While the majority of festivals and concerts scheduled for the summer of 2020 had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, a few smaller events were still able to go ahead with social distancing in place. One example was the fifth annual Birds of a Feather Music & Arts Festival, which took place during August in Northern Kentucky. It featured an eclectic line-up of bands playing across two adjacent stages, which both featured identical lighting rigs comprised exclusively of ADJ fixtures.
Located at the picturesque Thornhill Drag Strip in a little town called Morning View in Kentucky, Birds of a Feather is a small family-friendly festival that hosts a mixture of local and regional touring acts. At the top of this year’s line-up was Tropidelic, a band that blends reggae, hip-hop and high energy funk alongside ‘trashgrass’ string quartet The Rumpke Mountain Boys and electro-psychedelic-funk-rock band Dizgo, which gives a flavor of the musical diversity on offer. To ensure compliance with local COVID-19 rules, each household attending the festival in 2020 had a designated camping spot and were also allocated to their own socially-distanced space – marked out on the ground – in front of the stage area.
Lighting and audio production for the festival was provided, for the second year running, by Waveform Live. The company’s principle, Michael ‘Crazylegs’ Hemann, designed the lighting rig and also operated it for the duration of the three day event. This was Michael’s third year working the festival. In 2018 he was there as a visiting LD with The Rumpke Mountain Boys (who also played that year) and he made such a good impression on the promoter that they invited him back the following year to provide full production in 2019 and then again for this year’s festival.
“It’s a great little festival, but it’s also a hard gig to work as an lighting operator,” explains Michael. “This year only one of the bands had their own LD, so I ran the whole show. There were two 30’ stages, which flip-flopped throughout the day. The music started at around 11am and continued almost non-stop all day and night, with the last band finishing at 3 or 4 in the morning! Because of this format, there can be a bit of a grey area as to which act is the headliner on each day, so to avoid any possibility of bad feeling I used an identical rig on each of the two stages. Of course this also made life easier when it came to programming!”
Michael has been a loyal ADJ user since the early days of his production company and his current lighting inventory consists exclusively of ADJ equipment. One of his favorite fixtures, both for his one-off festival work and when touring with The Rumpke Mountain Boys, is the Focus Spot 4Z and it served as the workhouse moving light for this rig. Six of the fixtures ran across the upstage truss on each stage, while two more units were positioned on truss totems flanking the drummer. Powered by a potent 200W cool white LED engine, the fixture is relatively compact while also packing in a diverse feature set that provides lighting designers with plenty of options and creative potential.
“I love the Focus Spot 4Z,” enthuses Michael. “It is a really versatile fixture that has way more than just one function, which makes it perfect for this type of stage. Zoomed in as tight as it goes it can make a beam effect, but zoomed out wide you can get a nice wash that allowed me to fill the back of the stage with color using the eight fixtures I had on the rig. They’re good for projecting GOBO patterns onto the stage as well, and I use the GOBO scroll function quite a lot. I also really like the linear prism too, you can use it to create an effect that kind of looks like a claw reaching out at the audience, which is pretty cool.”
For his ground package, Michael utilised six of ADJ’s Inno Spot Pro moving heads on each stage. An older fixture that is now discontinued, the fact that Michael’s units are still going strong – despite a gruelling schedule that sees them used on hundreds of Rumpke Mountain Boys shows in a normal year in addition to a variety of one-off events and festivals – is testament to the build quality and reliability of ADJ fixtures. For mid-air aerial effects, Michael utilised a fixture that is a much more recent addition to his inventory, the Hydro Beam X1. This dedicated beam moving light is powered by a 100W Osram Sirius HRI discharge lamp and features a weatherproof design – certified to the IP65 standard – making it perfect for outdoor shows.
“I’ve used both of the Hydro Series Beam fixtures and really like them, they are great value IP65 moving heads that are ideal for festivals,” states Michael. “Because the trim height on the upstage trusses was quite low on this gig, and the stages were relatively small for outdoors, the smaller X1 model was perfect. I’d say the X1 is ideal for anything up to around a 20’ trim height. They are plenty punchy enough, but won’t get too hot on the backs of the bands’ heads! For a larger stage, I’d definitely move up to the X2, which can throw a really powerful beam over those longer distances.”
Doing double duty providing color washes for the stage and also key light for the performers, six 12P HEX IP fixtures were rigged to the downstage trusses of each stage. This heavy duty LED par fixture has an IP65-rating as well as a robust all-metal construction. It also features a dual yoke design that can be used for hanging or floor-standing, making it a perfect choice for rental and production companies whose fixtures need to be capable of working hard. With a beam angle of 30-degrees and 12 x 12-Watt 6-in-1 HEX LEDs, it generates a potent wash in an almost infinite palette of colours.
“The 12P HEX IP is a really nice, compact, LED par that is also really tough. Being IP-rated is important for outdoor shows like this one, as the downstage truss doesn’t get much protection from the roof of the stage. I really like the flexibility that you get from the HEX LEDs too; the inclusion of both amber and white is useful for getting a nice warm white that produces really natural-looking skin tones. It has the benefits of LED, but with the colors mixed in the right way, the output looks just like a conventional fixture.”
Completing the rig was one of ADJ’s Entourage pro-grade touring ‘faze’ machines. Built into its own dedicated flight case, this powerful atmospheric generator creates a massive amount of light-show-enhancing fog from water-based fluid, but spread out into a fine hazy effect rather than the intense blast created by a regular fog machine. Equipped with a powerful 1,500W heater, the Entourage offers a vast output potential of 15,000 cubic ft. per minute, making it ideal for large stages and venues as well as festivals and other outdoor events. It also boasts a very speedy warm-up time of just 45 seconds, meaning that atmospheric faze can be generated whenever, as well as wherever, it is required.
“I was super impressed by the Entourage on this show. I only had one on each stage, and we had some pretty windy nights, but it really kept up. I had actually brought a couple of extra hazers with me, just in case I needed more, but they never had to come off the truck! The amount of juice I went through was also pretty impressive, compared to how much I’ve used with other hazers in the past on windy outdoor shows. They seem to be pretty cost effective and I can see that, over a couple of years, I’m going to make a decent saving on haze juice thanks to the Entourage.”
Combined together, the 25 fixtures made for an effective and versatile rig that perfectly complemented the diverse musical line-up of the festival. Doubled up across the two stages, this allowed for continuous musical entertainment and an intense three days of work for Michael. Of course, he loved every moment of it and is already looking forward to returning with a bigger rig for next year’s edition of this rapidly growing festival.