Dierks Bentley 'Somewhere on a Beach' Tour

by Nook Schoenfeld
in Production Profile
Dierks Bentley Somewhere on a Beach Tour 2016. Photo by Todd Kaplan
Dierks Bentley Somewhere on a Beach Tour 2016. Photo by Todd Kaplan

Chris Reade has been lighting bands for 20 plus years now, but as they say, ‘It’s a long way to the top’. He may not have reached the pinnacle of his career just yet, but after getting nominated for a Parnelli Award as LD of the year in 2016, he’s certainly close to it as his peers have noted. It was especially sweet for Chris as this year marks the 10th tour he has designed lights for Dierks Bentley and the fourth time he has gotten to collaborate with set designer Bruce Rodgers.

Chris Reade photo by Zach Belcher

Putting the production design together takes a bit of time. “Bruce comes up with different concepts — he must have had four or five of them last summer,” Reade explains. “Then he sends them to production manager Jay Ballinger and myself and then we all try and meld it with our lighting ideas and logistics, into one production.”

They all pick certain elements of the renderings that they like, and Rodgers will piece it all together into a final set, this year with the unique diamond shaped video wall that ties into the set. Reade adds his lighting rig to the scenic elements and has Ballinger look over everything to see if it’s practical, affordable and needs any modifications to make the production easier to set up daily.

“Not only does Jay have good creative ideas, but he is knowledgeable on how to go about making it happen,” Reade adds. “His participation in this process has been an integral part of making it all happen.”

The LD says this about Rodgers, who has designed Bentley’s sets for the past four tours, “Bruce is great to work with, because he’s so open to ideas and collaboration. He’s definitely not one of those ‘My way or the highway’ type of designers. He inspires my creativity and it’s truly a pleasure to create with him. He’s fantastic at giving the artist what they envision, through his own interpretation. With that he gives everyone the foundation to build upon. Of course this year revolved around driving a plane onto the stage.”

VarioLifts lower the trusses right over the artist's heads. Photo by Todd Kaplan

The Set

Bentley’s eighth studio album, Black, features the lead single, “Somewhere on a Beach,” that was released for digital download and radio airplay in January, a few months prior to the album itself. Other singles featured on the album charted well upon their release, following the success of Bentley’s 2014 hit, “Drunk on a Plane,” which was featured on the artists’ seventh album, Riser.

The Pilot is drunk on the plane. Photo by Zach Belcher

Given the success of the 2014 hit song, it was a no brainer to close the show with the artist piloting a plane on to the stage. Having the foresight to incorporate this gag into the set was perhaps the building block Rodgers needed to start his design. The set had the drummer perched high up on a drum riser. Behind the riser was a diamond shaped video wall from Moo TV that seamlessly melded with some video “doors” located on the front of the riser. The doors opened at the beginning of the show to reveal Dierks as he made his entrance to join the band. They opened for a second time at the end of the show as Dierks was seen in full pilot attire holding a solo cup up as he drove the fuselage down stage from its hangar, under the riser. The backline of the band was about four feet tall straight across and serves as the plane’s wings. The LD had the foresight to line the wings with a bunch of Ayrton MagicBlade™R fixtures that simulated propellers turning on the wings when the plane emerged.

Tribe's Design gave the artists plenty of room to roam

Offstage of the video doors were a couple of stairways that the musicians could use to walk up on top of the plane’s wings to join up with the bass and pedal steel players on either side. Offstage risers with stairways are also in use, as is a downstage thrust for the artist to get closer to his fans. Dierks walks out to a front of house stage with a couple of bandmates to play an impromptu set of songs for the people in the back seats. The small stage is set right behind the mix position, and Reade knew he would have issues with spotlights hitting his artist at that pitch. He lined the underside of the metal grated deck with a dozen 1kw Nook Lights, along with 10 Chauvet Nexus panels that sufficiently lit the players. Accurate Staging built and provided the touring set.

Atomic LED strobes wre also used for ambient color bumps

The Lights

Reade was born in Virginia, but by the time he was in high school, his family had located to the Milwaukee area. He learned his chops lighting a bunch of cover bands as a 19-year-old LD. In 1992, he got a shot designing lights for Blackfoot and has never looked back. After relocating to California in 1994, he continued to work as a tour manager/LD up until around 1996, when he took a gig lighting Porno for Pyros. By the next year, he had hooked up with No Doubt, right as they started their ascent to stardom. By the summer of 1997, his daughter Kailey was born, and he tried to stay local, working as a programmer. After doing a few designs for Powerman 5000 and Lit, the beginning of 2000 brought another daughter, Madison, and Chris realized he just loved running lights on live shows and picked his career up where he left off.

Martin MAC Vipers were the Meat and Potatoes of the rig

2006 found Reade looking after the lighting for Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony when he got a call from a young country artist looking for an LD. Bentley was just starting out and realized he needed a qualified lighting guy. He got Reade’s number from a mutual friend, Jason Milner, a highly regarded tour manager. Reade took the gig. “The first arena tour I did with Dierks sold okay. We played in all kinds of venues and hit it hard behind three #1 hits.” In 2009, Dierks put out a bluegrass album and went in another direction creatively. They spent the year opening for Brad Paisley, and for the next few years played fairs, festivals and theaters. But by 2013, Bentley took off, selling out amphitheaters and arenas, which they still do today. This is Reade’s fifth tour design in the last four-and-a-half years for Dierks.

Martin fixtures silhouette the artist photo by ZACH BELCHER 2

The lighting rig this tour is quite massive, but Reade isn’t one of those LD types who has all the lights on all the time. He prefers well executed, finely timed punches of light to augment the music. The majority of his trusses move, pretty much into a new position for all of the songs. He has a three-part rear truss as well as two trusses on either side of the stage that are stationary. Everything else varies between the 10 truss positions he has come up with for this design.

Martin Quantum Lights line the apron

“I’m a big fan of Martin fixtures, which works out well since my preferred vendor, Christie Lites, has a lot of their gear in stock. Red Gibson has been my account manager for a long time, and I can always expect great gear and service from his team.” states the LD. The meat and potatoes of the light rig are the MAC Vipers. He uses 26 of the Profiles and 34 of the Viper Wash DX models, a wash fixture with internal barn doors to shape the beam. “I’m also into using the Quantum series of LED fixtures. I use a dozen of the smaller profiles. The profiles are pretty bright, and the wash fixtures have good effects I make use of on occasion. By the way, have you used those new Atomic LED strobes? They are amazing.” Reade’s rig contained 37 of them.

Nexus Panels and 4 light moles wash the stage in warm white

For tight beams, Reade has a handful of Elation Platinum Beam 5Rs in place. For a fat stage wash, he makes use of 27 Chauvet Nexus panels. He uses a plethora of 4-light moles mixed in to adequately light the whole arena when necessary. Reade shies away from using any lights other than the front of house spots on the artist, as he hates when colored washes contaminate the look of his face on camera. Six spotlights cover his downstage players just fine.

Dierks Bentley closeup

Reade’s console of choice is the Jands Vista. A longtime user, he owns his own front of house gear, using the L5 to run through the manually operated show cues. He uses the little S1 off to the side as a backup desk.

Dierks Bentley tour photo by Todd Kaplan

The Rigging

When the rig is flat, it looks like there are five straight trusses across the grid. As soon as the show starts, they move into a new position. And it looks big — way bigger. The most appealing was a generic look where all the trusses were set in concentric V shapes that seemed to act as a frame to the diamond shaped video wall in the center. Unafraid of unsymmetrical looks, Reade at times will have one side of the stage lit with flat trusses while the other side hangs at a 45° angle.

The plane emerges. Photo by Todd Kaplan

At other times, trusses are feathered in shape to look like a pair of wings flying over the stage, inspired by the artwork for Bentley’s Riser. The rigger as well as lighting crew chief is Reade’s longtime friend Marc “Chainsaw” Wuchter. It’s not often that you see one person take on both of these key important roles on a tour but Chainy just shrugs it off. After 30 years on the road, he can handle anything without breaking a sweat, including running the five-person lighting crew. “I swear by my guy”, Chris points out. “Chainy’s been my right hand man for the last five years, but it seems like forever.”

The B Stage lit with Nook Lights and Nexus Panels

Chainy points out that they use 16 smart motors from Nashville’s Five Points Rigging for the motion control system. The Chainmaster Vario Lift motors can run at different speeds, depending on the effect the designer is looking for. Sebastien Richard is in charge of the movement, controlling it all from a Raynok system. “Working with Sebastien has been a pleasure, and his input and talent are very valuable to me,” states Reade. During the last song, the trusses are in motion, dancing to the song, so to speak. The 48 stationary motors Chainsaw hangs for lights and video on the tour are all CM models from Christie Lites inventory. He’s quite happy to work for this artist, telling us, “There’s something to be said about enjoying the people you work with. This artist is always working, and I see no reason to ever want to leave this camp.”

MooTV provided the video elements. Photo by Todd Kaplan

The Video

“Houston, we’ve got a problem.” is actually something that Reade has never had to say to his video director, Houston Creswell. The director has been with the Bentley team for three years and is thankful that they took him from being a regular video tech at Moo TV and gave him a chance to direct on this tour. He utilizes four manned cameras and another half dozen robocams and assorted “lipstick stuff” to mix images from his Ross Carbonite switcher. “The video elements on stage are used to play back content made up by a company called Tantrum. Shelly Boyd looks after content management and uses a Dataton Watchout system to play back the media. We have LED screens hanging off stage which play back I-Mag of the musicians only,” Houston explains.

The trusses frame the diamond shaped video

Moo has a five tech team in place out there. While Shelley Boyd shades cameras and looks over media, there are two camera operators, Cory Mascari and Collin Wilkey, who also serve as LED wall techs before and after show. They also have a FOH camera position, manned by their engineer, Lee Garland. When the band comes out to the B-Stage a lighting tech will man a handheld camera to help out. “I try to blend the video with the music and match color schemes when I can. We started using some black and white imagery this year as well.” Houston adds. “Houston has an excellent creative eye, and he takes chances that are outside the norm, which I appreciate. I’m not a fan of vanilla camera shots, and he adds an element to this show that I love” says Reade.

Roe Creative Display lines the drum riser 'doors'.

The rear video wall is 36 by 30 feet (WxH), with the risers masking the bottom of the diamond shape. The video tiles being used from Moo are 10mm digiLED MC10 panels for the main diamond wall, with 12mm Linx panels from ROE Creative Display on the front of the drum riser and Gtek 15mm LED used for side screen I-Mag.

The “Somewhere on a Beach” tour, which launched with a few U.K. dates in April before hitting the U.S. and Canada from May 12 to Oct. 29, is taking a break before picking up steam in January and running through September 2017. Its six trucks of gear get a break to get some service and a well-deserved breather, along with the road crew.

All uncredited photos by Todd Kaplan

DIERKS BENTLEY "Somewhere on a Beach" Tour

Crew

  • Production Designer: Bruce Rodgers
  • Lighting Designer/Director: Chris Reade
  • Tour Manager: Tom Addison
  • Lighting Co: Christie Lites
  • Christie Lites Rep: Red Gibson
  • Production Manager: Jay Ballinger
  • Stage Manager: Chris Thacker
  • Assistant Tour Manager: Kelsey Henry
  • Production Coordinator: Danielle Gore
  • Rigger/Lighting Crew Chief: Marc “Chainsaw” Wuchter
  • SL Dimmer Beach: Jacob Alexander
  • SR Dimmer Beach: Heather Cossette
  • Lighting Technician: Tim Lighthall
  • Video Co: Moo TV
  • Video Director: Houston Creswell
  • Video Content Director: Shelley Boyd
  • LED Tech/Camera Operator: Cory Mascari
  • LED Tech/Camera Operator: Collin Wilkey
  • Video Engineer/FOH Camera: Lee Garland
  • Rigging Cos: Five Points Rigging, Christie Lites
  • Automation Rigger: Sebastien Richard
  • Lead Set Carpenter: Todd Whitener
  • Set Carpenters: Justin Minchew, Chris Lismore
  • FOH Engineer: James “Pugsley” McDermott
  • Monitor Engineer: Scott Tatter
  • FOH Tech: Cody Seaver
  • Monitor Tech: Thomas McNabb

Gear

  • 1               Jands Vista L5 console
  • 1               Jands Vista S1 control surface
  • 34            Martin MAC Viper Wash DX fixtures
  • 26            Martin MAC Viper Profiles
  • 20            Martin MAC Quantum Wash fixtures
  • 12            Martin MAC Quantum Profiles
  • 28            Martin Atomic LED Strobes
  • 27            Elation Platinum Beam 5R fixtures
  • 30            Elation sixpar 200 fixtures
  • 35            Ayrton MagicBlade-R fixtures
  • 27            Chauvet Nexus 4x4 panels
  • 18            4 Cell Moles
  • 12            1k Nook Lights
  • 4               hazers
  • 2               foggers
  • 1               48-way ETC dimmer
  • 1               12-way dimmer
  • 48            CM hoists (Christie Lites)
  • 16            ½-ton ChainMaster hoists (Five Points)
  • 67            Truss sections (Christie Lites)
  • 1               Diamond shaped video wall (10mm digiLED MC10 panels, 36’ x 30’)
  • 1               Dataton Watchout media server
  • 1               Ross Carbonite switcher
  •                   Drum riser LED panels (Roe Creative Display 12mm Linx
  •                   Side I-Mag screens (Gtek 15mm LED panels)