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Kid Rock Opens Little Caesars Arena in Detroit

by PLSN Staff • in
  • October 2017
  • Production Profile
• Created: October 12, 2017
Kid Rock on the thrust provided by Gallagher Staging

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LD Makes Use of State-of-the-Art House System for Six Sold-Out Shows

In retrospect, there was no question: Who else could have opened a new stadium in Detroit but Kid Rock? The hometown favorite sold out the new 20,000-seat sports complex’s six dates in mere hours. And, while all the shows went well, a few of the early ones didn’t go perfectly, as longtime Kid Rock LD Nook Schoenfeld was the guinea pig taking a brand new technologically-advanced stadium out for its first ride.

The SkyDeck in the ceiling mapped per the LD's request.

As the arena was being built, word of this remarkable place started leaking out last year. Schoenfeld, the editor of PLSN, told his friend Eric Wade of Crossfade Design, who was heavily involved in its development, that he wanted to do a story on the grand opening when it happened. Months later, Schoenfeld found out the act was Kid Rock and he’d be behind the lighting board for the big opening.

Schoenfeld then called on Wade for a hand programming the actual tour, and they met at Upstaging’s previz studio outside Chicago. Once they were done programming the touring rig, Wade took Nook’s show cues and integrating everything else hanging in the building on a separate console to match cues. “The entire building is all about Kid Rock for this opening,” Wade says. They have the colors and matching themes in the pedestrian concourse (the Via) and inside the arena. The production utilized the 160 moving lights installed in the arena. Wade spec’d those movers as Robe BMFL Blade and BMFL Beam Wash, with some Super Sharpys on the rooftop. “The in-house designer is Robert Wertheimer, and he wanted some Martin MAC Axiom and Quantum Washes. In the end, we created a huge audience look,” Wade says. While touring acts will still be bringing in their own audio, lighting and video, if they choose to utilize all the other lights in the arena — they can “rent” them.

Once the show was developed, Kid Rock played three “practice runs” in neighboring city arenas before coming to the new venue. But it’s more than just nine “one-offs,” as Rock has a new album coming out in November, and most of what the creative team put together for these gigs will be part of the tour.

The Sh*t Show cue, with pyro, sideshow acts, lasers and everything moving and strobing. Photos by Todd Kaplan.

‡‡         Can’t Be “Too Big”

Schoenfeld was directed by Rock to start the show on “11.” “I want a sh*t show,” Rock told his LD. “I want everything on for the first number — lights, video, lasers, pyro — everything.” Schoenfeld thought he obliged; but Rock, a detail-oriented man, had to have a conversation with him after the first show. You see, amid the blinding, epileptic seizure-inducing spectacular Schoenfeld created, Rock somehow noticed that his disco ball, which hung more than two stories above his head, was, in fact, dormant during the opening. “So the next night I made sure that was turned on too,” Nook shrugs.

The concert opened with Rock’s “Greatest Show on Earth,” and boy did he make the case for that visually. Lights, lasers, pyro, confetti, guys on stilts, little people, fire eaters, strippers/dancers, more pyro … oh, and that disco ball. Then there is Rock, as a 25-foot-tall silhouette on a kabuki that goes up into a sniffer to start the show, revealing a wall of lasers that leaves the crowd gasping. After the shock and awe opening, Rock shouts, “Thank you and good night” and leaves the stage as the audience sits dazed and confused. After several minutes, Rock returns where a podium has appeared and launches in what is either his Senate stump speech or a big running joke (with him it could be both). Nook tied the house video ribbons in, along with scantily dressed flag girls, for the rousing podium speech, and once that was out of the way, the party began.

GLP JDC 1 strobes wash the arena with color

The show included songs from every era of Rock’s career, and the diversity of that gave Nook a lot of opportunity to move in and out of different looks. Big crowd pleasers, though, were the covers, and Rock’s version of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” was a highlight. Longtime Kid Rock collaborator Matthew Shafer, a.k.a. Uncle Kracker, brought the house down when he appeared to help Rock sing the seasonal anthem, “All Summer Long.” Kracker returned later to perform a cover of “Drift Away” to a montage of musical artists lost this year (cue lighting looks to get weepy to). What the arena was capable of was
really shown off during the song “Born Free.” That started with a rare quiet moment, with Rock at the piano with a single light and the stage covered in red white and blue lasers, but blew up into a big moment, complete with ceiling rigging system that featured 1,700 LED lights from Acclaim Lighting, a company affiliated with Elation Professional. When Schoenfeld realized what it was capable of, he said to Wade, “Just tell me you can make it light up as the American flag — anything after that is gravy.” And that’s what he did during that song. The roof — not like anything found in any arena in the world — was also put to use creating cool psychedelic looks on other tunes. Otherwise it was a gag-heavy show, including a huge inflatable hand with middle finger extended that appeared between two stripper poles. Kid Rock closed with his 1998 hit “Bawitdaba” which somehow was as big as the opening. There was no sitting down during this show for anybody.

Uncle Kracker Joins on for All Summer Long

Rock’s production manager Tony Moon took a walk through the building 10 days before the first show — a walk through that necessitated him wearing a hardhat and full construction attire. Still, he said he was confident the venue would be ready for opening, and it was — mostly. Meanwhile, he had all the pieces for the show in place. “A lot of time is spent doing due diligence to give Bob [Ritchie, a.k.a. Kid Rock] the options to make a decision both in terms of what his vision is and the budget.” Most production aspects went out to multiple bidders, though the team tends to stick with those who they know and trust.

Upstaging and Sound Image are just two venders they have turned to again and again. Solotech took care of everything video, as Todd LePere, who now works there, has been Rock’s account rep for 15 years. “We went with who we know — you can find gear anyway, but I can count on my friends, and my friends live where I live or somewhere close,” says the Minneapolis-based Schoenfeld. Gallagher Staging, a 20-year associate of this camp, supplied the creatively-designed and flexible set, automated lifts and the soft goods.

Robe Pointes provide the pencil beams of light

But the new house was untried, and while Rock wanted to see what it would look like, Schoenfeld was too busy trying to just make it all happen to ever show him. Two days before the first show, he asked Schoenfeld what the extra audience lights looked like. Schoenfeld replied, “I don’t know — I was here all night trying to program everything and now I’m toast,” and said there wasn’t time to show him anything. Nook explains, “The edict from the boss was that if I was going to incorporate 25,000 more channels of DMX into my show, I’d better make it a party. ‘I want the lights moving, strobing and chasing colors when you do, and make it big.’ I told him that at this point he just had trust me, and I would make that happen. Wade and I programmed ‘til doors, and indeed, it was a helluva opening night party.”

Then there is the arena ceiling. “The ceiling alone is a spectacle the likes of which have never been done and will set the bar for the future of every arena built in America,” says Schoenfeld. “There are 160 moving lights installed on a custom-designed ARS [Atlanta Rigging Systems] motion system, all tied into a giant network where three grandMAs run the entire facility. There are mounted MDG foggers in the ceiling. The roof is all eight-foot bays with a SkyDeck tension grid between them — think of a trampoline type net between the beams. There’s plenty of space to be on your knees and make a basket. We hung about 100 points in three hours with eight guys up at 100 feet pull to the steel. It is a Rigger’s Heaven.” (For more details on the SkyDeck tension grid, see story, page 71).

Multiple Roof chases accented the stage looks

‡‡         “What Is This, a High School Prom?”

One of the restrictions was the way the arena is set up, and the need to fill it to 270 degrees. That ended up shorting the stage a bit more than they’d like. “The outer ramps went into the seating to get us to at least 100 feet wide,” says Moon. “ Bob doesn’t like hand rails on the ego risers, but at the third show, we had a jumper that ran down the ramp and almost got to the artist. I emailed him the next night and said we were putting those up.” There were no complaints.

But Schoenfeld saved a bit on lighting. “I’m the master of taking a very little amount of lighting and spreading it wide, to create an arena look on a typical $20,000 theater tour budget,” Schoenfeld says. “But then you add not only the additions I mentioned, but video projection, screen I-Mag projection services and all the other stuff, and it becomes big. I give credit to my boss — he wants a big show, but knows he doesn’t need a [300 GLP Fixture] Gaga-sized wall of lights. We do fine with 30 of them. With him [Kid Rock], he is the show. I put him up with the Bonos and the Jaggers as far as having a crowd eat out of his hand.”

Dancers back the Senatorial candidates speech

Going in, no member of the team was naïve enough to think it would all go smoothly. “As the first show was only hours away, our production was in a scramble as we couldn’t turn off all the house lights in the arena,” Schoenfeld says. “My artist is very sensitive about everything being black before he starts, so this was a big deal. That day they had just installed new lights in a club upstage center located in the upper mezzanine. They were hardwired with no DMX control by any network hooked up yet. We simply couldn’t turn them off. Luckily all the house blacks were on an automation system that ARS had installed that could reach to the ceiling. I had the house lift the blacks up 20 feet off the floor to mask the light, and the problem was temporarily solved until the next day when they could sort it out. I ended up gelling any light we couldn’t turn off from my console. I even had control to dim the luxury suites to 10% intensity.”

The finger makes a comeback from the 90's tours

Two shows later, there wasn’t anything funny when suddenly the 160 moving lights and ceiling crammed with LEDs lost control in the middle of the show. Rock wondered aloud from the stage if this was “a f***king high school prom,” and a few minutes later, when it still wasn’t resolved, Rock just continued with the show. “I sent someone to the roof to douse all the lights, which took five painful minutes. It turned out the Ethernet lines to the roof had somehow melted during the show, taking the house consoles out of network,” Schoenfeld says shaking his head. “Someone — perhaps a disgruntled worker or a drunk fan who got under the bleachers — had taken a lighter and melted the single control cable. I found it amazing that one 50-dollar cable could take out ten million dollars’ worth of lighting in one fell swoop. But sh*t happens.”

Moon adds that besides those issues, Rock had notes every night. “We have a lot of gags, and I needed to make sure everyone was doing their job,” he says. Every night he got a list of notes from Bob on what needed to improve, and “every night that list got shorter.”

The Sweet Tea Trio joins the band on stage

‡‡         Lasers, Special Effects

Special effects — and there were a lot of them — were handled by Pyro Engineering’s Tom Brewer. “This show has everything but bubbles,” he says laughing. “So many artists say, ‘That’s too much,’ when I show them the list of possibilities. Bob [Kid Rock] asked Nook and I for a list of everything we could provide, and where in the show we thought we might use them. When all was said and done, his command was ‘Let’s bring it all,’ and after we brought that, he said ‘Let’s bring out some more.’” Another thing Rock splurged on was the Kabuki/Sniffer gag to start the show, which was provided by Tait Towers. Solotech supplied a pair of 20K Barco projectors to shine on a kabuki silk drape. When the drape fell, the sniffer sucked it up into the air.

“We have been using lasers for the last four tours. But I wanted much more this year, and that included audience scanning units that could split their beams so that half could be in the crowd while half could be in the air. Then we placed the big guns, the 20W full color lasers, on the deck behind risers,” explains the LD. “The artist wanted visual evidence of what I was going to do before he would okay the cost on renting anything. In this case, I showed him what Timberlake had done with the audience scanning ability, and he was all for it. I sold him on the sniffer gag by showing him how Michael Jackson used it 20 years ago. Short of a conveyer belt on stage, I can’t think of many gags we are missing. We have the total rock show.”

The greatest show on earth opens with side show actsm pyro and lasers

And about those lasers: Schoenfeld turned to Howard Ungerleider’s PDI FX team headed by Scott Wilson for the nine lasers used in the show. Ungerleider, Rush’s LD for four decades, knows a bit about lasers. Since Rush retired two years ago, he has been keeping busy with various corporate projects and special consulting on touring concerts. “I wanted our team to support Nook and be able to do what he wanted, and that included using the lasers to scan the audience,” he says. “While laser audience scanning has been legal for five years, it requires federal licensing to do so. Safety is paramount, and that’s why we recommended the Pangolin Pass system coupled with RTI PIKO RGB 11 cubes.” There were six of these units placed along the upstage truss over the stage. Down at stage level on raised platforms sat two PDI custom turret optical projection systems with scanners at stage right and stage left, along with a high power Kvant Spectrum system on center.

The senatorial candidate's speech

PDI initiated the ability for Schoenfeld to use lasers with optical glass. “This allows you to create effects that a scanner cannot, like optical beam splitter effects and 180-degree diffraction. These are the reasons why we build our own systems — we opted for optical glass because when creating a 180° effect or beam matrix array, the beams are rock solid without flicker, and appear like an architectural addition in midair. PDI’s work was well received by Nook and Rock. “I probably used them in 16 out of our 22 songs,” the designer admits.

There was a lot of pressure to deliver, and everyone did. “Every night it got better, and every night the boss wanted more this and more that,” Schoenfeld says. And that’s precisely what the audience got, a big rock show and more.

 Nook and the rest of the Kid Rock crew

Kid Rock 2017 Shows at Little Caesars Arena (LCA), Detroit


  • Production Manager: Tony Moon
  • Production Designer/LD/Programmer: Nook Schoenfeld
  • Lighting Programmer Eric Wade
  • Lighting Co: Upstaging
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Robin Sheridan
  • Lighting Dimmer Tech: Andrew Cimerman
  • Production Assistant: Suzin Moon
  • Video Co: Solotech
  • Video Director: Bill Crooks
  • LED/Video Techs/Cameras: Pier-Luc L-Saindon, Philippe Benjamin, Charles Manning, Jared James Odom
  • Laser Co: Production Design International (PDI)
  • Laser Techs: Scott Wilson, Bryan Wilkinson
  • Pyro Co: Pyro Engineering
  • Pyro Crew: Tom Brewer (shooter), Chuck Majeske, Brandon Messersmith, Luis Torres
  • Tour Manager: John Moffat
  • Stage Manager: Tim Bolin
  • Bob’s Personal Assistant: Chris “Bravo” Blahovec
  • Venue Security: Paul Wiedenmann
  • Rigger: Derek Purciful
  • Carpenters: Scotty Wienclaw, Sam Serrata, Rami Hilal, Daniel Tamas

 GLP X4  Bar 20's form a roof over the stage


Lighting (from Upstaging):

  • 2               grandMA2 consoles
  • 36            Martin MAC Auras
  • 17            Robe Pointes
  • 16            GLP JDC1 strobes
  • 11            GLP X4 Bar 20 strips
  • 12            Chauvet Strike 4’s
  • 19            ETC Source Four Lekos
  • 6               ETC Source Four pars
  • 2               1000w Nook Lites
  • 6               DF-50 hazers
  • 500’        Various truss
  • 36            CM chain motor hoists
  • 24            Stagemaker Hoists
  • Police Beacons, mirror balls

Solotech provided the video support

Video (from Solotech):

  • 1               Saco S12mm LED video wall (29.5’ x 17.5’)
  • 4               HD Christie Roadster 20K projectors (2 for side screens; 2 on midstage truss for the opening)
  • 1               2ME HD Ross Carbonite Black switcher
  • 1               HD Grass Valley LDX86 w/ 99x Lens
  • 2               HD Grass Valley LDX86 w/ 22x Lenses
  • 2               Panasonic Robotic Cameras w/ control
  • 1               Marshall Mini Camera


Pyro Engineering blew up over 400 pieces of product during the show

Pyro (from Pyro Engineering):

  • 4               CO2 heads
  • 4               Stadium shot streamer cannons
  • 6               Big shot streamer cannons
  • 6               Confetti blowers
  • 6               Dragonfly heads (propane)
  • 400         Various pyro elements

PDI lasers and a simple back light start off the last song

Lasers (from PDI): 

  • 6               RTI Piko 11W audience scanning lasers
  • 1               Kvant Spectrum 20W four color laser
  • 2               PDI Turret 20W lasers
  • 1               Pangolin Controller
  • 2               High End Systems F-100 foggers
  • 2               Reel EFX fans

 Get in the Pit and try and love some one

Staging (from Gallagher Staging):

  • 120’        Grill deck, ramps and risers across stage
  • 8               16’ thrusts added to house stage
  • 1               Lift for podium gag
  • Misc. stage, monitor, pyro and dancer risers
  • Barricade
  • Custom Drapery and riser scrims

The LD utilized Martin Mac Auras as key lights for the band

Soft Goods/Automation (From Tait Towers):

  • 1               60’ drape and sniffer apparatus

 A 25 foot tall silhouette is projected to start the show

 All photos by Todd Kaplan

A giant flag tumbled down from Chabuki Solenoids


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