Steve Jennings

Martin by HARMAN Brings a Club Show to the Arena for Eric Church’s Holdin’ My Own Tour

6 Jul 2017

Lighting Designer Butch Allen selects Martin Axiom Hybrid fixtures for their exceptional brightness, unmatched versatility and proven reliability

Award-winning Lighting Designer Butch Allen recently deployed Martin by HARMAN Axiom Hybrid fixtures to create a bold and innovative lighting design for Eric Church’s Holdin’ My Own Tour.

Allen’s goal for the 65-date tour was to create a lighting rig that could translate the up close and personal vibe of a small club performance to a massive arena setting. In order to achieve this goal, Allen worked with vendor Christie Lites to design a truss structure capable of flying Axiom Hybrid fixtures almost 80 feet in the air—well out of the audience’s sightline. Thanks to the Axiom Hybrid’s powerful output, advanced lens capabilities and versatile effects, Allen was able to achieve impressive visuals that would have been impossible with standard profile and wash fixtures.

"The lighting on this tour was a big departure from a traditional concert presentation,” said Allen. “Normally there’s a lot of visible truss structure, pyrotechnics and moving video screens. But with this show, the audience couldn’t see the lighting system if they were watching the stage because it was flown so far up. While we were setting up in Nashville, all of the lighting designers that stopped by to check out the rig couldn’t believe the brightness and power of the Axiom Hybrids. I designed the entire show around the Axioms, and if they didn’t perform as well they did, you’d be talking to my replacement.”

For the Holdin’ My Own Tour, Eric Church performed without a supporting act, filling both the opening and headlining spots. Allen wanted to create a lighting rig that would not only support the music, but also keep the audience actively engaged throughout these marathon performances. The lighting rig was supplied by vendor Christie Lites, and included 115 Axiom Hybrid fixtures suspended on trusses that spanned the entire length of the arena, forming three large grids over the main stage, the runway and audience pit, and FOH.

With the stage in the center of the arena and the lighting rig hung so high up, Allen’s design evoked the mood of a smaller venue where nothing separates the audience from the performers onstage—putting the music at the center of attention. This configuration also made it possible to light both the stage and the crowd from different angles—without directly shining the beams in audience members’ eyes.

“When I was going to concerts as a young man, it was really distracting when the stage lights shined directly in my eyes,” said Allen. “We went for the maximum number of angles to make sure the audience was illuminated comfortably. The goal was to make the audience feel really present and engaged, and at the same time avoid any distractions. This tour was focused really specifically on the music, and we wanted to remove the ‘fourth wall’ between the audience and the performance.”

When it was time to select fixtures for the design, Allen looked for a fixture that could maintain a powerful throw, and also provide an impressive arsenal of effects. This combination of features led him to compare all of the hybrid fixtures on the market. During his research, he visited the HARMAN facility in Sun Valley, California to see how the Axiom Hybrid stacked up against the competition.

“As soon as I tested the Axiom Hybrid, I knew I had found the right fixture for this tour,” said Allen. “The Axiom is the only hybrid fixture that doesn’t have any lens changes, and you get full access to all the effects the light offers. I use the fixtures that are the right tool for the job, and Martin’s toolbox is very well stocked. There was no need for me to hang a profile and a wash light—I can hang one 52-pound light that does everything.”