Chameleon Support Great Southern Nights

More than 75,000 tickets were sold as part of the NSW Government’s recent Great Southern Nights performance series held throughout November which is Australian Music Month.

Great Southern Nights delivered 1,100 COVID-safe performances to live music venues in over 140 towns and suburbs throughout the state. The aim was to reinvigorate NSW’s live music scene, which took a significant hit at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Presented in partnership with ARIA, Great Southern Nights saw more than 2,500 artists perform at over 300 venues, with many high-profile names heading to regional venues to perform.

All music events were programmed in line with current NSW Government health advice regarding physical distancing and venue capacity of public gatherings.

Acts who performed as part of Great Southern Nights included Tash Sultana, Alex The Astronaut, Middle Kids, Thelma Plum, Jessica Mauboy, Jimmy Barnes, Ruel, and many lesser-known, emerging artists.

Towards the end of the month, two large gigs were announced for Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney’s premier entertainment venue and Chameleon Touring Systems were proud to supply lighting and crew for the much-anticipated events.

Headling one of those gigs was Ocean Alley, a very popular Australian alternative psychedelic rock band from Sydney and lighting designer Jake ‘Dutchy’ Bylsma who found himself behind a console for the first time since March.

“I was as rusty as they come and lighting the biggest room I've ever done!” he admitted. “Not to mention this was the first time working with the band's new album, so half the songs were brand new to me. I spent hours and hours at home for weeks leading up to this gig practising and fine-tuning the show (and my execution of it). I did this on MA3D at the home office in Melbourne.”

Jake has worked with Ocean Alley since 2017 when he met them on a support slot for Tash Sultana. What started as an improvised busk show, has slowly evolved and matured over time, with Jake putting forward new designs or concepts and the band then giving him feedback on what they prefer. Jake says that he has been very fortunate in that the band has allowed him a lot of creative freedom and over the years, he has learned and finely tuned the show according to their aesthetic.

“Our usual design approach involves lots of washes for buckets of saturated colour, lots of spots for breakup looks, specials and audience shoots, as well as plenty of tungsten blinders for percussive accents and big moments,” commented Jake. “This band also LOVES haze. They love to be able to 'disappear' into the smoke for some of the moodier sections of their set.”

The show at Qudos was a supplied 'house' rig from Chameleon which was shared by multiple artists over the two nights, with some minor changes here and there to cater for the artist on the day.

“Chameleon was really helpful fine-tuning the rig to suit our needs,” said Jake. “They added a bunch of extra Robe MegaPointes, MAC Aura XBs, MAC Vipers and hazers at no extra cost to us. I think we had five different haze machines in the end …. which was actually the perfect amount for the immense space we found ourselves in.”

The workhorses of the roof rig were the Megapointes and Aura XB washes, 32 of each. Also in the rig were 23 Quad Blinders and 14 Patts, which delivered that really old school tungsten glow aesthetic you just can't quite get with LED. The courtesy floor package from Chameleon consisted of an extra eight Aura XB washes and six Vipers, as well as extra hazers including the big boy MDG theONE.

“I use the Aura XB washes for filling out the stage with saturated colour, alternating between front wash and rear wash looks as the music demands, lots of colour FX and chases,” explained Jake. “The MegaPointes and Vipers filled a hybrid role, sometimes as a wide wash to boost the Auras, sometimes as a fast movement "beam" type fixture for fast movements over the audience, other times gobo breakup look over the band for intimacy and subtlety. The Megapointes also served as a tight spotlight for special moments where I might only have a single performer lit on stage.”

Michael Askew from The Sauce is the mastermind behind the Ocean Alley visuals working closely with Jake to create content that's suited for usage on the stage LED screens. Most of the content has a lot of negative (black) space and a minimal aesthetic so as not to break the illusion of depth and shadow with the light show.

“I find that LED screen content can often be over-done and can sometimes become a distraction on stage,” added Jake. “I believe we've found the right balance here for Ocean Alley. I trigger these visuals and effects in Resolume Arena software on a laptop, triggered and controlled via DMX on the MA Lighting grandMA2 lighting console.

“Ocean Alley is very much a 'live' band. There's no click, timecode or backing track. Everything must be executed in real-time. My operating style is very much about precise timing and rhythm, so I need to be practised and focused to get a perfect show. I have a stack of programmed cues for every song that I trigger manually, but all intensities and bumps (including visuals) are manually controlled by buttons and faders on the fly to get the tightest musical timing possible. Sometimes this makes for very busy fingers so I have a foot pedal wired up to help me ‘go’ through the cue stacks, leaving two hands free to operate the show.”

Jake’s favourite overall look in the show was the new warm CTO gobo look in All Worn Out, saying it's so simple, but it turned out so well. It's a big contrast to the saturated colours and fast movements in some of the other songs.

“If I had to pick an individual moment in the show, I'd say possibly in Partner in Crime or Tombstone where the entire room goes black, except for a singular spot on centre vocal,” he remarked. “Then we go boom into a huge chorus with all fixtures at full and moving over the audience. I love that contrast.”

As Jake hails from metro Melbourne he has been through the toughest lockdown in Australia so far where gigs just haven't existed since March, although they are starting to trickle in now at a smaller scale.

“By comparison, COVID restrictions in Sydney were a breeze,” he said. “Masks weren't compulsory, although I did notice a lot of crew were choosing to wear them anyway - which I appreciated and respected. There were restrictions on movement throughout the venue based on whether you were artist, crew, venue staff, or something in between. There were sanitation stations everywhere and staff posted to make sure you used them. Overall it was managed well and everyone was just keen to get the job done and put on a show after so long.”

Jake added that the whole experience at first felt a bit like a dream. Getting on a plane to Sydney and walking into a venue that size after mostly hiding in his house for six months was very surreal. 

“It made me feel like all the sacrifices we've all made this year were worth it,” he said. “It was nice to be reminded of my passion for the job and to have that sense of purpose re-ignited. I only hope that work also starts to return for all of my colleagues in the industry still doing it tough.”

Jake concluded by thanking the guys at Chameleon for allowing him to come in the night before the show and familiarise himself with the rig.

“I was a bit rusty but they patiently waited for me to finish programming my show and getting back to speed,” he added. “All their fixtures were well maintained and everything in the rig worked flawlessly.”

The second Qudos Arena show was headlined by Bernard Fanning and lit by Jeff Pavey with a similar Chameleon rig.

Photos: Dane Boulton / Dan Mercer