Happy customers, they don’t come much happier than Laurence Sheldon II, owner of Riverside California’s Big Ear Audio.
“Stageline’s SL100 changed my life!” he says, reflecting on the purchase of the mobile stage that transformed him professionally from a musician and audio engineer into the proprietor of a full-service live-entertainment company.
After years of work as a re-recording mixer, staring at computer screens in dark rooms mixing audio tracks for TV shows, Sheldon found he longed to “get outside once in a while.”
“I think I was at an event and I saw some sort of mobile stage and said, ‘That would be very cool!’ I’d be able to use my talents as an audio engineer in a live setting.”
Making the jump from pure audio wasn’t quick or easy—Sheldon put in six months of research about the next steps to take. Throughout his research, he says, he kept coming across the name Stageline.
“It’s funny—I was talking to all of Stageline’s competitors, inquiring about sizes, stages, prices,” he recalls. “They all said, ‘Our product is just like a Stageline.’ So I wondered—why am I not talking to Stageline?”
Stageline units are higher value than its competitors, and for Sheldon the price was initially a bit of an obstacle.
“But when I started looking at the engineering specs,” he says, “I could see why. The more I researched, the more I realized it was the defacto standard in the industry. Everyone of professional note used Stageline. I wanted that bulletproof proven technology, workmanship, and engineering.”
That is, Sheldon says, precisely what he got with the SL100 he purchased in 2011. But he got more than just a stage—the SL100 offered him the opportunity to bring together a complete live-entertainment package combining his own experience in audio engineering with in-house lighting techs and a ready-to-mount stage.
“The SL100 was perfect because you can hold up to 5,000lbs worth of production gear inside the stage…”
“When you think about it,” he says, “promoters and marketing companies normally have to parcel it out to three different companies—staging, sound, and light. All three come with their own required crews to create the concert. But with the SL100 and even the SL250, it’s possible for one vendor to successfully do all of it. That’s where we made our mark. The SL100 was perfect because you can hold up to 5,000lbs worth of production gear inside the stage. We put three technicians in the truck, and we’re ready for anything.”
Ready for anything
When Sheldon says “anything,” he means it. Asked to recall an event that put the SL100 to the test, he laughs immediately and says, “Catalina Island.” On that island, 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles, a client wanted to hold a concert on a private beach. To begin with, the SL100 with all related equipment had to be transported to the island by barge.
Sheldon chuckles ruefully, clearly not in a hurry to repeat a stage-on-barge situation. To sum it up the demands of setting up on an island, he explains, “If you forget anything, you’re in big trouble—you’re looking at 8 hours before you can get what you need.”
But that wasn’t the only problem. The stage was going to be set up on sand (enough of a challenge to begin with!) on a beach that would only become closed for setup at 3pm for a 6pm sound-check.
“Normally, for a concert of two or three thousand people,” he says, “you’d set up the day before. Instead we had a three hour window. Even under normal circumstances, on a hard surface, that’s next to impossible, but we had to build a plywood pathway to drive on and get the SL100 in place, and get everything wired, hooked up, and ready to go by 6pm. It took more stagehands (normally, we need two), but we got it done!”
Big Ear Audio’s SL100 is nothing if not battle-tested, having served to present hometown fairs, street festivals, and events with Indy Car, the National Hockey League, Golden Voice.
“We’re often B or C stage at large festivals,” Sheldon adds.
take it to the next level
All of that leaves him wondering where to go next. Big Ear’s SL100 travels up and down the west coast, supporting concerts and marketing events, and it’s treated the company well enough that Sheldon is wondering whether he should take Big Ear Audio national. On the other hand, he says, he could “take it to the next level” by investing in the SL260 to begin mounting even bigger productions. We’re sure that whatever road he goes down, it will lead toward many more opportunities to achieve the impossible.
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