Strait ahead with Dallas BackupWhile the summer touring season usually starts to hit its stride in June, George Strait decided to get a jump on the competition, hitting the road with his Chevy Truck Country Music Festival Tour in late March. The tour, which plays in stadiums, amphitheaters and arenas, features two stages, with the main stage hosting Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womak, and Lonestar, among others, while Strait closes the show.

The Country Music Festival Tour is also something of a production partnership between Strait and Dallas Backup, who have had gear out with Strait since 1982. "In the music business, that's a very long time," notes Dallas Backup president Charles Belcher. "We started out doing sound and lights for George in a 24' bobtail truck, and now we have lighting in a total of four semis," he adds. Much of the automated gear used on Strait's current tour was purchased from High End in January of this year, when High End made the decision to close their in-house rental department. "This purchase, when added to our existing inventory of over 100 fixtures, makes Dallas Backup one of the largest automated lighting vendors in the Southwest," comments Belcher.

Dallas Backup has a plethora of lighting gear out with Strait, including a Compulite Sabre Console, ETC Sensor Dimmers, ETC Source Four PARs and Lekos, and High End Studio Colors, Studio Spots and Cyberlights. "Being in Dallas, with High End in Austin, we've grown up together," Belcher notes. "Dallas Backup bought the first Intellibeams when they were 400 watts rather than 700 watts, way back in '88--way back when," he adds with a smile.

Straits current tour developed out of his stadium tour of the past three years, and is headed up by Paul Rogers, who is the Production Manger, and Lighting Designer Stacey LaBarbera. "This year is the 4th year of the stadium tour, and this year, they went to some new places, places they've been before and mixed in arenas and sheds," Belcher notes. While the configuration of the rig has changed over the years, the amount of lighting gear that's gone out with Strait has stayed close to the same in the past few years. "The first year of the stadium tour, there was probably half as much gear out as there is now," he comments. "Since then, the amount of gear has been the same essentially the same, but the configurations have changed," Belcher remarks.

Dallas Backup, which Belcher began as a backline company in 1978, has stayed close to its roots as a backline supplier. "We started out way back when people used to take out grand pianos," Belcher comments. "We had a Steinway out with Willie Nelson, and that's kind of how it started," he notes. "Then we grew into sound, then we grew into lighting; that's the evolution of it." Today, Dallas Backup's roster of clients include Clay Walker, Ty Herndon, and the Benny Hinn Crusade. "When you Benny Hinn on tv in the arena configuration, that's us," notes Belcher.

While other lighting and sound companies have embraced the corporate world, Dallas Backup has stayed close to the music industry. "We're primarily music based, all our people are music oriented and that's where our roots are--we've grown, but we haven't departed," he comments.

Recently, Dallas Backup has done shows with Unisys in Cancun, Homebuilders in Atlanta and is doing a show with corporate giant Wal-Mart. "This month, we're doing the Wal-Mart shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, which is huge in the corporate world," adds Belcher. Moreover, while other companies compete heavily for corporate work, Belcher and Dallas Backup have found a niche in the corporate world that suits them quite well. "We don't do too many of the straight podium business meetings," he admits. "Our involvement with the corporate sector, outside of the really big shows where they're hiring us because of the sheer amount of equipment that it takes to do it, is the gala with live entertainment that's usually at the conclusion of the business meeting," explains Belcher. "While we're doing what we do in a corporate environment, we're still doing music in that environment," he adds. Why stay with the music industry? A very simple answer that millions across the country can understand. "The music business is fun," Belcher concludes.