Last week we told the story of Dolph Federico and his team at Pelican Events steering an Stageline SL100 through the six-inch clearance of the New Orleans Superdome’s goal-posts and setting the stage up in twenty narrow minutes. However, Pelican Events has done far more than that one breathtaking deployment—in fact, they’ve made a reputation for themselves by pushing their fleet of SL100s to the limit.
The Superdome setup was surely a feather in Pelican Events’ cap, but it’s a cap that’s already full feathers by now. Federico’s team has become so fluent in the grammar and physics of the SL100 that they’re known for bringing the stages to truly impressive locations.
“We’ve specialized in putting those stages in places everyone said you couldn’t put a mobile stage,” he says. “Take the Old US Mint in New Orleans, where there’s a gate with only eight feet and one inch of clearance. That means you’ve got a half inch of clearance on either side! But we got it in. Then once you’re in, you need to take it up a long set of grassy steps. But we figured that out too: you back it up, put on the hydraulic lift, roll it back on the tires, then do the whole thing again. That way, we really slowly walked the SL100 up the stairs. Everyone said it couldn’t be done, but we got it in there.”
These deployments of the SL100 in increasingly difficult locations have become a signature for Federico, who relishes the challenge of pushing the mobile stage and its trailer to the absolute edge of physics—and then coming up with hacks to help it roll out past the edge without falling. Recently, for a show by the river, Federico and his team brought the stage up onto a part of the narrow levee inaccessible even with help from a forklift. Their trick was using gigantic machinery casters: these allowed them to pivot the stage through the hardest corners.
“You just swing the trailer over to complete the turn, and continue on your way,” he says, adding that the key to these installations is just taking the time to think it through. “If you’re patient and you don’t rush, you can put the SL100 in some really remarkable places.”
Louisiana, says Federico, is a hotbed of outdoor festivals, concerts, and conventions, and his five Stageline SL100s are constantly busy in that market. He’s even considered buying a sixth SL100 to keep up with demand, though he isn’t ready yet for the kinds of changes to his team that a sixth stage would require. For the moment, he’s content to install the SL100 in increasingly surprising places.
“We’ve learned to work with the rooflines and trees—there are a lot of historic and protected trees in New Orleans, so you work around them. We can set up in a spot where the roof only has three inches of clearance—we’ve done it! There’s virtually no place that people have used deck- or scaffold-staging outside that we can’t put an SL100.”
The stage works just as well indoors, he notes, provided doors will accommodate its clearance. Once inside, the world of arenas, convention centres, warehouses, and garages are Pelican Events’ oyster. So is the upcoming New Orleans oyster-fest (that one was a gimme).
Federico’s favourite indoor install was in a train-station service building, designed for servicing train engines. The room was full of pits to allow workers access to the trains from below, so they needed one-inch plates to cover the holes. For that, they called on the train servicers.
“They had fabricators, materials, expertise, and they knew a lot about weight loads,” he says. “When we told them we needed plates, they asked us about what kind of weight we needed to support. We told them 10,000 pounds—and they laughed! They said ‘We deal in hundreds of pounds!’”
That event required a great deal more setup than just making sure guests didn’t fall through the floor—it was a fancy affair, and the stage needed a facelift to meet the demands of the upscale clientele.
“The SL100 didn’t look like your standard outdoor festival stage at all,” Federico says. “We covered it in red drapes and hung a chandelier on it! You’d be surprised what you can do. We turned it into a classy black tie event and no one was the wiser!”
Because Federico stresses the SL100 is, after all, adaptable, and that’s precisely why he and Pelican love it.
“We use the standard config with the sound wing, or we’ve set it up as a small bandshell. Plus we’ve designed adapters to link SL100s together—that way you can get stages that are 45 feet deep and ready to accommodate set changes and rolling risers. Because of the weight, they’re nothing. In venues like the Superdome or at the Riverfront, there are big weight restrictions. No problem! The SL100 is only 10,000 pounds, and we can link them together as big as we want them to be.”
The limits of time and physical space don’t seem to apply to Dolph and his team. The only limit they’ve really encountered so far is the limits of their imagination, which they’ve readily consulted with Stageline’s engineering team about.
“We’ve done things with the stages they probably weren’t designed or intended to do,” he says, laughing. “But if we take some time and work it out, or call the company to ask the engineers what we can and can’t do, whether it’s video screens or people who want to hang a big swing on it—you just call engineering and they’ll tell you if it can be done. It usually can!”