Like some ancient deity of the underworld, Quintillian Speakers are shrouded in mystery. Even readers engrossed in the Vaxis 2 story, from which they sprang, know little about this ancient race of beings, other than that they are made of energy, and can turn up anywhere even at this summer’s Coheed and Cambria tour across North America.
The band’s frontman Claudio Sanchez conjured up these enigmatic entities as part of The Amory Wars, an ongoing series of science fiction comic books and novels he created. His imaginative vision is brought to life on the group’s current tour, not just through its thematic music, but also by a commanding 27-foot tall inflatable rendition of a Quintillian Speaker.
Animating this impressive figure on the tour, and endowing it with a distinct persona, while also reflecting its power to transmit energy, is a bold and colorful lighting design created by Victor Zeiser and run by touring designer Ben Jarrett that features 68 CHAUVET Professional fixtures supplied by Squeek Lights.
“Since the Quintillion Speaker is a major component of this show, we have built much of our design around it,” said Zeiser. “We have no traditional backdrop on this tour. The inflatable is our backdrop, and it defines much of the stage presence.”
Getting the tall inflatable off the ground and fitting it within the stage trim has been a key challenge when setting up this show according to Jarrett, who credits his team, including lead LX tech “Chud” Williams, rigger/stage manager Spencer Smyth, and lead LED tech Andre Dionne, with helping the tour run smoothly. Working around the inflatable, Jarrett tiers the upstage and midstage truss to fit within the remaining trim.
Jarrett made sure to account for the distinctive centerpiece when programming the 110-minute 17-song show. “I keep the inflatable the key scenic focus in the songs from the new album,” he said. “Then, I let it recede a little into the background for some of their older songs in the set. There are times when the Quintillion Speaker is woven very tightly into the show. One of my favorites is for the song ‘Disappearing Act.’ It gets me every night when we get these greens and purples to flow perfectly with the video content to give the stage a spacey energy club feel.”
To evoke this kind of “space themed mood,” the design team relies on the rig’s 36 Rogue R1 BeamWahes flown on midstage truss to create lots of lavenders and deep purples punctuated by reddish oranges and CTO, the latter used to convey a sense of traveling through celestial galaxies.
“We angle the BeamWashes at 45 degrees on six bars, each with six fixtures, to give the lighting rig tentacles of its own, just like a Quintillion Speaker,” said Jarrett. “The idea is to create the impression that the stage is reaching out into the audience to pull them into the story.”
Also drawing the audience into performance on stage are the rig’s 17 Color STRIKE M fixtures. The recently released IP65 rated motorized strobe-wash is used throughout the show as an audience light, in addition to strobing at key moments. Contributing added color and excitement to the show are the 15 Rogue R3X Washes, eight of which are arranged on the deck to provide side lighting, while the remainder are flown on upstage truss.
The intense output of the Color STRIKE M fixtures also play a key role in creating a dramatic entrance for the Quintillion Speaker at the start of every show. “Given its size, it’s difficult to keep the QS hidden until the reveal moment,” said Jarret. “However, the backdrop of the opening acts keep it out of sight until our show starts. Then we fly it up the truss and inflate it during the band’s first song, which is rather long, to give us time. Meanwhile, as we’re inflating the QS, the bright Color STRIKE M fixtures are being directed at the audience, so the inflatable is behind a wall of light.”
When the inflation process is completed, the Color STRIKE M fixtures are turned off, and the Quintillion Speaker appears as if emerging out of the energy of light. It is, says Jarrett, a “magical moment,” adding “it lets fans know this is going to be a special night.”