John Colligan of BML-Blackbird Theatrical Services believes that lighting shares an emotional connection to music, flowing with it to tap into experiences deep inside the human soul. Since 2014, Colligan has been part of this powerful union, both witnessing it and contributing to it as lighting designer for jam-band icons Gov’t Mule.
Punting his way through the band’s 2-3 hour shows, which are marked by extended improvisational riffs, he follows every expressive note to accent its emotional force with light. Helping him in this spontaneous adventure are 12 CHAUVET Professional Rogue R1 FX-B fixtures, supplied by BML-Blackbird, which has been supplying the touring system for the last 10 years.
“Songs have a way of expressing emotions and have a powerful effect on the psyche,” said Colligan. “Lighting can bring out emotions on its own, too. There’s a certain sense of harmony that happens when lighting works with music. Combined, the two arts create a new, deeply moving experience.”
Delivering this experience requires lighting that is constantly changing with the music. Creating new looks that keep pace with the free-flowing sound of Gov’t Mule is no small task. Every one of the band’s extended shows is different. There is no established set list written in stone at a Gov’t Mule concert. The band will even break up a song by delving into a spontaneous rendition of another tune. Then there are the wildly creative riffs by the Grammy-winning guitarist Warren Haynes.
“The fun of working with Gov’t Mule is that you never know what to expect, but that’s a challenge too,” said Colligan. “I need a rig that is flexible, so I can always pull out new tricks that I can use to follow the band. You don’t want to be predictable with a band that is so creative.”
Since 2016, Colligan has made the Rogue R1 FX-B a permanent part of this touring package, because it increases his creative options. From venue to venue he positions his 12 Rogues on six booms and bases of various heights, hung yoked out behind the band.
“The true secret to the Rogue R1 FX-B is its ability to get a lot of shapes with just a few pan palettes,” said Colligan. “Then, by flipping the tilt palettes you can double your number of looks. The fixtures are excellent for creating geometric patterns on stage, for backlighting, and for covering the stage with color.”
Given his client’s busy festival schedule, Colligan is also appreciative of the Rogue R1 FX-B’s compact size. “Each fixture has five moving heads, so with 12 units I can get 60 moving lights,” he said. “At the same time, though, 12 of these fixtures don’t take up a lot of space on the rig.”
Describing the overall look of his show as “classic rock that covers a dynamic, ranging from very dim and smooth to bright and exciting,” Colligan also relies on his Rogue fixtures for those special moments when music and passion reach a crescendo. “The Rogues are my ace in the hand,” he said. “I rely on them for those show-stopper times when you really want to reach the crowd. They are a light that stimulates emotions.”