Matthew “PJ” Row creates unique look for Koe Wetzel with Hoopty Lights and CHAUVET Professional

Photo Credit: Chris Kleinmeier

Matthew “PJ” Row was determined to shake things up and defy expectations a bit when he set about designing a lightshow for Koe Wetzel’s current national tour. It was an attitude that his superstar client understands well.

Just as the Texas-born Wetzel has set his own course by infusing a highly original blend of various musical genres into his outlaw country core, PJ was bent on upending some conventional practices when designing the singer/song writer’s touring rig.

“I wanted to get away from the normal horizontal stage-right-to-stage-left and upstage-midstage-downstage look and try something very different,” said PJ. “My goal was to reach audiences with something bold and unexpected.”

PJ accomplished this in unflinching fashion with an intense geometric design that gave the stage an immersive depth, while also transmitting its energy out into the crowd. Key to helping him accomplish this were six truss fingers that raked towards the audience, enlarging the appearance of his rig.

“I had seen truss with three or five fingers and liked the way they worked, but never six fingers,” said PJ. “Having the sixth finger really helped ramp up the intensity level.”

Adding to the power of this six-finger configuration are the three CHAUVET Professional Rogue RH1 Hybrid fixtures that are flown on each extension. “The RH1 has become one of my favorite fixtures,” said PJ. “I am able to get numerous looks from them throughout the show without repeating a gobo or prism look.”

Also enhancing the impact of PJ’s design are the Rogue R3X Washes on each finger’s downstage tip. These bright RGBW movers are used to create a variety of specials and audience washes, their 12° – 49° zoom range allowing them to cover a wide swatches of the crowd.

Like all fixtures in PJ’s rig, the Rogue units were supplied by Wharton, Texas based Hoopty Lights. Over 100 CHAUVET Professional fixtures are represented in this mix. In addition to those on the truss fingers these include 16 Rogue RH1 Hybrids, 22 Rogue R2 Washes, 15 STRIKE 1 blinders, and 12 COLORdash Par H12 IP units.

Other than the Rogues on the truss fingers, these fixtures are all placed on carts, giving PJ the flexibility to retain the overall look of his show regardless of venue size. “For all of the arena and stadium shows we do we have the six fingers, but this isn’t always possible,” he explained. “For the smaller venues we still bring in our entire ground package on carts and use house lighting, while flying our video wall whenever we can. I wanted a hefty ground package so that if we played a smaller venue, the show isn’t dependent on what the venue might or might not have.”

Favouring heavily saturated deep blue and indigo colours, PJ conveys what he describes as “dark, grungy looks” to convey to mood of his client’s iconoclastic music. “We do not use a lot of CTO, no spots and no lekos. With the R3X Washes, I am able to dial in my normal deep blues and reds with touches of white to light each band member up on stage. Plus, they are so bright that the other 12 fixtures in the fingers allow me to make huge epic ACL style looks or traditional par can spread looks across the stage.”

Working with his supplier, Josh Peikert of Hoopty Lights and his crew Adam “Leppi” Seely, and crew members Jose “Juan” Berrelez, PJ keeps his show varied to reflect the many moods of his client’s music. For faster songs, he goes with bigger displays filled with punchy color combinations. When the music calms down, he draws on his church background to create more mellow looks with 20-second fade times and space on stage “for the audience to be drawn to Koe and not cluttered lighting.”

PJ also likes to work his lighting around the theme of a song. So, for the hit “Drunk Driving,” he has his RH1 Hybrids Sweep from a 90-degree coverage to center their focus on the singer. In the “Good Die Young,” he has his entire rig pixel mapped with a red and blue chase over a water drop intensity effect. When the show goes into the song “April Showers, he conjures up large crowd sweeps with all moving washes red and spot fixtures in cyan in beam mode.