How fast do you think you could set up one of Stageline’s SL100 mobile stages? The New Orleans Saints gave Dolph Federico and his team at Pelican Events twenty minutes after a game in the Superdome. That’s right, one third of an hour. From the closing whistle of the game to the first note of music, they were bound to that set-up speed by contract.
“We had to agree with the franchise that the fans would wait no more than twenty minutes for the music,” says Federico, owner and operator of New Orleans–based Pelican Events. “They still had players on the field—we had to get everybody off! The Superdome staff was great with barricading—they came out with these sort of bike-racks to clear the area while we did what we needed to do.”
And what did they need to do, precisely? They needed to start by sliding the SL100 through the field’s goalposts, which are nine feet apart. The SL100 trailer is eight feet wide, so at best this afforded six inches of clearance on either side—except the stage was hanging open, leaving only three inches to the left and right.
Alright, they didn’t get it entirely ready in twenty minutes. The reason the stage was hanging open when they rolled it through the goalposts was that Federico’s team of four stage techs and two audio techs had been working to get it ready for the fastest deployment they had ever pulled off, and much of the groundwork was already laid.
Still, many event companies would have balked at that kind of time constraint, even with the opportunity to put groundwork in place in advance. But Federico and the Pelican Team wouldn’t have signed the contract had they not been sure they could make it. Their confidence was deeply rooted in the kind of knowledge base derived from a lot of deployments. With a fleet of five SL100s that each see some 200 shows per year, Federico and his team have spent a lot of time setting up and breaking down their stages.
“We’ve done literally thousands of deployments with the SL100,” he says. “We know what we’re doing and we’ve done it before, so we can move very quickly even without the pressure of a football game bearing down on us. Typically, our installation only takes between 35 and 40 minutes.”
They wasn’t born with stage-mounting superpowers, Federico insists. He’s just a man who knows his machine, understands his tasks, and cultivates a team of techs who work with the same speed and focus as he does.
“It comes with practice,” he explains. “You learn efficiency in your movements.”
So when it came time to roll the SL100 out into the centre of the Superdome, Federico and his team were ready. Not that they wouldn’t have liked to give it a dry run, of course. That was just asking too much of the situation.
“We’d never done it before, so the first time we did it was in front of 20,000 people,” he laughs. “We had no opportunity to practice at all, and yeah, that was scary. We had to come straight in and head straight onto the field.”
With such a tender set of angles, it made sense that Federico would drive the trailer in himself.
“But once it was in, it was a piece of cake,” he says. Our staff of four stage techs was all choreographed, and everyone had their duties. They’d done it before.”
Maybe they hadn’t done it quite like this, but they were certainly ready. During the game, they’d gotten the decks, railings, and stairway out onto the flatbed. Drum risers, amps, keyboards, and the rest of the musical array was all set up, and with the audio techs they’d prewired it as best they could manage.
Since Pelican Events is also Pelican Graphics, they’d provided the banner—which they had ready. The banner bars were assembled and just needed to be slid forward. They put the skirt around the stage and then tried to fold it up again as tightly as the semi-ready configuration would allow. That accounted for the extra six inches when they eased the SL100 through the nine-foot goalposts.
Then the game—the other one, post football—was on.
“We put the floor panels in first,” Federico says, “and were pushing all the audio stuff into its areas of the stage. We set up the wings, direct-hung the speakers, set the roof, and as we’d set it up already, we had the H-frames to hang the banners ready. They were rolled, so once we put them on the bars, we’d done as much free rigging as we could.”
When the final clock came down, they actually had a minute to spare—meaning they got to stand back and watch as the clock ticked down! True to their contract and their word, Federico’s team had made it possible that precisely 20 minutes passed between the end of the game and the first note of music.
But like Federico underlines, it wasn’t magic—it was just the product of a well-trained team working one of Stageline’s adaptable products that they know very well.
ON THE NEXT BLOG: Dolph Federico pushes the SL100 places no one expected it would go! To be continued!