Any Shakespeare professor will tell you that when Elizabethan actors wanted to signal to the daytime audiences at London’s Globe Theatre in the 17th century that a scene was set at night, they simply lit a torch on stage. These days, although the concept is the same, the tools are decidedly more high-tech. Take, for example, the use of 13 elektraLite eyeBall Quad LED fixtures to help daytime travelers passing through Dallas Love Field (DAL) feel like they’re in a live music nightclub as they wait for their flights.
DAL is one of the country’s busiest airports, serving an estimated 14.5 million passengers in 2015. It’s also become one of the most musical, now that Texas Music Project (TMP) has been given the opportunity to program the new Love Field Stage with rising stars and veteran performers. The nonprofit, which focuses on “funding for the arts in general and specifically music education in our schools and communities,” is written into a Texas House Bill by the Governor and has included Willie Nelson as honorary chairman since 2002.
Michael Clay Productions was contracted as a consultant by Hensel Phelps, the general contractor, to develop and produce the concept. Clay is an area musician and event producer as well as co-founder and executive director of TMP, who says he saw it as an opportunity to highlight the region’s many contributions to Texas music history and work with the community music initiatives. Clay was the former director of entertainment for the Gaylord Texan and oversaw the development of the $16m Glass Cactus Nightclub.
“This is the first thing that people encounter when they arrive in Dallas,” he says of the stage, which took four months to assemble due to the need to work off hours around security and peak travel times. But since then it has hosted several finalists from The Voice, including Matt Tedder, CMA award winner Max T. Barnes and Will and Crystal Yates, as well as acclaimed regional talents like Latin-fusion player Russ Hewitt and harmonica wizard Paul Harrington. It’s also become popular with musicians transiting the airport, such as ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, who has already done a few sit-in sessions.
“Ambient lighting is a big problem in airports, because of all the windows in the concourses,” says Clay. “It can be as much of a problem as all that glass is for acoustics in terms of establishing the vibe and the feel. You want it to feel like a music club at night, not Denny’s in the afternoon.”
Clair Solutions Dallas was tasked with the design and installation of a full audio and lighting package that would make every performance look, feel and sound like a club show on a Saturday night.
For lighting, Clair Solutions looked to elektraLite’s eyeBall Quad LED fixture as the ultimate solution. Eight 25-degree fixtures are installed along the front of the stage, while five more 40-degree eyeBalls are used from behind. Able to fit in tight spaces and designed with a low profile for low ceiling applications, the eyeBall is ideally suited for integration into a stage like this, delivering bright yet cool lighting that nicely complements the music.
“The elektraLite eyeBall was the perfect choice for this because of its small footprint and high output,” says Clair Solutions Dallas Regional VP of Sales Erik Beyer. “We used them to create accent color from the front and back, which lights up the performers around the edges, just as they’d look in a club at night. And they’re extremely cost effective for the amount of light they put out, so we can use more of them and really set the stage nicely.”
Beyer adds the eyeBall was also very easy to use in a situation that doesn’t have a stage technician on regular duty. Just as the PA system can be adjusted remotely via an iPad, the DMX-compatible eyeBall is operated using an Interactive Technologies SceneStation five-button controller, which was pre-programmed by Clair for appropriate settings for time of day and type of music. But just like in music, it’s the performance that really pays off. “The elektraLite eyeBall makes its presence felt even in the high-ambient light environment of an airport concourse,” says Beyer. “It makes the show work.”