Snow Time for Robe

Image by Ant Adams

Irish hip hop artist, rapper and music producer Rejjie Snow burst on the scene in 2013 and has just released his much awaited debut album Dear Annie to a buzz of excitement and critical acclaim.

Creating some cool and atmospheric lighting was Lighting Director Chris Yeomans, who for the 3 largest gigs on the tour – Dublin’s Olympia, The Roundhouse in London and La Trianon in Paris – specified Robe moving lights as the main part of a striking design. The core rig comprised 25 Pointes arranged upstage in a 5×5 grid, 8 Robe Spiiders were positioned between the columns of Robe Pointes, and 6 Robe LEDWash 600s on the floor at the sides for 39 wing washes.

Lighting was supplied by London based Colour Sound Experiment. The artist wanted to be silhouetted for much of the show so he could lurk in the shadows and play with the negative spaces, so Yeomans immediately thought of the grid effect as a neat way to achieve this, adding requisite degrees of drama and to fill the stages of all 3 ‘featured’ venues. He also wanted the overall aesthetic to be stark and minimal. Once that wall of lights was established as a design focal point, Yeomans – whose background is in the frenetic and innovative world of club lighting – knew he needed a multi-functional fixture to ensure that different looks, scenes and textures flowed for the whole show without getting repetitive.

“The Pointes’ combination of prisms, the great gobo selection, frost and zoom were more than enough to create the multiple looks needed for each track”. Robe Spiiders were chosen as a wash light with “a bit more” to offer, so the flower effect and the onboard macros ended up being key to some of the signatures looks. For Yeomans, the LEDWash 600s along the sides of the stage were a no-brainer: “It is a small and great looking fixture for all those at the front of the audience, which produces nice even washes, tight beams, deep saturated colours or subtle pastels. They weren’t just used as side washes, but audience washes and beams too throughout the show.”

The grid of lights was rigged to a 10m metre wide 5m high ground support structure. This added a little time to the build process for Yeomans and Colour Sound technician Alex Bratza plus 3 local crew, but once in place, the rig was positioned extremely speedily including an outline of pixel-mapped LED batten frame around the perimeter. In addition to these, he used selected elements of the 3 house rigs, which included some of the Robe fixtures in the Roundhouse, the Robe ColorSpot and ColorWash 700s in Dublin and the house generics in addition to their special package in Paris.

For the London and Paris shows, set designers Ducktape Collective constructed some crazy looking metallic structures and pyramids onstage related to the alien spaceship inspired Rejjie logo and ‘Dear Annie’ album references and artwork. A giant metallic inflatable tube which lurked behind the wall of Robe Pointes also made an appearance at the Roundhouse, highlighted with lights from the house rig. Yeomans commented that the set worked really fluidly with the lighting and the music.

Even with the upstage wall of lights, the overall lighting image was raw and spare. The 5 columns of Robe Pointes and row of Robe Spiiders running through the middle surrounded by the LED frame was a neat and lean look. Yeomans reckons that the concept would not have worked with a larger floor package, or with additional light fixtures in the 5×5 grid. “This was a perfect balance. It looked striking but minimal, and I was able to get many combinations of looks using these fixtures”.

Yeomans operated the show using an Avolites Tiger Touch II. Most of the Robe Pointe effects were programmed in the Key Frame Shape Engine which made programming straightforward and by adjusting the parameters, some interesting ‘accidental’ and unexpected results were evolved. He was keen to mimic the tempo and vibe of the album in the lighting – a complex mix of dark down tempos, persistent hip-hop beats and upbeat melodies. A favourite show moment was the intro track “Hello”, an instrumental with a long build, loaded with heavy percussive beats – “this gave me lots to work with in showing off the rig at the start of the show”. It was followed by the first number, a dark and downtempo piece immediately bringing a definite shift in lighting and it went on from there, each song with its own distinctive ambience.

Yeomans has used Robe products many times through his professional career which started at the Gatecrasher superclub in Nottingham back in the days of the ColorSpot and ColorWash 575 series! He went on to use Robe Pointes in the house rigs at Egg and Ministry of Sound. He still works the occasional shift in Heaven which also has Robe Pointes. Knowing the fixture pretty much inside out made it a natural choice. He’s also used Robe Spiiders in a few clubs and has put them through their paces in that demanding environment, however, this was the first time he’s used them on a live show.

More recently he ran Robe MegaPointes at Ministry and was “hugely impressed” with the prisms, gobos, the “extra bonus of CMY colour mixing” and the lightweight.

Robe’s Viva CMY is another favourite which is starting to gain traction in clubs with some recent high profile installs in Asia.