Widespread Panic has returned to the road for a 25 date spring tour (photo: Andy Tennille)
USA - Following Widespread Panic's larger-than-life New Year's Eve performance, the rock band has returned to the road for a 25 date spring tour. On the road with them is long time lighting designer Paul Hoffman, who again trusted Bandit Lites to provide the gear for his exceedingly mind-blowing psychedelic looks.

Due to the wide ranges of venues that Widespread Panic plays, Hoffman is always conscientious of designing a flexible rig that can be utilized in both tiny theatres and expansive arenas.

"We want to use as much of the production every night as we can - so that is a significant design goal," explained Hoffman. "It has to expand and contract without looking sparse or scrunched."

For design inspiration, Hoffman says he tends to look at his surroundings, from architecture, to sculpture and art. The result is an evolution from tour to tour, rather than starting the design from scratch, providing "a more refined version of what we had last year with some new ideas and retaining some of the old as well".

For this leg, Hoffman's design centres around a series of straight trusses that curve slightly at the ends. "By using fewer trusses and loading it more heavily with fixtures, we are able to get more of rig into small venues more of the time. It also incorporates a series of towers behind the band and separate panels of production video."

For the control, Hoffman uses two GrandMA 2 consoles in addition to a MA VPU video server. This leg's design also features the Robe Pointe in a larger capacity, as its ability to zoom out to a much wide beam found it replacing the Clay Paky Sharpy seen on previous Widespread Panic tours.

"The Pointes have behaved very well so far and are definitely providing a new look," said Hoffman. "We are also using MAC Vipers for spots, Robe Pointes for beams and GLP X4S for wash looks as well as some legacy Vari*Lite VLMs from the 1990s."

Hoffman also works to astonish the audience, by using a tight matrix of GLP X4S fixtures on towers behind the band for some intricate patchworks in light. "The band probably hates it in their eyes all the time, but it makes some good effects," explains Hoffman.

Client rep Dizzy Gosnell added "Paul's 2015 rig is the logical continuation of last year's system. The always impressive GLP X4S's doing a lot of the heavy lifting in Paul's design, with Vipers, Pointes, Sharpys and of course VLM's punching through.

"With Paul taking control of all video functions from the GrandMA 2 at FOH, it has totally taken the blend of lights and video to a whole new plane. As is becoming the norm with the Widespread shows now, some of the looks and pictures of this system are jaw dropping good." With next year being the 30th Anniversary of Widespread Panic, Hoffman remains coy about plans, but cryptically shared, "We intend to go big."

(Jim Evans)

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