Madi Knobel, Lighting Designer
Updated: Oct 22, 2019
This week Music Mondays is bringing you a new kind of blog, one that will focus on the people working tirelessly behind the music! First up we wanted to spotlight someone who, without her, we wouldn’t be able to see the amazing local and national musicians that grace the Knitting Factory [Boise] stage, Madi Knobel!
Her story starts off like most artists, who gracefully work their way into a paying artistic gig by networking and starting out as a cook at the knitting factory. During Madi’s time as a cook she worked hard to make connections and during that time she passed out her CD to everyone. One of the people she gave her CD too was Gary Pike, GM of Knitting Factory, who listened and thoroughly enjoyed her self-produced electronic music. Later, the house lighting tech stepped down, leaving the position vacant. Gary called Madi up and offered her the opportunity to work the lights! “I remember being super nervous. But that's when it all started for me. That was over 4 years ago.” Madi said.
Choosing Madi as Music Mondays’ first behind the scenes blog focus was easy given the time, thought, and effort it takes to be a lighting designer, but the general public may not. For a lighting tech/designer most show days are between 12-15 hours long. “Sometimes it feels like all I do is work. Today, Black Label Society loaded in at 10 am. Meaning, myself, all the audio techs, and stage hands will be here until at minimum midnight.” Madi added. These long hours consist of hanging the light plots for a traveling show, which usually have a preset or guided plan for their tour. After, the light plots must be loaded or programmed into the light board, from there she will test and run each que to make sure all the lights are functioning the way they need to be. Designing the light plots can take as much time as loading in a show and hanging the plots themselves. This is a small taste of a normal show day for Madi!
“As an LD you become familiar with things that look good, and just don't. Especially if you are more familiar with the lights you are working with. Understanding how each light fixture works/its application is huge in deciding what you want on your stage. There are thousands of different lights.” Madi added. She takes the time to understand the music that is going to grace the stage and caters towards that type of show. “Like for a country show, I wouldn't use a bunch of strobes and fast movements, So building a more static lighting package would make more sense. And for EDM, its the opposite. They want everyone going mad. So Strobes, Moving lights, Wash lights, LED bars, blinders... All in that plot for sure.” Madi concluded. So next time you’re at a show give special attention to the lights happening around the musicians, there was an organized thought behind each light being used.
Madi designs and runs for all kinds of different music styles but she absolutely, “love love love the local metal scene. They're like my family. I F***ing love all the bands in town.” Madi Added. She feels extremely fortunate to design and run the lights for the local X-clusive shows because she feels her family is on that stage! On the flip side Madi said “I see myself as a rocker head banger chick, or candy EDM girl. At this point in time though I can run any show. But EDM and Metal are my fav to run lights for. At least for now!”
For most people in the arts we find comfort being around others that share common interests, we find comfort in elements of constant work, and we find comfort in knowing our work is appreciated by at least one person in the audience. Madi is no different for her passion though she was tested last September with a major setback that not only affect her but many people. “Most recent [hardship] was when we all got laid off due to the fire at the Knitting Factory in September of 2018. We all watched as smoke billowed out of the shattered windows, as fire men climbed inside. I sobbed my eyes out. I had no idea what to do or what any of us were going to do. We were out of the concert game until February 2019. This really hit me hard. I went on a tour that October and did a few gigs here and there.” Madi said. She opened up about another hardship she faces adding, “I suffer from manic depression, and Anxiety. I’m very good at keeping it under wraps, I’m a trooper. But that winter knocked me down into a dark place. I got so depressed and stressed and just sad. I keep my problems generally to myself, which sucks. I WISH, now, that I would have told people what I was going through.” When we look at arts a lot of the time the people who suffer from hardships such as the Knit fire it is the artists themselves that suffer the most. Artists, such as Madi, lose a place to call home, they lose a place that keeps their mind safe and they lose a place that accepts their creativity.
From hardships comes triumphs and Madi has had some awesome accomplishments in her lighting career. She went on her first tour which was fantastic for her, “It instantly made me feel like ‘I can do what the big kids do’ type feeling. And that feeling never went away.” She said. Another achievement that came from adversity was helping to build a new Knitting Factory light rig from scratch. “Andy Jacobson rigged the points in the ceiling, then we ran the motors out, built the truss, and sent it up. I built the rig alone once, with a couple stage hands. It was awesome knowing what I was doing. So the Knitting Factory build was a huge triumph for all of us but especially me. It was such an awesome feeling. I love my Knit family so much.” She added. Madi also spoke about being a female in a male dominated industry “Lots of this industry is filled with Misogyny, and casual sexism… So being able to saddle up, learn fast, and slay light shows better than most boys... makes me feel like a bad ass b*tch. And any woman in the music biz, should feel amazing while they slay everyone with their skills. SEND IT.” Madi concluded.
When it comes to people behind, or in front of the music, Madi is at the top of her game and is a rare person that should be thanked every time you see her running a show. Madi wanted to add the following: I just want everyone to know, especially all the bands I work with locally that I really appreciate every single one of you. Metal Family for life. My life would be empty and meaningless without music. Thank you for giving me strength, believing in me, and helping me grow. I want anyone who steps on stage to feel like a rockstar. It means the world to me to be able to give that to someone and just be a part of any of it. Thank you, everyone. truly. I've really enjoyed working with everyone the last few years. it has made a huge impact on my life."