John Berret Goes Rogue at the Aiken Bluegrass Festival

Photo courtesy of Eric Rayburn

Its name notwithstanding, the Aiken Bluegrass Festival serves up much more than your grandparents’ brand of this traditional American music. Along with old-school claw hammering and boom-chicking, the two-day event, held this May at the Western Carolina State Fairgrounds, also featured a healthy dosage of rock-infused “Newgrass” sounds.

 Lighting this year’s festival, John Berret reflected the heartfelt spirit of both branches of bluegrass music, while still honouring the time-tested “tree” that each spring from. Aiding him in this endeavour was a collection of Chauvet Professional Rogue fixtures, supplied by Quest Sound Productions.

 “I really needed to be cognizant of the relatively limited space I had available while designing the festival rig,” said Berret. “At the same time that it had to be compact, my rig also needed to be versatile enough to create unique looks for 19 different groups representing different generations of bluegrass.”

With limited height and room for his design, Berret optimized the placement of all fixtures to enhance the impact of his lighting. He hung six Rogue R2 Spots and two Rogue R1 Beams on upstage truss, as well as ground stacking four Rogue R1 Beams on totems below the truss and four Rogue R1 FX-B fixtures about three inches in front of the R1 Beams.

Adding the four Rogue R1 FX-B units gave Berret the impact of 20 moving lights since each fixture has five independently controlled LED heads. Berret had these heads going in different directions at some points, then had them act in unison at others, to reflect the music being performed.

“The colour mixing, dimming and shape of the light from the Rogue FX-B gave me so much more freedom throughout the festival,” said Berret. “I was able to drive all the tripping concertgoers over the edge with the seamless rainbow of colours and beams they produced. They paint the air exceptionally well.”

Berret used the Rogue Spot and Beam fixtures for colour, backlighting and aerial effects. “The goal was to create the feeling of the stage being way bigger than it actually was,”  he said.

“The Rogues allowed for an infinite variety of looks, using split beams, cross light and backlight, projected crisp gobos on the floor of the stage, and also offered stunning aerials that really added the texture and dimensionality I wanted. Being able to layer all these looks together added even more impact on the performances.  I was super pumped about the overall look!”

 The Aiken Bluegrass Festival earned widespread praise in 2019 for reflecting the creative breadth of this time-honoured musical genre, as well as its ability to speak to the human heart in unique ways. The same could easily be said of the light show that supported the diverse group of artists on its stage.