Andrew Gumper has been in the production business since he was 11, when he started working tech on school shows and in community theatre, and even started poking around the warehouse of Farralane Lighting & Audio in Hauppauge, NY. He incorporated his business, AG Light and Sound, at the ripe age of 16, and he’s run that same business for nearly 20 years.
We caught up with him just before LDI, as his company is partnering with the show on many, many fronts.
Live Design: You’re doing a lot for LDI this year. Tell us about the scope of work your company is providing in this partnership.
Andrew Gumper: For LDI: Live Outside, we’re providing a lot of the onsite management, production management, and really overseeing all the production, as well as providing one of our mega-structures for the center stage. We’re also doing full lighting and video systems for several stages as well as site lighting, and providing labor and tech crew—maybe around 30 or so people.
LD: How did you build your business into what it is today, especially starting so young?
AG: I literally started the company in my parents’ basement and, from there, grew it into a 3,000-square-foot warehouse on Long Island. I started doing a lot of corporate parties, product launches, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other events. It just continued growing, and I started getting into some touring gigs, first providing lighting for moe., the jam band, and then I was programming for Candace Brightman doing The [Grateful] Dead. Eventually, an opportunity came to take over supplying The Dead tour. So it just kept growing from there, working alongside Candace, who took me under her wing. This was from around 1998 to 2005, so Phil Lesh & Friends and those tours. After that, I got into more corporate work and more concert festivals, hooked up with Steve Lieberman, and started getting involved with Ultra Music Festival.
So during that growth, the 3,000 square-foot warehouse became a 6,000 square-foot warehouse and then soon, a 25,000-square-foot shop, still on Long Island. Then we started doing Electric Daisy Carnival and sending trucks to the West Coast. I had always loved Vegas, so one year after we did EDC, I left 25 trailers worth of gear in Vegas, and that was it. We started with a 40,000-square-foot shop in Vegas, which became 105,000. Fast forward to this past February, and we moved into 250,000-square-foot warehouse, located in North Las Vegas, where we have full fabrication and metal working, build all trussing in-house, and even have a full rehearsal space and prep areas.
We can do crazy gigs like the mega-structure for the 2016 Super Bowl 50 Tailgate Party tent, a private VIP-style party and event. We had 210,000 square feet of covered space: 365' at its widest and 140' tall.
LD: Talk a little more about these mega-structures and how that started. Where do you keep it all?
AG: We had looked at self-climbing structures and the engineering required to create them, and the safety standards were always that, if you knew bad weather was coming, you lowered the structure. This didn’t take into account not knowing if wind was coming, and this was right around the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair. My engineer and I started from scratch and designed a new system that took into account safety, efficient transport, super strength, and capacity, and would, of course, address wind loads. We designed safety measures into the system, where scrims would tear away in bad weather, for example, and not affect the heavy structure at all. We did our first one at EDC New York in 2012, and it was very well-received.
Just over the past five years, we’ve worked on faster ways to set it up and break it down, so it’s developed even more already. In fact, that first year, we had actually drawn three models of the structure, all different sizes, so really, what we started with is what we call the “mini mega,” and the Super Bowl structure was our first “medium mega.” We haven’t really ever built a mega mega. It’s been designed but has never been built.
LD: What do you think the biggest trends are in production right now?
AG: As far as lighting goes, for me it’s all about waterproof fixtures. I won’t buy anything unless it’s waterproof. In video, it’s higher and higher resolutions and more creative options: shapes, surfaces, and flexibility. I always find automation is unique and helping to find new ways to create.
LD: What has been the biggest development in technology for your business in the last 10 years? How about overall in the industry?
AG: For me, the structures are unique, and I keep expanding that, so that’s been our biggest bit.
It’s been five years since we designed the newer version, and we’re just starting to see some copies, so we must be doing something right. That’s why I’ve got the bigger one ready to go. I like to always keep something up my sleeve. We have that edge because we do all the fabrication, design, and engineering in-house. The way my shop is, we can create anything we need.
LD: Where do you see your business in the next five years or even 10?
AG: That’s kind of a tough question, because 10 years ago, I was in a 6,000-square-foot shop in New York, so I couldn’t have ever imagined I’d be where I am now. I didn’t necessarily plan it all out. If I had guessed, I would have thought I’d be maybe in a 25,000-square-foot shop by now, still in New York. I never would have thought about Vegas or have necessarily seen what the potential was. I think I’m just going to keep riding the wave and see where it takes me. We’re just going to keep going. We build these mega-structures frequently, and it takes time, but if a client said, “We need two,” we’d never say we don’t have it or that we can’t do it. We’ll build whatever folks need, so who knows where it will take us.