Photo: Pulse Stage Lighting’s Sapphire Touch on Stage B

Pulse Stage Lighting of Union, NJ recently provided a range of Avolites consoles for The Rock Carnival at Oak Ridge Park in nearby Clark lighting acts like Godsmack, Slash, Stone Temple Pilots, Anthrax, Sevendust and dozens of other hard rock bands on three stages over two days. To best accommodate the festival’s lighting needs, every stage was equipped with an Avolites desk: a Pearl Expert with Touch Wing on Stage A, Avo’s flagship Sapphire Touch on Stage B, and a Tiger Touch on a third smaller stage featuring mostly rock tribute acts.

When Pulse Stage Lighting President Scott de Villers first took his company out of his basement and into a pickup truck in the early ’90s, he worked with Avolites products. Today, Pulse has grown into a regional powerhouse supporting acts like Alicia Keys, Neil Diamond, Smashmouth, Salt-N-Pepa, Coolio and Adam Lambert, as well as events for corporate clients including Kia, Nike, Ray-Ban and Johnny Walker. It’s been quite a ride for the former carpenter who cut his lighting teeth doing shows at Asbury Park’s infamous Stone Pony nightclub.

One of the things that keeps de Villers an “Avo guy” 25 years into his journey is the brand’s ease of use—not just for him, but for the folks he is providing gear for. “Many of the Stage B acts at The Rock Carnival this year didn’t bring their own LD, so aside from Three Days Grace, Stone Temple Pilots and Anthrax, I pretty much did all of the other bands,” he says. “The LD for Three Days Grace normally uses a different company’s console, but he tried the Sapphire and had zero issues. As for Stone Temple Pilots’ guy, he prefers Avolites but had never used the Sapphire, so I quickly walked him through it and he was totally sold. And Anthrax’s LD liked the desk so much that he wants to come back to New Jersey and learn more about it—they were all really impressed with it.”

The LD for Anthrax, actually owns his own Tiger Touch and was surprised to find out that some of the tricks de Villers showed him on the Sapphire could easily transfer to his much smaller lighting control console. “Because they both use Titan software, you can literally do most of the same things on a Tiger that you can do on a Sapphire. In many respects they are identical; the Sapphire simply has more faders,” de Villers notes.

That kind of interoperability is key to a busy rental house, especially when doing shows like Pulse’s recent gig in conjunction with the Today Show on the beach at the Jersey Shore. It’s live TV, so equipment failure is not an option, which makes backup absolutely essential. “It’s pretty cool that I can back up my entire show that was written for the Sapphire and put it on the Tiger. If we had a crisis, I could run the exact same show—no compromises—on the smaller surface.”

On The Rock Carnival’s Stage A, which hosted Godsmack and Slash, Pulse supplied an Avolites Pearl Expert. “I have the fully-loaded Pearl,” de Villers reports. “It has the Touch Wing and touchscreen, and the bottom line is that it has almost the same amount of control as the Sapphire with just fewer faders.

“The thing about Avolites consoles is that they allow me to consistently over-deliver in terms of expectations—especially at an event like The Rock Carnival with a large number of acts and LDs who may have never worked with us before. It’s great to be able to give them all of these capabilities that they did not think they would be able to get.”

de Villers reports that Pulse did have the “other” big console seen on many rock tours available for anyone who might want to use it at The Rock Carnival, but added that it only came out of the case once in the three days onsite.

With any big outdoor event there will always be some kind of wild card that makes things more challenging and The Rock Carnival was no exception. “We had some really weird issues with other equipment, which meant that we did not get a good programming day, so the simplicity of the Avo systems made life easier for all involved. Some of the other consoles out there demand a lot more in terms of pre-show work and setup. But the Avo is pretty much plug and play. The punt page on an Avo is very simple and the whole thing is highly intuitive.

“In ’94 I started working on my first Avo product and bought my first Pearl in ’98, so I’ve been an Avo user for a long time. They’re easy to use, you can teach people how to run them very quickly and efficiently, and they’ve always delivered rock-solid performance.”