The Head and The Heart: Concert Production in the Fast Lane
When it comes to outdoor event planning, wind is usually considered the most dangerous weather condition. It can blow tents over, sure. But in my experience, lightning is life-threatening weather. Especially for a large outdoor crowd gathering.
Illustration by Annalise Lyon
THE HEAD AND THE HEART: CONCERT PRODUCTION IN THE FAST LANE It all started the first week of August when my friends at the Pike Place Market called to see if I could produce a concert for the band The Head and The Heart on the roof of the Market for Amazon Music. Oh, and would three weeks be enough lead time? We’ve done hundreds of concerts, but this location was possibly the craziest one we’ve ever undertaken. First, it was on a roof. Second, the roof was on the iconic Pike Place Market. And third, it was during the busy summer tourist season. And don’t forget the three-week planning period. The roof of the market doesn’t have a door for access, and we had to beg the nearby dentist’s office to use their window! The good news was that the Pearl Jam production team had successfully run a similar concert setup on the Pike Place roof five years earlier. So, there was a glimmer of hope that this could be done. I accepted this challenging project since our team feels that if it can be done, we can do it. Amazon Music agreed and we all charged forward to make this concert a reality. THREE WEEKS OUT: THE SCRAMBLE Normally, the hardest part of concert production is the booking and contracting phase; but in this case, it was easy due to the good work of Jamie at Amazon Music. The talent side of the show was smooth and the band was incredibly willing and helpful. We were also fortunate to work with the Pike Place Market Development Authority on this show. Mary Bacarella and her team did an expert job of balancing everyone’s needs at this public market facility. The City’s Special Events Committee was also on board, adding the support of the Police, Fire, Street Use and other city departments. We had a lot of hoops to jump through with the City: we needed a Special Event Permit and permission from the Building Department, and neither was guaranteed. Would we be able to get the required documents in such a short time frame? Thankfully, the City of Seattle is a great supporter and partner for events like this, and the construction department agreed to guide us through the process and gave us hope that a permit could be issued in time. Getting a stamped engineer’s drawing to verify the safety of the roof was a challenge. We had the drawing from the 2015 concert there, but The Head and the Heart is a bigger band with a bigger setup. We discovered that the engineer, Greg Coons, who had done those earlier drawings was still in town and willing to help us. So, with a path forward, we visited the site several times to check everything from static and dynamic weight loads to installation methods and safe work plans. TWO WEEKS OUT: GETTING THERE We still had a lot of planning to accomplish, such as developing a production and show plan, hiring various crews, and finding audio, lighting and security companies. We also had to develop public safety, communications and crisis management plans, and a project workflow and budgets. Luckily our address book is large and we found top-notch specialists for this concert. Amazon Music planned to livestream this once-in-a-lifetime performance and provided their go-to company, Spring Board Productions. We feel very lucky to have gotten to know Hank Neuberger and the rest of the team there. Amazon was also working on a VIP hospitality plan, a promotional plan, and a merchandise and catering plan. Amazon and the band’s agency wanted to make sure they got the word out about this show. After all, The Head and The Heart started in Seattle and then made it big. They hadn’t played to their hometown audience in three years and were hoping for a warm welcome. Our talent manager, Greg Garcia, began advancing the band two weeks before the concert, and our backstage team began shopping and planning for the band’s backstage experience. ONE WEEK LEFT: CRUNCH TIME One week out, we still didn’t have the Special Events Permit or the Construction Permit, but we kept moving forward. Our fingers were crossed! The Pike Place Market moved their neighborhood notification plan into high gear. With any event, taking care of your neighbors before filling the streets with thousands of people is one of the most important things you can do. As usual, the event week was full of last-minute meetings with police, fire and city agencies to finish planning and to wrap up the permitting process. We received our Event Permit mid-week and our Construction Permit at the end of the week. Finally, the show was approved! Three days before the event, AVFactory loaded in the custom-built stage and Hollywood Lights brought the generators and power distribution, while Spring Board pulled up with their broadcast trailer. With two days to go, Carlson Audio set up audio and r90 worked on the lighting. On Saturday, the band’s semi-truck pulled into the Market and we started getting them set up .Everyone worked late into the night for the technical rehearsal.
CONCERT TIME: EVERYTHING COMES TOGETHER We had done it: we had implemented our concert plan just in time for load-in and all of the finishing touches. On concert day, our contract weather service began feeding us minute-to-minute forecasts. Our Incident Command Center opened, street closures were activated, and all of our teams moved into position.
The performance was a success, the weather cooperated, and all of our vendor partners performed wonderfully. Over 15,000 people filled the streets of Seattle for this free concert, and the show was livestreamed around the world. The media reported that the concert was a huge success for Seattle.