- by FOH Staff
The 16th Annual Parnelli Awards was on track to be its typical high-energy, funny, and emotional show … and then Tom Petty surprised the audience by taking the podium. He flew in himself and 11 members of the Heartbreaker family to give accolades to his long time tour manager, Richard Fernandez, who received the live events highest honor, the Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I never knew anyone who didn’t admire him to the bottom of their soul,” said Petty of Fernandez, noting how the East L.A. native was lucky to have “really good parents who raised a really good man.”
Petty said how he was impressed by Fernandez after first meeting him because he “talked about music the way cats who know music talk about music.” And that love of good music played out in the course of Fernandez’s career, which included gigs with Faces, the New Barbarians and Eagles, among others.
“There were no sh**ty bands on the whole gig,” Petty said, noting how Fernandez’s musical tastes shaped his career choices — a fact underscored by the young tour manager’s willingness to cut a deal with manager Tony Dimitriades to join the Petty camp as Tom and the Heartbreakers were first making their mark. (Dimitrades was in the audience as well.)
Starting on a High Note
After the popular cocktail party (which featured a silent auction) and dinner, Adrian Belew took the stage, and it turns out his skills as an emcee and comedian rivals his artistry on the guitar. He came out with guitar in hand, and enthusiastically announced he’d been waiting all his life for this, and launched into a cool version of his “Three of A Perfect Pair” song.
Midway through, stage manager Jeff Van Duyn came out and whispered in his ear. The funny bit had him crestfallen upon discovery that the Parnelli Awards stage wasn’t, in fact, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Then he announced: “How was I supposed to know? It’s a room full of old dudes, so it sure looked like one of my concerts!” (Ouch!)
Belew blew apart any pretense of decorum with his story of meeting Frank Zappa’s long-haired five-year-old son, who promptly flipped him the bird and gave him a loud “F*** You” after Adrian mistakenly referred to the trike-riding tyke as Zappa’s daughter. He continued entertaining with stories, including how David Bowie “stole” him from Zappa, while handing out awards.
His first went to Stuart Delk for Monitor Mixer of the Year and his work with Rascal Flatts. Delk gave a moving thank you to his wife, and all the spouses in the house who are “road widows” and take on the extra burden of one married to someone who makes his or her living driving around the country putting on shows.
Parnelli Chairman of the Board of Advisors, Marshall Bissett, next took the stage, telling some funny stories including one involving Parnelli namesake Rick “Par-nelli” O’Brien, a 1978 Queen tour in Germany, and some not particularly well-thought-out pyro bit.
“At a point in the song, I was to stamp my foot on to the British 15 amp plug and socket connection and hope for the best. It worked, and we only singed a little of Brian May’s hair.” Noting that pyro had thankfully gotten more than a bit more sophisticated and safer, he handed out the Best Pyro Company of the Year Award to Strictly FX for their work with Justin Bieber’s tour.
Terry Lowe came up making jokes about how the Parnelli is really “the high school prom of the production industry,” and poked fun at the three lifetime honorees before thanking the 30-plus sponsors, who made the evening possible. He also plugged the must-attend after party hosted by Pyrotek which featured trampoline aerialists and free drinks.
Along with other poignant moments, including the live vocals of Kiki Ebsen singing Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” during the In Memoriam reel, the evening had its raucous moments and unexpected twists, including the merciless roasting of Parnelli visionary Danny O’Bryen by former Parnelli Lifetime achiever and old friend Charlie Hernandez (2012).
Hernandez, who grew up in the same Long Island neighborhood as O’Bryen, though they didn’t meet until they were adults, had a great deal of fun at Danny’s expense. “His motto is, if two wrongs don’t make a right, try three.” There was also this: “Danny, you’re like Tang — you’re dry and orange, and nobody has given a [***k] about you since 1976.” He then launched a touching tribute to O’Bryen, talking directly to his wife Marcene and his children Nick and Cody: “Good people will not compromise their integrity by betraying a trust or undermine a friendship for the sake of a few dollars more. He is that man.”
And before Audio Innovator Greg Mackie came out on stage to hint at yet another audio innovation that will be appearing on the market soon, fellow Audio Innovator award winner Stanley Miller (2009) poked fun at himself by coming out to the stage masked as a dinosaur.
Then FRONT of HOUSE editor George Petersen took the stage to pay tribute to Mackie, a guy whose innovations has touched so many bringing quality, working sound consoles at a price accessible to the up and coming bands that embraced them. “Here is a guy who created one of the largest, most successful companies in professional audio, and he did it with style and concern for his employees and customers,” Petersen said.
Speaking of editors, later PLSN editor Nook Schoenfeld took the stage with lighting designer Kristie Roldan to hand out some big awards. In addition to joking about what it takes for a lighting designer to make it through a grueling LDI show (narcotics, guns, etc.), Schoenfeld got to give a call out to O’Bryen, whom he got to work with in his early days.
“I met the wildest partying guys I have ever toured with in my life, and of course they were all employed by Danny O’Bryen at B.C.C. [pre-cursor to his Screenworks company].” The pair gave out the Lighting Director of the Year award to Michael Keller for his work with Black Sabbbath, among others.
The evening of ended with production manager Mark “Springo” Spring taking the podium to hand out some of the biggest awards of the night. Matt Askem won Video Director of the Year for his work on Adele; Sound Image won Sound Company of the Year; Phil Ealy won Lighting Designer of the Year for his work on the successful Guns N’ Roses tour; and the Patrick Stansfield Tour Manager of the Year went to Angie Warner of Imagine Dragons.
In a taped acceptance speech she sent in, Wagner said was getting on a plane to head to South America for Guns N’ Roses, “…or I’d be there with you drinking heavily. But can you please double check to see that that award does not say Marty Hom?” (It should be noted in an industry that is heavily male dominated, Warner was one of three women chosen by PLSN and FOH readers to take home major Parnelli Awards, the other two being Es Devlin for her Set/Scenic work with Adele and Sara Full for production managing The Lumineers.)
Petty Won’t Back Down
From the Parnelli stage, Petty noted how, when everything comes together, there can be a co-mingling of artistic expression and audience appreciation that bor-ders on the sacred. “God is in that,” Petty said, capping an evening of appreciation for what makes the live events industry so unique.
Amid plaudits for a “humbled and joyous” Richard Fernandez, who was draped in ceremonial leaves from Hawaii, Tom Petty also voiced his appreciation for the ceremony itself. “I’m glad this forum exists,” he said, noting how his monitor mixer might have just “saved the show,” and he’s the only one who knows. After the show, Fernandez told the show producers: “This was the most memorable night of my career.”
And although Petty, at 66, may be contemplating retirement, he’s not quite done with touring. “I’m not quitting until Richard does,” he announced.
And the Winners Are:
2016 Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award
2016 Parnelli Visionary Award
2016 Parnelli Audio Innovator
- Lighting Company of the Year
- Bandit Lites | Garth Brooks at Yankee Stadium
- Hometown Hero Lighting Company of the Year
- TLS Productions (Ann Arbor, MI)
- Lighting Designer of the Year
- Phil Ealy | Guns N' Roses
- Lighting Director of the Year
- Michael Keller | Black Sabbath
- Set/Scenic Designer of the Year
- Es Devlin | Adele
- Sound Company of the Year
- Sound Image | Brad Paisley
- Hometown Hero Sound Company of the Year
- Rainbow Production Services (Atkinson, NH)
- FOH Mixer of the Year
- Richard Sharratt/Howard Page | Peter Gabriel/Sting
- Monitor Mixer of the Year
- Stuart Delk | Rascal Flatts
- Audio System Tech of the Year
- Jeremy Overall | Rascal Flatts
- Video Production Company of the Year
- Screenworks | Guns N' Roses
- Video Director of the Year
- Matt Askem | Adele
- Staging Company of the Year
- Mountain Productions | CMA Music Festival
- Rigging Company of the Year
- Stage Rigging | Neil Diamond
- Set Construction Company of the Year
- Tait Towers | Beyoncé
- Pyro Company of the Year
- Strictly FX | Justin Bieber
- Patrick Stansfield Tour Manager of the Year
- Angie Warner | Imagine Dragons
- Patrick Stansfield Production Manager of the Year
- Sara Full | The Lumineers
- Coach Company of the Year
- Hemphill Brothers
- Trucking Company of the Year
- Freight Forwarding Company of the Year
- Rock-It Cargo
- Indispensable Technology - Audio
- Eastern Acoustic Works | Anna Line Array
- Indispensable Technology - Video
- ROE Creative Display | Vanish 25 LED tiles
- Indispensable Technology - Lighting
- Robe | BMFL WashBeam
- Indispensable Technology - Staging
- Stageline | Followspot and Delay Tower
Photos by Ric Crews and Jacob Coakley
For a look at the people behind the production of the 2016 Parnelli Awards, CLICK HERE