American five-member folk rock band, The Lumineers, gave an astounding performance in South Africa in early December 2014, when they played at the Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town and The Emmarentia Dam in Johannesburg. Pro-Systems took some time out to chat to Jason Rothberg, the bands’ lighting director, about his work and doing what he loves for The Lumineers.
PS: Tell us a bit about yourself, how you got into the lighting industry? And what got you interested in lighting as a career?
JR: I am 30-years-old and originally from Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. I’m a lighting director, designer and programmer. As far as I can remember, I have always been obsessed with lights, when I was a kid my parents took me to a Broadway show. I think that sealed the deal.
PS: So how long have you been in the industry?
JR: I have been at it since I was 16-years-old, when I started building stages, working at local theatres and lighting companies.
PS: Where do you currently live?
JR: I currently live in San Diego, California, USA.<
PS: Can you describe your first big break in the lighting industry?
JR: I would say when I moved to San Diego back in 2005, I got a job as a lighting director at House of Blues, which is a chain of venues across the US.
PS: Who was the first act/gig you designed and how was it?
JR: The first show I designed outside of high school was a corporate event, which was a long while back, but I am sure it went all right!
PS: On the subject of starting out, who were the influential people in your career?
JR: My theatre teacher in High School, David Gauither, played a role in me being here, he always encouraged me to keep at it and I was the first student he ever allowed to design a show.
PS: Have you got any lighting awards under your belt?
JR: Not yet, but maybe some are in the pipeline.
PS: What is your lighting console of choice and why?
JR: I am a big fan of the GrandMA series 1 and 2, I know my way around it and I am always able to accomplish what I want using those consoles and honestly I find it very versatile and easy to work with.
PS: What software do you use for design?
JR: I use WYSIWYG Design. I remember when I was in high school, I would play around with the demo version and because I know it so well I’ve decided to stick with it.
PS: Are there any new lighting products that you feel are game changers? If so, what makes them special?
JR: I am so out of that loop.
PS: Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from for a show?
JR: I get my ideas listening to the music before I start to programme. I play out in my head what I think the songs should look like.
PS: What is most rewarding about your job?
JR: It’s such a rewarding feeling right before the show begins, when I call for the house lights to go out and you hear the crowd get excited and start to scream.
PS: On your recent tour to South Africa with The Lumineers, which lighting fixture brand dominated your lighting design and why?
JR: We actually had to piece together our rig with various different fixtures. None of them were what I would have liked to have, but I was able to make good use of them. We had limited options and the venues were very limited on what we could do. We typically carry Mac Vipers and Auras.
PS: Was this your first time in South Africa? If so, was your experience how you’d imagined it?
JR: It was my first time. I would say it was better than I had imagined it to be. We went on a three day safari, which was an amazing experience. I also got to spend a day at the beach with penguins!
PS: Besides The Lumineers, have you worked with any other big acts?
JR: I have toured as the lighting director for quite a number of big acts, such as Weird Al Yankovic, Passion Pit, Miranda Cosgrove, Enrique Iglasias, plus American Idols Live and a few others including some theatre tours.
PS: Do you have a favourite show or tour and why?
JR: The Lumineers has been one of my favourite tours. The band is fantastic to work for. They are such sweethearts. The crew we have is also the best.
PS: What are your most memorable experiences or moments on the road?
JR: There have been so many memorable moments, from driving on the sand dunes, to camel riding in Dubai, to getting stuck in a snowstorm in Tokyo, causing us to go on a 10-hour whirlwind adventure in an attempt to find the airport. Those are the most memorable moments on the road, doing what I love.
PS: If you hadn’t gone into the lighting game, where do you think you would be?
JR: That’s a good question. I have no idea! I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I can honestly say I love what I do.
PS: What do you do with your spare time?
JR: When I am home, I spend my time at the gym, cooking and flying helicopters… real helicopters, not remote controlled ones.
PS: Where is your favourite destination that you’ve travelled to?
JR: I am very lucky to have been able to travel to six continents; one of my favourite places is Italy.