MESA, AZ – Not much has changed at the Mesa Amphitheatre since it opened in 1979, and music fans in the Phoenix area couldn’t be happier. An attractive open air facility where no seat is further than 175-feet from the stage, the iconic 4,200 capacity venue offers a cozy environment for enjoying national acts. Yet, while it’s a delight for fans, the relatively small and aging facility can create issues for anyone looking to replicate a modern arena light show.
John Garberson and his team from Creative BackStage faced this challenge earlier in December when they were asked to put together a rig at the amphitheater for a performance by Kings of Leon at a local radio station’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Party concert. Garberson and company were up to the task, providing the band’s lighting designer Sam MacLaren with a mix of fixtures that could create a show that remained true to his big venue design vision, yet still accounted for the Mesa site’s limitations. They accomplished this in no small part through the adroit use of low power draw LED fixtures from CHAUVET Professional.
“Mesa Amphitheatre is an older, smaller venue with limited rigging capabilities,” said Garberson. “Kings of Leon has a Number One album out now (“Wells”) so their design is really intended for different sized venues. Their design had a 120 par system throughout the rig broken up with other fixtures. Between budgetary and rigging limitations, we had to rework the rig while still keeping the feeling of the original design in place.”
The Creative BackStage team took a number of steps to fit the spirit of MacLaren’s design to the smaller venue. They replaced the 120 pars with a variety of other fixtures, notably 19 Rogue R2 Washes, 10 of which were flown on mid-stage truss, with the remainder flown upstage. This provided a level of colorizing in keeping with the designer’s vision, while having a lower weight load, taking up less space and being more energy efficient.
A key step in replicating the arena look for the Kings of Leon at Mesa Amphitheatre was replacing the eight cell incandescent blinders in the original design with four of CHAUVET Professional’s STRIKE 4 multi-formatted warm white fixtures. “Using the STRIKE fixtures instead of the older blinders really helped,” said Garberson. “By doing this we were able to get rid of the dimmers, which reduced our cost and the weight load.”
Also in the Kings of Leon Mesa Amphitheatre rig were 10 Rogue R2 Spots, which were flown on downstage truss and used for front washing. “The Rogue spots created a big look on stage without requiring much in return,” said Garberson. “They were used for band specials. Their colors and their performance features helped us vary the look without using a lot of different fixtures.”
Providing big time punch to the Mesa rig were 10 Maverick MK2 Spots arranged on the upstage deck and used as aerial effects. Powered by a 440-watt LED engine and featuring CMY and CTO color mixing, the Maverick fixtures were able fill the air over the compact amphitheater with bright, bold beams creating an arena-like atmosphere.
“Our team of Chris Brodman, James Simpson and Jonathan Brekken deserve a lot of credit for helping the LD preserve the feeling of the original design in this setting,” said Garberson. “We had to make some tweaks, but we had the fixtures to work with. In the end, the outcome was a killer show with a lighting rig that drew under 60amps 3/phase.”