Jay-Z and Eminen each had onstage scenic elements particular to their part of the show. For the Jay-Z portion, the Tribe design included band risers with façades covered in LED video screens to give Findley more canvas to work onto. For the Eminem set, Eminem’s wanted crushed, junked cars, like in a junkyard. “We worked with a company in California called Vision Scenery,” explains Rodgers. “Our goal was to do the cars but to have a few headlamps working, signal lamps that twinkled, license plates, and chrome bumpers to let it have that feel that it was real. I suggested to them to go to the junkyard, buy all of these pieces, use a cutting torch, and put them all together. It would be heavy, but it would look real. They thought that I was crazy and told me that they came up with a different method but with the same exact feel. They went to a hobby shop bought ¼”-scale model cars. They made a façade out of model cars and took a heat torch and melted them to look like junked cars. Then they took them to a company in North Hollywood and digitally scanned this ¼”-scale model. They put the scan into a CNC carving machine and carved out the whole thing at full size. The machine can only carve so much; it has a rough carving to it, and then they have to get artisan sculptors to go and do the refined carving. They created a mold and did a layer of Fiberglas and then painted the Fiberglas to look ultra real. I had them still go to the junkyard and get real chrome grills, real chrome bumpers, headlamp linings, and lights and apply it to their sculpture. It looks so real; it’s mind-blowing. They did a great, great job.”
To speed up the changeover between the two headliners, the Tribe team came up with the idea of using a large turntable, where each half would be preset with each act and, at the changeover, could be easily turned into place. To speed up the turntable installation, they chose to go with a simple cogwheel mechanism that allowed the bandstands to be laid on top of a standard deck. “My design was two bandstands that were back to back to each other on a cogwheel that allowed those bandstands to rotate—not a turntable that has to be built into the stage, which takes longer to load-in, but just a simple cogwheel. It’s pretty cool; Brian Sullivan of B+R Scenery built it. We have a stairwell with a trapdoor that allows Eminem to walk up from the ground to the stage level, which B+R also built. We have a center lift with reveal for when Jay-Z makes his appearance. Everything else is video wall and the eye.”
For Rodgers, it’s all about the whole visual impact. “I love being that guy that designs the look and feel,” he states. “I am no lighting designer; I am no video/visual imagery guy. I just like being the guy that comes up with the big picture. It still takes my great art directors to do it all. There are so many other professional artists that are playing in our arena now that you have got to let them do their passion. If you harness that passion, then you’re going to win.”
As you will see when you look at the Tribe renderings and photos of the concert events in Detroit and New York City, Rodgers and his team from Tribe along with a lot of designers, technicians, and crew have created an iconic and memorable musical event.