LD Pete Schroth with the Avett Brothers

by Debi Moen
in On the Road
Avett Brothers tour photo by CrackerFarm
Avett Brothers tour photo by CrackerFarm

TOUR DATES: February-November

THE DESIGN: “The Avett Brothers never play the same set or the same song the same way. Every night is different. They feed off the vibe of the crowd; if the crowd wants a more chill show or a rocker, then that’s the direction. Cue stacks don’t fit with their way of playing. Everything is on the fly all the time. I design a rig that morphs into different animals; lighting one guy playing an acoustic guitar or a heavy rocker with all seven band members. Overall, I try to accent the music, push the emotion further, but subtly so that people may not notice that the whole stage just ‘warmed up,’ but they feel it with their hearts.”

Pete Schroth photo by Jon Carter

BACKSTORY

HOME BASE: Greensboro, NC, since 1995. 

IN THE INDUSTRY:  “Since 2002. I was a coffeehouse owner. I liked the coffee, but I was really into booking bands (my passion) and art. That’s where I met The Avett Brothers.”

CAREER SPARK: “I have a master’s degree in sculpture, which I feel like prepared me for it, but, honestly, lighting found me. I was in a dark place in my life, no pun intended, and the phone rang. Scott Avett was asking if I could do lights. I lied and said it wouldn’t be a problem. I had no clue what I was getting into and was a nervous wreck the entire next year. I slowly figured out what I was doing. We were on a different console every night, opening up for Dave Matthews, doing festivals, small clubs, old theaters. Every day was a new challenge; I eventually got the hang of it. Seven years on the road, and you learn a lifetime’s worth of stuff. I’d love to hang out with the 2009 version of me and see what he’s thinking.”

FIRST INDUSTRY GIG:  “The Avett Brothers. It may be a rarity, but I’m still with my first job, and can’t really see myself leaving — maybe ever. The Avett’s dad took me to the airport in Charlotte, and my dad picked me up in Phoenix and delivered me to the tour bus. It was nice to have our fathers as part of the process of getting me out onto the road...setting a top in motion.”

HEROES / MENTORS:  “I came from an art background. I love the moodiness of Käthe Kollwitz; the sadness she could get on paper amazes me, and it relies heavily on lighting. Max Beckmann’s color palette juxtaposed with his subject. James Turrell, Bruce Nauman, Chris Burden, all pushing boundaries.”

DEFINE GREAT LIGHTING:  “Enhance the music. Add, don’t distract.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? “House lights go out, and the crowd goes insane.  Smiles, dancing, tears, emotions flow. Surrender to that, and you can get happily overwhelmed, night after night.”