Review + gallery photos by: Mark Steinwachs
Feature photos + video courtesy of Andy Tennille Photography

Mark Steinwachs spent 12 years on the road touring with all forms of music and theater acts and is now the General Manager at Bandit Lites, an industry leader in concert lighting production.

After a few months of writing for GoodBAMMSho I’m finally doing my first concert review. Widespread Panic was at the Ascend Amphitheatre in Nashville for two nights and I was there for the first one on September 5th. I stood at dimmer beach and heard, “House lights go. House lights go,” over the radios. A moment later they blinked out and the crowd roared, knowing what was coming next. The band launched into their first song and the people in the audience became a sea of undulating bodies moving with the music.

That was at 8:00 PM, but I had arrived at the venue twelve hours earlier to meet up with my Bandit crew, ready to help them load in. Let’s go back to the beginning and see how we got to showtime.

8:00AM: Crew bus arrives with the festival trucks following shortly thereafter. The other half of the lighting rig is in a third trailer already onsite that we had loaded at Bandit on Friday.

8:45 AM: Paul Hoffman, the LD for the band; Andy French, crew chief for Bandit; Mike Smith, Production Manager for the band; and Mark, the head rigger at the venue, mark the points where all the motors will go. Most of the stagehands are there and we are all waiting for 9:00 AM when the first truck will start to be unloaded.

This load-in will be a little different for the lighting crew. Andy has been out with this rig for most of the year, but there have been some changes in the crew and the two other people out for the show, Chase and Terese, both have not seen this rig yet. While I am there for purposes of blog writing, I am not going to stand back and watch it all happen around me, so drop a third new guy on the rig into the mix. This is where Bandit preps help. We all know the color codes of trusses and cases; we’ve all seen the plots. Andy gives a few last-minute instructions (for me, the order of the racks at dimmer beach), and away we go.

9:00 AM: The first truck starts to dump. Because of the festival rig the last couple of shows, all the gear comes in slightly out of order from a normal, full production day, but the Widespread crew is way too experienced to let a little thing like that throw them off. Cable cases and distros are coming my way and I waste no time getting them opened and un-lidded.

Everything is rolling along smoothly. Terese has the upstage truss. Chase has the midstage truss. Paul is building the downstage truss. Andy normally does the beach but since I am there, he jumps to the video truss.

I’m getting all the cable out and plugged in, all set for when they are ready for it to go on the truss. Another part of the job at dimmers is running the motors. Amongst my cable running, I jump to the control and run motors up and down for the guys (and gal) as needed.

After a couple hours of smooth, we hit a snag. No biggie, this stuff happens. Swap X and Y, then suss out a data issue, get the ladders on in case we need to climb and send the truss up. Remember what I said about the crew being really experienced? That comes into play here. Lighting is a bit behind because of the few glitches, but there’s no yelling or raised voices. The backline guys go about their business building in front of the trusses, giving us room to work. While all of this is going on, we’ve hit …

Noon: Terese is still working on her truss at this point and Chase has moved on to getting the floor towers ready. The downstage is built and Paul has his FOH set up and the snake is being run. It’s a long run at the venue and we have about 3 feet to spare (of a 300-foot cable!).

1:00 PM: The trusses are all up and trimmed. Chase and Terese are getting the towers tipped and in place. I’m running the last bit of cable. The audio boys start to make some noise, tuning their PA. Terese is putting out the hazers; Andy and I are flipping Robe BMFLs. Chase is plugging in the towers, and Paul is at FOH checking his stuff there.

1:25 PM: The rig is up and in. Time for lunch!

After lunch it’s time for the lighting crew to wait. Wait for the show to start. Wait for Paul to tell us if any gear goes down. Wait for weather stuff, if it happens. Wait. Wait. Hurry up and wait. There is a soundcheck somewhere in here and still we wait. Andy pulls out some Chromeo and we enjoy some “hipster yacht music” as the guitar tech calls it. Back to things running smoothly.

5:15 PM: Time to get dinner. Why is this a big deal? Two reasons. First reason—two words: Bread Pudding. Seriously, it was damn yummy. The second reason, the lighting crew was still in catering when the call came over the radio, “Weather is coming.” We all get up and head to the stage.

5:30 PM: Doors should be open, but they are on a hold because of the possible storm front moving through. It’s small, but if it hits us, it’s bringing 50-mile-an-hour winds and rain. We cover the beach and bring in the video wall, taking about three-quarters of it down.

Wait. Wait. Wait. No rain, no wind. Nada. Better to be safe than sorry. Doors open and the crowd files in. We get the call to put the video wall back up and away we go. Andy helps Paul with some focus positions on stage and we wait the last few minutes until …

8:00 PM: “House lights go. House lights go.”

Everything seems to be running smoothly. I say “seems” because if the audio or backline guys are having any issues, it doesn’t show (experience, people). I hang out at the beach looking up at the rig. Nothing is amiss, so I wander to FOH. Paul’s fingers dart over the console as he runs the show a bit more free-formed than most LDs because of the band’s ability to change things on the fly. The show looks great. It is like two shows within one. Paul uses the towers and floor package, then the trusses separately to give two different looks, and then brings them all together throughout.

While the fans enjoy the show, the lighting crew does more waiting. And when you are crew, you would rather wait to be busy than be busy. As long as we are hanging out looking at our phones or people watching, then all is right with our gear. And today, all is right with our gear.

11:00 PM: Curfew. Due to the late start, though, the band blows through that and keeps going. Curfew? We don’ need no stinkin’ curfew.

11:20 PM: The band is offstage and since they are there again on Sunday, there is no load-out. We bring the video wall back in. Cover up the floor lights.

11:45 PM: It’s time for good-byes. The guys head to find the runner van and I walk to my car. Another day and another show. The lights looked good. The band sounded good. The fans danced their asses off.

Let’s do it all again tomorrow, shall we?

More on Widespread Panic:
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