The long, hot summer of COVID-19 saw live music safely come back to Chicago’s lakefront with the new Lakeshore Drive-In venue. Artist management company AudisBliss spearheaded the project working with LEC Event Technology, Inc. (LEC) to transform a parking lot just west of the Adler Planetarium into an in-person concert venue that keeps the safety of the attendees, artists and employees in mind.
LEC provided Ayrton Perseo-S fixtures for the stage, the first compact, multi-function luminaire with an IP65 enclosure rating developed for intensive outdoor use. LEC also supplied a large complement of grandMA3 gear for lighting control. Both brands are exclusively distributed in North America by ACT Lighting, Inc.
“The Lakeshore Drive-In is one of the most respected drive-in operations in the country and the only sustainable drive-in model in Chicago, which is operating very successfully within COVID guidelines,” says Matt Brotz, Owner and Director of Operations at LEC. “LEC took on the role of hardware provider producing the event under a strict budget and with no room for failure. We’ve been very happy with the Ayrton Perseo fixtures and grandMA lighting control and so has the client.”
“With the Lakeshore Drive-In we’ve given our guests the closest experience to a normal live show,” notes Adam Weiss, Co-founder of AudisBliss. “We put on these concert events to bring gigs back to the community and give people the opportunity to enjoy live music safely – and see the best views in the city. Chicago needed this.”
The parking lot accommodates about 200 socially-distanced cars; guests can leave their vehicles to set up chairs within the boundaries of their parking spaces. Delivery of food and artist merchandise is available. The venue has hosted a minimum of three shows per week this summer with headliners including Lil Yachty, Mic Jenkins and Ric Wilson, Peekaboo and Autograf.
“LEC was asked to design a stage for the Lakeshore Drive-In that would highlight the talent, adapt to social distancing regulations, and be robust and sustainable for the run of the shows,” Brotz explains. “The stage had to be both impactful and practical standing up to weather along the lakefront.”
LEC provided a pair of 4mm LED IMAG walls, 27 x 15-feet in size, mounted to the left and right of the stage and a complement of PTZ cameras; some artists asked for additional LED displays, also supplied by LEC.
Twenty-four Ayrton Perseos are in the lighting rig with 12 pre-rigged on the truss, six positioned on the ground and another six available to supplement the truss-mounted units. LEC invested in an inventory of Perseos earlier this year.
“We chose Perseos for the venue for their robust performance outdoors,” Brotz says. “We didn’t want to constantly set and strike rigs.” He notes that, “Perseo is brighter than any light in its class. The LED unit is cost effective, and its gobo set and optics are phenomenal. It’s also lightweight so no special engineering is required.”
According to Brotz, “many of the lighting designers coming through who are using Perseo for the first time just love it. They always compliment its flat field and the sharpness of its optics through the air – Perseos cover a lot of territory.”
LEC also deployed a full-size grandMA3 for lighting control, an MA3 processing unit L, MA3 8-port nodes, and two MA network switches for lighting, cameras and switching. “Due to the depth of the venue we can’t use DMX or CAT-5, so the MA network switches allow stable FOH to BOH transmission via fiber optics,” Brotz explains. “All of the MA3 hardware has been robust and rock solid with no bugs, no issues.”
“LEC has been a dedicated ACT Lighting supporter over the years and with their early adoption of the new MA3 platform and recently released Ayrton IP65 Perseo fixtures along with a growing inventory of MDG Atmospheric machines their continued investment in cutting edge entertainment technology exemplifies their commitment to excellence,” says ACT Lighting Regional Sales Manager, Aaron Hubbard.
During the coronavirus pandemic setting up a safe live music venue certainly has been a challenge. “The failure of other drive-ins reminded us what not to do,” says Weiss. “Stress is high, but it’s all worth it when you see the positive fan [reactions].” And the same has been true with performers. “No artists have walked off stage without a smile on their faces,” he reports.