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Tailgate Fest

Mike Wharton • Focus on FestivalsOctober 2019 • October 10, 2019

Elation fixtures perform in the elements

Annual Event Lets Country Music Fans Roll In with All the Stuff They Need

Years ago, comedian George Carlin explored the dilemma faced by Americans faced with a desire to travel from place to place, yet not abandon all the stuff they love to keep around. “You gotta have a place for your stuff, and every time you move, you gotta put your stuff in a smaller space.”

For years, the solution for sports fans staging a party in the stadium parking lot has been to launch and refine the fine art of tailgating, with ever-more-elaborate setups of food, drink and outdoor games emanating from the back of a large pickup or SUV.

The Tailgate lineup

And while it’s not easy to bring the actual sports game outside to the parking lot, country music concerts can be a little more flexible. For the 2019 Tailgate Fest, a two-day event staged on an 80-acre private ranch near Eastvale in Riverside County, CA, less than an hour from L.A., the roster of artists including Brantley Gilbert, Lee Brice, Brett Eldredge, Clint Black and others performed on stages set up outside.

For most concerts, attendees might have to stop the party games, pack things up with everything they might need for the evening, and head inside. For this event, audience members could corral their RV’s backstage before driving their trucks out front. The area between the stage and FOH is open grass seating like the lawn section at amphitheaters. But unlike a regular amphitheater, the audience could bring plenty of their own stuff — lawn chairs, coolers and portable grills, etc. — onto the field. Behind FOH, trucks and cars make up the official tailgating section. A massive pool area is also available for trucks or cars to park near. This is the Tailgate Festival VIP area.

Sitting poolside at the VIP area

‡‡         Turning On the High Beams

Producers of the event hired Red Rock Entertainment to launch the inaugural festival in 2018. With the overwhelming success of that event, Red Rock was once again called up to handle the logistics this year. They turned to their favorite local vendor Stage Tech to provide the lighting rig for the festival. Established in 1987, the regional production services company, located in the city of Santa Fe Springs, CA provides state of the art equipment packages coupled with experienced technicians to service the entertainment industry. Lighting designer Jeff Pardee designed and led the installation this year and last. Pardee first started working for a small production company lighting events for various little theaters. “At the time it was more of a hobby and passion,” he says. After a stint with Ed and Ted’s Excellent Lighting, which merged with Epic Productions, he realized he could turn his passion into a career. Sharpening his programming skills, Pardee continued with a stint at Pyro Engineering which led to his exposure to festivals with Stage Tech. While still doing festivals with Stage Tech, he became a member of Local 728 in Hollywood, where he now does programming for movies and TV shows.

The Tailgaters line up behind FOH

“Last year, Stage Tech approached me about this event. I was totally sold on this idea of ‘tailgating in your car to music with a country vibe,’” says Pardee. The rig was expanded this year with a larger stage and lighting system. Charley Guest and Tyler Salwender, the production direction and management team from Stage Tech, worked with the two headline artist riders to come up with the big brush strokes for the lighting plot. The structure is three simple sticks of 20” x 20” box truss, each measuring 45 feet in length.

“This is where I come in and tweak the system by contacting the other LD’s and get a bit of their input,” says Pardee. I made a few adjustments to make things work for each of their shows.”

Fixture selection took into account the LD’s request, while utilizing to full advantage the Stage Tech inventory. “In my experience, time in and time out, the Elation family of fixtures have proven to be reliable and do what I need them to do,” says Pardee, adding that they “can take a serious punishment in any environment.”

The Elation Platinum 1200 provided the needed wash light. With the Platinum FLX, Pardee had the “perfect fixture that filled several roles as a wash, spot or beam. Both are just solid work horse fixtures,” he added. Rounding out the system, he deployed the Platinum 5R for that “crucial ACL look.”

‡‡         Video, Too

Screenworks NEP provided their (5mm pixel pitch) X5c LED screens, cameras, and switching. “We needed to use a lightweight product to adhere to the weight limits of the Stageline SAM 575 stage,” explains Marty Keller, project manager with Screenworks. A 32-by-18-foot screen (WxH) hung upstage center. The stage left and right side screens were each 16 by 26 feet (WxH). The X5-C offers excellent image quality packaged in a lightweight mechanical solution. Weather protection and 6000 nits of brightness make the X5-C suitable for outdoor use but it also can be accurately dimmed for indoor use.

“It was great to be involved with Red Rock Entertainment Services, and the Tailgate Festival team in such a unique event,” says Keller. “This is the second year and it went off without a hitch! Pun totally intended.”

Tailgate Fest 2019

Aug. 17-18, 2019, Leal Ranch, Eastvale, CA


  • Director of Production: Eddy Sato, Charley Guest
  • Stage Manager: Robbie Allan
  • Production Manager: Tyler Salwender
  • Lead Lighting Design/Programmer: Jeffrey “JW” Pardee
  • Lighting Co: Stage Tech
  • Lighting Systems Tech: Brad Billions
  • Additional Staging: Mike Jacobson
  • Video Director: Michael Miller
  • Video Co: Screenworks
  • Video Crew: Project Manager, Marty Kell; EIC, Ryan Ratajczak; LED Engineer, Karl Naval; LED Techs, Jeff Smith, Billy Stewart; Utility/Cam Op, Brittany Groth; Cam Ops, Matt Davis, Marty Jimenez, Kyle Jones



  • 2       grandMA2 Full consoles
  • 2       grandMA2 Light consoles
  • 2       Elation ArtNET E-Node8 units
  • 8       Elation OptoBranch8 units
  • 28     Elation Platinum FLX Spots
  • 14     Elation Platinum 1200 Wash
  • 12     Martin Mac Aura XB
  • 8       Elation Platinum Beam 5R Extremes
  • 8       Elation Protron 3K Color Strobes
  • 4       Robe BMFL Follow Spot systems
  • 4       Antari HZ500 hazers
  • 2       Antari M-10 foggers

Video (Cameras):

  • 3       Sony HSC100R HD cameras
  • 1       Canon 14x wide angle HD camera lenses
  • 2       Canon 86x HD camera lens (FOH)
  • 2       Panasonic PTZ cameras

Video (Flight Pack):

  • 1       Ross Vision 6ME HD switcher
  • 2       42 inch monitors with multi quad splits
  • 3       Folsom’s
  • 2       Resolume Media Servers
  • 2       Blackmagic hyper decks (records)


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