The Smashing Pumpkins’ The World Is A Vampire festival took place in early March
Mexico - Luke Stratton didn’t have to read between the lines when he saw the creative brief for The Smashing Pumpkins’ The World Is A Vampire festival, which took place in early March. He knew that the stage was going to be massive.
“When I got the stage dimensions from the promoter and the lighting inventory list, I knew we were going big,” said Stratton. “Our trim wound up being about 60ft to the steel and the stage itself was about 90 by 70ft, so yes, it was quite large.”
As the lighting designer and director for the multi-Grammy-winning band, Stratton, is accustomed to turning massive stages into tight, cohesive panoramas that reflect his client’s powerful, edgy music.
“In the past with the Pumpkins we’ve used tall vertical trust towers with a graphic overhead rig, so I wanted to build on that for this show,” said Stratton. “This being part of The World Is A Vampire Festival tour, it played into my design. We start the show with a death’s head moth on the upstage video wall, and the second song is Bullet With Butterfly Wings. To coordinate with this, I went with a six-truss butterfly wing type of configuration, two of which had angle joints in them to convey a moth-like image. Then I added six vertical truss towers, the tallest ones being 24ft high. All six of them were hung via motors but rested on skis attached to the truss.”
Helping Stratton bring this stage architecture to life was powerful and versatile Lorga-supplied lighting rig (PRG did the staging) that featured 18 Chauvet Professional Color STRIKE M motorised strobes, and an equal number of STRIKE 4 warm white multi-formatted units.
Although some of the STRIKE 4 fixtures were flown downstage for audience lighting, the majority were on stage left and stage right wings, where they were joined by the Color STRIKE M fixtures. “Combining the STRIKE 4 and Color STRIKE M really helped showcase the butterfly configuration, which was kind of at the core of my vision,” said Stratton. “As things turned out, I didn’t have truss toners or strip lights, so just using STRIKES got the job done and was bright as anything.”
In addition to contributing to the output, the Color STRIKE M fixtures created visual variety throughout the show, as Stratton pixel mapped effects on their RGB face, when he wasn’t using their two white light tube elements as blinders.
“These things are way more than just blinders or strobes,” he said of the Color STRIKE M. “I was able to create some sweet looks with them. Most of the time, I had them pointed at the crowd, so their effects could be looked at, but at other times, I tilted them down at the band for a different look. They were very important in helping us pull the entire stage together.”
Also helping Stratton create a smoothly flowing unified look on the big, expansive stage was the content Linda Strawberry created for the blow-through video wall. “I have to give a big shout out to Linda for creating content that really meshed with the entire show,” he said. “We displayed on a kind of retro-low rez upstage video wall that has a decent amount of transparency. I could blow light through it, which was fun. Linda did a great job, and the results speak for themselves.”
Among the looks that stood out most for Stratton were those created when all the beams were focused on one point in space. He used an empty water bottle on a tall mic stand or pole to focus the light and created what can best be described as a “ghost disco ball” at that point.
“I loved this look,” said Stratton. “I think it comes from my club and theatre roots. I’ve done this kind of thing hundreds of times, but never seen it done at this level with 126 moving fixtures.”

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