High Scream and Backbone reflect on Hardwell’s Rebels Never Die

High Scream and Backbone International look back on staging one of electronic dance music’s most-anticipated events of the year.

Rebels Never Die: Hardwell’s long-anticipated stage return. Photo: Rein Kooyman

On 27 March 2022, after almost four years away, Hardwell returned to Miami’s Ultra Music Festival to perform a surprise closing set. Armed with a new 14 track artist album, Rebels Never Die, released on Revealed Recordings and the announcement of a follow-up world tour, Hardwell ignited the attention of fans around the globe. Rebels Never Die represents a critical point in the musical shift for one of electronic music’s biggest known stars. Following a landmark show at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, TPi sat down with High Scream and Backbone International – virtually – to reflect on staging the most extensive and complete set-up of Hardwell’s long-anticipated stage return.

What was your role on this project?

High Scream: “Our role is to deliver the creative and technical solutions for the show production. That means our team designed the entire show from the bottom up – bringing Hardwell’s vision from an idea into a real physical stage production. Working in tandem with Backbone International, we also supervise the implementation of the Rebels Never Die show in each venue, to ensure it fits and that the show is delivered in its finished form as intended by Hardwell.”

Backbone International: “As technical directors, we are responsible for implementing the show and set design into the Bill Graham Auditorium and making sure the show is as close to the original design as possible. From lights, sound, video and SFX to making sure the right DJ gear is in place.”

What health and safety precautions were put in place to ensure a safe delivery of the event?

High Scream: “As we’re working across the globe with this tour production, with safety standards being different in every country, maintaining a strict health and safety protocol is right at the top of everyone’s agenda. The local promoter, Another Planet Entertainment handled health and safety, a process which is the same for all shows, with our touring team adapting to that established system and precautions. We must adhere to local safety regulations and so when designing the show, we also take this into consideration, so we ensure to give ourselves some freedom for mobility when it comes to aspects from pyrotechnics to raised stage designs.”

Did you face any challenges putting together this show?

High Scream: “Having an idea is great but being able to translate it and make it real is always the biggest challenge because then you hit, what I like to call, ‘technical borders’. This is the same for every project, but what made our job more challenging with Rebels Never Die is the fact that we practically designed and produced the entire show over zoom. It was not until over a year later that we all saw each other in one room for the first time, which was during the rehearsals in Breda. That forced us all to have to adapt our methods, but I’m proud of the team because they pulled it off.”

Backbone International: “Every show has its own challenges, but in this case getting the design as close as possible to the original design, keeping in mind local labour cost and the overall budget was a challenge. Together with the promoter, we found a way of cutting load in days and pushing everything into two days of load in, with one day dedicated to rigging and hanging trusses. Other challenges were getting exactly the requested type of light fixtures and sound speaker as this has a major impact on the overall feel of the evening of the show.”

Do you have a favourite moment from this project?

High Scream: “San Francisco was the biggest Rebels Never Die show. It was a vast show production. To see the show at full pace, with Hardwell in his zone inside this complex diamond DJ booth construction with the crowd going wild is a thrilling experience.”

Backbone International: “Our favourite part of the show is when Hardwell is starting his set and you can feel the audience feel and breath the music. There always is a moment in which the crowd goes crazy and the whole venue starts ‘flying’. This is the moment when everything comes together, and this is what I love about the job at hand. Another highlight of show day is the moment all work is done, the work lights go off and the Hardwell team starts programming. This always has a special feeling, seeing the set design come to life in the hands of our operators. Hearing the Hardwell music being sound checked in a major, empty venue, always gives me goosebumps. I think all moments are achieved by hard work and professionalism from everyone working on a production like this, from the security guards to the operators and the techs working the show, this always is a team effort.”

Could you sum up the experience?

High Scream: “In one word. Amazing! This whole project has been an education in efficiency and working effectively in remote situations. The world of touring has changed a lot since the pandemic. So, to go into a project of this scale with no physical interaction and then to come out the other end with a successful show, just like this one in San Francisco, was a triumphant moment. I’m very proud of what we achieved here.”

Backbone International: “San Francisco was fun and a good show to work on. Every local was very kind and happy to be working on this show, the food was good, and hospitality was great. Overall, a great experience and we can’t wait to go back.”