When it comes to an international concert tour, generally the entire production and crew come from other places. But on pop-punk act Blink-182’s current tour, which began last Thursday in San Diego and continued with a pair of dates at the Joint, most of the creative/visual team actually hails from Las Vegas, and includes some of the city’s best digital and motion graphics artists.
The man responsible for assembling that team, which dreams up and churns out motion graphic content that plays behind the band, is creative director Bertrand “Bert” Paré, a Montreal native and NYU graduate who has lived in Las Vegas for almost a decade. After working on tours with Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Madonna, he formed live production design company NeonBlack with colleague Dominic Smith. Knowing Blink-182 needed a production company for its upcoming summer tour, the year-old NeonBlack designed a production/stage concept (which is its biggest yet), pitched it to the band and was hired as the trek’s show designer. Smith oversees lighting, and Paré guides the onscreen content.
Paré says he found himself challenged in trying to maintain an artistic authenticity that would sync with the band’s punk foundation but still wow that 15-year-old fan attending his first-ever concert. So he hired fellow locals and visual content wizards Brett Bolton (of Space Cadets design company, which has contributed to the art direction of local stage productions and live shows by STRFKR; he’s also the primary member of music act Kitze + The CPUs) and Brian Henry (his own namesake design company’s work scrolls at any given time on many of the Strip’s most iconic screen marquees). Paré also contributed content for the production’s massive screens, as did Las Vegans Josh Meeter and Trevor White.
The next trick for Paré: finding creative professionals with a mastery in 3D graphics and tight, rapid-fire editing but who could also visually translate the emotion of Blink-182’s songs and project a sense of individuality. “The band's signature aesthetic comes from poster art, and that poses a real challenge to translate into motion graphics,” he says. “Brett and Brian nailed it. What I admire about them is that those two mad scientists don’t just do this for a living, but they actually do it for fun in their spare time. I’m always more interested in seeing people’s work that is outside the realm of an actual job. That’s their real aesthetic, without the influence of clients and creative directors.”
Bolton, who worked on a total of 13 songs (eight of them by himself), was an obvious choice for Paré’s team. “Bert and I have worked together before, and he knew that I've made a lot of music-based visuals for my bands, so I guess he thought it made sense to give me a shot,” Bolton says. “It definitely takes both artistic and technical skills to be able to carry out the art director’s vision. Bert knew I had a decent sense for design along with the technical knowledge needed in order to create 2D and 3D content quickly for large, multi-LED screen setups.” That content depicts spinning nebulas, glitchy octopi and anime-inspired apocalypse, among other imagery.
Paré says he’s always genuinely admired Bolton's and Henry’s work but admits he also likes his creative team to be the home team. “Whenever I do any project, I do my best to hire Vegas artists,” he says. “I moved here from LA about eight years ago now, and Vegas has been very good to me creatively. I feel like Vegas lives in the shadow of our neighbors next door and because of that, we try much harder!”