NEW YORK – Damien Escobar concerts invariably draw a diverse audience that includes classical music aficionados and hip-hop fans. That’s not surprising. Spanning centuries and cultures, the Julliard-educated Emmy-Award winner pushes his violin in ways that Bach and Vivaldi probably never imagined, as he weaves between old and new musical genres to create a richly textured sound that is at turns challenging and gentle.
Supporting Escobar’s hip-hop/classical blend, and reflecting its intricate dimensions on tour, is a Jack Thomas-designed lightshow anchored by CHAUVET Professional Rogue RH1 Hybrid and Nexus Aw 7×7 fixtures. Like the work of his client, Thomas’ show achieves its power through balance. By creating sharply drawn areas of light and darkness, he provides an onstage setting that follows the music as it moves through varying moods. Accentuating those emotions are subtle shifts in color and intensity levels.
The Rogue RH1 Hybrid fixtures have proven to be an ideal tool for Thomas to use when creating this lighting structure. “I like the RH1 Hybrids for their clean gobos, sharp focus, frost and prism effects,” he said. “This allows me to create a wide variety of looks, sometimes very subtle looks, from a single fixture. To add depth to my design, I stagger the RH1s, going from the floor, to cases, to truss towers. Typically, I will use 8 to 10 RH1s, depending on the venue. I also enjoy using an odd number of units for an asymmetrical, edgier look.”
Since every Damien Escobar performance involves improvisation, Thomas busks a good share of his show each night. “Although I have a lot of specific looks and moods for every song, I have to be ready to busk at any given moment,” he said. “Having versatile and responsive fixtures like the Rogues is very important in this regard.”
In addition to the Rogue RH1 Hybrid, Thomas is using the Nexus Aw 7×7 on tour. He varies the position of these warm white fixtures (and the number he uses) to accommodate the needs of different venues. Typically, he places them on risers and relies on them to reflect more mellow points in the show.
“I like to use a lot of warm color temperatures, as well as pastels, unless a faster-paced song is playing, in which case I’ll go to a more vibrant palette,” said Thomas. “The warmth better reflects the emotional quality of the artist’s performance.”
Warm lighting also provides a supportive background for those moments when Escobar talks to his audience. “Over the years, the shows have evolved to become very personal experiences between Damien and the audience,” said Thomas. “Really, one of the things l value most about working for Damien is seeing him interact with the crowd. Damien and his fans share a certain energy together. Personal stories are often told between songs, and the music is then used to express the emotions from those stories. Lighting plays an important role in this dynamic.”
Thomas knows firsthand about the personal warmth of Escobar. He was working as the house LD at the Howard Theatre in Washington, when he met the classically trained violinist. “I was immediately impressed by the friendliness of Damien and the entire crew,” he recalls. “I did a few lighting cues for them. A couple of days later they reached out to the theatre to get my contact information. Happily for me, Damien, Rodney Cummins, our GM, and James Haskins, our PM, gave me the opportunity to work on these inspirational shows.”
That meeting took place over three years ago. The inspired music and lighting have been going strong ever since.