Jason Aldean, current ACM “Entertainer of the Year”, an accolade he has received three years in a row, is back on the road with his High Noon Neon tour. Aldean’s dynamic performance is supported with a lighting design from longtime creative collaborator, Chris Lisle, principal of CLLD LLC. The tour, a mix of fan favorites and new music off his eighth studio album, Rearview Town, features a number of big, solid “rock” looks and a key part of Lisle’s lighting design is the Follow-Me Remote Follow-Spot system.
It’s not Lisle’s first time working with Follow-Me; he tried out a Follow-Me system on Aldean’s 2017 They Don’t Know tour. Matt Mills, partner of Touch Light & Media, Inc. is supplying the Follow-Me system for the High Noon Neon tour as he did for the 2017 tour. “Last year, we had one Follow-Me marker and this year we’re up to four to follow some of the band members as well as Jason,” says Lisle. “We’re excited to put this system out there; it’s been fun so far.”
So, what about the system impressed Lisle and had him expand the use of Follow-Me for all the followspot needs on the current tour? “For me, one of the things I look for is, obviously, functionality, and ease of use as far as integration to the console,” explains Lisle. “It was Keith [Hoagland], the lighting director’s idea to use the Follow-Me system for the 2017 tour,” says Lisle. “I loved it so much we brought it back for this tour. Once the tour is on the road, I rely a lot on the feedback I get from the touring personnel. All the feedback from Keith and Patrick [Cowden], the guy operating the system covering Aldean, has all been very, very positive. Coming into this tour it was a no-brainer to put it out on road again and add in a few more systems. We knew this time we wanted to light some of the band members as well and there was no doubt Follow-Me was the right choice. It’s just so easy to integrate into the show.”
Lisle also notes, “One of the key benefits of using the Follow-Me system for my design is the ability to choose any light I want to act as a follow-spot,” says Lisle. “I basically charted out all of the songs. For some songs, we’ll just do two lights on Jason; some songs we’ll just have two lights on each band member; and for some numbers, there’s six lights on Jason. That was the nice thing about the Follow-Me system, I could go through song by song, look at what we were already doing lighting-wise and decide, ‘okay, in this song, let’s go asymmetrical with two lights or eight lights in a row symmetrically. And it’s just so easy to use and gives us that ability to just choose randomly, almost.”
Another benefit is also the increased options of color and gobos, explains Lisle, “Now, I can do so much more than a traditional truss spot could do. I can use a Follow-Me light as a rear spot. It’s a nice thing to be able to layer in any colors we want, gobos, and things that a traditional truss spot wouldn’t have been able to do. Follow-Me lets me do those things and having that ability is great. We’re able to create some fun looks, whereas with an old truss spot, you had six colors and on/off. Now we’re getting to play with gobos and a variety of colors and effects. How ever your mind can creatively use it, there is a lot of functionality there for sure. It also gives us the huge safety factor of not having truss spot ops up in the air.”
Lisle worked with programmer Aaron D. Luke, of Luminescence, LLC on the tour. Luke was involved in integrating the Follow-Me system into the show’s overall control system. The tour is run from two MA Lighting grandMA2 consoles and features a 300-plus lighting fixture package, which is supplied by Bandit Lites. The rig includes a wide range of different lights from Chauvet, Elation, GLP, Philips Vari-Lite, and Showline, along with some Robe units, especially the Robe BMFLs which Lisle pairs with the Follow-Me system.
While the Robe BMFLs are his go-to unit for his design and are controlled for many numbers via the Follow-Me system, Lisle does mix up his fixture choices. “We primarily use the BMFL Profiles with the Follow-Me system, that is probably our workhorse fixture in the rig and for follow-spotting since they shine through everything else. There’s a couple of songs where we’re using some of the Chauvet RH1 Hybrids. I had some of those units on standby to use as Follow-Me units. It was the BMFLs that we tended to use quite a bit though, but there were a couple of songs that we were going for a little different look and we would grab a few other lights.”
From the programmer’s perspective, Luke was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was working with the Follow-Me system. “I was really excited about it honestly,” Luke comments. “I hadn’t worked with Follow-Me before, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with it as far as how easy it would be. I was very shocked by how easy it was to set up. We connected it and it worked pretty much right off the bat. It really was incredibly easy once I figured out how to calibrate the picture positions. From there everything went really fast and smoothly. That was really nice. I’m looking forward to using it on other tours.”
Luke and Lisle aren’t the only ones who find getting up to speed and running the Follow-Me System user-friendly. Bandit Lites supplied the lighting crew, including crew chief, Jon Houle, along with Scott Wesson, Trevor Drawdy, Michelle Saintey, and Patrick Cowden. For the tour, Cowden handles the setup of the Follow-Me system and runs the primary Follow-Me marker for Aldean. The other three markers are operated by local crews picked up at each of the venues. During set-up, Cowden will train the ops in the use of Follow-Me and make sure they are up to speed for the show that night.
“We get three locals every show,” comments Lisle. “Pat shows them what to do, and then they run the markers for the two guitar players and the bass player; all of them are very active onstage. That’s the nice thing about the Follow-Me system; all Pat has to do is to tell them, ‘you’re playing a video game. You just take the marker, follow your band member, and that’s all you have to do.’”
The Follow-Me operators on this tour only handle the aiming of the Follow-Me follow-spot. “We basically just have the operators just follow,” explains Lisle. “Console-wise, the lighting director takes care of color, zoom, intensity, all of that kind of control. I also structured the use of Follow-Me in a way too, where we would have breaks. They aren’t operating 20-songs straight. Knowing that they are sitting there with their hand on a 3D mouse to control the marker; I structured in some breaks every four or five songs. Let them take a song off.”
If Lisle were speaking with another designer, he says that “I would tell them that the Follow-Me system is a simple, easy-to-use tool in their toolkit to get some great truss spot-esque looks into their show at a very affordable cost and very safely. Plus, it gives you great functionality to be creative.”
The Follow-Me system is an independent Art-Net based software application that only requires one Apple MAC computer and the software itself. Supporting multiple targeting mice for each operator, it works with an SDI camera that gives the operators a view of the stage and allows users to attach unlimited fixtures, from any manufacturer, in any orientation, to multiple targets from one operating system. A.C. Lighting Inc. is the distributor for the Follow-Me system in North America.
For more information and for a full list of upcoming tour dates: www.jasonaldean.com
- Follow-Me, Remote Follow Spot Control System