2023 Jazz Festival Shines with High End Systems Lighting

Date Posted: 10/10/2023

Photos: Detroit Jazz Foundation and Display Group

A beloved Michigan tradition for over 40 years, the 2023 Detroit Jazz Festival featured over 60 performers, spontaneous late night jam sessions, and 350,000 attendees; online viewership of the festival topped 2.5 million live views. Now a division of Display Group, Fantasee Lighting has been providing lights and design to the festival for over twenty years. Celebrating his tenth year as Jazz Fest Lighting Director, Jon Weaver specified High End Systems SolaPix and Lonestar fixtures for this year’s event.

Before COVID shuttered the physical festival in 2020, the festival would stream the headliners on the mainstages, and broadcast three sets on local TV every year. When Jazz Fest returned to a live event, Weaver insisted that the event be lit as a broadcast show outdoors. The lighting rigs were designed to be able to overtake the sun, and still be impactful on television from noon until the headliners came on after dark.

Jon says as more events have become film studios with a live audience, Fantasee Lighting was quick to invest in the SolaPix 7 and SolaPix 19 XT fixtures. “The SolaPix are very versatile fixtures that give a beautiful smooth wash for the stage in a small package. From the front, they provide a beautiful balanced wash for cameras at any temperature. In colors, they have the output to saturate the entire set without having to turn down the front wash required for the cameras.”

36 SolaPix 19 XTs were the primary lighting on both main stages for both camera and color. 20 SolaPix 7s were used on the smaller stage for the same looks and effects in a smaller package, to bring consistency across the sites.

“The fully mappable face adds dynamic effects and looks, without having to add a bunch of effects fixtures. They can be driven by both the lighting console and the media servers independently, which simplifies complex system designs and allows these features to be utilized in much smaller shows for large impact.”

Over the past year, Fantasee also invested in a fleet of Lonestar fixtures. Jon says, “The Lonestar has become the workhorse of our corporate lighting systems. For years, we’ve needed a framed luminaire for use in smaller venues, and most manufacturers were only putting framing shutters in their largest fixtures. Frankly, these were overkill for many of the events, and usually meant that we would only put in a few fixtures to accomplish the specific needs for shutters. The Lonestar is the perfect physical size with tons of output to fulfill this need. The price point of these means that we can use more fixtures for less cost. Fantasee will use these to fill out the entire rig, which allows the designer onsite ultimate flexibility to make consistent looks across the system. At the Detroit Jazz Festival, Fantasee used Lonestar on the small stage to give the impact of the large format fixtures, scaled down to the appropriate size for this small stage.”

Weaver adds that the two main stage consoles were dictated by the respective lighting designers, while the other two spaces were controlled by Hog 4 because of its versatility and stability for the broadcast. The Absopure Waterfront Stage was run with a Full Boar, while the Anchor Desk Studio setup was run on a Roadhog.

Fantasee utilized ETC's Studio HD Fresnel and D40 Daylights to fill out the Anchor Desk Studio set hidden in the festival complex. Artists gave interviews from the set for uninterrupted content for the stream during set changes. The festival had three uninterrupted streams running daily.

Account rep was Nicole Morris; Weaver served as Lighting Director and handled the Amphitheatre Stage, with LD Zach Schneider covering the main stage, Travis Krajewski serving as LD for the Waterfront Stage, and Kasey Lynne handling the site lighting. Joining them on the crew were master electrician Holly Lloyd-Dunk and E2 Jordyn Meyers.

For the past six years, Weaver has been at the helm of the company’s Installation and Integration division, designing lighting, rigging, and show control systems. When Fantasee Lighting was purchased by Display Group in May 2022, audio and video was added to their offerings for install.

In closing, Jon says, “I have always especially enjoyed lighting for Jazz. There are many styles of jazz, and it exudes the cultures from with it originates. The most important element is designing a versatile rig that looks just as good at noon as at 10 pm. And with over 300,000 people attending in person, it is sometimes easy to forget that the larger audience sees this show through the lens of the camera!”