SPRINGFIELD, MA – Unlike virtually every state and county fair in the US, which take place in late summer, the Big E (or Eastern States Exposition, as it’s also known), doesn’t open until fall has begun its descent into winter. The timing is a throwback to the annual event’s origins in 1916, when the six New England states joined forces to create an exposition that would showcase their agricultural capabilities near the end of the harvest season.
Agriculture and tradition still reign at the 17-day fair, as evidenced by its many livestock displays and historic replicas, as well as the classic New England cuisine like Vermont Cheddars and Massachusetts clam fritters that it treats over 1.3 million visitors to every year. However, even as it reaches the century mark, the Big E is also serving up sizzling contemporary entertainment with big name acts like George Thorogood and Grammy-nominated electro house DJ Morgan Page appearing on its two stages. Adding to the excitement on one of those stages was a sizzling Spencer Lavoie designed lightshow that featured a collection of Rogue fixtures and PVP S7 LED video panels from CHAUVET Professional.
Lavoie used eight Rogue R2 Spots, eight Rogue R2 Beams and 22 Rogue R1 Washes, as well as 58 PVP S7 panels, two Amhaze II and two Hurricane 1800 Flex foggers in his “Court of Honors Stage” rig that was as versatile as its was powerful. Anchoring the center of the stage were two razor sharp PVP S7 video walls programmed by VJ Tristan Rudat. The larger wall, which was positioned center stage behind the DJ booth, measured 12 panels wide by 4 panels wide. In front of the DJ booth was a smaller 5 panels wide by 2 panels high video wall.
Serving as a constant visual focal point for the stage, the video walls displayed an array of images, often tied tightly into the moving lights on the rig to create a fluid image that instantly captured attention. “We relayed a live camera loop through RESOLUME so a camera feed was one option we had with the video walls,” said Lavoie. “We also had a plethora of both custom and stock footage and clips that we manipulated in RESOLUME. The images were created in programs like Photoshop and Blender and fed to the panels by the Chauvet VIP Driver. Our Lighting Director Vin Pugliese, Laser Tech Thai Guy and Production Lead Dave Betournay all worked miracles blending the lights and lasers with the videos to create a seamless show.”
Aside from being cohesive, Lavoie’s lightshow also had to be astoundingly flexible to accommodate and support the diverse mix of acts who appeared on the Court of Honors stage during the almost three-week event. In addition to keeping pace with the dub steps of DJ Morgan Page, the lighting rig had to support the mellow sounds of classic country rockers Pure Prairie League, the pop stylings of pianist Stephen Bishop, the nostalgic music of the Cowsills and much more.
“Versatility was key,” said Lavoie. “Our rig had to do justice to a wide range of artists. Plus we were given only a ten-hour window to rig, program and set show – and we had limited power available. The Rogues were indispensable, because they are so versatile, while also being easy to program and drawing low power. They are our go-to fixture.”
Lavoie positioned the Rogue fixtures in his rig to ensure maximum flexibility, wanting them to be able to hit the stage with crossing beams, create intense back lighting and run aerial effects for the event’s harder driving acts, while also providing washes and ambient side lights for the mellower artists. He positioned the eight Rogue R2 Spot fixtures in his rig on the tops of descending truss towers that went from 10’ high at mid stage down to 4’ at either side of the stage.
The eight Rogue R2 Beams in the rig were positioned around the DJ booth. Lavoie flew four of these fixtures on central truss, two to each side of the PVP S7 wall. Lavoie also positioned Rogue R2s on 6’ truss sticks located to either side of the DJ booth, while arranging the remaining two beams on the stage deck. To wash the stage from all angles, Lavoie placed 18 Rogue R1 Washes on truss towers that were rigged horizontally. He also flew four of the Rogue R1 Wash fixtures on the central truss line that held the PVP S7 wall behind the DJ booth.
“We got great washes and ambient lighting out of the R1s,” said Lavoie. “We were able to use these fixtures to focus nice even washes on each act at the right moments. Then when the situation called for it, we got great special effects from the Spots that were on the descending truss. The beams around the DJ booth gave us some punchy back lighting, audience lighting and aerial effects.”
In the end, the skillful use of fixtures and video panels by Lavoie and his team resulted in a surprising array of looks from a rig that had to meet some demanding requirements in terms of setup time, power availability, stage space and budget. For a festival that celebrates “Yankee Ingenuity,” the rig was a fitting tribute.