As a concert photographer, I am always in a battle against lighting. A show’s lighting can make or break your photos, regardless of how great the composition is. Although I had an appreciation for good lighting, I had never considered who was behind the board or the subtle impact they can have on an audience. Recently, one of our lighting designers Rob Robertson dedicated half of his day to give me and the other Concert Career Pathways interns a chance to get behind the board.
I expected the workshop to be more of a lecture-based experience. But as soon as I arrived at the venue, Rob asked me to give him a hand putting some lights on the stage for us to look at later in the day. Rob started the workshop off by giving each of us a turn at his lighting board. He pointed at the controls I should be pressing, and I was able to record a set with his help. Meanwhile, he explained everything that I was doing to the people behind us. So even when I was no longer at the board, I was still learning how to set different cues. He then opened up the floor for questions, giving us the opportunity to get clarification on things that we noticed during our time at the board. Instead of making a slideshow, Rob brought down the lighting rig that hangs above the stage to teach us terminology. After opening up some of the lights, Rob talked us through the inner machinations. As we looked into the lights while Rob changed the colors on his board, I looked down into the photo pit. Just two nights before, I had been down there trying to get a good shot of the bassist while simultaneously shielding my camera from the fake blood that spurted out from small tubes that were wrapped around the bodies of the performers. My memories of the moment were filled with green light. A shade of green that was just on the verge of being sickly, but just bright enough to keep my energy up. The perfect shade for a metal show featuring a band with a fun and bloody twist on a political message. So much of the emotions attached to my memory were also attached to the lights. And that was because someone like Rob was behind the board setting specific cues for specific songs to make the audience have an even stronger emotional connection to the music.
My favorite part of the workshop was the last portion because that’s when Rob let everyone in the room design our own lighting for a song by The Polish Ambassador, who would play at the theatre in the coming weeks. We decided that the song started off with the essence of a big city and then sucked us into a more intimate tropical scene. So we started off with pink lights to represent a scenic sunset over the city and added a quick transition before we switched the lights to blue.
After we recorded the cue, we played it in time with the song. I was amazed at how you can tell a story through thoughtful lighting. The more time I spend at The UC Theatre the more I find myself appreciating different aspects of a live show. Next time I’m in the photo pit, I’ll be sure to take note of the lighting and the story it’s telling.
– Rebekah Gonzalez, Concert Career Pathways 18-19
Rebekah Gonzalez is from the small city of Dinuba in California’s Central Valley. She loves attending concerts and knowing that for a few hours, everyone around is experiencing something similar. That’s why she is excited to learn about production and other aspects of the live music industry through The UC Theatre’s Concert Career Pathways program. Rebekah’s career goal is to be a working music journalist and photographer.