“I wish people would put their phones down and take in the moment,” said Drew Hornback, touring lighting director for country music singer/songwriter Scotty McCreery.
While reflecting on the recently wrapped Damn Strait Tour, Hornback said that he understands concertgoers want to capture the memories of seeing the talented McCreery on stage. However, he believes that audience members always get the best experience by simply soaking in the experience with their eyes and ears.
“The way we created artistic moments using the X-Laser Skywriters in tandem with other lights made the show a breathtaking experience. We got reactions from the audience and local crews like, ‘What is that? How did you do that?’
“What was fun for me was that the audience didn’t know that the [X-Laser Skywriter HPX M-5 units] in the rig were lasers,” Hornback explained. “So when they tried to take photos and videos of the laser cues, they didn’t know why it didn't look the same as just looking at it with their eyes.”
Hence his recommendation to just “take in the moment.” And it makes even more sense when considering how Hornback designed and planned the tour’s versatile rig and expressive show design.
Hornback, the founder of DH Production Designs, teamed up with Alec Takahashi and Luke Elrod of BKD Creative for the Damn Strait Tour’s visuals. It’s a touring package that has evolved over the years and a design that used traditional lights alongside lasers to complement McCreery’s charismatic choruses.
“Scotty invested in the X-Laser units early, and the Skywriter HPX M-5 fixtures with the Mercury control system have been our go-to special effect fixtures,” Hornback said.
“With plenty of laser power on hand and Mercury evolving to make it even easier to program lasers alongside regular moving lights, this rig came out looking great.”
The team, including production manager, Adam Duncan, experimented with placing the lasers high up within the upstage truss. In conjunction with the tiered deck cart layout, having the lasers above everything else—rather than on the same level—allowed for a wider visual footprint and more impactful laser looks.
When putting the revamped lighting layout into action, the team used a grand MA2 lighting console. Hornback said that even though Takahashi and Elrod had no prior experience with the X-Laser Mercury control system, it made programming the entire show seamless. Crucially, the design effectively incorporated laser cues at some of the most impactful and evocative moments of the show. Especially the end.
“We saved the best for last,” Hornback said. “When Scotty performed his hit ‘Five More Minutes’ for the encore, the backdrop of only lasers was one of the coolest parts of the show. The fanned-out prism effect in deep blue and cyan created an almost three-dimensional look on stage. It was breathtaking.”
From his perch at the lighting desk, Hornback witnessed the crowd’s positive reaction to the lasers at each show as McCreery’s Damn Strait Tour weaved its way across North America. And whether the crowd’s memories are kept in their minds or on their phones’ camera rolls, he knows the lasers made the best parts of each performance even better.