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St. Louis Pageant’s Annual Christmas Concert Celebrates the Season, Covid-Style

Kevin M. Mitchell • FeaturesJanuary 2021 • January 5, 2021

The socially distanced seating plan only allowed for about 15 percent of the venue’s 2,000-plus capacity, but the fans, crew and band all welcomed the step back toward normalcy. Photos by Kevin M. Mitchell

Pink Floyd Tribute Band Puts on Additional Shows with Additional Protocols

For two decades, St. Louis-based Pink Floyd tribute band El Monstero would put on a couple of Christmas shows selling out the 2,000-plus-seat Pageant Theater. For the last seven years, Logic Systems has supplied the lighting, special effects, video and supplementing the house audio system. Then came this year … but neither the venue, Logic, nor the band was going to let a little thing like a worldwide pandemic stop them. The shows went on, and to say there were a few adjustments would be understatement.

Not to the show itself — it was a full production with all the trimmings. More on that later. And before we get through the door, let’s see what the Pageant team did to the place first. The owners had an HVAC company modify the air handlers to maximize air movement, and now it’s cycling in outside fresh air five and six times an hour. Then, on Oct. 17, the theater was the location of a test concert put on by Klance Unlimited and VeroShield, a new offshoot of Dodd Technologies. In addition to the Pageant’s owners, 150 event professionals from the area attended the event, including some Live Nation people. Klance Unlimited, the St. Louis-based staging and rigging company, are now also in the Covid-19-prevention biz, having partnered with VeroShield.

Kyle Vogt of Klance demonstrates the VeroShield UVC Locker 2448, a road case with 180 watts of UV to sterilize microphones, radios, etc.

At the demonstration some of their products and services were adopted by the theater, including System-3 120-Day Disinfectant, UV Light disinfection units, and UVC Air Purifiers. The VeroShield High Output Unit was used on stage. The UVC Air, made for close quarters, were used backstage, in the green rooms, around catering, and front of house. Vogt, in giving a tour of the precautions before the El Monstero show, demo’d the VeroShield UVC Locker 2448, which was a road case fitted with 180 watts of UV lights. Gear like microphones, guitars, radios, etc., get zapped/sterilized. “It can disinfect almost anything in a one minute,” Vogt says.

The Pageant’s owners went for some, but not all, of what was demonstrated. “At our level, we don’t have the money [for all of it], and you reach a point where you start to question what is effective,” co-owner Pat Hagin says. The Pageant next sat down with the city of St. Louis to see what they could do. “The city has been pro-active and involved in this process,” Hagin says. The 336-seat show is basically 15 percent capacity, with the city approving the floor plan.

Rusty Shaw mixing FOH for the El Monstero show

Right this Way

“The budgets are stripped way down, they’re at about 25 percent of what they would normally be.” Logic Systems’ Chip Self says. So while it might have made financial sense to cut back from a full-production, Logic is not skimping on gear. “It’s important to the band and myself to keep the production value to the same high standards that the audience expects,” Self says. “We all agreed we needed to uphold the brand.” Other math involved the number of crew: Instead of a 50-person crew loading in in two days, it was a five-person crew taking five days to put it in. The band and crew were in a bubble for a week, and then, on Dec. 17, the 12 shows began on a rotation of three shows on, one night off. “We kept the circle tight,” Self adds.

Now let’s get you seated for the show. First, you bought the ticketless tickets online in groups of four (and a few twos). You stood outside with your group six feet apart from the other groups. You went through a borrowed metal detector, thus eliminating the staff’s need to wave the wand over you. Inside, you answered the questions we’re now all so used to answering and you got your temperature taken. Once you’re checked in, you’re given a map of the theater with your seats marked. You go directly to those seats, do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200. You sit. If you want a drink, you go to one of the six service stations — “We’re not calling them bars,” says Hagin. There, the floor is marked, and you stand six feet apart. When you’re second in line, there are pencils and paper for you to write your order down. When you get to the bartender, you pass the paper to them under the Plexiglas. You take up to four drinks and go back to your seats. Bathroom? Two at a time. And also, any time you’re not sitting and drinking, you must have your mask on.

“This is an experiment to see if the protocols and systems we put in place work,” Self says, noting that it’s “hard to prove a negative” in terms of what is effective and working. All the products and services currently coming out on the market are “expensive, but if it can get you six months’ worth of business you wouldn’t otherwise get, it’s a bargain.”

Rusty Shaw and Chip Self

FOH Moved Back, Made Smaller

“The show is different every year, but the best description is that it’s Pink Floyd crossed with a monster truck rally,” Self adds. “Everything is bigger, bolder, more bombastic.” The band has three guitarists (two of them singing lead), two keyboards, bass, and drums.

At the console was Rusty Shaw. He’s been doing audio in St. Louis starting in the early 1980s. He bounced over Boulder, worked a couple of theaters, toured a bit, and moved back here in the early aughts. Mixing for El Monstero early on brought him into Logic’s realm, and he has been a full timer there since 2016.

For this show, a SD12 was brought in, which “my friends at DiGiCo made available to me.” While the theater’s FOH is generally roomy, for safety’s sake, it was moved back 20 feet and backed up against the bar. This served two socially distanced purposes: It kept people from surrounding FOH, and it “divided” that bar into two smaller stations on either side, making it impossible to line up there. That SD12’s smaller footprint made that work. Also brought in were additional L-Acoustics X8’s as near fields. “I also added a Kiva II front fill package and a sweet mic package.” For the wireless monitor system, Logic supplied Shure PSM 1000’s.

Josh Limpert, a member of the Pageant’s staff, worked the monitors for the band

“Fifteen percent capacity was better than nothing, but it for sure gave me an ‘empty room’ environment to mix in,” Shaw says. “Also, being a show where audience was instructed to stay seated and calm led to a lot less crowd energy than normal.” Otherwise, he says, the Covid precautions were not prohibitive beyond “glasses fogging up and mild ear tugging from the mask.” He did have to rethink how he normally approaches the gig. “My approach to mixing this run was trying to keep things under control as much as possible. Our guitar rigs can get pretty hot off the deck, and our drummer is very dynamic, delivering a lot of power at times.” But like everyone working, he says it felt great to be back at it. “It was truly a glimpse of normalcy,” he says. “And I felt safer at The Pageant than I do going to the grocery store. This run of shows went very well for all of us.”

These shows are part of a bigger run actually called the “Glimmer of Normalcy” series, and while the El Monstero shows are certainly the biggest in many ways, after a little break in January and February, Hagin says they are hoping to resume these, gradually increasing the number of people who can attend if Covid cases go down, vaccinations go up, and “and the pandemic begins to fade.”

As far as the Pageant’s motivation to try anything, Hagin says, “You can’t say it’s financial. I have not looked at the numbers too hard and, in a way, I don’t want to! My goal is to not lose any more money than we are already losing, but there are other concerns.” He mentions the local artists who are missing a lot of work. “We want to do something for them, obviously. Next, we also wanted to give our staff an opportunity to work.” (Those who are working these events are doing so voluntarily.) And finally, keeping the Pageant’s name in front of the public was important. “I think considering those three goals, it’s mission accomplished.”

Once the run ended, Self had this to add: “I have a better grasp of what worked, and what didn’t, but on the whole, I think everything went incredibly well.” Over the course of 12 shows plus days of setup/strike and weeks of rehearsals, there was one case of a production team member early in the process having tested positive, and the Pageant promptly quarantined them and three others who had been in close contact. (All are well now.) “We had built some redundancy into our plan just in case something like this happened. The great news is that the plan worked. No one else got sick, and we were able to redistribute responsibilities within our bubble and the show went on. Kudos to the Pageant for creating successful protocols and sticking to them.”

 

El Monstero at the Pageant Theater

St. Louis, MO, Dec. 17-31, 2020

Crew

  • Chip Self, LD/Logic Systems Owner
  • Rusty Shaw, FOH Engineer (Logic Systems)
  • Josh Limpert, Monitor Engineer (Pageant staff)
  • Ben Schulte, Monitor Engineer (Logic Systems)
  • Randy Nolge, System Tech (Pageant Staff)

Gear

FOH

  • Console: DiGiCo SD12
  • Speakers: Vue Audiotechnik AL-12 (main PA), Vue AL-4 (sidefill)

MON

  • Console: Midas PRO2
  • Speakers: Radian 15” Microwedges
  • Mics: Shure UHF-R wireless mics
  • IEM’s: Shure PSM-1000 IEMs

 

 

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