit and as the show progresses, they start moving and getting more animated with different positions,” Sullivan explained. “Their first appearance is in the show’s third scene (out of eight total) then they disappear for a while and reappear in the last two scenes for full-on rock ‘n’ roll looks.”

The Fuze Wash 500 is a full-spectrum LED Fresnel moving head that houses a 500W RGBMA LED engine with high CRI. It projects a soft field light up to 17,000 lumens and includes a wide zoom, high-speed strobe and more. “They have such an amazing front lens and that was the look I was going for, a small fixture with a wide lens and LED and it works great,” Sullivan said. “The colour looks amazing, and it’s been great to see them in action on tour.”

A moment in the show that Sullivan eagerly anticipates is during the song “Heaven,” which is a song off the new album. “It’s halfway through the show and it has a slow build to it. It’s a full-on, pump the brakes, stop what you’re doing and turn off all the lights look where Patrick sings with only one light on. Then we bring in the lights slowly and subtly and by the end of the song every single light is on in radiant white and strobing and going crazy. It’s an impactful moment and a definite fan favourite.”

Due to the absence of LED screens or a backdrop LED wall that allows for easy visual changes, the scenic designers at TAWBOX sought to explore additional possibilities for their scenic pieces. “Everything you see behind the band is ‘hard’ scenic, either painted backdrop or inflatable,” Sullivan noted. “Really the only way to change that is to colour it with light. We wanted to expand our options and one of the ways to do that was to use UV paint.”

The UV-painted scenic called for a UV wash light to set it aglow and the task fell to the Prisma Wash 100, an IP65-rated UV wash luminaire that produces 365nm peak true UV output with zero visible light. “It’s a bit of a secret in the show,” Sullivan said. “We wait and wait and then we snap it on! Suddenly, the backdrop glows – giant starfish, submarines – it’s cool. We have 12 fixtures mounted to the mid-stage proscenium that cover the entire upstage.”

Supplying the 300+ fixture rig for the Fall Out Boy So Much For (Tour) Dust tour is Upstaging, an invaluable partner that Sullivan expresses his admiration for. “I absolutely adore Upstaging. They are always on top of everything and are always ready to accommodate anything I happen to ask of them. They have the best crews and I love that they are more than just a warehouse with gear but a bunch of good-hearted Midwestern folks who really look at the show and come with great advice and input.”