Alison Wonderland ‘Awake’ Tour
Australian electronic dance music DJ, producer, singer-songwriter and cello and bass player Alison Wonderland performed for 8,500 people in a sold-out show in San Francisco where we caught up with David Fairless, the lighting designer, programmer and director for the Awake North American tour.
Colourblind Productions, one of the lighting vendors for the tour, had been involved with Alison Wonderland for a number of years as she began to break into the Australian electronic music scene. Senior lighting designer Matt Smith had led the production of a number of local engagements before designing and operating Alison’s first headlining U.S. tour. These initial years established Alison Wonderland’s sound as a sold-out act across the world.
With Smith touring a heavily electronic show for some time, Fairless began working closely with Alison as a member of the Colourblind team. “Together, we worked to conceive her new live show, capitalizing on her background as a classically trained cellist who loves to throw some more heavy electronic styles into her set,” Fairless says. “After designing the show over the course of a few years, I was approached to bring my operational style and method to her largest U.S. tour to date.”
The stage design hinges around a large video pyramid, something that the artist had envisioned early on. Fairless created a set that followed the lines and steps of the booth throughout the entire stage with truss towers and roof droppers. “These gave me a dynamic, evolving presence that worked cohesively with the stage design. Alison places a lot of faith in her team and the creativity we bring to the table. Because of our working history and my own creative process, Alison rarely got involved in the lead up to the first rehearsal.
Most of Alison’s input that was incorporated into the show came late into the night when she had a new mix she wanted to be rendered into the lights and stage. “Once we got the show rolling, Alison and management were always front of house during sound check, analyzing the show and seeing how the moments they had envisioned translated onto the stage.”
Once the set list was received in the initial stages of the show, Visual Artform (VJ’s), ER Productions (lasers) and Colourblind (lighting) got together and worked through the show, planning each musical drop and individual moment. The show was constantly being tweaked and updated to squeeze the most from each rig.
A Constantly Evolving Rig
Production manager Jesse Morales booked and managed all of the local vendors, choosing companies based off previous working relationships. Some of the hired vendors around the country include ETS Lighting, 3G Live, Brown Note Productions and 4Wall. All brought different fixtures and substitutions to the tour, made it a constantly evolving rig.
Fairless expands on the video presence. “On this run of shows, it was the first time we had worked with content manufacturers Visual Artform, which gave way to some strong additions to the overall look of the performance through their impressive content and experienced operator [Ryan Whitmer], whose close attention to details enhanced the show.”
ER Productions looked after the laser elements in the show, with Fairless and Visual Artform creating stand out moments for ER to flex. Moments like these include when the lasers and lighting would sequence every four beats on the drop to fire beams as fast and as bright as possible over the crowd.
“We lit up any space and told a story through imagery and sound,” Fairless says. In terms of gear, “a go-to for anything I produce are Claypaky Sharpy Beam fixtures. Their speed and reliability sets them apart from others. With a show that relies heavily on beams, it was an easy decision to use this fixture. I enjoyed using the GLP fixtures, which provided a nice wash and beautiful range of color temperatures. I regularly use Martin [MAC] Viper Profiles for the reliable beam and gobos. Strength in unity is what I believe in, and with these select fixtures, I know the show is always going to look as anticipated.
“It was an honor to work with such professionals on Alison’s new live show, which was her highest selling tour to date,” Fairless adds. “We took this show to the next step through utilizing high end production companies that all brought their excellent work ethic and art form to the show.”