The iconic rock band embark on their first tour in over a decade with a custom-made, Martin-equipped lighting rig designed by Penlight
TORONTO—To provide My Chemical Romance with immersive and stylized lighting for their highly-anticipated world tour, lighting production house Penlight designed a custom-built rig featuring Martin Professional solutions.
My Chemical Romance is one of the most acclaimed and influential bands of their generation, known for their emotionally charged songs including “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and “Teenagers,” as well as their ambitious, multi-platinum-selling album The Black Parade from 2006. After officially disbanding in 2013 and several postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MCR embarked on their highly-anticipated, world tour in May 2022.
The band aimed to exceed fans’ lofty expectations with massive, immersive visuals that accentuated their music’s raw energy and adapted to their constantly changing setlists. To meet these requirements, Penlight worked closely with the band to design a detailed and versatile lighting rig featuring Martin MAC Ultra Performance, MAC Quantum Wash, MAC Aura XB and Atomic 3000 fixtures.
“For this tour, the band never does the same setlist twice,” said AJ Pen, Founder, Penlight. “And by that I don’t mean that they swap some songs around. Literally, with the exception of the first song, they wipe the board clean every night. I think we’re up to 55 songs that they’ve rehearsed and we have programmed, and the set list is only 20 songs long. Anybody who bought tickets to multiple shows will have a completely different experience each time. Lighting-wise, each song had to stand on its own, so I collaborated very closely with Gerard Way, the lead singer, and the rest of the band to get a rig that could adapt to whatever they needed.”
With a jagged, asymmetrical design and a washed-out color palette, the tour’s lighting rig matched the stage’s depiction of dystopian urban decay while also providing the coverage and output needed for stadium-sized venues. The system most prominently showcases the Martin MAC Ultra Performance, with 36 units used throughout both the trusses and six custom-built, collapsible ground towers.
Equipped with Martin’s proprietary 1150 W, 6000 K LED light engine, the MAC Ultra Performance is capable of a massive 46,500-lumen output as well a 1:7 zoom range for a wide coverage range. Combined with the fixture’s extensive features collection––including pixel-level color mixing, two layers of gobos, Martin’s specially designed Extended Framing system and more––the result is a compact, all-purpose light that easily surpasses lights of similar size. Even as the lighting design underwent numerous changes, Pen knew from the start that the MAC Ultra Performance would be the rig’s main light due to its power, ease-of-use and unrivaled palette of effects, from laser-tight beams to dramatic washes.
“The MAC Ultra has never let me down,” added Pen. “There are some songs where I push them forward and they completely alter the mood and take over the space. Even after the entire set design went through a major direction change, the MAC Ultra was always in the design.”
In addition to the MAC Ultra Performance, Martin Atomic 3000 DMX strobes and MAC Quantum Washes were placed on the hanging trusses. The Atomic 3000 is a famously impactful fixture whose name reflects its maximum wattage, while the MAC Quantum Wash utilizes a highly versatile Colorganics system. While both are legacy Martin fixtures, Pen found that they both perfectly complemented the MAC Ultra Performance’s modern effects and beams with wide-reaching strobes and audience blinds.
“When Mikey Way, the band’s bass player said, ‘I want strobes,’ I knew he was talking about Atomics, which is still one of the best strobes ever made,” explained Pen. “It’s a fixture that was all over everybody’s rig back in the early 2000s, so it made sense to have them for MCR. And then the bulk of my audience lights are Quantum Washes––I find that the nice big face of them gives you that epic, all-encompassing look. They’re not the latest from Martin, but they’re still the greatest.”
Finally, the rig featured 18 Martin MAC Aura XB, an extra-bright version of the award-winning original wash light. With 6,000 lumens of RGBW output and an advanced color mixing system, the majority of the Auras hung in scenic trusses to downlight the set as well as on side “banner” trusses for audience lights, providing striking walls of color that accentuated the stage design’s ominous, post-apocalyptic aesthetic.
“The XB does the same task as the Quantum Wash, and that’s audience lighting,” added Pen. “It was very important for me to light up the crowd evenly, and to do that, I couldn’t think of a better fixture than the Quantum Wash. But the XB was almost as bright as the washes, so it filled in all of the gaps for fuller coverage. That little guy punches way above its weight.”
The MCR tour kicked off this past summer in the UK, and will take the band to almost every continent through spring 2023. Pen noted that the band was thrilled with the lighting’s final design, and he thanked Martin for their continued support and consistency.
“All of the Martin fixtures put a huge emphasis on the quality of the light, and that’s where they don’t compromise,” said Pen. “They’ve always been ahead of the competition; there’s a lot of really great moving lights out there, but Martin’s always have that little extra edge.”
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