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Rebel Hearts for First Aid Kit Tour
UK – Franki McDade is the lighting designer behind the edgy and intelligent visual show that has been supporting Swedish duo First Aid Kit’s world tour, which kicked off in January when their “Ruins” album was released. The tour has just completed its latest UK leg, with lighting and video equipment supplied by Colour Sound Experiment.
Colour Sound has provided lighting and crew for previous tours with the band, this being their largest and most comprehensive to date in terms of production.
Colour Sound’s Haydn Cruickshank comments: “I have known Franki since she first started her professional career; she worked hard and was an extremely good and conscientious lighting technician. She’s always had a great flair for imagination, so it’s fantastic to see her creative star rising and evolving. We were really happy to be working with her on this in the UK and Europe.”
In terms of design, this is one of Franki’s largest tours to date. On the video side, she collaborated with Paul Beckett and the team from Bryte who produced the content to her brief, which included extensive input from First Aid Kit themselves, Johanna and Klara Söderberg.
This UK tour culminated in two absolutely electric sold-out shows at London’s Brixton Academy, and a production design that was evolved from a version used on the Swedish tour earlier in the year which played similar sized venues.
Projection was important on this tour. Film is a strong source of inspiration for Joanna and Klara, they take a keen interest, and much of the footage has a textured and cinematic feel present across all the content, be it animated graphics or camera footage.
The projection system comprising the backdrop and Resolume laptops running the content, is a universal item of production that has travelled everywhere on the tour, so a key start point for the lighting design was the backdrop, which is made from a white Showtex DekoTaft Crunch crushed taffeta fabric.
It was chosen for its distinctive textural nature, which is ideal for the projections and dealing with lighting and its colour gradients as well as those from the moving images, and also for its light weight and portability.
With video being central to the show, Franki selected lights for the quality of their optics so they could bring maximum colour and depth to the stage, also fixtures that could bring finesse and be nicely controlled, with 29 Robe MegaPointes as the primary moving lights on the rig.
Their multi-functionality was important, explained Franki. As MegaPointes are equally as good and effective in beam, spot or wash modes, it was like having triple the number of lights on stage. “The fact that they are smaller fixtures without compromising on optics was a big bonus.”
The vibe of the show is moody, contrasty, assertive but generally up tempo. There is a lot of back lighting and ambience, and no followspots.
Instead Franki utilises keylights on the front truss with some subtle side illumination for reinforcement, a concept that works beautifully and keeps the stage looking interesting and free of unsightly light pollution.
Twelve MegaPointes were upstage, two on each of six vertical pre-rigged trussing towers, another three were positioned on wing trusses either side of the stage, with another two downstage on the deck, with the remainder on the overhead rig.
“They are wicked little lights and so ultimately versatile: small, light, efficient with great effects like the animation wheel, prism etc., and there’s plenty of scope.”
She chose Robe LEDWash 600s for the main wash luminaire. “I wanted something simple to do the job elegantly and with good colours” she stated. Twelve of these were deployed on the floor, with nine in the roof.
The projection screen was delineated top and bottom by a row of GLP Impression XBar 20s, 12 on the floor and 12 in the air which “had a great impact”.
Franki likes the smooth, well-defined colours and worked with these in full 89 channel mode so she could create fabulous fluid flowing mapped pixel effects and complex faded transitions.
The original idea was the have the XBar 20s concealed on the floor, but the more she used them, the more they integrated themselves into the general sightlines. This was one of the most developed elements from the original design, excluding adding video content.
At Brixton, a large mirrorball was suspended above the middle of the auditorium, lit with four Claypaky Scenius Unicos positioned at FOH and on a flown truss with the mirrorball which looked fantastic and proved that there’s’ so much more than disco for this classic stage effect!
Claypaky Stormy LED strobes were dotted around as Franki specifically wanted an RGB unit that didn’t look like a collection of pixels, and again, had excellent colours.
Two Glaciators from Colour Sound were augmented by one low smoke generator supplied and supported by Adam Murray, Jack Webber, Jack Sheppard and Liam Globe of BPM SFX, who looked after the pyrotechnics and laser effects in the show.
Franki wanted lasers as a contrasting light source for the final song of the set, “Nothing Has to be True”, which had a look based around static from a television set that was being warped and splitting colours into RGB from one light source, so lasers were perfect.
These came in the form of 14 x 4W Starbeams, positioned on the front and back trusses and across the floor. They produced a real 'wow' reaction from the crowd when they fired up, and, used just once, were memorable in an evening of many visual highlights.
No followspots meant the stage stayed balanced and conducive to the projections, delivered by two of Colour Sound’s Barco HDF W30 Flex projectors stationed at FOH.
The two sisters were keylit with ETC Source Four profiles and Fresnels on the front truss (an aspect that Franki wanted to keep simple and straightforward) and the band – positioned upstage – were lit by more Source Fours on the side trusses in conjunction with the floor washes.
Several rows of 2-cell Moles were scattered throughout the rig.
Franki programmed and ran the show on a grandMA2 light, running an MA3 light as a backup.
Her touring Colour Sound crew were Chris Brown and Hadyn Williams, joined by Stu Barr as an extra pair of hands at Brixton. Franki is also a working LD.
She stated: “Working with Colour Sound is always a pleasure, nothing is too much trouble, and the crew are an amazing and supportive bunch!”
Franki started working with First Aid Kit as the lighting programmer in 2015 and has been lighting designer for the last 18 months, a role which she is enjoying immensely. The touring schedule has been super hectic this year, a trend that continues with more European shows between now and Christmas, followed by Australia for the new year, then arenas in Sweden in spring, finishing with what is sure to be a show-stopping performance at Stockholm’s legendary Globe.
photos: Louise Stickland
15th November 2018
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