It's been a big year for fashion anniversaries: DKNY turned 20, and Calvin Klein celebrated its 40th, but neither commemorated quite like Italian fashion house Diesel, which held a series of simultaneous rock ‘n’ roll circus-themed parties entitled “xXx” in honor of its 30th birthday. The October events were staged in 17 cities across eight time zones beginning in Tokyo, then moving on to Beijing, Dubai, Athens, Amsterdam, Milan, Zurich, Munich, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Oslo, Helsinki, London, and Sao Paulo, before the grand finale hit New York City.

Inspired by the traveling European circuses of long ago, the New York party, held at the very edge of the long-deserted Pier 3 in Brooklyn Heights, featured cabaret performers, fire-eaters, trapeze artists, sword swallowing, a marching band, as well as traditional circus fare such as cotton candy, popcorn, and hot dogs. All of this took place inside a specially constructed 90'×270' circus tent, the outside of which acted as a projection screen showing images, logos, and patterns via eight Barco FLM R20+ projectors, all edge-blended and scattered in various locations on the premises. The 5,000 attendees (admission was free, as long as a ticket was secured in advance) were also treated to musical collaborations, or “mashes,” by Hot Chip and Chaka Khan, rapper T.I., M.I.A., Franz Ferdinand, and N.E.R.D on a 60'-wide stage.

The event's structure, lighting, and video designer, Andrew Gumper of AG Light & Sound, describes what it was like to literally build a three-ring circus for one night, with little more than a month to execute everything. “The talks began about three months before the event,” he says. “Forty-five days before the event was when we got the official go-ahead, and we had 10 days to actually build onsite. My first goal was to build the largest, most impressive, and most memorable event. I wanted people to talk about this party for years to come and also to use as many of the products we already had in our inventory.” Gumper began with the design of the roof as a starting point and AG Light & Sound was the event's structure, lighting, video, staging, power, and personnel supplier.

Since Diesel wanted a 3,000 to 5,000 person capacity with a large stage, as well as circus performers that included acrobats suspended from the roof, the design team chose to build a custom truss roof system tent rather than rent a normal party tent. “The focus of the show was the concert, so we started with a 60'-wide stage, plus wing space, and ended up with a 90'-wide structure,” says Gumper. “With the components we had, and the capabilities of our suppliers, we could build nine 30' bays, so this gave us a 90'×270' space. To fit the amount of people and have a separate VIP area, we chose to create a 5,000sq-ft. balcony around the perimeter of the space. This gave us the necessary square footage to have an event on the scale that Diesel wanted.” The tent's roof system had a 480,000lb. total capacity across the entire roof and was engineered to comply with NYC building codes.

Gumper adds that a main design goal was to have people be “blown away” from the very first moment they actually saw the site, which, for most, was in a cab coming over the nearby Brooklyn Bridge. The sheer size of the tent, combined with the lower Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, was enough to make most attendees stop and take photos before they even entered the party. “When people walked into the tent, we threw a curveball at them with a 55'-tall red velour drape blocking their view of the main area,” Gumper says. “All they could see was a Diesel Pop-Up Shop selling event merchandise.”

From here, people could go in either side through the curtain or up one of two staircases to the VIP balcony. Black velour drapes 35' tall were also hung around the entire perimeter of the space to control sound reverberation. Once attendees went through the curtain, they saw the insanity of the rock ‘n’ roll circus theme. Visual highlights included the flying acrobatic performers hanging from CyberHoists — on many small stages around the party as well as on the bar — a 90'×30' LED video wall, made up of five screens, two of which were 18mm screens creating a downstage proscenium to hide all of the backstage festivities. Next was a 60'×8' screen creating an elevated DJ platform behind the stage. Above that was another 60' screen creating a backdrop for the stage. All of this was custom designed and manufactured by AG Video & Design for the event. In the center, above the DJ platform, was a 13'×17' screen for I-Mag of the show. Hanging above the stage were three X-shaped trusses creating the Diesel xXx logo, hung on CyberHoists to allow for movement throughout the show.

Playback for custom video content created by Dorian Orange, as well as some clips provided by Diesel Italy, was via a Martin Maxedia system. “Essentially the looks had to maintain the room's circus vibe and keep the energy up throughout the night,” says lighting programmer Cory FitzGerald. “The space itself dictated a lot of what we were able to do and use. Given that it was a very large self-supported truss tent, there were rigging issues and weight issues that forced us to set things up the way they were. There was also a balance of keeping the room lit for the party, and then keep the lighting interesting for the acts on stage.” Scaling and switching was done using Analog Way Tetra-VIO units. Lighting and video were both controlled from the FOH position. Live webcasts of all 17 parties were also available to those who couldn't make it to one of the fêtes.

Gear was brought in festival-style, with an entire loading dock and prep area backstage, and everything was flown, so there were no cable crossings on the ground. The isolated location was both a blessing and a curse. Aside from the extremely short timeline they had to put it all together, Gumper says the biggest challenge on this project was “creating a sealed tent out of a roof system and then engineering it to be placed on a pier with winds that seemed to never stop.”

All challenges aside, the event at the NYC location was a success. Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz made it official by declaring the date “Diesel Day in Brooklyn,” and the company will stand alone in history as throwing one of the biggest and only parties on the premises, as construction is slated to begin next year on the site for a public park.

SELECTED GEAR LIST

TENT STRUCTURE

2,200' 24"×30" Super Truss

900' 20.5"×30" Super Truss

20 Octocube Self Climbing Sleeve Blocks

850' 20.5" Box Tower Truss

750' 20.5" Box Truss

1,650' 12" Box Truss

40 1-ton Chain Hoists

270' 22.5"×30" Catwalk Truss/Moving Light Truss

80,000sq-ft. Tent Vinyl Black Inside/White Outside

6,000' ½" Steel Cable for Tie Downs

BALCONIES AND STAGING

412 4'×8' Stage Decks

768' 20.5"×30" Super Truss

340' 20.5" Box Tower Truss (plated)

68 20.5" Grapples

52 5" I-Beams 12' long

Assorted Layher ring scaffolding for stage, stairs, and FOH platform

750' Clamp On Railing

LIGHTING

2 MA Lighting grandMA

3 MA Lighting grandMA NSP

36 Elation PowerSpot 700

50 Elation PowerWash 575

36 Martin Professional MAC 2000 Profile

12 Vari-Lite VL3000 Spot

16 Elation PAR Moving Head

48 Acclaim X-Band-300

10 Martin Professional Atomic 3000 Strobe

100 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal

100 ETC Source Four PAR

3 Lycian 1271 Truss-Mounted Followspot

VIDEO

300 Tiles AG Video & Design LED Mesh 37.5mm

300 Tiles AG Video & Design LED Mesh 18.75mm

25 Lighthouse Technologies R10-i/o 10mm LED screen

16 Lighthouse Technologies R7-ER 7mm LED screen

32 Lighthouse 4mm LED screen

8 Barco FLM R20+ projectors

2 Martin Maxedia systems

8 Analog Way Tetra-VIO units

RIGGING

12 CyberHoist 500kg Hoist

6 CyberHoist 250kg Hoist

2 CyberHoist Control System

56 1-Ton Chain Hoist

12 1/3rd Ton Chain Hoist

CREDIT LIST

Event Structure, Lighting, and Video Design: Andrew Gumper

Event Planner: Tony Burger

Head Rigger: Tom McLellan

Rigging Consultant: William Stonecypher

Stage Manager: Gus Heningburg

Lighting Programmer: Cory FitzGerald

Video Operator/ IT: James Watral

Additional Rigging for Circus Performers: Dave Sowa, CyberHoist

Event Planning/Management: Relevent

Event Structure, Lighting, Video, Staging, Power, & Personnel: AG Light & Sound

Custom Trussing: Arcofab and Applied Electronics

Roof Skin Vinyl: ACE Tent and Canvas

Custom Content Creation: Dorian Orange and Diesel

Engineering: Theta Consulting

Live Camera Broadcast: Pete's Big TVs

Satellite Uplink Truck: All Mobile Video

Sound Equipment Vendor: ESP Productions

Catering and Backstage Tenting: Parties To Go Events