NEW YORK – Even by the standards of pop punk, a genre famous for blending outrageously divergent sounds, The Wonder Years stands out for its incredibly wide-ranging style. Deftly swinging from subtle melodies to heart-pounding choruses in the blink of a musical eye, this freewheeling band from the Philadelphia area takes fans on an emotionally charged journey with every performance. Lighting designer Victor Zeiser of Squeek Lights and lighting director David Summers visually capture the eclectic pop punk band’s spirit on its current Fall Tour with a multi-faceted light show featuring a collection of fixtures from CHAUVET Professional.
What makes Summers’ role in this endeavor especially impressive is that it represents his first effort as a lighting director. “The Wonder Years had decided that in addition to being their tour manager, Dave was also going to become their LD,” said Zeiser. “He showed me a bid from another lighting company that wanted to send out some decade-old gear, so it was quickly decided that Squeek Lights would work out a package for him as well as create a design and program a show for him to travel with on the tour.”
Drawing on Squeek Lights’ extensive inventory of LED fixtures, Zeiser put together a package that included Rogue R2 Washes, Nexus 4×1 bars, COLORdash Batten-Quad 6 fixtures and Vesuvio foggers. Most of the fixtures were positioned on six upstage towers to create a consistent look throughout the tour despite variations in stage sizes and to deliver sweeping mood changes.
The six towers range from 6’ -10’ in height. Each tower has an R2 Wash on top with a 4×1 Nexus bar hung vertically below it. At the base of the towers are clip lights just peeking over the amp line. COLORdash Batten-Quad-6 fixtures are used to provide side light. A group of four Vesuvio foggers is positioned vertically along the downstage line.
“We wanted to strike a balance of creating a high energy show that isn’t exhausting for the crowd to look at,” said Zeiser. “We have a lot of really bright looks with lots of movement, but we even out these looks with moments when only one or two lights are on.”
Explaining the small clip lights on his rig, Zeiser noted, “Dave had a really great idea for some work lights to provide a tungsten look, so we got him some small dimmer packs and purchased 10 clip lights from a Home Depot. There is a point in the show where we direct all the R2 Washes down at the band, zoom wide in a deep blue and push the clip lights bright — it is really beautiful!
“During the first concert in New York, during this part of the lightshow, a circle pit opened up and instead of the normal insanity, couples started slow dancing in our light,” continued Zeiser. “I’ve never seen anything like that happen before! On the flip side of things, during the biggest moment of the show, we have four Vesuvio vertical foggers lining the downstage edge, and when we let those rip it pushes things over the top.”
Keeping pace with a band that eagerly moves from the soaring to the soulful required a procession of fresh looks. Zeiser and Summers served up these looks by sprinkling the stage with different beam angles and pouring a rich array of colors across it and the audience.
The pair also relied on atmospherics to create some magic. “A fun gag Dave came up with during programming with the Vesuvios was to turn off all the other lights and just use the lights in the foggers to uplight the band members for one song,” said Zeiser. “This creates a moment totally different from the rest of the show. Getting that variety is key on this tour.”
Zeiser described how the different fixtures in the rig contributed to the eve- changing looks he and Summers laid out on the stage. “With the exception of the Home Depot clip lights, the entire rig is Chauvet,” he said. “I love how tight the R2s’ zoom can create a punchy beam, but then it can also get wide enough where the six units can wash all the guys when we flip the lights around. The range of colors we get with the Rogues is great, and the ring effects provide a quick and dirty way of adding some texture to the look. I chose the Nexus fixtures because I love how they look pointed at the crowd, and it provides a nice layer of visual interest at a low intensity as well as being able to be used for audience abuse when we let them rip.”
There was also a practical benefit Zeiser considered when putting together the rig for The Wonder Years. “When I was told space in the trailer was a big concern, I decided the R2 washes were the fixture of choice,” he said. “All six of our R2 fixtures fit in a single case, and all six Nexus units fit in another small case. This makes it super easy for them to deal with on the road.”
That proverbial road is taking The Wonder Years Tour across the US in less than two months. The pace on this journey can be hectic, but it’s been made easier for Summers by some user-friendly fixtures and the opportunity to push his lighting ideas to the limit for a band that blows past musical boundaries.