Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle company, recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and in an extraordinary gift to its customers, threw a party that few are likely to soon forget. The event, at Veterans' Memorial Park in Milwaukee, featured the Doobie Brothers and Tim McGraw, with guest appearances by Kid Rock and Elton John.
According to LD Jason Robinson, who designed the event, it was “a four-hour party. Dan Akroyd was the host. The Doobie Brothers opened it up. There were speeches by Harley executives, and an opening display of the 2004 models. Then Tim McGraw came out and sang with guest star Kid Rock. After that, Willie G. Davidson, of the Davidson family, spoke, followed by a video showing 100 years of motorcycles, and a local gospel choir sang. That led into the final act, Elton John, who did 90 minutes, with Kid Rock and Tim McGraw doing numbers with him, too. Willy closed it, followed by about 12 minutes of pyro (by the Grucci family) and music. It was more than a concert-it was a party, a major event.” Attendance approached 250,000
Robinson designed the lighting plot for the entire performance, then worked with the lighting directors for McGraw (Jerome Johnson) and Elton John (Kevin Bye). In addition Robinson designed the lighting for entire park area. “We created a ring around the park, using 100 Space Cannon 7K units, spaced about 25' from each other. After Willie's thank-you speech, we cranked up the 7Ks, doing some traditional moves, with vortexes and spirals, tilting the beams over the crowd.”
For the performance itself, Stageco set up a stage which spanned 60' × 60'. Robinson's rig included 12 Martin Mac 2000 Spot units, 40 Mac 2000 Wash units, 72 Mac 600s, 32 Mac 500s, 40 Mac 250s, 144 ETC Source Four PARs, 84 1kW James Thomas PARs, 24 cyc units, and 36 ministrips. All the equipment was supplied by Bandit Lites. Robinson says that the company's equipment and crew “were challenged to the limit, due to changes with talent and creative additions. Their attention to detail and preparation made all the difference to the show's needs.”
Thanks to the use of custom motorized truss, each part of the concert had its own look. “We had a daylight look for the Doobie Brothers, who came on at 6pm appearing with the Milwaukee Symphony,” says Robinson, adding that their act included pyro and airplane flybys. This Doobie Brothers set featured custom trussing in the shape of the Harley-Davidson logo. After the Doobies, says Robinson, “We did a set change, the emblem came down and came apart to reveal the new set, for Tim McGraw.” For the latter act, he says, the design featured triangle trusses for “a rock and roll look,” using lots of rich colors. After McGraw finished, “we closed the curtains to set up Elton's stage. His look was very different. We had two half moon trusses at the back and turned the stage into a video- and graphic-intensive environment. The video director, Josh Adams, and I, worked out a plan with video imaging using Josh's laptop to run video imagery through the screens. Josh produced the video himself.”
The show was controlled by the Wholehog II console, from High End Systems, with two Wings. Troy Eckerman was the programmer. “We had very little time for programming,” says Robinson. “The lighting guys hit the stage on Saturday and we started programming on Monday. We had eight days.” Other key personnel included producer Andrew Empson, associate producer Brad Fitt, site coordinator Greg Dillman, crew chief Chuck Hastings, and technicians Brad Rogers, Jon McKellar, Josh Maples, and Sean Beaulieu. Video was provided by Nocturne and Kohler provided the necessary generators.
For the show's grand finale, Robinson returned to the Space Cannons. “We used them at the end — when the Gruccis blew off a ton of silver confetti, we lit it so it looked like it was raining,” he says. It brought the party to a suitably glittering close. Fortunately, the folks at Harley-Davidson have another 100 years to come up with something comparable.