John Garberson Opens Doors at Desert Sky Music Festival with CHAUVET Professional

Posted on December 6, 2023

CHANDLER, AZ – At times it seemed that everything that could go wrong would go wrong at the one-day Desert Sky Music Festival. Not only did rain delay the 2pm start of the first act by over 30-minutes, but once the music started playing, bumps in the road kept threatening to derail the best-laid plans.

“The event gods were not smiling on us,” said John Garberson of Creative BackStage, who set up production for Desert Sky. “It rained off and on for eight hours, creating a lot of mud. There was a power outage, a medical emergency, though fortunately that turned out ok, and networking issues that disrupted the sound and lighting.”

Still, no one in the sold-out crowd of 15,000 was thinking about any of these snafus when the curtain went down on the festival late that night. They were too busy savoring the good times, and the rollicking music they just enjoyed by an enthusiastic group of performers, including headliner Lainey Wilson, 2023 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year.

Setting an upbeat tone for the festival that overshadowed any of the issues at its start were the immersive lightshows that seemed to fit each artist’s music and personality like pair of tailor-made jeans. The Creative BackStage team made that happen through some careful planning and the thoughtful placement of over 75 versatile CHAUVET Professional fixtures in the festival rig.

“There were no band riders for this festival,” said Garberson. “None of the acts came in with a lighting plot. I had to anticipate what would work best for each artist and the visiting LDs when designing this rig. The challenge was to create something that was flexible enough to allow all the LDs to do their thing, while still being compact and affordable enough to meet the demands of the festival.”

Putting together a rig capable of reflecting the unique styles of the six main artists at the festival was no easy task. The opening act was a DJ, while the remaining five were country, each representing a different niche within the genre.

Garberson began by ensuring that his rig would take care of the “common denominator” that the six diverse acts and their LDs would all want in a festival show: audience lighting. He delivered this necessity by outfitting his rig with Six STRIKE Array 4 and 11 STRIKE P38 fixtures. These ultra bright units did more than light the crowd. “I had the STRIKE Array 4s on my downstage truss and the P38s sprinkled throughout the rig,” he said. “Together they added a sparkling effect that engaged the crowd in different ways for each artist.”

Aerial effects were another common design requirement share by all of the festival’s performers. Garberson provided this by including 14 Maverick MK2 Spots and 14 Rogue R3 Beam fixtures to the festival rig. He also positioned Rogue R2 Wash fixtures at different points on his truss structures to ensure that each LD could dial up the palette that best fit the artist on stage.

Helping the visiting LDs enliven their shows with distinct flourishes were the rig’s 12 Rogue Outcast 1 BeamWashes. Positioned evenly on two side trusses, the RGBW IP65 rated fixtures were used for side lighting and specials.

“The BeamWash really added an extra touch to the rig design,” said Garberson, pointing to the fixture’s pixel mappable outer LED ring, multiple profiles, and its wide zoom range. “It really opened a lot of creative opportunities for the LDs, which was what our ultimate goal was for this festival. We wanted to give LDs as many flavors to choose from as possible. Everyone involved did great things with the rig, including Lainey Wilson’s LD. Mitch Mueller, Matthew Berg Festival L1, Charles Jones Festival L2, and Maxine Kickler, our rigger.”

This kind of creative freedom, says Garberson, will help anyone forget about glitches every time.