Dead & Company Come Alive with Robe

Photo: Adam Miszewski

Dead & Company’s critically acclaimed 2018 tour kicked off in Mansfield, Massachusetts at the Xfinity Center illuminated by Robe fixtures.

Striking lighting was designed by show / visuals director Chris Ragan of Raygun Design who has worked with Dead & Company since the project started in 2015.

On the lighting plot for this tour were almost 150 Robe moving lights – 62 Robe Spiiders, 30 Robe BMFL Spots, 24 Robe MegaPointes, 6 Robe BMFL Blades and 24 Robe BMFL WashBeams.

Dead & Company was formed when the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir joined forces with artist and musician John Mayer, Allman Brothers’ bassist Oteil Burbridge, and Fare Thee Well and RatDog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti.

Ragan has been working with Robe products for some time and loves the chance to use new technologies. He first used the Robe MegaPointe on the fall 2017 tour and was very pleased to have these back on the rig this summer, along with the Robe BMFLs and Robe Spiiders.

A major objective with the design was to ensure it was straightforward enough to facilitate quick loads-ins, so they had sound, lighting, video and all the band kit installed and ready to rock for 3 p.m. sound checks every day.

Many HUD trusses were installed above the stage including a 48 ft. long downstage truss, which was loaded with 10 Robe BMFL Spots, 6 Robe BMFL Blades, 8 Robe Spiiders, some strobes and other lights, plus a 50 ft. mid-stage truss, rigged with 10 Robe BMFL Spots and some LED batten effects lights and strobes.

One of the strongest features of the tour was a grid of 36 Robe Spiiders, 3 fixtures attached to each of the 8ft. sticks of HUD truss, sub-hung from ‘spanner’ trusses.

The 50ft. upstage truss featured another 10 Robe BMFL Spots for back-impact, and two 8 ft. side trusses were used for positioning 3 Robe Spiiders each, together with LED effects batten units.

4 pre-rigged torms were positioned between the 3 upstage LED walls, an ideal location for blasting in dramatic rear light effects, and each of these was rigged with 4 Robe MegaPointes and 3 Robe Spiiders, adding plenty of extra energy to the mix and more spectacle to the visual picture.

2 30′ trusses out in the audience had 6 Robe BMFL WashBeams on-board, together with strobes, and on the floor, were another 12 Robe BMFL WashBeams and 8 strategically deployed BMFL Spots.

All lighting equipment was supplied by Upstaging

Ragan is working closely with lighting programmer and assistant LD Jim Rood who also provides drawings and some design input. Ragan has about 20 songs (out of the bands 200+ song library) that have some special cueing that may or may not be played on any given night.

Considerable studio time is devoted to listening in death to the tunes in dept while exploring different lighting FX and ideas. Rood provides Ragan with a handful of unique tricks for each song and he chooses the ones he likes best.  They are constantly adjusting the cueing throughout the tour.

As the band was generally taking the stage at dusk, Ragan would hold back on the MegaPointes and WashBeams until the latter half of the set when it became dark enough for their full presence to be seen and appreciated.

Ragan again enjoyed using the MegaPointes. “They are fast, beamy and you can’t beat the prisms,” he stated. Having used them on the fall tour, he could get beyond the basics and drill down into the more creative aspects of the fixtures.

For Rood, it’s the MegaPointes’ complex optical system. Utilizing the 2 different prism wheels they can produce a wild variety of psychedelic shapes and patterns that work fluidly and perfectly for Dead & Co. “They also have a great narrow beam with a thick aperture that can cut through the bright looks.”

Ragan appreciates working with this band for many reasons including the opportunity to experiment with the lighting and the overall show presentation. He operates the show himself using a grandMA2, a task on which he works hard with Jonathan Singer who designs and operates the video content.

Both Ragan and Rood have been using Robe products in their design work for some time, “mostly due to the level of support from the Robe team which is unmatched in our industry” concluded Rood.