Welcome to the Jungle

Warren Flynn and Max Mackintosh Brave Insects, Reptiles and More to Light an Alien Spaceship for the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival

The Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival (OMF) returned to Florida this year on March 2-5 for its second year. Once again, festival producer Soundslinger offered the main stage lighting duties to Max Mackintosh, a young man trying to make his LD bones in America.

Mackintosh had labored in Spain’s club scene for close to 10 years, during which time he worked for and became friends with American DJ Andrew Grant. In 2015, Mackintosh moved to the U.S. to pursue a career as a touring LD. This meant starting from scratch again.

His friend Grant also had returned to the States and was acting as a coordinator for OMF. He offered his friend a lighting gig.

“It was a great opportunity to get known to a lot of touring acts, since it was a festival,” says Macintosh, “I knew I would need help to pull it off, though, so I had Andrew make sure the lighting vendor provided someone who knew the console and could program looks.”

Little did he know just how well that request was being filled when Warren Flynn showed up with the Christie Lites crew for their first meeting.

A ceiling of LaserNet beams over Jungle 51. Photo by Brian Hensley

Aliens Ate My Buick

“You could say last year’s festival started off with a bit of a glitch,” smiles Flynn, of the main stage dubbed Jungle 51. “The theme for our stage was ‘Aliens Crashing in the Jungle.’ Since that is essentially, what the site sits in… a jungle swamp… it made sense.”

The main set piece, a spaceship, was supposed to hang above the DJ’s on vertical truss, since there was no roof. For some reason, arrival of the spaceship kept being delayed. It finally appeared on site the evening before the festival opened.

“The problem was,” says Flynn, “instead of weighing three hundred pounds, it clocked in at almost three thousand,” a suspicion Warren had shared with his longtime friend, PM Eric Milby, before it arrived.

They ended up setting up the spaceship on the ground, as if it had crashed. A quick redeployment of truss and fixtures and a last-minute redesign ensued.

Lesson learned? “Like Warren told me afterwards,” says Max, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

As Flynn watched a familiar scenario unfold this year, he told Max, “We do not have time to wait around for this thing to show up. We need to start programming or we are gonna get caught with our pants down.”

Lights and lasers hit the mylar covered trees photo by Andrew Jorgensen

Budapest by Blimp

Despite those challenges, Soundslinger decided to continue the alien spaceship theme in 2017. And the story line has expanded. By now, the aliens have set up camp.

Max came up with an idea of placing “crystals” in the jungle around the stage, “growing” their own little community. Soundslinger contracted Creative Concepts for these.

Darren McGee, from Burning Man, designed panels to create an “Alien Temple” for the stage. He based the graphics on the alien circle crops concept, carving out insignias on Masonite panels. “We backed the panels with spun opal, rear lit them with [Elation] ELAR Pars, and they looked gorgeous,” says Warren. “To create a bigger look this year, I added truss towers offstage in the jungle, loading them with [Claypaky] Sharpys, [Martin] Atomic 3000 strobes and Elation Dot 360 I’s.”

Mackintosh created a “laser forest” to go with the concept by strapping laser beam bars manufactured by LaserNet into the trees and wrapping the trunks and branches in Mylar.

“I am a bit of a perfectionist,” says Macintosh, “in the sense that I always strive to do better. I am very visually oriented. I may have an idea in my head, but to know that is what I am after, I need to see it. Consequently, I will move the set and lights three and four times. Warren finally had to tell me, ‘Stop. It’s going to look fine.’”

Which is a nice way of saying what Flynn’s son, Patrick, who was the lighting crew chief on Jungle 51, said more than once, “Dad, you need to reel this guy in so we can give him what he wants, or the fat lady is gonna sing!”

Music in the jungle photo by Andrew Jorgensen

Hot Sauce

“Max had what I’ve come to call ‘freshman-itis,’” says Flynn. “We all go through this phase where you have a combination of enthusiasm and stress, and that can create blind spots. I would pull Max aside and say, ‘Hey kid, you’re working in a game that’s decided in miles, don’t worry about the inches. I understand what you are going through, but you are makin’ enemies of people you really want on your side. You need to calm down a bit.’”

OMF is typical of nighttime programming out in the middle of a field. Except this field happens to be the Okeechobee jungle, which is known for mosquitoes. The crew was constantly on the lookout for armadillos. “They were everywhere,” says Flynn — “underfoot, or just looking at us, wondering what we are doing in their world.”

And armadillos weren’t the only swamp denizens lurking about. “As if he did not have enough on his mind already,” said Flynn, as he shook his head, “water moccasins were all over the grounds too. Now, Max made it clear he does not care for snakes at all. He tended to get a little jumpy every time a palm frond moved.”

Keys to the Ferrari

“This year I pushed Max out of the nest and threw him into the fire,” said Flynn. “As I asked him at the beginning of all of this, ‘You wanna do this? Well, it’s your stage now!’

“I am 55,” Flynn continues. “My sitting-in-a-nightclub, punching-buttons-for-12-hours days are over. The artists took the stage at 6 p.m. and played until six the next morning. I would take the first few hours, then he took it from there.”

Wrapping up, Max comments, “You have to park your ego sometimes, which is hard, because I am trying to prove myself. I was under real stress when they told me ‘Oh, we forgot to tell you, four days ago we moved the stage.’ Warren came to me and pulled me into a corner and told me possibly the best advice so far, ‘There is never a problem, only a solution.’”