At the base of Mount Vesuvius, believed the Roman poet Virgil, lay the entrance to the underworld. Ancients were said to call this gateway to the dark, foreboding tunnel beneath the deadly volcano “Vheissu.” The haunting image of this mythical passage seems to rise like volcanic steam from the intense musical undertones crackling through Thrice’s album of the same name, even now 15 years after the Top 25 recording’s release.
Vheissu was the fourth of the California quartet’s 10 albums to date. It not only redefined the band with its deeply introspective, brooding sound, but also influenced an entire style of alt rock music. On the US tour celebrating the 15th anniversary of the seminal LP, which concluded with a show at The Novo in Los Angeles, Lenny Sasso reflected the mood of Vheissu in all its complexity with an evocative lightshow marked by beguiling silhouettes and unexpected angles of backlighting.
Helping him create these looks was a versatile touring rig that featured CHAUVET Professional Maverick MK2 Spot fixtures supplied by Squeek Lights. Positioning five of the 440W LED fixtures across the deck behind the band, he used them to light the artists from ground level angles, suggestive of the “underworld” tones of the ancient Vheissu legend.
“When we started to discuss lighting for this tour, we wanted to change the vibe up a bit, because of the unique nature of Vheissu,” said Sasso. “Riley Breckenridge, the band’s drummer, had posed the idea of having lights come up from the deck. I basically ran with this concept, because it fit the mood of the show, which features the all the songs from the Vheissu album, plus 3 B-side numbers and four additional tunes. My vision was to capture these dark and moody moments by keeping the lighting minimalistic and not have too much rain down on the band from above.”
With one Maverick MK2 Spot behind each band member, except the drummer, who was positioned between two of the fixtures, and one unit on each end of upstage deck, Sasso was able to create an open clam shell of backlighting that spread out from the stage deck to fill the room. This created a deeply textured perspective that seemed to put the band in the middle of a vortex, reinforcing the mythical underworld theme.
Drawing on the Maverick MK2 Spot’s wide zoom range and 3-facet prism, Sasso seamlessly changed the scope of his back lighting, giving his shown different looks throughout the 90- minute concert. At times, he drew his backlighting in tight to create redolent silhouettes of individual band members.
“There were a few moments when the band dropped out to just Dustin (Kensrue) singing and Teppei (Teranishi) on the keys, when I isolated the two of them in silhouette,” said Sasso. “That was one of the highlights for me since it created a really beautiful moment.”
Counterbalancing intimate looks like this one, Sasso also opened up his rig, using the high output Maverick MK2 Spots to create aerial effects, crossing patterns, and intense audience lighting. “There are a few huge moments, such as at the end of songs like ‘Words in the Water.’ and ‘Firebreather,’ when I tilt everything out into the audience for some massive crowd ‘woahs,’” he commented. “I’d say that the MK2s were the meat and potatoes of my show, helping maintain this tight evocative mood, then opening up at a few selected moments.”
Taken together the subtle nuances and crescendos of Sasso’s show captured the essence of his client’s deeply moving music. He recalls that from the beginning of the design process his aim was “to approach this tour in a very artful way, giving each song its own vibe, while also reflect the album’s overall vision.” It was an ambitious goal – and one he met in stunning fashion.
Images by Matt Hildreth