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I've been extremely busy over the past few years writing books, teaching seminars, and editing PLSN. But this past weekend I worked a Dierks Bentley show for a local vendor, Midnight Lighting in Austin just to stay in touch with the industry and to see what I could learn about this crazy and wonderful business from the local vendor's point of view. It was two days of hot, sweaty, hard work and I loved every minute of it. The LD, Chris Reid, was very easy to work with despite the fact that he had been given the difficult task of re-designing his show at the last minute. In the end, the show looked great, thanks to his skills and calm demeanor.

I always like to try to find 10 things to take away from experiences like these. These are my take aways from the weekend:
10. Maximize Your Time – There’s never enough time to do everything you think needs to be done, so take care to prioritize the tasks at hand. This is where you can throw out the old saying, “If you don’t have time to do it right when will you have time to do it over again?” Sometimes you have to do it the best you can with the time you’re given.

9. A Happy LD Makes for a Good Gig – I should have stayed in closer contact with the LD before the gig and the entire day of the show. I was at lunch when he decided to focus and when I returned he was having problems with some of the gear that he shouldn’t have had to deal with. Had I been there it would not have been an issue. I made sure he was in sight, without hovering, for the rest of the day. Most of the time he didn’t even know I was watching him. In the middle of the show when his set list blew off of the console and threatened to fly away, he stepped backwards to put his foot on it while he kept running the lights. I came up behind him, gently lifted his foot off of it and gave it back to him. He nodded in thanks.

8. Prepare to the Max – Don’t believe everything you are told about the gig. Verify directly with the person in charge and double check if you have to. There was a mix up on the gel colors in the rig and I didn’t catch it. Fortunately the LD was good-natured about it and simply adapted as best he could. In the end, if it made any difference at all in the outcome of the show, I couldn’t tell and I scrutinized it hard.

7. Don’t Wait – Since this was an outdoor gig, doing preset focus on bright sunshine was futile. So the LD disappeared after lunch and didn’t reappear until around dinner. I kept wondering why he didn’t bother to
set up the backup console until he told me that there was no LD for the opening act. Then I realized that he expected me to set up the backup console, program it, and run the lights for the opening act. Fortunately I had enough time to do it because I was familiar enough with the lighting console to patch it and program a few presets before the show started (in bright sunshine). But I shouldn’t have waited to set up the console.

6. Setting Up isn’t Easy – Setting up for a show is still hard work. It hasn’t gotten any easier despite the advances in LED technology, consoles, visualizers, and automation. It was a long day (18 hours altogether).

5. Being the LD isn’t Easy – I feel for the LD who walks into a show not knowing exactly what to expect from the local supplier. In this case he re-designed the rig for the venue the day before, which meant we had a
few last minute additions and deletions, and I think he was pretty much working it out in his head when he stepped onto the deck mid-morning of the show. I know he ran a lot of the lighting on the fly, but this guy just happened to be so good that the show was still stunning.

4. Being the Lighting Supplier isn’t Easy – I feel for the local lighting suppliers of the world who are competing for shows against other companies who are willing to bid it for next to nothing but are expected to supply pristine gear, competent techs, and deal with all of the last minute curve balls that are thrown their way. They have to manage a big staff and deal with all the headaches that go with it, carry the responsibility of meeting
payroll, and try to figure out how to pay for all the gear.

3. Be Cool – The inevitable last second potential disasters are always waiting in the wings. Last night, one of the followspots refused to strike just 15 minutes before the show. On the inside, panic ensued but on the
outside I tried to give the impression of calmness, coolness, and collectedness. It would have been very easy to freak out but instead we got the fixture to strike by working together methodically. I still don’t know why it
didn’t strike originally but I suspect user error since we tested them earlier in the afternoon and they all fired. I simply climbed the spot tower, asked the operator to confirm the power supply connections and then I personally switched the spot between manual strike and auto strike and back, then manually struck
it. It came up the first time. Crisis averted.

2. Be Ready – When the manager of the opening act introduced himself and said his client had just signed a record deal, I took the opportunity to reach into my pocket and pull out a fresh business card and handed it to him. “When he’s looking for a lighting designer please give me a call,” I said. I don’t expect to go on the road with him but I have lots of friends who I would love to refer.

1. Have Fun – At the end of the day you tend to forget about all the snafus, the concerns, the panic and how tired you are, and what you’re left with is a fond memory of a great show. Enjoy it while you can because you
never know what tomorrow will bring.

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Comment by Chris Reade on January 10, 2014 at 10:42am

Whoa, I'm just seeing this now. I totally remember this gig. It was a hot one! Thank you so much Richard, I look forward to ours paths crossing in the future. And Nook, thank you for the kind words my friend. Have a great 2014 guys!

Comment by Richard Cadena on October 13, 2010 at 6:32am
I'm not sure Cody. I'll ask next time I see him.
Comment by cody stoltz on October 12, 2010 at 5:51pm
Chris reid I recognise that name did he do anything for gretna fest because I think Thats who my boss told me to go find about our grand MA2 before I got pulled to something else right after that.
Comment by Nook Schoenfeld on September 14, 2010 at 1:59pm
Chris Reid is very talented. And he doesn't blow up, so you had a smooth day. As an LD, I can tell you that any of the issues you had , like a bad spot, or Al's color wheels instead of color mixing, can rattle an LD. And they can't possibly have a good show. But I think Chris has done so many gigs, at a wide assortment of venues, that he knows to do the best with what he has and enjoy his day. And your points were all very valid Richard, especially the "don't disappear when it's time to focus" note. have one of your guys grab a sandwich and hide it for you.
as far as the back up console, that should be set up at the same time as the normal one and make sure the show file is loaded into it, after the LD is done focusing and touching up cues. Not when doors are opening.
Comment by cody stoltz on August 30, 2010 at 6:40pm
Those bastards....
"Fuck having an lighting guy (at 30 an hour) to help me set up Id rather set it up by myself and have cyberlights instead of studio spots"
Comment by Al Williams on August 29, 2010 at 9:41pm
sounds like my weekend...

I had some CMY fixtures replaced by color wheel fixtures, the requested atomics, lekos, and ACL's were left at the shop 600 miles away, tuna sammiches for lunch (fortunately, the expected hot dogs for dinner ended up being shrimp, fish, and lasagne), ground transportation was the artist's limo driver's personal car- a total hooptie... lol

I swapped show files after I left the arena after sound check, rewrote the color presets, and had a go at it. Nothing made me cringe, other than not having lekos or ACL's, except maybe the haze getting cut off halfway through the set, or a spot op hitting the keyboard player who had his hands in his lap while the other keyboard player who was doing the solo in the dark.... heh
Comment by cody stoltz on August 27, 2010 at 9:55pm
I have mastered everything I need to know on wyg Like when I figured it out It became an addiction for a while. as far as the other visualisers my pc isnt up to the task of running them, If you have wyg Ill send you some of the designs I made using someone elses computer that has R 24 on it.
Comment by Richard Cadena on August 27, 2010 at 8:24pm
Do you know how to use a visualizer? If I were you I would practice designing lighting systems and programming them in virtual reality. Do it over and over until you can do it in your sleep. If you don't have your own visualizer just download the demo versions and use it as much as you can. And have some fun with it.
Comment by cody stoltz on August 27, 2010 at 8:02pm
Hey richard what do you think I should do next, now that I have learned MA that was kind of the last thing on my to do list for now. The vector, maxxyz, and vista I want to learn but am in no rush because It would be at least two or three years before I run either or those.
Comment by Richard Cadena on August 24, 2010 at 8:30pm
Cody, if I started as young as you, I wouldbe a master. One day soon you will be teaching me.

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