17th Annual Parnelli Awards

by PLSN Staff • in
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  • February 2018
• Created: February 16, 2018

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Bobby ‘Boomer’ Thrasher accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th Annual Parnelli Awards in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Lennie Sirmopoulos)

Ricky ‘Chainsaw’ LaPointe with Boomer and others at the 17th Annual Parnelli Awards.

The 17th annual Parnelli Awards gala, held Friday, Jan. 26 at the Anaheim Hilton during NAMM 2018, honored Bobby “Boomer” Thrasher, Jonathan Smeeton and John Stadius with the Lifetime Achievement Award, Visionary Award and Audio Innovator Award, respectively.

‡‡         Bobby “Boomer” Thrasher

Billy Joel, who Thrasher has worked with for nearly 40 years, sent in a video tribute to his longtime production manager. “There’s nothing he can’t do,” Joel said, noting how Thrasher had assisted with everything from fixing Joel’s bikes, boats and cars. Then the laughs started coming when Joel said, “I had my hips replaced last year, and many don’t know that Bobby did that. When my daughter was born, he delivered her, too.”

After the joking, Joel went on to offer his sincere gratitude, for “a long and fruitful collaboration. We’ve all relied on you to help you make the trains run on time. From Russia to Manila, Berlin to Cape Town, and around the world dozens of times, you’ve been there, leading the team with your quiet strength. Your guys would go the extra mile for you, and so would I.”

Before Thrasher stepped up to receive his honor, presenters Steve Cohen, longtime LD for Billy Joel, and Rick “Chainsaw” LaPointe kept the tributes coming, with LaPointe underscoring the total devotion Thrasher was able to inspire among his crew. “He fought hard for his crew. And his crew would be there for anything he needed,” LaPointe said. “We would follow him down any given path, any dark alley and any time of day or night.”

Jonathan Smeeton (Photo by Lennie Sirmopoulos)

‡‡         Jonathan Smeeton

Other presenters included Eric Loader and David Milly, who welcomed renowned lighting designer Jonathan Smeeton to the stage. Smeeton, who has lit top acts since he got his start at the dawn of the rock concert era as Liquid Len back in the 1960’s, and worked with a swath of artists from Peter Gabriel to Taylor Swift, seems happy to continue blazing new trails for others to follow. Loader and Milly joked that Smeeton has been around for so long that he egged Thomas Edison on to invent the light bulb just so he could throw ink on his bulb.

John Stadius, Audio Innovator, at the 17th Annual Parnelli Awards

‡‡         John Stadius

Presenter James Gordon, group CEO of DiGiCo parent company Audiotonix, cited John Stadius’ penchant for a blend of scientific curiosity and taste for danger when he tested the theory of whether the fearsome barracuda would swim away with part of a limb if it were sporting a bright, shiny wristwatch. (In Stadius’ case, thankfully, the fish opted against karmic payback for all the other fish Stadius has caught in his travels.)


Richard Fernandez, tour manager for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, with the Parnelli for Tour Manager of the Year (Photo by Lennie Sirmopoulos)

‡‡         Remembering Tom…

Tour manager Richard Fernandez, last year’s Lifetime Achievement honoree, and production manager Chris Adamson were among several members of the Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers camp to receive awards this year. The late rocker had appeared at the 2016 Parnelli gala to give a heart-felt tribute to his crew at the Parnelli Awards before they all hit the road one last time for Petty’s final tour in 2017. Along with Fernandez and Adamson, FOH mixer Robert Scovill, monitor mixer Greg Looper, system tech Vic Wagner and production companies VER and Sound Image were all honored with Parnelli Awards this year by PLSN and FRONT of HOUSE readers.


Executive Producer Terry Lowe

‡‡         …And, Of Course, Rick

Executive Producer Terry Lowe took the stage, calling out the award’s namesake, Rick “Parnelli” O’Brien’s wife and daughter in the audience and acknowledging members of the UNLV Technical Entertainment scholarship fund, pointing out that all who attend the Parnelli Awards support the future of our industry. He also called out the three lifetime honorees — of Smeeton, he quipped: “Jonathan did some absolute amazing things in the 1960s and 1970s — most impressively, remembering the 1960s and 1970s.”


Tony Levin, renowned bassist and host of the 17th Annual Parnelli Awards

‡‡         Other Luminaries

Hosted by bassist Tony Levin and featuring performances by pianist/vocalist Kiki Ebsen, rock photographer Neal Preston was also on hand to sign copies of his 40-year retrospective, Exhilarated and Exhausted, during the cocktail reception and after-party. Along with Preston, additional awards presenters included Chris Adamson, Steve Cohen, James Gordon, Kevin Lyman, Susan Rose, Céline Royer, Nook Schoenfeld and Ed Wannebo.

‡‡         First Time at NAMM

Many first-timers to the show and to NAMM seemed to especially appreciate the show. Royer, an up-and-coming LD, commented, “Thanks again for the opportunity, it was awesome,” and spoke of being grateful for the networking opportunities that come with the Parnellis.

Sponsors like VUE Audiotechnik have already committed to being back for 2019, and newcomers TLS Productions’ Carl Kedzierski said: “As first time attendees at NAMM, we were impressed.”

“The Timeless team is to be commended for creating such an amazing sense of community around the 17th annual Parnelli Awards,” said Joe Lamond, president and CEO of NAMM. “Honoring the people and companies who ‘make the trains run on time’ at concerts and events around the globe is so important, and to have it all happen at The NAMM Show was a dream come true for me personally.”

And the show was about reuniting old friends. After, Levin got to sit with members of the Joel crew after not seeing each other for decades. “We shared stories and the drink they introduced to me — Fernet Branca — which I’ve been drinking ever since! The show was a lot of fun.”

“The Parnellis were a fantastic opportunity to catch up with old pals,” Adamson added. “The move to NAMM proved to be a huge success, and the production was outstanding. I will definitely be back next year.”

But the night in so many ways, belonged to Thrasher and his Joel crew — over 40 members of the band, crew, and his family came out to the event. “We really had a good time,” tour manager Max Loubiere said afterwards. “You guys did a great job!”

The recipients of Parnelli Awards at the 17th annual ceremony follow:

  • Lighting Company of the Year: VER / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Lighting Designer of the Year: Butch Allen / Paramore
  • Lighting Director of the Year: Andy Knighton / Rascal Flatts
  • Hometown Hero Lighting Company of the Year: Brown Note Productions
  • Set/Scenic Designer of the Year: LeRoy Bennett /Lady Gaga
  • Sound Company of the Year: Sound Image / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • FOH Mixer of the Year: Robert Scovill / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Monitor Mixer of the Year: Greg Looper / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Audio System Tech of the Year: Vic Wagner / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Hometown Hero Sound Company of the Year: Special Event Services (SES)
  • Video Production Company of the Year: Moo TV / Jason Aldean
  • Video Director of the Year: Steve Fatone / Bruno Mars
  • Staging Company of the Year: Premier Global Production / Country Thunder Festival
  • Rigging Company of the Year: Atlanta Rigging Systems / Garth Brooks
  • Set Construction Company of the Year: Tait Towers / Lady Gaga
  • Pyro Company of the Year: Strictly FX / Coldplay
  • The Patrick Stansfield Production Manager of the Year: Chris Adamson / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • The Patrick Stansfield Tour Manager of the Year: Richard Fernandez / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Coach Company of the Year: Four Seasons Coach Leasing
  • Trucking Company of the Year: Roadshow Services
  • Freight Forwarding Company of the Year: Rock-It Cargo
  • Indispensable Technology — Lighting: Philips/Vari-Lite/VL6000 Beam
  • Indispensable Technology — Audio: Sennheiser/Digital 6000
  • Indispensable Technology — Video: CreateLED/3 Dimensional LED Display
  • Indispensable Technology — Staging: Stageline Mobile Stage/Screen Support Package

What They Are Saying About the 17th Annual Parnelli Awards ….


“The Parnellis were a fantastic opportunity to catch up with old pals. The move to NAMM proved to be a huge success – I will definitely be back next year, even if I don’t win an award! The production was outstanding.”
Chris Adamson
Parnelli Production Manager of the Year
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers / John Mayer


“We had a really good time, and you guys did a great job!”
Max Loubiere
Billy Joel Tour Manager


“The Timeless team is to be commended for creating such an amazing sense of community around the 17th annual Parnelli Awards. Honoring the people and companies who ‘make the trains run on time’ at concerts and events around the globe is so important, and to have it all happen at The NAMM Show was a dream come true for me personally.”
Joe Lamond
President and CEO of NAMM


“I would say it’s safe to say we would like to continue our participation for 2019.”
Sara Elliott
Chief Operating Officer
VUE Audiotechnik


“It was nice to be able to be [there] at this time of year to accept the award. To catch up with [Jonathan] Smeeton, who I’ve been honored to work with in the past, was really nice. What a great show this year. Good move bringing it here. Thanks for doing this.”
Butch Allen
Lighting Designer of the Year


“I want to again thank you and the guys for having me in as host. It was an exciting and fun experience for me, mostly due to your professionalism and attention to detail – much appreciated.

“After the show, I happened to hook up with some friends from Billy Joel’s production crew, whom I hadn’t seen in decades… and the shared stories of the drink they introduced to me (Fernet-Branca) which I’ve been drinking ever since (!). That was a lot of fun. So was chatting with Jonathan [Smeeton] — it had been a long time. Renewed connections added to the night being special for me.”
Tony Levin
17th Annual Parnelli Awards Emcee
Bass Player for King Crimson, Peter Gabriel


“As always, we had an excellent time at The Parnelli Awards. As first time attendees at NAMM, we were also impressed with that aspect, too.”
Carl Kedzierski
Director of Operations & Marketing
TLS Productions, Inc.


“It was awesome! Thanks [PLSN Editor] Nook [Schoenfeld] for introducing me to all those amazing people. Take care, and hope to see you guys soon somehow on another adventure.”
Céline Royer
Lighting Designer, Director
Linkin Park, Jennifer Lopez


“I knew we were on to something when we developed the VL 6000 Beam, but to be honored by the Parnelli voters as having the Indispensable Technology Award for best lighting innovation, is just the ultimate testament to what we have accomplished as a manufacturer.”
Ray Whitton
Philips Vari-Lite
Sales Manager Western US


“Well now, what a party it was! Having your name recited amongst that list of talent and skill was truly a reward…having your name called out as the winner was absolutely breathtaking! Having to get up on a stage in front of that room full of Royalty, was heart pounding!

“I’m sure I didn’t say anything correctly and I barely even remember the ascend onto the stage due to nerves. What a thrill! Thank You guys for all of the writing and support you guys provide!”
Andy Knighton
2017 Lighting Director of the Year
Rascal Flatts


“Thanks for everything, including bringing us in on time… what a difference a year makes. I thought everything was just fine and a really good night.”
Stan Miller
FOH Neil Diamond
2009 Parnelli Audio Innovator Honoree


“The 2018 Parnelli Awards gala was easily one of the best in its 17-year history. Host legendary bassist Tony Levin kept the show moving and livened the 650 attendees with amazing stories, as did special honorees Bobby ‘Boomer’ Thrasher, Jonathan Smeeton and John Stadius, while the move to the new venue at NAMM went without a hitch. But for me, a highlight was the pre/post-show cocktail parties, which brings the industry together in a congenial atmosphere of sharing and good old-fashioned networking. Yeah!”
George Petersen
FOH Magazine Editor


“The Parnelli Awards dinner this year was a well-produced event, and our guests were very appreciative. I think all involved parties feel the move to Anaheim this year, co-incident with the NAMM Show, is good for all involved. Our Professional Division’s general manager (Akira Mochimaru, PhD.) was present, and this was his first time to attend the Parnelli Awards. Speaking for us “audio guys,” it was touching to see both Leo Beranek (a former MIT Professor) and Ed Long (inventor of Time Align™ technology) honored during your event’s memorial segment on those industry leaders that we lost during the previous year. Thanks again.”
David Scheirman
BOSE Professional
Director, Global Concert & Rental Business










To download a PDF of the Parnelli  recap as seen in the Feb. 2018 issue of PLSN, CLICK HERE.


The 17th Annual Parnelli Awards production crew. Congrats to all, see you next year!





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