PHILADELPHIA – Shortly after it opened in 1917, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was heralded as “the greatest Twentieth Century accomplishment of any city in the world.” More than a slight exaggeration perhaps, but for the past 101 years, the mile-long road in the City of Brotherly Love has brimmed with creative activity, hosting historic concerts and serving as home to great works of art like Rodin’s “The Thinker.”
This Labor Day Weekend, the famous boulevard reverberated with a distinctly 21st Century form of artistic expression when it hosted the Jay-Z curated “Made In America” EDM festival. For all its rich history, though, the Philadelphia landmark does have spatial restrictions that aren’t found in typical (and lager) festival sites. This presented lighting designer Patrick Dierson of The Activity with some unique challenges, but he overcame them in convincing fashion, using a 4Wall Entertainment supplied lighting rig that included CHAUVET Professional Maverick and Rogue fixtures.
Now in its seventh year, Made in America featured a star-studded lineup of artists including Nicki Minaj, Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, Diplo, Zedd, Janelle Monáe, Alessia Cara, Miguel, Pusha T, Fat Joe and Ty Dolla $ign. Dierson’s goal was to create looks on the event’s stages that reflected the magnitude of its artist lineup.
“Overall, our look for the festival is big, but we had to deal with space constraints to achieve this outcome,” said Dierson. “We strove to make each stage look bigger than it was in reality because of the size constraints associate with this site. To accomplish this, we needed compact fixtures to match our stage sizes. At the same time, we also needed intense output and vivid eye candy to make our stages create a ‘bigger’ impression. We got both with our Rogues and Mavericks.”
No where was this challenge more evident than at The Freedom Stage. The smallest stage at Made in America, the Freedom Stage nevertheless hosted some big EDM stars, such as Cashmere Cat, Louis The Child, and Tchami among others. “We put an extensive amount of production into the Freedom Stage it in part with our Rogues,” said Dierson. “Our Associate LD Evan Bloom did a great job at the Freedom Stage.”
Dierson positioned 12 Rogue R2 Wash fixtures on the Freedom Stage, where they were used for down washing, back lighting, specials and aerial effects. Their output was punchy enough to stand out even before the sun went down, and the aerial looks gave the stage a larger appearance.
An additional 23 Rogue R2 Wash fixture were flown on the Liberty Stage and were used to support artists like Janelle Monae, Zedd, Miguel, and Diplo with fast-moving crossing patterns and richly textured washes. Lighting Director David Mollner was at the helm for the Liberty stage, running the show for some artists and working with visiting LDs for others. “The Rogue R2 Wash served as the main workhorse of the rig for providing a full stage wash,” said Dierson. “Because it gives us so much output from such a small package it was invaluable.”
Also, on the Liberty Stage were 18 Maverick MK Pyxis fixtures flown on modular truss and arranged in alternating rows stage left and stage right. Used as a wash and a pixel-mapped eye candy effect, the RGBW LED fixtures opened an array of opportunities for Mollner and the visiting LDs to create fresh new looks during the course of the two-day festival.
“The Pyxis fixtures served two specific duties,” said Dierson. “Firstly, they were to be utilized as the main side light wash across the stage. Secondly, their placement was rather critical as this side light position was also used to provide camera background for the broadcast that would be live-streamed to the Tidal music service.”
Given the spatial limitations of the festival’s downtown street site, setting up the stages also presented its share of challenges. “The load-in for Made In America was quite an endeavor,” said Dierson. “This part of the process is led by Site Coordinator, Dave Meyers of Diversified Production Services. His meticulous attention to detail is what ties that all together. It was a massive ballet of heavy equipment, endless deliveries, and an army of personnel to manage. One of those providers of endless deliveries was our lighting and video vendor, 4Wall Entertainment. Bob Suchocki was the overall project manager for 4Wall and brought together an absolutely amazing crew of personnel.”
Adding to the challenges of running the festival’s lighting was the weather. “We got some pretty nasty weather conditions but we handled them fine,” said Dierson. “The Chauvet fixtures took quite a beating and never failed us once.”