Stageline and its giant mobile stage, the SAM750, made a sensational entrance (and exit) last weekend at the Hot 97 Summer Jam in New York’s Metlife Stadium. Once the lights shut off Sunday evening around midnight on the giant, 130’ x 56’ stage, Stageline’s team had a narrow window to dismantle the SAM750 in order to free up the stadium to host another major event just days later.
“There’s really a story to be told,” says producer Ian Kelly. “This is historic.”
In a way, New Jersey’s longstanding Hot 97 Summer Jam is always historic. Every year since its inception the show (this year at MetLife stadium) has hosted hip hop and R&B’s biggest and most important artists—and play host to some of their most legendary feuds.
This year, the bill was already stacked with Chris Brown, DJ Khaled, Migos, Faith Evans’s Biggie tribute, Fat Joe, and Remy Ma. It was Remy Ma whose performance was the year’s standout, as she invited female artists from the past and present—including Lil’ Kim, MC Lyte, Lady of Rage, and finally Queen Latifah out to join her onstage.
Which stage? That’s the other historic part.
“There was a question about whether the SAM750 had ever been done in a stadium before,” Kelly explains. “I had heard it had been in Giants Stadium, but I did some research and discovered it had only been in the parking lot. I called Pierre and asked him to fly down so we could walk through the stadium with some of my team and the events people—I needed him to tell me whether we could make the turning radius, whether the tunnel clearances were feasible. So we walked through it, and he gave me the thumbs up and said ‘Let’s do this.’”
In order to ease the passage of the SAM750 and other elements into the MetLife stadium, Stageline extended the 750’s ramp in order to allow a smooth, clear path from the loading dock through the tunnel into the venue and onto the stage. The SAM750 in question was Stageline’s third, offering an expanded performance area and enormous video-screen support, including the video-header panels taking the place of traditional banners.
“We were doing other things for the first time, so we decided to take a chance on the brand-new video-header too. That was 30-to-40% of my video budget, because there are a lot of panels that go into it. But it adds to the production value and the cool factor. Plus you’ve got this beautiful new piece of machinery with nice clean lines, where the video has taken the place of vinyl banners. You’re not dealing with steel and scaffolding towers that are more reminiscent of a construction site. Instead, there’s a more theatrical aesthetic.”
Another new addition to the SAM750 were the grill-decks, from which monitors hang beneath the stage rather than sitting them in front of the stage, potentially obscuring sight-lines.
Stageline was engaged to provide a range of other materials and services for the Summer Jam: we delivered security barricades and bike racks, set up spots and camera-condos, organized all event branding, and provided photographers. For entertainment between sets, we provided a secondary small stage behind the Front of House to host DJs.
“With this particular gig, I bet the farm on Stageline,” Ian Kelly says. “If they’d have had some fluke and not been able to come through with any one element, whether the labor, their crew, or the product, then surely I would have had to pay an exorbitant amount. I was counting on them to be efficient and create inexpensive efficiency. But that’s what technology does.”
The event went off without a hitch or worry, Kelly says, crediting the contributions of the producers Trevanna Entertainment, host radio station Hot 97, staff of the MetLife stadium, and the workers of IATSE Local 632.
“Everyone had great attitudes and worked really hard,” he says, “and the efficiency of the product was obvious from the beginning. The people helping to work with and support us were loving the technology and the guys who were running it. It was fantastic.”
By Kelly’s estimation, the SAM750 needed roughly 30% of the crew that a less efficient stage would have demanded. He says that’s part of the Stageline pedigree, which has involved improving steadily which each new stage, even into the present (he notes a Stageline Project Manager was onsite to produce a report to help improve next year’s game plan).
Kelly summons the business adage about “fast, good, and affordable: pick two.”
“The truth is,” he says, “we really got all three. We got a better quality and safety, done faster, for less. And everybody was happy. This is the beginning of these stages being used in stadiums specifically. We’ve proven to the world that not only can it physically be done, but it can also be done efficiently, and that adds to production value, saving you money that you can fold back into your budget to create a better show. You get a lot more bang for you buck.”
Kelly concludes with a salute to Pierre, who was ready to jump on a plane when Kelly needed him.
“The Stageline guys are always ready to be there,” he says. “100%, at the drop of a hat. Let’s go!”
In return, we say to Ian—and you—we’re ready when you are.