NASHVILLE — Premier Global Production’s lights looked amazing in cities across North America this fall thanks to the tremendous work of Trevor Ahlstrand who designed the visuals for the wildly successful Suits & Boots Tour featuring Brett Eldredge and Thomas Rhett. Ahlstrand also programmed the lighting for Eldredge's performance, and Nick Whitehouse programmed for Thomas Rhett.
Coming up with a lighting system for two of country music’s hottest upcoming acts may have been a difficult task for some designers, but Ahlstrand — whose credits include Martina McBride, Slipknot and Avenged Sevenfold — was up for the challenge.
“In trying to design a rig that would work for both acts I tried to keep the system somewhat simple and generic using a combination of washes and profiles. This tour being the first time that either artist was headlining arenas we wanted to keep the load-ins/outs quick and rigging to a minimum,” Ahlstrand explains.
“To do this we went with three straight trusses which gave us a small and tight truck pack, while also minimizing the amount of points that were required to hang the system. When we confirmed that neither act was going to want to carry video on this tour, I wanted to add some vertical ladders to create an upstage wall of light. The six tiered ladders gave us a few extra layers to utilize and allowed us to get some really big looks while tying each artist’s floor package and set to the rig in the air.”
Still keeping costs in mind, Ahlstrand turned his head to fixtures that would be economical, but still provide the “big looks” an arena tour demands. His solutions: Martin’s Mac Quantum LED Profile and the versatile and durable GLPS X4 Impression both of which Premier Global stocks.
“In choosing the fixtures for this show I wanted to stay primarily LED. I chose to use primarily the Mac Quantum Profiles in this show. I used a handful of them in Brett’s floor package earlier this year and for their size, weight and power draw they are such an incredible fixture. They have great color mixing and aerial effects, the speed of the head due to its weight and size is extremely fast and the light’s output was keeping up with the 1200 watt fixtures that we were putting it underneath,” Ahlstrand said.
“After seeing these results with the floor package and how cost effective the fixture had been, I knew it was the right choice for this tour and the results were no different at 30 feet in the air. The impression X4’s washes were a great partner for the Quantum’s. They had very comparable, clean output with a great zoom range and some cool built in macros. The rest of the rig was made up of WW2 LED blinders, and about a dozen Sharpys and Atomic 3ks each for the non LED fixtures in the rig.”
Once the system was designed, Eldredge’s production team booked Premier Global’s full-production rehearsal room located 20 minutes north of downtown Nashville. When the longtime lighting company’s sprawling new headquarters opened in April 2015, Eldredge was the first artist to use the air-conditioned, sound proof 10,000 square foot rehearsal room and his production team was eager to return. Rhett’s production team agreed to give it a shot and both camps raved about the experience. According to Ahlstrand, it was a no brainer to return to Nashville’s hottest new rehearsal room for the Suits & Boots tour.
“I have had the pleasure of using the rehearsal room twice now, once earlier in the year when we programmed a supplemental floor package and then again while we were programming the co-headline tour with Thomas Rhett,” Ahlstrand says of the space which features 1600 amps of power spread out over four, 400 amp services. “The rehearsal space is great and both times was a key element to making the production go out the doors completely ready for the first show without any additional tech days or rehearsal. It had enough space to fly our full production including the full audio package and it’s in a quiet part of town that makes it easy to do full rehearsals with the artists.”
Ahlstrand also used Premier Global’s large, state-of-art programming suite to make minor adjustments while the lighting system was being put together and prepped in the rehearsal room. The fact that everything the lighting team needs is under one roof — inventory room, rehearsal space and programming suite — is a huge time saver, he says.
“During the time that the rig was being prepped I also took advantage of their programming suite that allowed me to pre-viz the show, while being on site to answer any last-minute questions” Ahlstrand relates. “While in the suite, I was able to bring in a handful of fixtures, as well as a laser to help dial in all the parameters that could be off with programming by 3D. The suite definitely helped me get a head start on the show and was a great environment to work in!”
Kevin Blevins, Premier Global’s general manager, took in one of the shows on the tour and says he is amazed at how closely the “live” show looked to the one he saw Ahlstrand programming in the suite.
“It was incredible to see how Trevor’s vision for the show transformed from the virtual world to the real world in an arena. A true carbon copy, which is what you always hope it will be,” he says. “But none of us at Premier Global are really surprised, as it has been a tremendous pleasure to work with Trevor and have an up-close seat to see him grow into the amazing designer he is becoming.”
Ahlstrand says the feeling is mutual when it comes to working with Premier Global, a lighting company with a 30-year track record and a client list that includes Metallica, Tim McGraw, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Florence and the Machine and now, of course, Brett Eldredge.
“Creech (account rep Steven Anderson) and Premier Global continue to constantly improve the experience and support each time we work together,” Ahlstrand says. “With their inventory constantly growing, the programming suite and the large rehearsal space, I can see them supporting me on many more tours in the future.”