One Way To Rock



The premise is simple. Not everyone has the time or the means to visit Sammy Hagar's cantina in Cabo San Lucas, so why not bring the Baja nightspot to his fans? Hagar has done just that, with waitresses, bartenders, and a stage reproduction of his Cabo Wabo Cantina all along on his current Ten 13 Cabo Wabo Birthday Bash tour.

The tour opened, aptly enough, in Cabo last October 13 — Hagar's birthday, and the title of his latest CD. It grew out of his Mas Tequila tour, lit by Jonathan Smeeton, who handed it over to lighting director Jim Greenawalt as it hit the road. “I took over as lighting designer and Jonathan became the production designer,” Greenawalt explains.

An integral part of the show is the set, which features several risers that allow fans to be onstage during the performance. “Sam fell in love with this set because he loves the idea of having people all around him on the risers,” Greenawalt comments. “He doesn't want to tour without it, so we just have to keep coming up with ideas on how to change it.”

One way the show changed this time out: Its use of scenic drops. “They sent a photographer down to Cabo and he took pictures of all the different artwork and everything on the walls in the cantina,” Greenawalt reports. “When the pictures came back, George & Goldberg Design Associates of Paramount, CA, duplicated it all in fabric.” While other shows rely on the omnipresent black backdrop, Hagar's cantina stage is alive with color, from bright yellows to fire reds. “For this tour, we added five traveler tracks and new drops, so the scenic elements change subtly during the show.”

Hagar had been performing the show in the club within the Cabo cantina. Before the tour began, the production headed to Morpheus Lights in Santa Clara, CA. “Morpheus let us come up to its shop with the entire set,” Greenawalt reports. “We hung the rig in the shop and brought the whole set in so we could revamp it and try all the traveler tracks that we added to it. Morpheus gave us carte blanche in the shop for a week, and basically it came out on the road programmed from day one with very few changes.”

The tour features Morpheus Flip Box truss, and a bevy of Martin Professional automated luminaires. “I used Martin equipment on the Mas Tequila tour, and I just really like some of the looks and some of the features that the lights have,” Greenawalt explains. “And I've never really had any big failures with Martin equipment, and I really abuse them, since I have them on a lot of hours each day.” The Flip Box truss has also made Greenawalt's life on the road a bit easier. “The lights stay in the trussing, so you don't have to hang them every day, which eliminates the problem of a stagehand hanging one or two backwards.”

Greenawalt's rig is quite simple. It consists of four 20' (6m) vertical trussing pieces upstage, a slightly U-shaped upstage truss and a straight 40' (12m) downstage truss. “The upstage truss interlocks into the set, as do the vertical trusses, and it all comes together to make it look like a room,” the LD reports. That the set is integrated into the lighting rig has also worked out to his advantage: “Because the rig marries into the set and it's the same trim height (20') every day, there's very little focusing involved.”

The four vertical truss pieces, which are separated by the set panels, feature several different instruments, including Lowel-Light Omni Photo Floods, DWE striplights, Diversitronics Mark II 3000 DMX 3kW strobes, ACL bars, and Martin MAC 250s. “The vertical trussing is behind the people who are on the stage,” Greenawalt says. “I've clamped the Lowel-Light Omnis with barndoors on the vertical trussing and they silhouette all of the people onstage. I never really use frontlight on them, so sometimes, when they're just standing there, I ghost them up from behind, and it looks like they're actually part of the set. In fact, they could be cardboard cutouts and nobody would know,” he laughs.


The verticals aren't just a backlight position for Greenawalt — they give him the opportunity to throw massive quantities of light into the audience. “I have DWE striplights that are gelled red, since Sam is known as the Red Rocker, and he likes the color. It's a big blast of red, somewhat of a different look.”

No rock show is complete without strobe lights, and Greenawalt provides a super-sized dose. “Last year we used Terra Strobes, and we didn't use as many. This year, I beefed up the strobes and put them on the vertical trussing, so they're basically blasting the audience in the face,” he laughs. “We're using a lot of the new Diversitronics 3k strobes, 14 in all.”

Red striplights and 3k strobes are just two ways that Greenawalt announces that this is, visually, a traditional rock-and-roll show. His use of nine PAR-64 ACL bars is another. “We wanted to get back to more of a conventional 80s rock look,” the LD explains. “The rig looks big, because of the ACLs — we have big blasts of them coming from everywhere, including the verticals and the floor. They really help fill the show in.”

His color palette also follows the line of many rock shows. “I stayed away from pastels. It's a pretty bright show with a lot of flash and a lot of strobes, and one or two songs may feature pastels, but that's about it.” And while Greenawalt does use several stock gobos, there is a look he doesn't use: “Sam told me early on that he didn't want any swirly gobos with girly colors,” he laughs. “He's done a number of TV shows that are already programmed with spinning gobos, and he didn't want to see any of that. Which worked out well, because I don't do any of that.”


Hagar's show is a high-energy party that, on occasion, does slow down for a rock ballad or two (at least, the closest thing that Hagar has to a rock ballad). For those slower moments, Greenawalt relies on UV looks. “In the middle of his set, he does some slower songs and I try to bring the show down somewhat, since the audience is all wound up from the strobes. To calm them down, I black out and come back in a UV, with Sam in an ellipsoidal.”

During the Mas Tequila tour, the link cue at the end of each song and the beginning of the next was a UV look, which is not the case here. “This time, I decided that we were going to do blackouts. We never went black last year, and, after the first couple of times I did them, Sam came up and told me he just loves them,” Greenawalt notes. “I think he wants more blackouts, rather than having light on him constantly, which I understand 100%.”

The Ten 13 CD has 11 songs, many of which Hagar is playing on the tour. “Sam just loves the new songs, so he put nine of them on the set list,” Greenawalt says. “When I went in to program, I knew the old ones — ‘One Way To Rock,’ ‘I Can't Drive 55,’ and so on — and had ideas about what I was going to do with them. But then I sat down and realized that I had almost a whole CD to program.” Hagar liked Greenawalt's new looks, which the public at large will be able to see on a new concert DVD shot in Chicago.

The Ten 13 Birthday Bash concluded on the West Coast in late January, and is on hiatus while Hagar awaits the birth of his new baby. “Sam wants to stay home with his wife for that,” Greenawalt says. Then it's back on the road in May to hit the shed circuit with essentially the same rig. “We're probably going to extend the downstage truss to 72' (22m), and add eight more Martin MAC 600s,” he notes. “It's a fun show, with a party vibe. People who aren't necessarily fans of Sam come out and end up just loving it.”


Jim Greenawalt

Jonathan Smeeton

Rob Kern

Mike Marval

Troy Garcia

Dave Carr

Pete Roberts

Monty Carlo

Ken Jensen

Morpheus Lights

10 Martin Professional90 MAC 250s
14 Martin MAC 500s
20 Martin MAC 600s
14 Diversitronics80 Mark II 3000 strobes
12 Morpheus93 9-lights
12 Morpheus XL Ranger color changers
5 Altman94 6x12 ellipsoidals
10 Lowel-Light95 Omni Photo Floods with barndoors
2 PAR-64s
1 Flying Pig Systems85 Wholehog console with expansion wing
2 Reel EFX84 DF-50 hazers
2 High End Systems82 F-100 foggers
5 8-circuit DWE striplights
4 4-circuit DWE striplights
9 PAR-64 ACL bars
7 Columbus McKinnon96 one-ton motors
1 Columbus McKinnon 1/4-ton 64fpm motor
Morpheus Flip Box truss
Lee Filters97 color media
Circle Number on Reader Service Card