The key to the success of any army is logistics — Julius Ceasar knew it, and so did Hannibal and Napoleon. A.J. Fardella knows it as well.
Fardella is a production assistant with Another Planet, the outfit in charge of setting up and breaking down all of the equipment at the Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Outdoor Concerts. Yep, it’s that time of year again, when entertainers like the the Dave Matthews Band, Elton John, Kenny Chesney and Jackson Browne come in to sing under the stars. And with them will come truckloads of equipment that has to be unloaded, assembled and then broken down and packed away … all in a weekend.
When Brad Paisley rolls into Tahoe with 11 18-wheelers full of stage equipment, other men might quake. But this is old hat to Fardella.
“I’ve been doing this since 1977, so it’s not really that daunting” said Fardella, who is a production assistant/stage manager for Another Planet, the company in charge of running the Outdoor Series. “I remember my first concert well. It was Emerson, Lake and Palmer at the Cow Palace in San Francisco,” Fardella said. “It was part of their Orchestra Works Tour, which included a full orchestra.
“But by the time they got to San Francisco, it was only them (the musicians). So it was a good place to start.”
Fardella’s responsibilities are seemingly endless: think of setting up a traveling circus, only with video boards and an elaborate sound system. He also wrangles the stage hands, acts as a go-between with Harvey’s personnel and managers for the various stars, and deals with technical issues. That’s where his experience as a computer networking engineer comes in handy.(Fardella lives in Pittsburg, Calif., and that’s his day job).
“Things have changed so much in the concert business since I started,” he said. “You’ve got wireless guitars, wireless mics, amazing video screens that are bright as hell on a bright sunny day.
“I’d say one of the biggest changes are remote control spotlights. It used to be that if you wanted 20 spots, there had to be 20 different lights. Now one light can be operated to cover all 20 spots by remote.”
But one thing is pretty much exactly like the old days.
“It’s still a very demanding job, physically” said Fardella, who still rolls up his sleeves and pushes heavy equipment in his mid-50s. “It’s very strenuous work, and some of us turn up with bad backs and other injuries. But I’ve found that it helps me keep in shape.
Fardella graduated from University of the Pacific, where he became involved in stage production at the urging of his roommate.
“The first concert in college was the Tubes,” he said. “And once on stage working it, I was like, ‘Wow, this is fun.’ I knew right away it was for me, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
— Rick Chandler
ABOUT Rick Chandler
Rick Chandler is a Tahoe Onstage staff writer and columnist.