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Let There Be Lights
In 2007, Kenny Gribbon decided to leave behind his career in construction management to pursue his passion for concert lighting. He worked his way up through the festival circuit where he eventually met The Hoffman brothers, owners of Pulse Lighting.
He joined Pulse Lighting working events such as Osyrusfest, The D.C. Congressional Blues Festival and various other events up and down the east coast. Kenny took on the LD position for the Colbie Caillat tour, in the summer of 2012, solidifying himself as an asset to Pulse Lighting tour clients.
Later in 2012, Kenny took on the roll of designer and touring LD for the California Reggae Band Rebelution, coming into his own as a lighting designer.
Kenny Gribbon has also served as second LD to Wolfgang Gartner demonstrating his ability to adapt to new genres for lighting as well as maintaining his LD services to bands like Toubab Krewe, The Green, and The London Souls.
Rebelution is an innovative ‘California Reggae’ band from the Santa Barbara college town of Isla Vista. The band plays 100-120 shows a year. Tours have taken them to South America, Guam, Aruba, New Zealand and Europe, and they’ve sold out both Red Rocks and the Santa Barbara Bowl. In December 2014, Count Me In was named the best-selling reggae album of the year by Billboard magazine.
Kenny Gribbon has provided lighting design and operation for Rebelution since 2012.
Kenny designs the show to evoke the sentiment described by band member Marley D. Williams: “Our music is meant to move people physically and mentally at the same time. When people are really dancing and really thinking, that’s a double threat.”
Most people picture red, gold, and green as reggae colors, but reggae evokes other emotions and moods, as does the stage lighting provided by Kenny. To enhance the various moods, Kenny uses fixtures that allow him to keep the show interactive and moving with the audience.
Rebelution’s stage lighting is unique, because most reggae bands have not toured with a lighting package of such high caliber. Kenny changes up his design to keep it fresh, always pushing the envelope to create an unforgettable experience.
IRIE Magazine caught up with Kenny Gribbon during Rebelution’s Fall into Place Winter Tour 2017 to share his story with the IRIE audience.
Official Website: ConcertLighting.com
IRIE. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up and what inspired you to get involved in the festival circuit?
Kenny Gribbon. I was born and raised in New Jersey just outside of New York City. The City was just a train ride away. I was able to experience a ton of music growing up that had a major influence on me going into the live music industry. As a family, my parents used to take my siblings and I to concerts at a young age. I saw major concerts like Genesis and Pink Floyd at the Giants Stadium. Those two bands are known for their theatrical lighting. Seeing that sort of show so young definitely had the most influence on me to become a lighting designer.
IRIE. How did you get your break in lighting design? Was there someone in your life that helped you along your journey?
Kenny Gribbon. That is a tough question being there are so many people that have helped me in my journey in this career I would want to mention and thank. I guess I will narrow it down to the major moments where my career moved forward. First off I could not have done this and start over in a new direction in my late 20s without my parents help and support. When I first started out I was getting on any gig I could get and in warmer months, that means festivals. Bear Creek Festival 2009 at Suwanee Music Park is where I met a lot of folks that have helped me get started. Particularly Michael Allegretto, whom I know is a friend of IRIE Mag and the reason we are linked up. It was Bear Creek that I worked as an LD for one of the smaller stages. I busted my butt all weekend and impressed Michael enough to be invited to work a festival in Jamaica called ‘Caribbean Holidaze’. I flew myself there and worked for free as an ‘internship’ type deal. I met a lot of his A-team down there which led to a lot festival work and all sorts of unique events with Michael and his team. Over the years I have worked a lot of gigs with Michael all over the US and met some amazingly talented people.
Fast forward to summer 2011 and I got a call from my friend, Saira Anderson. Saira is also one of Michael’s people whom I also met at Bear Creek 2009. She was working on a festival in NJ called Pet Zoo and needed my help since I was local. I went there thinking I may be helping out with some small stuff but it turned into being a lot more involved, doing mostly Production Manager work for the first time. It was Pet Zoo Festival where I met Paul and Preston Hoffman, brothers and owners of Pulse Lighting. They were providing the gear and running the lights for the festival. Over the 4 days we all got to know each other and they were impressed enough by me to put me on some Pulse Lighting gigs. Each gig was a little bigger than the last which eventually led to my first Pulse Lighting tour for our client Colbie Caillat. That was my first major tour with full production. To say I learned a lot on that tour is an understatement. After that tour I was brought onto Pulse full time and have had Paul and Preston as my mentors. Since working for Pulse I’ve grown and learned a ton about design, building and programming for tours. Also, Mikey Cummins is one of our top designers and a veteran of the business. Between Paul, Preston, and Mikey, no design goes out our doors without everyone’s input. I can say my designs are a collaborative effort and the best possible version of an idea once it goes out the door. From the time Mikey and I were brought on we have grown from a storage unit in Raleigh, NC to a facility in Nashville, TN, complete with storage, full production rehearsal space, visualizer suites, and a full team of touring LDs. It’s been an honor working for them and seeing the growth happen.
IRIE. You have to admit that you have a pretty cool gig! You are the lighting designer for Rebelution and… you get to work alongside Errol Brown. How did this all happen for you?
Kenny Gribbon. I have to admit it is a cool gig. It sometimes doesn’t seem right I do this and get paid for it. My main design and touring client for Pulse is Rebelution. Working with Rebelution came through my boss Paul and a mutual contact for him. Paul went out with Reb for a short run through Florida to bring them on as a client. Paul put me on Rebelution’s New Years Eve show in 2012. After that was a success I started touring full time with them that February 2013. Working with Errol Brown just happened since he was already their FOH engineer. It’s been great working with Errol. He is a veteran of the industry. As you know I’m sure he worked and toured with Bob Marley so he knows a thing or two about mixing reggae. He’s become my biggest mentor and inspiration out here on the road. He’s in his late 60s and still touring just because he loves the music. Not to mention he has seen every one of my Reb shows which after this tour is over 300. If I miss a cue Errol is going to let me know. That’s what I love most about him. He pushes all of us whether its crew or band member to be the best we can be and not settle for good enough. I think its a great lesson in life to always push to be a better version of yourself. If you haven’t already you should really interview him. He has some great stories to tell.
IRIE. Will do, brother! What goes through your mind as you are performing your magic? Is there a method behind your creative madness?
Kenny Gribbon. On a good night, nothing. It;’s just happening naturally when its all dialed in and I’m running my show based on muscle memory and feeling the music. But if I am thinking of anything, its my next cue or big moment in the show. The key to a great lighting moment is showing something you haven’t shown yet. The element of surprise. Think of the mirror ball. It,s a great effect. But once you’ve seen it, the ‘wow’ factor is lost. So its all about timing and keeping it interesting. There is no specific method. I think its all based on inspiration and you can’t force that. There are times I get an idea at 3 am and next thing I have designed a whole new look for a song or a tour.
IRIE. How do you choose the styles of lighting for each song? Is it important for you to push the boundaries of your skills with every show?
Kenny Gribbon. How I choose styles is different for each song. A Rebelution show is a great example of diversity in my lighting. As much as they are a reggae band they are also rock n’ roll, ballads, and psychedelic.
I try to listen to the song and find the vibe its going for. If there is a story to be told, how can my lighting help tell that story is important. Some of the more challenging songs are the slower ones. Big rock songs or psychedelic are easier to create a look or an effect than a slower or more intimate part of the show. Slower songs you need to capture the vibe just right. I find it important to push the boundaries and reinvent yourself as much as possible. Otherwise its the same old thing for the audience but also I will get bored.
IRIE. How has the technical innovations in lighting help you with your creativity?
Kenny Gribbon. It’s definitely given more options in design and programming. For console software its always improving to help make the programming process easier and more efficient. As far as lighting fixtures, I think the technology has gotten more affordable and with LED technology being low, bands can invest in a light package and an LD.
IRIE. Do you have any advice for someone looking to become a lighting designer?
Kenny Gribbon. Go for it and don’t be afraid to take the risk. I left an established career in construction management cause it wasn’t for me. I always knew deep down I was meant to be doing this and I have never regretted taking the risk.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say to the IRIE audience?
Kenny Gribbon. Thank you for supporting live music! Without the fans, none of us would have the pleasure of living our passion. Much respect and much love!