Go Backstage with LIVE! at Country Concert
For the past 32 years, LIVE! Technologies has had the privilege of working with the Barhorst family and Variety Attractions on The Country Concert Festival. What started as a family picnic has grown into a major attraction for Ohio. As the event has grown, so has the facility and complexity of serving the audience and the artists.
The original 48’ by 32’ shed has grown to 108’ by 48’ steel building with an 80’ by 80’ backstage. Working on the next year starts about three weeks after the concert closes. Improvements on facilities and production are discussed.
The 2013 three-day festival brought 13 headline acts to the main stage, including Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, and Brad Paisley. The goal of everyone involved is always to give the audience the best show the artists have to offer.
One of the specialties of LIVE! is tackling the task of getting the artists on stage and to keep the show running smoothly. It’s a lot of man-hours and hard work, but when the first band takes the stage and the show starts, it’s all worth the effort.
Pre-planning is essential in the process. LIVE! sent a Tech Package out to all the artists in March, including an advance checklist for each artist. This checklist is completed before the festival and a copy is distributed to each member of the LIVE! Production Team. It’s the blueprint for the show: microphone charts, stage plot, riser and equipment requirements, artist travel information. This gave the LIVE! Production team all the information they needed to execute a flawless performance, right down to the number of towels and bottles of water required on stage.
The 2013 festival presented a special challenge with one of its main headliners: how to get Brad Paisley’s 10-semi show (which is normally a five-to-six hour process) on stage within the allotted time. All of Brad Paisley’s production load-in needed to be coordinated around pre-setting five other artists starting at noon and load-in that began at 8 a.m. In order to make sure that everything would run smooth, the pre-planning started months in advance.
The first meeting with Brad Paisley’s production manager, Kevin Freeman, took place in October when Brad was performing in Columbus. Members of the LIVE! production staff met with Kevin in the afternoon prior to the show to get an idea of what was involved in taking the show from truck to performance.
Although the set and the lighting would be changed for the 2013 performance, we were informed that the stage size and complexity would be similar. Once the new rigging plot and stage layout were delivered to LIVE! in April 2013, the discussions and pre-planning continued. To keep the show running fluidly, the LIVE! production team had questions they needed to answer while preparing the production for the festival. How long will it take to get the show in? What size crew is needed? What equipment will be used? What will need to be cut from the typical equipment provided by LIVE! Technologies? How can we rig hanging equipment over the stage during the show? How can we get the other artists on and off the stage?
Steve Quinn, LIVE! production manager and head rigger for this event, met with the rigging coordinator for the Brad Paisley tour. Steve explained that all of the rigging needed to be done prior to the festival and suggested that LIVE! provide a grid that would accommodate the Paisley lighting rig and the other headline artists. The rigging plot was drawn up and agreed to by all of the headline artists.
Load-in for LIVE! began two days before the festival. Steve Quinn joined by the rest of the rigging crew laid out the rigging plot on the stage deck and then attached hoists to the points using a 75’ articulating boom lift. While the stage was being rigged, a stage crew of 12 unloaded trusses and lighting back stage. Next came the two video semis. Five video screens give anyone in the audience a great view of all the action on stage–the largest screen, a 13’ by 22’ LED, flies over the front of the stage. With the video screens in place, the sound semi from LIVE! was unloaded and moved into place on stage. At the end of the first day, all of the rigging points were in, the stage sound system was in place and the main video screen was built.
Tuesday and Wednesday were busy with the completion of the truss grid, lighting and motor distribution on stage and the installation of front of house and delay speakers with video screens in the audience areas.
After all of the hard work was completed, the gates opened to fans and artists began to take the stage Thursday. After the fans returned to their tents and trailers for the night the LIVE! crew went into action, removing the Friday headliner Dierks Bentley 4800-pound video wall and preparing the stage for the next morning’s load-in.
Saturday morning pulled together a small army; 28 stagehands, the 14-member LIVE! crew, and Pete’s Big TV crew of four, were joined by the Brad Paisley’s crew of 24, his tour’s six buses and the nine semis of production equipment. Four trucks were unloaded at a time, LIVE! lowered in the grid and the show began to take shape. Over 90 chain hoists were used to get all of the production in the air. By ll:30 a.m., the lighting was in place, the 60’ by 30’ video wall, audio desks and the set were all in place and the first act, Jana Kramer was set on stage and ready for sound check. During her sound check, the second and third acts–Dustin Lynch and Chris Cagle–used the ample backstage area to set up for their sound checks. To keep the operation of moving bands onto and off the stage, the rest of the artists playing Saturday would load in as soon as room opened up back stage.
After a smooth afternoon of rehearsals, all of the performances ran like a dream: punctual and impressive. The massive 30-person crew that was needed during load-ins and load-outs thinned out to a smaller 16-person show production crew.
Special thanks go out to the Country Concert staff, ESS, Pete’s Big TV’s and all of the artists’ crews, who with their cooperation and teamwork provide the audience with a night to remember.
See you next year!
To check out information for The Country Concert 2014 go to www.countryconcert.comliveblog