dbn Lighting returned to Heaton Park in Manchester to supply lighting to five out of the eight stages and video to two of those - for the popular Parklife Weekender music festival with which they have been involved since its inception in 2010.
The crew - which peaked at 24 technicians, programmers and operators - was led by dbn’s Pete Robinson, and they started their various get-ins across the site on the Wednesday. There were a few logistical curved balls thrown into the mix for good measure, including a Friday night concert by the Courteeners which was slotted in by promoters SJM on Stage 4. While dbn were not lighting this ... the licensing restricted access to other areas which therefore had to be ready ahead of time.
The main stage this year was up-scaled to a 24 metre Space roof from Serious three weeks before the event to accommodate the two headliners - Disclosure and Rudimental.
As both artists were bringing in substantial lighting and video packages, dbn's ‘house’ lighting design was kept straightforward and based around accommodating this. Disclosure’s requirement was also that the entire house rig be gridded out so their complete show could be rigged ‘underneath’.
dbn installed three straight trusses which could be flown out into the roof for Disclosure, and then back in again to provide lighting for the rest of the two day line-up. These were accompanied by drapes, masking and a full cable management system, all designed to make the process, safe, smooth, sensible and streamlined.
For moving lights 12 of dbn’s brand new Clay Paky Mythos took centre stage - having been delivered just in time. Joining them were four CP Super Sharpies, 16 x Robe Pointes, 16 x Sharpy Washes and 12 brand new Stormy LED strobes from CP, plus the usual array of festival must haves like 2, 4 and 8 lite blinders and Atomic strobes.
As soon as Disclosure’s set finished on Saturday, dbn and the Rudimental advance crew rigged as much as possible of their production, including three circular trusses and an upstage projection screen, with two projectors hung on the front truss which was also clad with a scenic London railway bridge covered in graffiti art and CCTV cams. The scenic elements all arrived from the new Wild Life sister festival in Brighton at 7 a.m. Sunday morning, so it was a gruelling session for all involved. Rudimental also used the house rig as part of their show.
dbn added their own daytime floor package for certain artists comprising 12 x ColorForce 72 LED battens horizontally rigged on upright trussing sections, together with six Patten 2013s which was really effective in plugging the black holes upstage!
The house lighting console was a Pearl Expert Pro with Touch Wing.
The stages were numbered clockwise from the main stage and this one was a 54 x 74 metre 6 king pole big top primarily with a DJ line up, and headlined by Fatboy Slim.
dbn built a four legged ground support system cantilevered out from the stage at the front which provided all the lighting positions and rigging points for the two main PA hangs.
The design was inspired by Fatboy Slim's lighting scheme, and the moving lights comprised another 8 x Mythos, four CP Alpha 1200 HPEs, 16 x Sharpies and 16 x Alpha Wash 575s.
The generics included 16 x Atomics and 24 x ColorForce 12s which were used as audience blinders, together with more 2 and 4-lite Moles.
Control was an Avo Pearl Expert run by Nick Buckley and Paul Sheard. Pete Robinson completed all the truss layout and fixture placement, with the overhead lights arranged across six 'finger' trusses.
dbn also supplied LED screen with 45 square metres of their standard 12.5 mm E-Star product configured in one big block.
This was a slightly smaller big top, with dimensions of 48 x 70 metres and six king poles. All the production again stayed at the stage end, where dbn installed a six legged ground supported box truss structure over the stage and PA wings.
Three trusses were hung underneath each another at the back, and a grid of lights was rigged to these, spaced out according to a precise plan prepared by Stephen Barnett.
This involved 16 x Alpha Spot QWOs, 16 x Alpha Wash 700s, 12 x A.leda K10s fitted with B-eye lenses, 20 active Showtec Sunstrips, 8 x Atomics and 28 x Showtec Spectral Zoom PARs.
These were all mapped by Stephen onto an Avo Tiger Touch II with a playback wing. He spent several weeks pre-programming so he could get to know the console, and the results looked amazing! He was joined by dbn's Chris Phillips on operating duties.
A tri-span structure was created by three saddlespan structures arranged in a little cluster with the three mouths facing one another, which on the site plan resembled a large set of genitalia.
A ground supported circular truss was rigged in the middle to provide front lighting positions, together with a straight truss hung in each of the three stage mouths, plus a selection of loose fixtures made available for the stage. The kit included 16 x CP Alpha HPE 300s, 8 x Alpha Beam 300s, 8 x Alpha Wash 300s - all picked for their compact sizes – along with 12 Atomics, and 10 x 5 way Chroma-Q db4 battens rigged vertically across the back of the stage for general eye candy.
A new Avolites Quartz controlled everything operated by Paul Crompton.
A custom Serious Stages structure was erected in front of Heaton Park's famous Colonnade (once part of the old Manchester Town Hall) structure and was a small stage with just 4 metres of headroom, yielding an intimate 8 metre wide playing space with a small arched roof.
Another late change of spec here added a reasonable amount of production.
Onstage, the lighting comprised 12 x MAC 250s, eight Alpha Wash 575s and six Atomics.
A ground stacked 9mm LED video wall was put in at the back - supplied by dbn via YSLV - in one block, complete with a smaller section of the same screen used to face the front of the DJ booth.
On each of the two PA delay tower structures - also added - six Alpha Beam 700s were positioned, and another clutch of lights and effects were positioned behind the stage on the scaffolding structure built around the Colonnade to protect it. This amounted to 12 x Alpha Beam 700s, 30 x Chauvet Nexus 4x4 panels, 12 x active Sunstrips and six Atomic strobes.
Control was another Pearl Expert Pro - as with all these smaller Avolites consoles - an absolute favourite for festivals. The Nexus panels and the Sunstrips were mapped on the desk by operator Anthony Owen which allowed him to create some great funky and mesmeric effects to wow the crowds.
All the stages were equipped with a full atmospheric package - a mix of Jem smoke generators, DF 50 foggers and Look Solutions' Unique hazers.
Some of the boutique stages were also supplied with effects lighting, including The Smallest Club in the World which is in a garden shed, and the Africa Stage which was visually enhanced with an assortment of disco effects and LED PARs.
The main challenges were incorporating all the late changes. "We know from our past experience that being flexible and prepared to be adaptable is a key to this event running smoothly for lighting," comments Pete, adding that this year they incorporated a full 40 ft. artic's worth of extra gear which was loaded up at the warehouse and dispatched after they were all working on site. “You have to be really organised with your logistics, but once again, it was an excellent event that everyone enjoyed working on as well as doing a great job in delivering to the characteristically enthusiastic audiences”.
Rudimental on Main Stage - photo by Derek Bremner