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Lenny Sasso Goes Asymmetrical for Circa Survive with Chauvet Professional
USA – Pointing the mic to the crowd for sing-alongs has become standard fare for frontmen on the concert circuit, but Anthony Green of Circa Survive has been known to take things a step further. Not content to hold his mic out to the audience, he has on occasion thrown it into the crowd or waded in himself to invite fans to join in a song. At other times, he and his band mates have danced dervish-style on stage twirling instruments overhead. This typifies the adrenalin rush energy of the Philadelphia-based progressive rockers, who fearlessly push the envelope, both in terms of their genre-smashing music and their refreshingly original and colourful performance props.
On the band’s recent tour (completed in December) in support of their Top Ten Billboard Rock Chart LP The Amulet, their lighting designer Lenny Sasso stretched his own creative boundaries, when he devised a perception-bending asymmetrical rig with Chauvet Professional fixtures, supplied by Squeek Lights.
“This was my second tour with the Circa Survive guys, and this one in particular has been extremely creative and experimental,” said Sasso. “I’ve never designed a true asymmetrical rig before, so it has been an interesting journey. It definitely took me a bit to get out of a very strict symmetrical mindset. I was still tweaking things around at the end of the tour, but I feel like the asymmetrical aspect of the show gave me endless possibilities.”
Sasso’s asymmetrical design was skewed right. Not only were the majority of fixtures on that side of the stage, they were also positioned at greater heights than their counterparts on the left. Adding to the disparity, the drum riser and three of the five band members were also stage right. The unequal distribution of fixtures and musicians created an intriguing abstract look that reflected and supported the band’s intricate sound.
Critical to Sasso’s asymmetrical design was the positioning of the nine Rogue R2 Wash fixtures in his rig. He positioned six of these units stage right in an interesting staircase staggered step down pattern. The three other units were stage left in an offset triangle.
“Positioning the R2s this way, I was able to get some nice weird wash patterns,” said Sasso. “Then there were a few songs where I used the ring control macros and pointed the R2s straight into the audience for some cool eye candy effects during mellow parts of songs.”
The four Rogue RH1 Hybrid fixtures in the rig were positioned behind each band member, so they too were skewed right. “I used the RH1s with wide prisms and gobos to create huge starburst style effects behind the guys in the band. My prisms rotated clockwise, and the gobos rotated counter-clockwise. When the band really dug in, I would throw in the occasional beam mode and go wild.
“Basically, I approached this design with the idea that each band member would have his own personal light show happening behind him,” continued Sasso. “At the same time, though, I wanted to have the lights across the entire rig still work together to form one cohesive show. So, for example, if I had a member on stage right ripping a solo and a member on stage left playing something mellow each got the lighting that matched his performance. The show would reflect that, in that stage right would be chaotic and stage left would have chill vibes, but all the colouring and positions flow nicely from side to side.”
The only fixture spread evenly across the stage were the four Rogue R1 FX-B units in the rig. Sasso staggered these fixtures at different heights, so that when tilted inward, they would fold on top of one another to create a wall of light.
“I love the FX-B,” said Sasso. “Mostly I use them to scan the audience, but I’ve found they work incredibly well when you also strictly isolate a member with them. So, for example, when one of the guitarists starts a song I could have the two FX-Bs that flank him (at different heights) and do a slow fanned tilt around him. When this happens, it looked like 10 different fixtures surrounded him, because each one has five moving heads. This is a really cool weird effect.”
Mostly though, Sasso used his Rogue R1 FX-B fixtures to scan the audience as part of his plan to create total immersion at each venue. “All my designs, regardless of the artist, are done to be as immersive as possible,” he said. ‘This makes the experience more impactful for the audience. I try my best to never let there be any kind of disconnect between the artist and audience. So with Circa, I used a lot of really wide prism effects from the RH1s, along with an assortment of different gobos as well. Plus I had the FX-Bs scan the audience.”
Creating this immersive look was more challenging with the asymmetrical rig. “It definitely took time getting used to an asymmetrical mentality,” said Sasso. “I just felt like there were so many different options to choose from. I could have spent months dialling in different ideas and possibilities. My biggest challenge each day was trying to figure out how I wanted to utilize the house rigs since they aren’t always symmetrical.”
Sasso is grateful that his client allowed him to explore these asymmetrical options. “Big thanks to Circa Survive for giving me the freedom to try some weird experimental designs,” he said. Somehow, we think that “experimenting” is something this popular band understands very well.
photos: Sarah Hess
27th February 2019
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