VARI*LITE Takes Part in the Redneck Revolution
Gretchen Wilson Tour Opens in Dallas
Published Tuesday, January 31, 2006
by Bryan Matthews

On Wednesday, January 18, 2006, Gretchen Wilson kicked off her first headlining tour, Redneck Revolution, in Dallas, Texas, at the Nokia Theatre. With light and set design by Mike Swinford, and lighting direction by Carter Fulghum, Redneck Revolution utilizes 64 VL3000™ Spot luminaires to bring this high-energy, country rock-n-roll tour to life.

"Gretchen plays everything from bluegrass to classic country to southern rock, and so the light design needed to be able to capture all the genres she takes part in," stated Fulghum. "In designing the show, Swinford was told to think outside the box. They wanted a big rock-n-roll show, and he gave them a big rock-n-roll show."

"Gretchen is wonderful to work with. She has specific ideas about the video in her show and so we program the lighting to marry with the video content," said Swinford. "The design process was 10 days in our personal studio using the ESP Vision software and then 5 days of rehearsals with the actual rig. Mark Butts, the tour programmer, has a long history of programming with the VL3000 spots. In this show, he makes extensive use of the color and position effects which he customized himself."

In an unusual set design, Swinford relies heavily on the lighting aspects of the production. "We used the VL3000 spots on the Kenny Chesney tour last year when Gretchen was opening up," commented Swinford. "As we were discussing the lights for her first headlining tour, she wanted them for hers. And so we ended up purchasing 65 brand new VL3000 spots. And since we used the VL3000 spots so extensively on the Chesney tour, we knew what they were capable of. The Redneck Revolution tour is very dramatic in the lighting design, and there is a lot for the lights to do."

With a complete lighting and sound package provided by Morris Leasing, the Redneck Revolution Tour, is not the typical country music show. As the performance begins, a black kabuki masks the stage. Two large video screens, one house right and the other house left, begin to play a pre-shot scene of Wilson playing her rendition of "A Country Girl Can Survive." As the video nears an end, the kabuki drops and an audio montage of Kid Rock, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, and Queen begins to play. Silhouettes of Wilson are displayed one at a time on the 36 Sony RVP CRT monitors, which are also used as risers for the lap steel, drum kit, and keyboards. In the end, a final silhouette of Wilson appears on the center stage video monitor. And as the audio ends, Wilson emerges from the silhouette and begins to play her hit single "I’m Here For The Party."

Swinford continued, "Gretchen and Management wanted a big rock show design. We used no wash lights in order to create the sharp edgy feel. And because of this, the zoom capabilities of the VL3000 spot works great."

Other design elements of the Redneck Revolution tour include six wire-mesh towers with tea-stained netting material hung in between and various horizontal and vertical truss pieces flown in for overhead truss lighting. Also on stage are the 36 Sony RVP CRT monitors which are used to display unified and individual video elements throughout the concert.

"Controlled and programmed by Moo TV, the Sony CRT projection cubes are like the old video walls before we had LED," stated Swinford. "I had used them before on an Alan Jackson tour. They are self-supporting, tall, vertical columns of High Res video without the pixelation or cost of LED. They were perfect for this tour."

As the concert played on, it became apparent that the VL3000 spots were a major part of the show. Several chase scenes along with fast color changes and strobe effects were used to reinforce the upbeat tempo of Wilson’s energetic country hits.

"I really like to VL3000 spots. They get as wide as you want and the punch is awesome," stated Fulghum. "Trying to keep the chase scenes off the video screens could have been a difficult task, but the repeatability of the VL3000 spots is so dead on, it turned out great. They are responding tremendously to what we are asking them to do. It’s not easy to snap the heads around as fast as we are, and they are performing great."

Swinford added, "Mark Butts is the king of visual effects. His use of the VL3000 spots is great because their edgy, have a terrific zoom, and the coverage is awesome. During rehearsals, the stagehands were wowed. This show isn’t what people will expect. All the elements have worked very well together. It is a fun show."

Fulghum concluded, "Gretchen sings about what she knows. She’s not putting on an act. She is who she is, and that’s the show."

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