2018 In Review: Production – Challenges From Stadiums To Clubs

Garth Brooks Notre Dame
Courtesy Bandit Lites
– Garth Brooks Notre Dame
NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW COULD STOP HIM: Garth Brooks performed a teaser show of sorts before more than 84,000 fans at Notre Dame Stadium Oct. 20.

As part of Pollstar’s 2018 Year-End Special Issue, we broke down the year into industry buckets which we are rolling out online over the 2018 Holidays.  To read this special issue in its entirety now click HERE; and subscribe to Pollstar HERE.

When it comes to concert production, some things don’t change. While the newest technology provides a lot of shiny bells and whistles, crews and venue staffs still must rely on old- fashioned communication to make a show run smoothly, whether at a nightclub or a football stadium.

And there were plenty of football stadium shows to go around in 2018.
Kenny Chesney broke records with his “Trip Around The Sun” stadium trek, while Garth Brooks gave fans a taste of his upcoming tour at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., before 84,000 fans shivering in the rain and snow Oct. 20.
Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, as well as U2 and The Rolling Stones in Europe, kept trucks humming and construction crews working in 2018.
Chesney’s outing, in particular, was impressive for its sheer size. The stage alone weighed 360,000 pounds. The production required 28 trucks, 19 buses, 60,000-80,000 square feet of flooring to protect stadium fields and a traveling staff of 133, plus hundreds more in local crews to build and strike every show.
Visual and audio production highlights included “a new GSL Box…two stripes – 24 boxes – on each side of the stage, plus 24 V8s hung from the upper decks and 67 auxiliary cabinets,” according to a statement. The configuration was capable of producing 110 decibels, able to reach the crow’s nest seats in the far, upper reaches of the largest stadiums.
“The low end had enough intensity to set off all the car alarms in the parking lot 400-500 feet away,” Chesney said in a statement. “For us, it was really about people being able to hear the words, because those songs are important to them – and they deserve that. 

Kenny Chesney
Jill Trunnell
– Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney plays to a sea of fans at Miller Park in Milwaukee April 28.
Fans got an eyeful, too. The production included a 48- by 36-foot video wall and was the largest of Chesney’s career, including 404 lighting fixtures, some singles and some holding 72 LED flares.
Brooks promises a new stage configuration in 2019, and built an in-the-round, star-shaped stage for the Notre Dame show that stood up to not only the demands of network television production – the concert was recorded and broadcast Dec. 2 – but those of Mother Nature as well.
The show, the first concert ever at the 88-year-old stadium, was delayed by about an hour because of high winds that made it too dangerous to fly speakers above the stage. Then the rain fell, followed by snow.
Brooks took to the 360-degree stage under more than 300 lighting fixtures including Robe BMFL and BMFL wash beams, Claypaky Spheriscans, Robe Robin 1200 LED, Elation Paladins, Martin Atomic LED strobes, Phillips Nitro RGBW strobes, eight Lyican M2 Longthrow spotlights, and two grandMA full consoles for control. The result was a rig that glowed as bright as the star-shaped stage even amid the wintry conditions, according to vendor Bandit Lites.
One advantage Brooks had was that he was the only performer of the evening. More often, at all levels of venue size, more than one artist or band takes the stage, and even the newest technology can’t help the show if the various teams aren’t communicating.
There was no dancing around the subject at Production Live!, part of the three-day Pollstar Live! conference package in February.
So prevalent was the communication theme that there was even a panel titled “Stage Management 101: Communication Is Everything With Multi-Act Productions” where “it’s a conversation” was probably the single most-used phrase.
It’s the only way to avoid conflict at events where one band gets in, sets up, plays the show and gets out again in time for the next act to take the stage. Managing artist and the promoter expectations was a big part of that conversation, said Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman. 
The security panel, titled “Yes, Even You,” touched on communication as well, with StaffPro President Cory Meredith saying that everyone knows what to do but the issue is making sure it gets done.
“We all know what to do. We’ve had these brainstorms and know the best practices,” Meredith said. “But it all costs money. So you have to figure out who is going to pay for it and who is also going to make sure it’s done properly.”
Communicating is certainly more cost-efficient than assuming. Even so, sometimes you do just have to pick up the phone and not rely on email to help make connections.
“All the emails in the world, back and forth and you’re still going to miss something,” touring production assistant Misty Roberts – who has worked with Metallica, Enrique Iglesias, Jonas Brothers and Guns N’ Roses – said in front of the Production Live! gathering. 
“The tone is very important. Inevitably there’s going to be something that pops up in the day and you’re going to need someone’s help. If you cultivate a relationship, they’re more willing to help you.”