The readers have put the spotlight on who they think are the best of the best of their region when it comes to lighting, staging, and/or video. We have some fresh faces and some “repeat offenders.” All of these are bestowed with a little something to hang on their wall with the Parnelli logo and all the honor, glory, and bragging rights that go with it. Take a look at the companies here that you might not be familiar with, and reacquaint yourself with others — before heading on over to www.parnelliawards.com to vote for the best of the best. The winning company will be honored with the Hometown Hero Lighting Company of the Year award at the Parnelli Awards Oct. 20, 2012 at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
Alaska Universal Productions
It’s pretty hard to get further north than Fairbanks, Alaska, but there lives Jonathan Huff, who has put together an impressive lighting operation worthy of hero status. At a mere 27, he’s likely our youngest hero ever.
Alaska Universal Productions is Fairbanks’ audio/visual multimedia company and the only one of its kind in the interior of that big ol’ state. They handle an array of corporate, concerts, party, and theater upgrades, among other things.
Huff was born in North Dakota, and lived in Arkansas before making his way to Alaska in 1991. “I started doing sound as a freshman in high school in Anchorage, and wound up running a theater program,” he says. As “a tech kid,” he taught himself the basics of lighting there, where “there was no flying system, and we probably had only 30 lights to work with, which taught me how to get a lot out of a tiny system.” He went to the University of Alaska and sought out more training with other live event companies there. “I was lucky to get in touch with the right people at the right time, and worked my way up to full-size concert.”
He actually founded AUP while still in high school in 2003, and was freelancing and subcontracting. “In 2009 I decided to make this my full-time gig.” He moved to Fairbanks after being hired to run the new video scoreboard at the Carlson Center. He also handles the venue’s in-house production
In addition to Huff, AUP has a half-time employee, and the two work in a small shop. “I’m trying to work myself up to need that 20,000-square foot warehouse,” he says. With only 90,000 people, Fairbanks is “a small market, but I work hard to provide for it.” He does it with an assortment of ETC and Martin MAC fixtures (he just picked up six MAC 500s), among the first moving lights that can be locally rented in the city.
“A lot of my work is corporate, and the occasional one-offs and local concerts are handled by us. We just finished a state fair here too.”
Chalk it up to a “crazy college moment.” Andy Tolar saw the light at the end of the proverbial college tunnel as a senior when he let this thought enter his noggin: “I wonder if I could do this?”
The year was 2005, and the company that came of the thought is Design Productions LLC. “I was having more fun doing lighting than going to class,” Tolar laughs. He started lighting churches and community college theater programs. After serving at first as “the guy who did all the CAD designs for tours,” he “really found my niche” in the special event/corporate world.
Design Productions is hometown to the bone, taking care of corporate work, fashion shows, social events, and even dance recitals. Concert experience includes being there for Train’s live album at Birmingham’s WorkPlay venue. This year he’s working a lot of smaller events and serving the community. “I’m all about making every one of my events over the top,” he says. “We’ll typically throw in an extra light or piece of gear to make it perfect, and stay that extra hour. It’s really about making sure our clients are beyond ecstatic.”
Today the company has just fewer than 10 employees at any given time and a warehouse in Birmingham. “We are a big fan of Chauvet and recently bought a few dozen of their Battens. We’ve also picked up some Martin movers like the MAC 250 and the 250 Entours.” With a smile he adds: “We even carry a large assortment of Chandeliers — apparently chandeliers are exploding!”
Console-wise, Tolar prefers ChamSys, developed in the U.K. by some who were behind the Hog II. “It’s done wonders for us, and performs as well as the big names that everyone is familiar with.” On the future: “We’ll continue to grow the lighting side and are now working on video. We’ll continue to add different fixtures, and just keep on running.”
East Coast Lighting & Production Services
We’re very happy,” says Bob Morrissey of ECLPS, the Northeast regional winner. “But to me it’s a win for the team, and not about me. Live event production is not an individual sport.” He notes it’s especially nice as they move into their 40th year of serving the New England area.
The year has included the Newport Jazz & Folk Festival, a corporate event featuring Bon Jovi, and the Mountain Jam Festival at Hunter, NY. “We provided the lighting for the Trey Songz Tour,” he says. “And we provided the conventional lighting for the band Boston at Foxwoods Resort Casino and for Ringo Starr at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston, where we are the house lighting vendor. I also organized a fundraiser for rigging industry veterans Bob Grenier and Lenny Puckett of Ocean State Rigging, and ECLPS is donating the stage lighting for the Sixth Annual Polycystic Kidney Disease Music Festival Benefit in Providence,” which was held Aug. 24.
ECLPS recently bought a bigger building that gives them 15,000 square feet of space to work in. “Equipment-wise we picked up some Clay Paky Sharpys — those are great fixtures.”
Morrissey is a hometown guy — still working in the area he grew up in, Warwick, RI. Morrissey can pinpoint to the day his inspiration to get into the business. It was July 6, 1969, and he found himself at the Newport Folk and Jazz Festival. “That was the last time they let rock bands play,” he says.
Inspired, he got into the business, and his company grabbed hold of a shooting star known as the rock group Boston, which went from playing clubs to worldwide superstar status in the blink of an eye. Other great acts ECLPS has supported include the Pat Travers Band, the J. Geils Band, the Allman Brothers, Jerry Garcia, Joe Cocker and Rhode Island’s own John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band.
A source to their past and future success is that team of his. “They are passionate people who want to be in this business,” Morrissey says. “I’ve just been able to give them the proper environment so they can prosper.”
Intelligent Lighting Creations
Arlington Heights, IL
We’re excited being a Lighting Hometown Hero award finalist,” says Scott Falbe, founder and CEO of Intelligent Lighting Creations (ILC). “Just being nominated with the other great companies is an honor, so we really appreciate everybody who voted for us to get us to this point.”
While majoring in lighting design at the Theatre School at DePaul University in the early 1990s, he saw a need for a company that specialized in automated lighting equipment rentals. He founded the company in 1994 and, in the beginning, focused on automated lighting and cutting-edge control systems, though he himself spent plenty of hours behind the console to the point that clients were asking him to be the sole lighting and rigging vendor for events.
Today, ILC provides rentals for concerts, events, trade shows, and corporate meetings throughout the country. “We spend a lot of time analyzing every job to make sure nothing is overlooked, and that keeps the stress level down and allows us to have fun with our clients.” Their 25 employees are based in a 43,000-square foot warehouse near O’Hare airport. The facility includes a production studio and pre-visualization suite, allowing ILC to plan and prep for shows such as NATO meetings, Apple’s retail sales conference, Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis and tours for Andrew Bird, Mary J. Blige and other artists.
ILC started with four I-Beams and a Compulite Animator. “The Animator was one of the first non-proprietary moving light consoles, and a great solution for our customers,” Falbe notes. Today’s inventory includes grandMA2 consoles and Martin MAC Auras along with the new Vari*Lite VL3515. The goal, Falbe says, is to provide customers with the best solution, rather than simply the most popular or least expensive. “We try hard to see around the corner and identify the best products and quantities.”
There might be occasions when ILC doesn’t have the gear requested for a show, Falbe continues, “but that’s an easy problem to solve. I spend a lot more time making sure we have the right people in place for our clients. I believe it is not the gear that makes us different, but the people we have in place to support our customers’ vision.”
Midnite Hour Productions
Midnite Hour returns to the regional winner’s circle, having been here in 2009, and they have had a Hero-worthy year. “We’re expanding,” reports president Marty Anderson. “We have new equipment and new hires, and we’re pushing boldly into LED walls and LED technology … pretty much all LED,” he laughs, noting that the term “lighting” “has now become pretty broad.”
There have been many exciting projects. “We just did a show for [Canadian DJ] Deadmou5 that involved giant LED walls and a lot of scenic lighting.” It was part of the first annual VELD Music Festival, which brought a long roster of international DJs to Toronto Aug. 4-5. A Justin Bieber Christmas concert and a Budweiser Super Bowl commercial were also among the past year’s highlights.
Midnite Hour also continues its support of the MuchMusic Video Awards. “That involves truck after truck of LED video screens, and there’s not a proper wall in sight,” Anderson continues. “Others might just square a wall off, but we work with the scenic designer, creating unusual screen looks.” That tends to be much more “hands-on” and “complicated,” partly “because it involves custom software.”
Anderson grew up on a farm near Brantford, Ontario, and spent his youth as a musician. “I was always renting gear, so I bought my own P.A., and that’s when this rollercoaster started.” Chasing festivals across the country, event organizers noticed how well his system worked, and they started hiring him to run sound for other acts. He quickly added lights, and in 1994, he opened his first warehouse.
Today his warehouse is 25,000 square feet and bulging at the seams, keeping 40 employees busy. Along with lighting and video, they offer soft goods and rigging services.
“At the beginning, being a one-stop shop was very important,” he says. “But honestly, we do less of that now because you can’t be great at everything to everybody. So the focus today is on lighting and video.”
Precise Corporate Staging
We are very humbled,” says PCS’s David Stern. The company has been in the Hometown Hero Winner’s Circle for lighting, and they’ve been there for sound. But this year, in a Parnelli first, they’ll be on the Parnelli ballot for top Hometown Hero bragging rights in both categories, all in the same year.
Stern notes that while they started out initially as a sound company, today their lighting capabilities are no afterthought. “We’re up to 890 moving lights, having added 100 [Martin] MAC 101 Moving LEDs and 100 Chauvet Professional Q-Wash 560Z-LED fixtures this year — those are good numbers for a dumb guy from New Jersey!”
Nothing dumb about recent gigs: they recently pulled off Glenn Beck’s Restoring Love rally, which sold out Cowboys Stadium with a crowd of 65,000 people. For that event, PCS provided 172 Martin MAC 2000 Profiles, 44 Martin MAC 2000 Wash fixtures, 56 Procan 8 light Blinders and six Lycian M2 followspots along with 1,000 feet of Tyler GT Truss and four grandMA consoles.
Other notable events include PCS’ support for the Nuclear Cowboyz show, which combines stunts by motocross riders with rock music, dancers and pyro. “We’re set to do two more tours, including The Women of Faith tour,” Stern adds.
Stern grew up in the small town of Dumont, NJ, near Hackensack. During his high school days, the New Jersey club circuit was on fire, and he kept busy working for club bands at night handling sound and/or lighting duties.
He would work with Meat Loaf before eventually becoming keyboard tech for Bon Jovi in 1984. He was there for their first world tour opening for the Scorpions in the U.S. and KISS in Europe.
In 1980, on July 4, he met Marla, his future wife. They married shortly after. Twenty years later, the two formed Precise Corporate Staging. Marla’s experience was lent to the accounting side, and they turned their home into a business. “Monday night was cable-making night with the kids,” Marla says.
“Our philosophy is, we partner with our clients,” Stern says. “We help them invest in their business. When their business grows, our business grows.” They work show-to-show, but also year-to-year. “We want to create events and relationships where we both win.”
Got a favorite 2012 Hometown Hero finalist? Vote for them at www.parnelliawards.com.