Five Questions for Larry Robbins

  1. You have extensive experience in both lighting rock concerts and trade shows. What do you add to your trade show work to give it some of the excitement of a rock show? Is there anything new in the world of trade show lighting?

    It almost worked backwards: Lighting for trade shows is not a rock concert, yet bringing the technology into it is — making the client understand what simple lighting effects (rotating gobos, scrollers, or color washes for color movement) can add to a simple booth. In most cases, it's not about flash and trash. People who sell carpet or plumbing fixtures at trade shows want their product lit; people at shows like Comdex or CES look for that “Hey man, come over here” look.

    I would love to incorporate DL technology, but many of the people we deal with don't have the budgets. On the other hand, when it comes to the general sessions, one day you have 120 moving lights, while the next you have 12 scrollers. Again, you take your experience of lighting anything and everything and make 12 lights work. That part goes back into the old rock-and-roll days when you have the same scenario.

  2. What is the best career advice you've ever been given?

    Early on, one person told me, “The trouble with you American designers is that you blow all your looks in the opening song. You never hold anything to the end.” Also: “You don't have to flash the lights on every song. Use taste.”

  3. And the worst advice?

    “Here try this; it will get you going,” or “No, really. We only have to drive the gear to the first gig, and then, we put it in a semi.”

  4. What idea did you have that looked good on paper but not in reality?

    I designed for [saxophonist] Grover Washington, Jr. and had 48 Colormaxs. Great idea at the time — too bad they never worked. Of course, that was in 1983.

  5. What equipment can you absolutely not do without?

    My iPod and laptop — iPod for music during setup in the ballrooms and laptop to stay awake during that 8-hour general session that is a snoozer. Oh, and E-tape, you just gotta have your E-tape!