Pot of Gold Music Festival

by Bobby Boyer
in Festival Spotlight
The festival rig included Strike 4 and Rogue fixtures from Chauvet Professional. Photos courtesy Creative BackStage.
The festival rig included Strike 4 and Rogue fixtures from Chauvet Professional. Photos courtesy Creative BackStage.

10th Annual Event Gets Versatile Assist from Creative BackStage

It was late March, and the 10th annual Pot of Gold Music Festival outside Phoenix had just completed a successful run. John Garberson, the owner of Creative BackStage, which supplied the lighting rig for the two day event, was in his Chandler, AZ shop talking to friends. “This was a very big deal for us,” he said. “I think it holds a lesson for other small and mid-sized rental houses too. You know, we could not have built this two or three years ago.”

311 Hits the stage at twilight

‡‡         Flexible Rigs

The “this” Garberson refers to is a pair of lighting rigs that were flexible enough to give more than 10 visiting LDs with clients from four different musical genres the freedom to create the looks they wanted at Pot of Gold without requiring Creative BackStage to add or change fixtures in the air during the festival.

“We made a commitment last year to go from an old school 120K system to a mostly moving LED rig that would make everybody happy,” said Garberson. “The net result is going to save time and money in our festival work.”

Although the Phoenix market is “more corporate than concert,” it does get its share of festivals. As a mid-size shop, Creative BackStage would often have to go to Los Angeles or Las Vegas to cross rent the gear spec’ed in visiting LD riders. “This not only increased production costs, which were already capped off at the lower end,” said Garberson, “it also held us back by compelling us to stay with our 120K main wash and 20mm video screens. It was a losing proposition.”

Realizing the time had come to address this issue, Garberson made the investment in a more flexible LED rig that could move from corporate to festival work. Surveying touring LDs, he asked about their fixture choices and what gear would work for them as substitutes for typical rider lights. These queries led him to invest in Maverick, Rogue and Strike 4 fixtures from Chauvet Professional and Absen LED video tiles, while also sub-renting Martin MAC Auras and Philips Nitros.

“I focused on a few brands of rider friendly fixtures,” said Garberson. “Since the LED fixtures are more compact, I could fit more of them on stage — and since they save on rigging costs, generators, gas and labor, I can afford to put more up. This gives visiting LDs more choices, which went a long way to making them more accepting of this rig at Pot of Gold.”

The versatility designed into the newer LED fixtures also enhances the versatility of Garberson’s festival rig. As an example, he points to Chauvet Professional’s Strike 4. “These fixtures are really well-suited for what we want to do because they can make a strong statement in so many ways, from gentle warm white wash to blinder to strobe,” he said.

Absen LED walls were provided by Creative BackSatge as well

‡‡         Syncing Lighting and Video

Upgrading his video screens from 20mm to 6mm tiles was also critical to Garberson’s transition to a more flexible rig. “We made sure we were teamed up with a company that had colors matching panel to panel and version to version,” he said. “This gives us more flexibility when needing to do large screens or multi-screens while keeping the cost at a standard level.”

At the Pot of Gold Music Festival, which featured artists like Death Cab for Cutie, Sublime with Rome and 311, Garberson was pleased with the reception his flexible rig concept received from visiting lighting designers.

“After the LDs were done designing their festival rigs, we contacted them, thinking some will want their riders fulfilled,” he said. “To our surprise, not one asked for anything different from what we had on our rig — they just wanted the patch and said, ‘See you soon.’”

Although Garberson’s rig offered visiting designers a wide range of possibilities at Pot of Gold, many cherry picked the fixtures they used. “Each LD used only what they thought their artist would need,” he said. “Some of them took advantage of the entire rig, while some never touched the strobes. Some used more beams and fewer spots, or vice versa. It varied, but the main point is they were all happy with the rig because it gave them a canvas of lighting fixtures to choose from. There was enough of each kind of light, so they did not need to use the whole rig to make their clients look good.”

Still, some artists rolled into the Pot of Gold Music Festival with their own deck package. When they did, they found their lights blended well with the festival’s rig. “We had one artist with a deck package with Vipers,” said Garberson. “This went nicely with our LED spots. Most of the LDs were very surprised with the brightness of the LED spots and blinders.

“What I’ve been seeing is that LDs are more accepting of different brands today. It’s really become more about how you can use the fixture than it is the name on it,” concluded Garberson. “This is a life-saver for small and mid-sized rental houses; you don’t have to invest in the most expensive gear, as long as you have a solid rig that gives visiting LDs plenty of creative options.”

Quantum Spots texture the crowd

Pot of Gold Festival


  • Production Manager: John Garberson
  • Lighting Designer: James Simpson, Matthew Berg
  • Lighting Director: John Garberson
  • Lighting Co: Creative BackStage
  • Automated Lighting Operators: James Simpson, Matthew Berg
  • Lighting Techs: Rita Assi, Cody Alisle, Jonathan Brekken, Maxine Kichler
  • Riggers: Maxine Kichler, Cody Alisle
  • Staging Company: MRS
  • Video Directors: TJ Watson, Jamie Rivera, Caleb McDonald
  • Video Co: Creative BackStage


East Stage (Stageline SAM 575)

  • 1               grandMA2 Full console
  • 28            Martin MAC Auras
  • 18            Martin MAC Quantum Profiles
  • 10            Philips SL Nitro 510 LED strobes
  • 4               8-Cell blinders
  • 2               DF-50s
  • 1               Absen A6T 6.25mm LED screen (29.5’ x 11.5’)
  • 2               Absen C7 7mm C7 I-Mag screens (15.7’ x 9.8’)

West Stage (Stageline SAM 575)

  • 1               Avolites Pearl Expert Pro console w/ wing
  • 28            Chauvet Rogue R2 Washes
  • 10            Philips SL Nitro 510 LED strobes
  • 18            Chauvet Maverick MK2 Spots
  • 4               Chauvet Strike 4s
  • 2               Antari F-5 Fazers
  • 1               Absen A6T 6.25mm LED Screen (29.5’ x 11.5’)
  • 2               Absen C7 7mm I-Mag screens (15.7’ x 9.8’)


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