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Heroes not Hard to Find in Las Vegas in the Wake of Route 91 Tragedy

John Hansen of AV Vegas discusses dealing with the aftermath of the tragic Route 91 Festival shooting and how the industry came to the aid of his team.

AV Vegas provided sound, lighting and backline for the “Next From Nashville” stage at the Route 91 festival. Our stage finished an hour before the festival ended on October 1 and our crew was busy striking our gear when the shooting began. Two trucks had already been loaded, the lighting was mostly packed and riggers were taking motors down when concertgoers began running towards our stage to get away from the shooting. Everyone has seen the story on TV. It was awful and I won’t recap it here. [Editor’s note: The October 1, 2017 Route 91 Festival shooting in Las Vegas was the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in modern U.S. history, leaving 58 dead and 546 injured.]

The shooting happened on Sunday night and we had a full 10,000 seat concert with sound and lighting the following Friday. In fact, our load in for The Band Perry was scheduled to begin in 72 hours, but our audio and lighting gear was impounded indefinitely. As the owner of the company, I was in shock. Although no one in our company was injured, I had employees that were devastated, I had a gig in four days and nowhere near the amount of gear in the shop to complete the task. One of our audio trucks was locked behind the gates.

I began calling the principals from Route 91 and the venue, knowing full well that it was possible that they could have lost someone or even been injured themselves. At the very least they were overwhelmed. I had to ask if would be possible to get our gear out so that our next show could go on. Everyone was in shock and there were no answers to be had. The shooter had done the unthinkable and many other people, sound companies, caterers and tent rental companies were caught in an alternate conflict: How do we complete our obligations to our customers while grieving with our industry who had just gone through the unimaginable? I was told that the FBI would not allow anything in or out of the festival grounds. Who could blame them? They had a huge task ahead of them.

Monday was shock day. Tuesday was resolve day. I asked my crew, how can we possibly do the next concert under these circumstances? All the guys resolved to move forward, but what about the gear?

For audio, we are a JBL VTX house, so I reached out to Firehouse Productions. I spoke to Tom Clark and told him our situation. An hour later, he had spoken to Firehouse CEO Bryan Olson, we had a quote for all the subs and tops that we were short—and a zero charge at the bottom. Life saver!

OK, so now we’ve got the audio, but what about the lighting? We really pulled it out for Route 91. Shannon, our LD, gave them a ton of extra lighting, so most of the fixtures we owned were behind locked gates. Two consoles, a ton of feeder, cases of data cable, truss, motors, and more. My crew kept coming and saying, “We have a cable problem,” “We have a console problem.” I emailed and called several companies in Vegas to see if the gear we needed was even available for sub-rental. The Band Perry lighting had already been advanced and we didn’t want to have to re-advance it unless it was absolutely necessary. Besides, it was now Wednesday and we had to leave town in 24 hours. Time’s up.

I remember being at my desk with my head in my hands when I got an email from Pete Engel from Morpheus Lighting. They had most of the gear we needed and they thought they could pull it quickly so we could leave town Thursday morning. Their COO, Mark Fetto, looked at our situation and once again, when I received the quote, the quote total was zero

I would like to thank Firehouse and Morpheus for their generosity. In the public event and concert business, we have to provide world class shows at budgets that don’t make a lot of sense and we would have lost our shirts if we had to pay to rent gear that we already owned. Speaking for myself and my company, we will make these companies our first call anytime we need to sub rent gear. Thanks guys!

AV Vegas •