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The Big Load-In

Debi Moen • Designer WatchSeptember 2021 • September 9, 2021

Jason Rothberg worked during the pandemic in his new gig as technical director/lighting designer at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park in San Diego. Photo: Jason Rothberg

Venues across the country are all experiencing it: The Big Load-In. Never has the task felt so sweet as it does to countless crews who’ve returned to the road in droves. Designer Watch asked creatives to share the shows they’ve sent out or are working on for the future.

Rothberg Opens Rady Shell

Jason Rothberg couldn’t have foreseen the timing of his decision. In Feb. 2020, he stepped off the tour bus and into a full-time gig as technical director/lighting designer for the San Diego Symphony and its new future home (see Designer Watch, March 2020). A year and a half later, Rothberg informs us on the opening of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the $85 million outdoor amphitheater in downtown San Diego by the bay.

“Construction did not stop during Covid, although there were some delays with materials and lead times,” Rothberg explains. His many duties included specifying the lighting in the rig. “It was a lot of Zoom calls with the consultants, since they were not able to travel. Time was spent on site as well, making sure things were going to plan.”

As it got closer to completion, Rothberg designed and lit film projects at the venue, including the opening weekend with projection designer Wendall Harrington. Rothberg, former lighting director with Avril Lavigne, Imagine Dragons, Alt-J, The Lumineers, Sufjan Stevens and more, looks forward to helping touring LDs year-round on variety of acts.

Band of Horses

LD Benjamin Marx is riding with the Band of Horses’ fall tour, with a jump into a Vampire Weekend gig at the Outside Lands Festival over Halloween weekend in San Francisco.


LD Craig Gaff returns to Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo. “It’s a new design for a new tour,” he says, explaining that the name, “De Novo,” means “over again, anew.” Dates run to Oct. 26 in the U.S.

Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish’s Hollywood Bowl shoot for Disney Plus, along with festival shows for the artist and her brother Finneas, are just a couple of the major projects Tony Caporale of Infinitus Vox has on his “to do” list for September. The lighting designer/programmer also collaborated on an interactive “Laser Dome” experience in Santa Cruz, CA, the lighting rig for sister act Larkin Poe on “The Monster Energy Outbreak Tour” and production design for the Deep Tropics EDM festival in Nashville.


LD Mike Swinford was back to work in July with Mark Carver, Mark Butts and Andre Petrus on CMA’s Summer Jam, airing on ABC-TV in September. A trip to Brooklyn for the NBA Draft 2021 followed, and somewhere in his schedule was a concert for country band King Calaway.

Coheed and Cambria, The Used

Alex Picard and John Niles are designing and programing Coheed and Cambria’s amphitheater run for September. While Niles takes it on the road, Picard heads out to operate Run the Jewels festival dates in September and October. “It feels great” to talk about tours again, Picard says. In related news, Nathaniel Beckett returns to the road lighting The Used, co-headliners with Coheed and Cambria through North America for August and September. Beckett was glad to be back, having spent the past year working on TV, movies and commercials.

Dream Theater, Steely Dan

LD Steve Baird is “happy that things are starting to come back again.” He’s now designing Dream Theater’s upcoming “The Top of the World Tour” that kicks off Oct 28 in Costa Mesa, AZ until mid-December. But first he starts up Steely Dan’s “Absolutely Normal” fall tour, having LD Brent Clark cover for him when he leaves to start DT.

Durand Jones & The Indications

In September, LD Andrew Kleiner travels on his first tour back with Durand Jones & The Indications. He’s “super excited to be back on the road” with the R&B group.

Foreigner, Mraz

Foreigner LD Joel Reiff says the routine is nothing too unusual with weekly testing and masks. “All is well so far,” he declares. “I just hope we stay out here working!” Reiff’s schedule conflicted with Jason Mraz’s tour, so Reiff sent out lighting director David Butler to handle the “Look For The Good Live! Summer Tour” for him. “I love working with Jason, but he just doesn’t tour enough!”

Gary Clark Jr.

Construction continued during Covid and was completed this summer on the Moody Amphitheater in downtown Austin, TX. LD John Adamo was the first touring LD to fire up his console for two nights of opening night concerts with Gary Clark, Jr. The event also kicked off the Austin blues artist’s 2021 US tour. Masks were required at the outdoor event at the newly revitalized Waterloo Park.

LD Bryan Hartley shared his recent festival design for Judas Priest at Bloodstock in the U.K. The U.S. tour production will be different. Photo: Bryan Hartley

Judas Priest
LD Bryan Hartley chilled out in the heat of summer as keynote speaker for the Christmas Expo Holiday Lighting & Decorating Conference in Las Vegas. Hartley says he fielded questions about his Trans-Siberian Orchestra designs, LEDs, power requirements and more issues of concern to those in the holiday event and display industry. His iCal is now hot with activity with Judas Priest’s “50 Heavy Metal Years” tour starting Sept. 8 in the U.S. “I love working with Judas Priest,” Hartley rejoices. “It’s great things are starting to happen now, and I look forward to being on the road for four straight months!”


LD Scott Pearson says Kansas starts carrying its full production in mid-September. “Finally! Just the standard classics show at the moment, but make up dates start in November for the Point of Know Return anniversary tour that was cut short by the virus,” he says. “Looking forward to getting back to work.”


LD Matt Mills is currently on tour with Korn. A few shows were scheduled in mid-August when someone in the Korn camp tested positive for Covid. But the band rolls on. Says Mills, “Their LD, Thomas ‘Church’ Christman, was not able to gain entry to the U.S. for the beginning of the tour, so he asked me to take his design and make a show out of it. It’s like touring started back up or something.”

LD Susan Rose takes the lighting reins from LD David Hamilton for Melissa Etheridge’s new tour. Photo: David Hamilton

Melissa Etheridge

LD David Hamilton, who has worked with Melissa Etheridge since 2004, has handed the reins of the artist’s new tour to LD Susan Rose. “I’ve retired from touring,” Hamilton declares. “At least that’s the plan; but with the pandemic making a return appearance, I’ve gotten more calls about gigs since I decided to retire than I did in the previous five years combined, so who knows? I’ll still do one-offs and fill-in dates here and there, just not tour full-time.”

Osborne Brothers

Michael Shucher is reporting in as lighting crew chief/rigger for Brothers Osborne’s “We’re Not For Everyone” tour. “So excited to get back to work my 31st year on the road,” he says.

Tubular Bells Live

LD Will Reynolds designed it and Paul Smith programmed lighting for Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells Live in Concert.” Visual performances by the Circa Contemporary Circus accompanied the band, performing Aug. 7-15 at London’s Royal Festival Hall. “Act One was just the band playing The Gem, Summit Day, and Moonlight Shadow,” Smith explains. “The acrobats were in Act Two, with Tubular Bells played in its entirety.”

Fragment Nine helped create the immersive experience for Usher’s residency at The Colosseum in Las Vegas. Photo: Paul Tate dePoo III/Tate Design Group


Jackson Gallagher says Fragment Nine’s (F9) “big project of the summer” is Usher’s Las Vegas residency, among the first large productions returning to the Strip. F9 designed all video aspects and worked with John Torres on the lighting design, programmed by Benny Kirkham and Jason Baeri. Set designer is Paul Tate dePoo III of Tate Design Group. Video Operator Bobby Brooks runs the residency, which started July 12 with shows to January 2022 at Caesars Palace.

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