Jake Roeber reflects on curating visuals for Avril Lavigne’s Love Sux Tour

Jake Roeber shares his hands-on experience curating visuals for Avril Lavigne's latest tour of European venues in collaboration with Christie Lites, Pixl Evolution and TAIT.

Fresh off the back of the European leg of Avril Lavigne’s much-anticipated Love Sux Tour, Jake Roeber talks to TPi about curating the visuals for the Canadian singer-songwriter’s latest live production, his experience behind the desk, and what it was like to collaborate with Christie Lites, Pixl Evolution and TAIT.

How long have you been working with Avril Lavigne?        

“After leaving AREA15 Las Vegas as the Senior Production Manager, I joined the Avril Lavigne team last spring as Lighting Director when she joined the Mainstream Sellout American tour as direct support for Machine Gun Kelly. Initial design scribbles for the EU/UK 2023 leg of the tour started in mid-January of this year, with refinements up until the end of March.”

What were some of the goals with this show design?           

“This latest design is version four or five of the original Love Sux tour stage. Originally by Cort Lawrence – that started in Canada early last year and ending in London in Spring of this year. One of my biggest goals during refinements and design tweaks was to deliver a stage that could not only play the grungy pop punk princess vibe, but also the serious ballad-singing icon element of a show. It also had to have the ability to flip flop at a moment’s notice to keep everything fresh for the audience. The recent addition of the upstage riser system, which not only allowed Avril to magically appear at the top of the show via some old stage illusion techniques, but also gave her a new platform upon which to position herself for different moments of the show which really helped to add a fresh new feel and elevation throughout the show.”

Avril Lavigne’s Love Sux Tour. Photo: Luke Dyson

What were some of your personal highlights?

“It’s a mixed bag for me honestly. I have a past background in motion graphics and video editing, so the new addition of the Orange Amp guitar cabs with video and LED integration meant that I got to go back into my After Effects days and create new video content for the new surfaces. So really any of the moments that had those new fun video treatments – Bite Me, What The Hell, Sk8rBoi, Wish You Were Here, Head Above Water, I Love It When You Hate Me, Girlfriend, Hello Kitty – are really fun moments for me to see those works play live on stage. Lighting wise, I am a big fan of the Hello Kitty sequence as it gets really intense and EDM-like for a few moments, which the audience really gets a kick out of. Other personal favourites are Girlfriend and Bite Me mainly from an operational standpoint and how fun those sequences are to manually fire from the desk. Additionally, the aforementioned magical appearance of Avril at the top of the show was a personal highlight of mine. Growing up, and into my early twenties, I was a professional magician and magic consultant. Being able to integrate two of my passions together and create bespoke moments for audiences is truly one of the greatest feelings I have ever experienced.”

What is the value of being able to control the video elements from your desk? 

“I’ve always had a deep love for Resolume. David Johngrass, former Production Manager at AREA15 Las Vegas first peeled back the curtain of the software for me as we collaborated deeply on the integrations between a lighting desk and the software, mainly for EDM busking abilities, way back in 2017/2018. Then, we chose Resolume as the main media server platform at AREA15 during our time designing and building the production elements of that space. Everyone has their own flavour and personal choice of platform and server and controlling Resolume via Art-Net from the desk has always been a rock solid and natural solution for me, and is now intuitively a part of my normal workflow on all of my touring shows. The new factor for this leg of the tour was the need to ingest the IMAG cameras, process that signal and then spit it back out to the IMAG screens along with the upstage main graphics wall and the 10 Orange Amp screens. Managing all of this as one unit while also firing lighting and SFX cues meant Resolume was a super efficient way to get that done.”

How many cameras did you have out on this tour?

“Through Christie Lites we partnered with Pixl Evolution for all our video needs. This included one manned IMAG camera at the FOH position. In addition, we also utilised a closed NDI network, provided by Clair Global, to achieve simple wireless video transmission during the show. At some points, a phone on stage would broadcast close-up shots from interesting angles, and at some points I would use my phone at FOH to get a sweeping audience shot of the entire arena. The simple connection between Resolume, NDI and Art-Net from the desk allowed me to program a virtual video switcher in my lighting file and I had quick easy control of each source and where we wanted it to go.”

Avril Lavigne’s Love Sux Tour. Photo: Luke Dyson

What was the ‘workhorse’ fixture of the lighting rig?                    

“I’m a huge sucker for a good hybrid fixture. With that leading to the idea, Matt Richard and Martin Kelly from Christie Lites pointed me toward the Elation Professional Smarty Max and I was so happy they did. These units got a workout during the show, acting not only as aerial fx units but also sharply focused key lights for specific moments of coverage. The dual FX prism wheels at the top of the show simulated TV static perfectly, and the tight beam angle on them meant that we could pull out some super crisp and pencil thin beams throughout the whole arena. Additionally, the sheer output intensity from these heads is really impressive.”

Were there any notable challenges when it came to this latest UK run?

“The team from Christie Lites was so incredible, we never really endured any major issues even though we had to do some re-configuring for some oddly shaped venues. Our lighting Crew Chief, Roger Taillefer, was everything you could have dreamed of in a crew chief, so we luckily had smooth sailing for the entire tour. Additionally, the video integrated guitar cabinets were brand new for this specific leg of the tour. Any time you are building a new visual gag from scratch there is always a moment of ‘What have I done?’ syndrome until you finally see it all come together and work in harmony. A huge thanks to Adam ‘Bullet’ Bettley and Graham Kearsley from TAIT for assisting in the engineering and construction of the guts and brains of the cabinets to bring them to life, and another huge thanks to Ella Stormark and the Orange Amp team for collaborating with us and helping bring the vision to life with legitimate Orange Amp bodies and hardware.”

Who was in the lighting and video team for this tour?

“The Christie Lites team consisted of Crew Chief Roger Taillefer, Lighting Tech Sally Tolley and Charlie Denny, the world’s greatest Dimmer Tech! In addition, we also have Valerij ‘Val’ Olechnovic, who has toured with the Avril team as an incredibly talented Swiss army knife of an engineer, ranging in everything from lighting to video to kabuki systems for the whole Love Sux Tour. From Video at PIXL, we had Video Crew Chief, Jack Gillham and LED Technician and Camera Operator, Oscar Winter.”

What next for you and the Avril Lavigne production team?

“This was the final leg of this tour cycle with the Love Sux tour, and what a way to end it. It’s always sad when a tour ends, but inevitably the ‘What can we do better?” mindset is quick to follow. Whatever the course, I’m forever grateful to Avril, her management team, and all my fellow crew members on that tour for the countless hours they devote to this show and the incredible professionalism they all demonstrate. Personally, I am also LD for Machine Gun Kelly and Pixel Terror Bass, and look forward to those upcoming productions throughout the remainder of the year. I’d like to give a special thanks to Production Manager, Jim Digby for being the best leader and advisor along with our Stage Manager, Shaughn ‘Shoe’ Adamski for dealing with my crazy ideas with an open mind. Jody Nachtigal, our Tour Manager for supporting everyone on this journey and for the tour dad vibes of the century. Nano Tissera from Avril’s Management for allowing all of us to take this show and flex it’s wings more and more each time.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jake Roeber (@jakeroeber)