SALT LAKE CITY — Attention, class.
For today's assignment, you will be learning about managing a large event, dealing with people of all backgrounds, how to avoid last-minute and unexpected "issues" and how to deal with them if they come up, and you'll get to see cutting edge equipment that has never been used on the big stage before.
Your classroom: the massive stage production of one of the biggest touring bands in the world.
Your professor for the day: Jon Bon Jovi.
The Bon Jovi Because We Can 2013 Tour rolled though the Energy Solutions Arena Wednesday night. For about 15,000 to 20,000 people, it was two hours of music and nostalgia by a band that most have been following for 30 years, backed by an incredible stage show.
But for a select group of high school and college students, it was a 12-hour day of learning firsthand what it's like to put on a large-scale rock show. Bon Jovi created the Because We Can internship program, giving students at each tour stop the chance to become crew members for a day, working behind the scenes with Bon Jovi's management and production crews.
"We try to identify local individuals in their communities — college students who are making a positive impact within their universities, in their communities — and give back by actually letting them work for the day. So they come down, they get their hands dirty. They work with management, hospitality, ticketing, all the different departments that I have my hands in, and they all see what it takes to put on a live production. And by the end of the day, they all want to get into event management," said Michael Savas, Bon Jovi's management coordinator.
Many of the students selected to participate in the program at the Salt Lake show came from the University of Utah's Lowell Bennion Community Center. They arrived at EnergySolutions Arena about 11 a.m. and didn't finish until around midnight.
"The students walk away with eyes wide open, enthusiastic, and really passionate about live entertainment," Savas said.
U. sophomore Carina Hahn was selected to participate in the program because of all the volunteer work she does with the Bennion Center
"It's really interesting. I've never seen anything behind the scenes of a show like this. It's really cool to see what people do as they move from city to city and how they have to set up at different locations. It's different everywhere, and yet they travel with the same people and the same things," she said.
What Hahn, who enjoys interacting with people, found most exciting was putting together VIP packages and handing them out to rabid fans who attended the show.
"The fact that I'm going to be interacting with people who are really excited to be here and they've invested so much in this experience, to be able to make it a great experience for them is exciting to me," she said.
Bon Jovi offered several VIP packages for their fans. As one might expect, the packages included offers that only a band the size of Bon Jovi can provide. A limited number of the top tier "Diamond" VIP Packages ($1,575 per package) were sold. Those deals included a front-row seat, as in the actual seat (fans got to take their seat home after the show), an autographed limited edition Bon Jovi fine art print, a pre-show VIP party, VIP merchandise, and their own special door to avoid the long lines at the general admittance entry. The packages were sold out.
Katie Applebaum was the lone high school student selected to help. The Skyline High School junior said she wants to be a tour manager in the future.
"This is my dream. This is what I want to do after I graduate from college," she said.
Applebaum spent the day setting up the VIP rooms, getting merchandise bags ready and doing other projects making sure things were ready for that night's show.
"Something that surprised me the most is how many semis that are out there. When I got here this morning at like 11, there were 18 (semitrailers) full of stuff. And the amount of people, there's a huge staff. I guess I didn't necessarily not expect that, but it surprised me," she said, marveling at the scale of the operation.
Those semitrailers are used in big part to haul Bon Jovi's large-scale stage production from town to town. The band is known for not holding back on using the latest and greatest lighting and sound systems for their stage production.
"State of the art technology. Some of this equipment was invented for this tour. It's never been tried before in a live show to this degree," Savas said.
The show included an incredible high definition hexagon wall that will include 5,200 square feet of projection surface and 4.5 million pixels to create video projections that appear three-dimensional. The stage also included 8,400 amps and used 807 kilowatts to power everything for one show.
The students also got to see things that regular concert-goers didn't, such as the area under the stage which was like its own little city. While the band was busy performing on top of the stage, underneath were different rooms sectioned off for everyone from additional sound engineers to guitar techs to wardrobe rooms for each member of the band.
The Bon Jovi tour is currently scheduled to run through October. But road warriors are likely to add even more dates after that.
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