As winners of a 2005 American Music Award for Favorite Country Band and a Country Music Award for Vocal Duo Of The Year — and let's not forget two nominations for the upcoming Grammy Awards this month — musicians Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks have been delivering their brand of rockin' country music to the masses for the Deuces Wild Tour. Larry Boster, who has worked with the band for years, acts as lighting designer, director, programmer, set designer, and production design coordinator, “not to say that I need this many titles to feed my ego,” he says, “but my role on the tour on a daily basis does involve all of the aforementioned.”

The duo plays a wide range of venues, from arenas, amphitheatres, and festivals to state fairs, casinos, and corporate ballrooms. “Every morning, pre load-in, production manger Randy ‘Baja’ Fletcher, stage manager Keith Anderson, rigger Mike McDonald, and I go over the game plan for that day's show,” says Boster. “I decide on how much production we'll use for that day. We have seven production trucks.”

With a rig supplied by longtime collaborator Bandit Lites, Boster's design consists of six vertical trusses left and right, each with two rows of Martin MAC 600 washlights and MAC 2000 Profiles. The rig is raked from upstage at 14' to a downstage height of 30'. A downstage truss holds 12 MAC 300 washlights, and at stage left and right are two MAC 500 profile spots each, always in a breakup pattern to fill up a black hole area. A 48'×12' Opti Screen LED video wall forms an upstage backdrop. “The rig complements the wall, and the wall complements the rig,” Boster comments. “The rig is a matrix, so it was perfect to run with the [Martin] Maxxyz console.”

The tour was designed with a certain starkness in mind, according to the vision of Brooks & Dunn themselves. “They wanted just a drum riser and a 48'×12' LED video wall setting on the upstage floor,” says Boster. “Ronnie wanted to place the entire band in front of the wall. There are eight band members, three background singers, plus Kix and Ronnie. After looking at a number of computer generated 3D renderings, they then decided to add a stage set to elevate the band, raise the wall a few feet, and add two 15'×20' projecting screens outside of the sound system, left and right. The video wall would be the foundation of the concept. But now, all of the IMAG would be placed on the outside screens, and the wall would be for B-roll only.” Designs were achieved using a combination of AutoCAD, 3D Studio Viz, and Adobe® Photoshop®.

Marcia Kapustin created video content, which includes an array images ranging from a live feed, to shots of country music legends, to footage of traveling down a rural road for the song “Red Dirt Road.” Most of it was created with Apple® Final Cut® Pro during rehearsals. For live content, six cameras are used during the show, two at FOH, two handheld, plus iso-cameras off stage.

Preprogramming was done on the Maxxyz and using the Martin ShowDesigner Visualizer. “Using these, I was able to build most of my shutter and intensity chases, moving effects — offset ballyhoos, can cans — and a few beam effects,” says Boster.

Lighting and video are integrated artistically, of course, but not technically, adds Boster. “Continuity and balance — whether it is symmetrical or has some type of asymmetry — it has to have these two elements for me to feel comfortable with all the visuals involved,” he says. “A video wall this size is basically a huge painted canvas, except the painting is alive. It was essential for me to merge the lighting to the environment coming from the video content. From a technical point, there were no integrated pieces.”

With a video wall weighing in at around 9,000lbs and the upstage part of the lighting rig — just 2' downstage of the wall — at around 7,500lbs, the gear must be scaled down for venues with load restrictions. “The wall has digital weight dynos attached to each motor point,” says Boster. “This allows the rigger to monitor the change in loads on each point as the wall and lighting rig move during the show. It also gives him the ability to rebalance the wall after the move. Always, safety first!”

For sets, Boster followed Brooks' vision, which called for “risers that look as if they are floating on air in front of the video wall.” This was achieved through using 4" OD clear acrylic legs for support for each riser. The set is low profile, with each of the five risers face at only 6" high. “So lighting the set this year is not a huge concern,” says Boster. For set changes only, a 60'-wide upstage black and a downstage 40'×35' scenic roll drop with the Brooks & Dunn's tour logo painted on the front face are also used.

Boster is not a believer in using technology for technology's sake. “I love all the new toys coming out each year from both lighting and video mediums,” he says. “There are quite a few more wrenches in the toolbox to pick and choose from. I was taught to enhance the show, not to take away. In a production I recently went to see, the lighting and video just seemed to compete. ‘I must have superiority over you,’ said the video director. ‘No freaking way, I have more punch than you; take that!’ the lighting designer seemed to scream. The artist that the show was built around was lost in the mix — sensory overload!”

Brooks & Dunn are scheduled to continue touring and make several festival appearances through the summer.

BROOKS & DUNN

Tour manager: Scott Edwards

Production manager: Randy “Baja” Fletcher

Stage manger: Keith Anderson

Lighting and set designer: Larry Boster

Lighting crew chief: Jason Workman

Lighting techs: Boscoe France, Adam McIntosh

Lighting vendor: Bandit Lites (Michael Strickland, Michael Golden)

Video directors: Chris Keating (2005), Dan Hanson (2006)

Video content design: Marcia Kapustin

Video Crew Chief, camera 3: Lance Strader

System Tech, camera 4: Dave Alexander

System Engineer: Tony Wallace

FOH Camera 1: Mike Buswell

FOH Camera 2: Russ Spann

Wall Tech: Presley “Magic” Slater

Video vendor: Media Visions (Mike Cruce, Wade “Ten-A-C” Slatton)

Tour rigger: Mike McDonald

Carpenters: Edwin Skinner, Johnny Seay, John Ristoff

Stage Set Fabrication: SETCO (Brad Wathne, Jimmy Rue, Kenny Schubert)

Lighting Equipment

18 Martin MAC 2000 Profile
72 Martin MAC 600 Wash
12 Martin MAC 300 Wash
4 Martin Mac 500 Profile Spot
4 Martin Mac 500
1 MR16 30 lamp Mini-Strip
2 MR16 10 lamp Mini-Strip
1 Electrolls 36-way, 1.2kW Dimmer Rack
1 Martin Maxxyz Lighting Console
18 Coffing 1-Ton Motor
340' A-Type trussing

Video Equipment

1 Synergy II Control Switcher
1 Vista 344 Spyder (digital compositing and multi-image display system)
2 Sony D-50 Cameras with Sony 55x Sport Lenses
2 Sony D-50 Cameras Handheld
2 POV clip-on Lipstick Camera
2 Christie LX100 10K Projector
1 48'×12' Opti Screen LED Video Wall
2 20'×15' Projection Screens