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Wayne Kwiat

Nook Schoenfeld • July 2019NextGen • July 11, 2019

Wayne Kwiatt

In our continuing series of Parnelli NextGen nominees, we present Wayne Kwiat. A touring lighting technician-turned-all-around-project- manager, he’s someone to watch.

The road is full of touring techs who once aspired to be musicians, or to act on stage thrilling the audience. Whether they didn’t quite have the musical chops, acting ability or realized they could make more money on the other end of the microphone, they ventured into the technical side of the entertainment field to make a career out of it.

But how many people do we know who went to college to become a professional dancer, only to become interested in the lighting field and head in that direction? Then went on to receive their 15 minutes of viral video fame on YouTube as the “Dancing Roadie” on a Coldplay tour 10 years ago?

Meet Wayne Kwiat, the subject of this month’s NextGen profile, who had distinguished himself for excellence in his field as a project manager.

The Dancing Roadie

‡‡         Beginnings

Hailing from Bolingbrook, IL outside of Chicago, Wayne was one of those kids who found himself ensconced as a theater geek in high school. “High School was a great place to get a quick education in theater. I was one of two students working the theater, and we had everything thrown at us. The lighting, whatever video we could use — we were really involved in every aspect of the production.”

Wayne had been taking dance lessons from the time he was seven. After high school, he moved to Philadelphia to further his education in this field. “I liked what I was learning, but I still found myself helping out the tech team at college. Along that way, I realized that perhaps I might have a more successful and lucrative career off the stage.”

Wayne at Red Rocks

‡‡         Learning the Ropes

He kept in touch with a couple of friends from the Chicago area who had hooked up with Upstaging, a large lighting company located outside of that city. He went in for an interview with them around 2007 and was promptly hired, without knowing much, if anything, about loading in a live show. He proved to be a quick study, however, and the company threw him on the road as a tech with Coldplay for the next four years. Kwiat traveled the world, learned his craft in large halls, and befriended LD Paul Normandale. That led him to working on more of Paul’s projects, serving as the crew chief on One Direction’s stadium tours, then to more gigs with acts including Shakira and Kings of Leon. “I’m not exactly sure how I ended up doing all those gigs with Paul, but since he uses Upstaging quite frequently, it just worked out,” Kwiat says.

During his first few years at Upstaging, he met Marta, an Upstaging lighting girl who he would eventually marry. After five years of being together in the Chicago burbs, they relocated to the Denver area, as his wife had family there. They continued to tour for Upstaging for another five years as ‘Perma-lancers’ until they decided a change was necessary to enjoy living in Colorado as opposed to traveling constantly.

‡‡         From “Congrats!” to “You’re Hired!”

“I happened to be glancing through my copy of PLSN a year or so ago when I noticed that Brown Note Productions here in Denver had won the Hometown Hero Award for the whole country. While I had heard of them, I knew of nobody there or much about what the company did. So, I sent an email to the owners just to congratulate them, since I thought it was pretty cool that a local company had won. Sara Knutson invited me to come take a tour of the facility. After the tour, I was offered a position, and the rest is history.”

That worked out pretty well, as Wayne went on to be hired as production manager for the lighting and video departments. “Their operations manager is a guy named James Watt, who handles the job of account rep for a lot of their shows. I was brought in to help lighten his work load by being the production manager under him. Myself and several people working under my direction facilitate the events with all the proper paperwork, gear prep, logistics and execution of the show.”

‡‡         Rocky Mountain High

His touring experience brings a lot to the table, especially since he finds himself having to go up to the legendary Red Rocks venue in Morrison, CO, just outside Denver, repeatedly over the season. “I think Brown Note got calls to provide some sort of gear for 80 events at the amphitheater last year,” Kwiat notes. “We get last-minute calls from bands who require a floor package to light the rocks or perhaps need a whole light rig.” The event space attracts tons of fans to see all sized acts. For many bands, Red Rocks is their largest show of the tour. “I personally find myself at that venue two to three times each week,” he adds.

Of course, the new job does not eliminate the need for travel, though Kwiat finds himself home almost every week now. “One of our clients is an American singer/rapper named Anderson Paak, who is currently out headlining sheds and arenas. He makes quite a few appearances at these multi stage festivals. I just looked after him on site as he played both Coachella weekends.”

‡‡         Tracking All the Gear

Among his duties as a project manager, Wayne now oversees site integration for several rock and country festivals each year. “Prepping systems is nothing new, but being responsible for getting all three departments gear to the correct stages is a different animal,” Kwiat says. “I am not well-versed in audio, but the owner, Ryan Knutson, manages that side,” Kwiat adds. “I’m still learning.

“I’ll tell you one thing — I never took into account how hard the job of inventory management was until I started this job,” Kwiat continues. “I know each shop has a person dedicated to this position, but it’s a full time gig to track all this gear from show to show and I have a new-found respect for whoever fills that role.”

‡‡         Mentoree to Mentor

On another note, Kwiat has gone from the young tech to the seasoned vet that the younger staff looks up to, and he admits that can be unsettling at times. “All of the speeches that were given to me in the past — well, that’s now part of my role, to give them to the next generation,” he concludes. “It’s really been a different role for me. It’s like I see myself becoming my dad.”

If you want a good idea of Wayne’s dancing ability, please entertain yourself with video from a Coldplay tour some ten years ago, at www.plsn.me/WKdance.

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