Justin Preston Balances Looks for Thundercat’s Broad Museum Show with CHAUVET Professional

Sliding frictionlessly though thumbing funk and mesmerizing rock-soul infused jazz, multi Grammy winning bassist Thundercat is, as the New York Times put it “the kind of artist who invites listeners into a private world.” What a delightfully unique world it is too, with fresh original takes on familiar musical themes waiting around every turn.

The same sense of discovery runs through the art of Japanese multi-media master
Takashi Murakami, whose penchant for blurring boundaries has led him to do things like use motion capture technology to create anime-style videos for recording stars like Billie Eilish.

Visitors to The Broad Museum got to experience the free flowing creativity of both of these trailblazing artists recently when Thundercat, a self-described “Japanophile” performed at the institute’s “Summer Happening” outdoor show in conjunction with “Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow,” a temporary exhibit of Murakami’s artwork.

Supporting Thundercat’s performance, along with that of opening act Ginger Root was a lively and colorful busked lightshow by Justin Preston that featured 39 CHAUVET Professional fixtures from Preston Productions own inventory.

“From a busking standpoint, it is always fun, but a little nerve-racking, working on bands with a jazz, or jam aesthetic,” said Preston, owner of Preston Productions. “It’s one thing busking a standard pop song, but Thundercat especially can be a little more musically complex. We were given a pretty wide range by the artists as far as our lighting design was concerned. Thundercat’s team only request was that we stay away from green.”

Abiding by that proviso, Preston and his team, programmer Marcus Mathews and master electrician Lucas Garrity, nevertheless created a dynamic rainbow on the show’s outdoor stage.

“We had fun playing with a wide variety of color looks, since the music of both acts lent itself to cutting lose with creative expressions,” said Preston. “There was one point where we tried a cyan and a purple/yellow and a red/white look that really popped. Definitely something that I will keep in my memory bank.”

Helping Preston create this colorful panorama were 17 Color STRIKE M motorized strobe washes. He position six of these units on upstage truss, six on midstage truss and five on the upstage deck. Availing himself of the 14 controllable sections of pixel mappable RGB LEDs on the fixture’s face, he conjured up a variety of captivating background looks to reflect the complexity of the music being performed on stage.

The bright output of the Color STRIKE M allowed Preston to create vibrant aura on stage early in the show even with the ambient light from the California sun. Later, when it got dark, he was able to run the fixtures at only five to ten percent, thanks to their brightness.

Preston also used eight STRIKE Array fixtures as audience blinders, and seven Maverick Storm 1 Wash units for front light. Like the rest of his rig, these fixtures were arranged on a self-climbing truss structure supplied by Felix Lighting.

“Since the rig was up for a few days, we wanted IP 65 fixtures,” said Preston. “However, given the truss structure we had on stage we had to be careful about weight, so these units were perfect for us.”

With the show taking place in the middle of downtown LA, Preston also had to take care not to have his light shine into the windows of nearby buildings. “We wanted our light to be dynamic and supportive without being intrusive,” he said, noting that, like great art and complex music, a good lightshow is all about achieving balance.