SWANZEY, NH – What’s in a name? In some cases, not very much, but in others, a change in moniker says a great deal about where something has been… and where it’s headed. Northlands, a popular concert venue in rural New Hampshire, provides vivid proof of that.
Last July, in the middle of the pandemic, this venue began life as “Drive In Live,” offering fans a chance to enjoy live music from their cars. Today, with lockdown restriction easing, the site changed its name and policy, allowing customers to take in shows by national acts from 10’ x 10’ pods following CDC safety protocols.
The new setup creates a more engaging environment for enjoying live music, according to Brian Courchine, lighting designer at Northlands. Also enhancing the fan experience this season is a lighting rig that has been upgraded with the addition of eight CHAUVET Professional Maverick Storm1 Wash fixtures.
“As an outdoor venue, we placed a lot of importance on the Storm 1 Wash’s IP65 rating,” said Courchine, noting that the RGBW units are hung on downstage truss. “But the benefits go way beyond that. The ability to zoom and really focus the best positions to shed light on band members is a game changer. No more adjusting the wash with a ‘pokey stick!’ So, it’s a great improvement over the static washes we had before.”
In addition to the new Storm 1 Wash units, the Northland rig features Rogue R1X Spot fixtures (split evenly between mid and upstage truss) and Rogue R1 Washes, evenly spaced on upstage truss. “We added the Rogue R1 Wash late last season,” said Courchine. “Other than the addition of the Mavericks this year, we kept last season’s rig in place, but rearranged things based on our experience.”
A big motivator behind this rearrangement was the desire to increase the versatility of the house’s lighting system. Given that Northland hosts a wide range of acts like the Indigo Girls, Disco Biscuits, Kip Moore, moe, and Umphrey’s McGee, many of whom come with their own LDs, Courchine and his team wanted to ensure that their house rig was flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of design approaches.
“There are so many ways to do what we do, and we all do it differently, so flexibility is crucial to a house rig,” said Courchine . “I’ve had the opportunity to run lights for a little over half the acts coming through. The rest of the shows are run by old and new friends who visit with their bands. It’s been fun helping them set up a deck rig and watching them run their shows. There’s so much we can learn from each other. I find that, given the time, most LDs are willing to share ideas and problem solving techniques.”
Following this philosophy Courchine has kept his house rig clean to make it easier to adjust to different styles. “Last year we had some fixtures on the deck, but this year we decided to keep the deck clear and fly everything for the sake of greater flexibility,” he said. “I feel that diversity comes in the programming and execution of the show. These fixtures allow you to do everything from a chill show with sharp gobo beams backlighting one person, to one where you fill the stage with chaos.”
Looking at the rig in a larger context, Courchine notes that launching a live music series in the midst of a pandemic and guiding it to a new format this year was the result of a “complete team effort” that included Upstream Sound & More, which supplied the monitor boards and lighting, as well as Paddle Out Productions, provider of FOH and the PA system.
Courchine also credits M.E. Productions for “making all this all happen and keeping lot of good people employed throughout the pandemic.” Regardless of which name it goes by, that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.