Country Music Shines in Spite of Rain with Bandit Lites


NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Country music’s biggest stars found themselves awash in the beams of over 600 moving lights as Bandit Lites and lighting designer Mike Swinford lit up the main stage at the CMA Music Festival. Starting on Thursday, June 6, the four day festival featured country music’s hottest stars, including Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum taking the stage at LP Field to crowds of over 162,000.

Swinford had the special challenge of designing a show that not only appealed to members in the audience, but would also look good for the televised special on August 12, hosted by Little Big Town.

“The producer asked me to design a big lighting look and using no video screens on stage,” explained Swinford. “We did keep the floor video only. He wanted a big rock look from the lighting.”

That big rock look was accomplished by having a three dimensional design with an awe-inspiring number of fixtures. The floor of the stage was lined with 96 Clay Paky Sharpys, while overhead were 8 articulating trusses. Additionally, four towers of VL3500 washes and VK spots lined both stage right and stage left capped off with 8 more towers upstage to give the illusion the lights went from the down stage overhead all the way up stage to the floor.

With a gear list consisting of 284 VL3500 Washes, 180 VL3000 Spots, 10 VL3500 Spots, 96 Floor Sharpys and 480 PARs, Swinford relied on his knowledge of what compliments television looks.

“I know that Vari Light always works well for television, and I have the most experience with their products,” said Swinford of his fixture choice. “I was trying to accomplish a textured floor with the spots and massive beams from the washes. The biggest challenges were keeping the lighting as a background element for the cameras, and yet not focusing directly into the camera. We did that a few times with the PARs as background.”

An additional challenge arose from the inclement weather forecasts every day, where rain showers and thunderstorms threatened to accost the outdoor performances. Fortunately, Bandits’ crew worked to make sure all equipment was covered and operational at the start of each day.

“Bandit was excellent,” Swinford said. “They always do a great job, but this year was exceptional. We had 100 percent working at the start of each day.”

“At a few points during the concert, when things got to really rocking, we were told by the generator crew that we were pulling just shy of one million watts,” said Bandit Lites’ director of special operations Roth Edwards. “It was an intense light show, to say the least.”

The Bandit crew included project manager Shawn Lear, crew chief David Butzler, Billy Willingham, Jonathan Houle, Sarah Euker, Tyler Veneziano, John Lucksinger and Chris Hathaway.

“We are truly appreciative of Chris Crawford and the entire CMA production team for this opportunity,” said Edwards. “It has been a privilege working with so many great people including Mike Swinford, Mark Carver, Jeff Gregson, Brian Leedham, Willy McLachlan and Ken Hudson. It was just a great team and it was fun to come in to work every day. They are a great group of guys.”

About Bandit Lites, Inc.

Bandit Lites is a global leader in the entertainment lighting marketplace.  From touring productions to fixed installations, Bandit Lites has a full staff of highly trained professionals to deal with all types of lighting needs. Bandit’s global presence will insure seamless transitions no matter where your next show takes you. 

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