Hot on the heels of his sixth studio album, Desperate Man, award-winning artist Eric Church recently embarked on his biggest tour yet. On the 2019 Double Down Tour, Church is playing two marathon three-hour sets a week in 17 cities across the country, including a recent performance for a record-breaking crowd of 56,521 fans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
Lighting for the tour is being provided by Christie Lites, the largest stage lighting company in North America, under the guidance of Lighting Director Gavin Lake, Lighting Crew Chief Charlie Phan and their expert team of technicians. The lighting rig is comprised predominantly of Martin MAC Axiom Hybrid moving head fixtures, which provide everything from bright spotlights and tight beams to subtle washes of color and texture. Although the Axiom Hybrid is fully capable of producing an entire show of dazzling effects, Lake uses the fixture conservatively, always ensuring that the lighting is serving the performance.
“We don’t want to distract from what’s going on onstage, we want to add to what’s going on onstage,” said Lake. “So, the first rule is obviously to light your performer and make them the centerpiece of the whole experience, and then add to it from there. We want to use the lights to make the show punch when that’s what the performer’s doing, or make it really subtle and understated at times. I would say that lighting takes the dynamics of what’s happening on stage visually and amplifies them, whether that be more subtle or bigger and more bombastic.”
The MAC Axiom Hybrid’s high-precision optical system with fixed and moving gobo wheels offers exceptional contrast, both in mid-air and projection, as well as a surprisingly flat field not typically seen with short-arc lamp technology. A 16-slot color wheel with real CMYC color mixing produces everything from subtle pastel shades to deep and saturated colors. Independent 3- and 8-facet prisms along with a beam smoother and frost effects complete the package, making the Axiom capable of producing nearly any look desired.
In addition to its profound versatility, the MAC Axiom Hybrid is also an extremely compact, lightweight and efficient fixture. At just under 55 pounds, the Axiom is easier to transport and rig than competing fixtures, and its 600W total power consumption eases its impact on the environment.
“It’s a 55-pound fixture which can be a wash light or a beam light,” said Doug Hale, Dimmer Technician. “That means that it’s easy to tack. It’s a one-stop fixture for everything that the LD needs to be able to do. And it’s 600 watts, so we can have as many of them as we’ve got, and not end up having excessive amounts of power out of the building. And it really just gives us a bunch of capabilities to enhance what’s going on onstage without having to add to what we’re carrying.”
The crew especially appreciates the MAC Axiom Hybrid’s roadworthy durability and ease of maintenance. Like all Martin fixtures, the Axiom is built to withstand harsh touring conditions and nightly use, and having just one type of fixture to deal with makes technicians’ jobs even easier.
“Compared to some of the other products I’ve been on tour with, Martin fixtures tend to handle the road really well,” said Gabe Vejar, Lighting Technician. “We’ve put these lights in some pretty interesting places as far as coming in and out of trucks, up and down ramps and over big bumps, and they take it really well. And when they do break down, they’re so easy to fix. I can have anything in the light fixed in five to 10 minutes, max. So it’s very easy for us technicians to get the lights back up and running again when we do have problems, which isn’t very often.”
“We’ve been working with the Axioms for two years now, and they’ve been a highly durable light on the road,” said Charlie Phan, Lighting Crew Chief. “I very rarely have to replace one. I think I’ve replaced more for physical damage than actual failures of the lights themselves. Customer service has always been really good with Martin. Any time we’ve ever needed parts or whatever, we got the parts and the warranty replacements anytime we needed them. The service was very good with Martin.”
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