Delicate Productions Celebrates a Decade of BottleRock


Written By: George Petersen

Featured in: Front of House Magazine | CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE FULL ARTICLE IN FOH

This year marked a musical milestone — the tenth anniversary of the BottleRock festival, held this past Memorial Day weekend, May 26-28, 2023 on the Napa Valley Expo fairgrounds in the city of Napa, the capital of California’s wine industry. But rather than the dusty, crowded fields of many huge tribal music gatherings, from day one, BottleRock was designed to be a completely different kind of festival experience where attendees could enjoy amazing culinary delights — supplied by world-class restaurateurs, vintners and microbrewers — while taking in three days of performances by some of today’s hottest acts, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lizzo, Duran Duran, Smashing Pumpkins, Post Malone, Los Lobos, Lil Nas X and War — to name but a few.

Although the promoters of the first BottleRock back in 2013 had little experience in creating a festival, audio / video / lighting supplier Delicate Productions and its president Jason Alt were there from the start to help deal with the complex logistical challenges and issues of presenting such a large event. These were particularly vexing, as the expo fairgrounds were just blocks from the downtown area and bordered residential neighborhoods. The latter concerns were resolved by Alt working with Delicate’s Brian Basilsky, designing a steerable Martin Audio MLA (Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array) P.A. for the main stage, which kept the SPLs within the festival limits.

In the ensuing years — aside from a pandemic-caused cancellation in 2020 — BottleRock has become a welcomed and successful mainstay in the region.

In terms of the pandemic, venue shutdowns hit hard on providers in the audio / lighting / video live performance industry, and Delicate was no exception. From March through June 2020, Alt and Delicate co-founder Smoother Smyth often paid staff out of their own pockets. “We got some government money like a lot of people did, but not nearly enough based on the amount of revenue we normally made. The government was not supporting the entertainment industry,” Alt explains.

From left, Jason Alt with festival production managers John Wilkie and Shawn Warlow. Photo by Steve Jennings

 A New Direction

“We were doing whatever we could do to keep people employed as long as we possibly could. And then we had our first conversation with Live Events’ CEO Stephen Vitale and his team. They laid out their vision,” Alt recalls — and that vision would take Delicate Productions on a voyage that continues to this day.

“Three years ago, the pandemic stopped us and everyone else in the live entertainment business,” stated Stephen Vitale, CEO of New Castle, PA-based Live Events, which traces its original roots back to Pyrotecnico, a fireworks company founded by his grandfather Constantino Vitale in 1889. “But we decided the show must go on. We raised capital and went on a strategic search for the best in the business, from sound, light and video production to fireworks display companies. I believe we’re building something greater than I ever imagined.”

Today, the Live Events family of brands includes the following companies, giving Live Events an expanded national and regional presence: Active Production & Design; FXpedited; Gemini Stage Lighting & Equipment; Pyrotecnico Fireworks; PyrotecnicoFX; Zenith Lighting; and Delicate Productions.

Post Malone performs. BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival 2023 photo by Steve Jennings

Usually, corporate acquisitions and mergers lead to a loss of individual identity and major changes, but not so in the case of Delicate Productions becoming part of the Live Events family.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we were acquired by Live Events,” says Alt, “along with us, Gemini, Zenith Lighting and Active Production & Design. The first year and a half was everybody getting back on their feet. So I really just ran Delicate the way we always operated, but with more support from Live Events, who have a shared services team, with HR, marketing and accounting and infrastructure help. It was really us laying a foundation under that and doing what we do well, with everybody having autonomy, where Delicate is still Delicate and Gemini is still Gemini. The next step was getting all the individual companies to start sharing resources — whether labor or equipment or clients — where a client could be a Delicate client, but we can service them in Orlando out of Zenith to say, start a tour. We’re able to provide clients with an expanded depth and breadth of full production services within our ‘house of brands.’”

Alt then evolved from working 100% for Delicate to working for Live Events 100% of the time, managing operations for all the sound, light and video divisions. “That’s what I do day-to-day, and I still have my hands on a bunch of Delicate clients who only want to see my smiley face at their event,” Alt says. “And BottleRock is one of them.”

And as to the post-acquisition phase, “it’s working pretty well and did a couple of good things for Delicate, such as for Brian Boyt, who had joined Delicate just before the pandemic and now he’s the general manager at Delicate. A bunch of people had the opportunity to step up and evolve into new roles because the way that we’re paralleling a lot of things in each company.”

So according to Alt, “it’s good news for everybody at every organization. BottleRock is a great example of how we use resources between companies, showcasing a full production collaboration that included not only Delicate but Zenith and Gemini too. For Delicate, not only did we do BottleRock during May, we also did the Lovers and Friends, Sick New World and BeachLife festivals, and we were able to share a lot of that. For example, we built one lighting rig that went to three out of those four festivals, and it’s the utilization of resources in-between, whether it’s people or equipment, that’s making us a more efficient company on a lot of levels.”

Duran Duran perform on the Verizon Stage. BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival 2023 photo by Steve Jennings

 Flash Forward

Speaking of that, from a production standpoint, BottleRock 2023 was a complete success. As in past years, keeping within noise limits was a priority for the Delicate team. “From day one, our involvement with BottleRock in the city in Napa was to help them create an event that didn’t disrupt what the city is now,” says Alt. “It’s a tourist destination and a quiet community overall, and when you drop a 120,000-person festival right in the heart of it, you have to consider the noise ordinance.”

According to Alt, “We have iPads at front of house, and we can monitor sound levels all day long. The unique thing is, it’s averaged over the hour, so you know it’s an artist playing a 45-minute set, and there’s 15 minutes of quiet. It all plays into the overall average, yet in the history of the event, I’ve never, ever been over the noise ordinance. We’ve done a really good job of working to contain it. And technology played a big part of that. In the first couple of years when we were deploying the Martin MLA-family system, MLA made it really easy to keep sounds somewhat contained within the festival. now we are using d&b and L-Acoustics and the evolution in technologies to our advantage.”

The Wu-Tang Clan on the Verizon Stage. BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival 2023 photo by Steve Jennings

 The Systems

The main system on the #3 stage included eight Martin Audio W8LC line array boxes per side, with another eight Martin W8LM line arrays used as mono front fills. Twelve Martin double-18” SB218 ground subs added LF punch. DiGiCo Quantum 225 consoles were deployed at the FOH and monitor positions.

The Verizon (#2) stage featured performers such as The Smashing Pumpkins, Duran Duran, Wu-Tang Clan and Lil Nas X. The main P.A. consisted of an L-Acoustics rig with 12 K2 line arrays in a left/right hang. “We use Kiva 2’s as the side hang, because the area is pretty small. L-Acoustics’ K1-SBs (four per side) are flown over the top to help get some sub energy to the back without impacting what’s behind us. And then it’s 32 K1-SB subs this year. The amount of subs is always funny to me because people seem to want more subs than P.A. for some reason,” Alt says.

The largest of the stages was the JaM Cellars (stage #1), which featured performances by The National, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sheryl Crow, Post Malone, Thievery Corporation, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lizzo and others.

“It’s the area where the system has to work really well, because it’s aiming towards downtown Napa. Live Events has invested in d&b audiotechnik. The main system is now d&b’s GSL and KSL line arrays, so we’ve evolved with that system and use d&b’s ArrayProcessing for it. That system has performed really well for the last two years, and I couldn’t be happier with those boxes,” says Alt.

A key factor is that the both the GSL and KSL line arrays are directional.

“That helps a lot,” Alt notes, “and we’ve had some really loud bands here. There were some really loud stages that you know definitely pushed the threshold of the limit but never exceeded what the ordinance was. We’ve always been in compliance.”

Other factors also help keep SPLs in check, such as adding in small speakers into the VIP suites on stage right. “By placing individual speakers in each suite, we don’t have to aim a bunch of big boxes in that direction for coverage. We supplement smaller systems in each one of those for the ‘platinum experience’ guests — these are speakers just for them, so we’re not hanging another 12 boxes of line arrays to cover a VIP area. It’s a really good thing: the design works well, based on the parameters of the noise ordinance. We’ve taken that approach and take advantage of cardioid boxes to keep things blowing from backwards. The festival grounds isn’t a big space. So, we’ve also done a lot with cardioid patterns coming from the second stage to the main stage because the back-end of one stage faces the other stage,” says Alt.

“We know that if you have an artist on stage who’s got a lot of low-end information in their music, those sounds can translate in other directions. So we spend a lot of time doing cardioid sub arrays, and coming up with efficient cardioid patterns. We’ve tried every concert configuration you could probably think of, and I think that over the last two years and the last three festivals, we’ve gotten it down to where the same pattern gets the point every year, because we know it works now.”

For the small Culinary Stage, which focuses on an artist paired with a famous chef, Delicate would previously put up some Martin boxes and “it was okay,” Alt explains, “but this year we went to d&b audiotechnik’s XSL and that is now my favorite box… they are amazing. I love what you can do with that little box.”

FOH engineer Nick Gauge Todd brought his SSL Live 550 console package to mix Lizzo on the JaM Stage. BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival 2023 photo by Steve Jennings

 Console Wars!

In past years, the front of house areas at most festivals are littered with fave mixing consoles for each act. This year, Delicate tried to standardize with DiGiCo consoles for both FOH and monitor world with some success.

“We kind of standardize everything. Our goal coming out about two years ago was to standardize drive racks and console packages at the festival. So every console was a DiGiCo. So it was for the majority of them, it was the Quantum 225’s, with a single SD rack. And then we had a request from an artist on the main stage to make them SD 12’s,” says Alt. “So, we swapped those to SD12s, and then we used DirectOut ProdigyMP’s [Multifunction Audio Processors] on every stage. We’ve watched the MP evolve over the years, since we first saw it and love what they are doing with that technology, especially for a festival, where it’s anything in and anything out. It’s an easy thing for techs to get their head around, and the matrixing is really great.”

Most mix engineers used the Delicate-Supplied DiGiCo’s. However, there were a few that brought their own package, particularly on the #1 JaM Cellars stage, the festival’s largest space. Lizzo’s FOH engineer, Nick Gauge Todd, brought his current fave, a Solid State Logic L550, along for the ride. Also, at the JaM Cellars Stage, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ FOH engineer Toby Francis brought his own package as well.

“I wish I had a photo from what they brought for the Chili Peppers, because there was a Yamaha PM5000 analog desk, and you don’t see those very often anymore,” Alt recalls, adding “and it was cool, you know? Toby Francis has the best analog racks. It reminded me of touring in the 90’s.”

The Smashing Pumpkins on the Verizon Stage. BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival 2023 photo by Steve Jennings

 Back to the Future

Now that another successful BottleRock is behind them, the Delicate crew shows no signs of slowing down. And the typical “hack and slash” scenario that is unfortunately too common in post-acquisition businesses is definitely NOT in the future for Delicate. In fact, quite the opposite is on the horizon, as Live Events has already approved a major expansion of Delicate Productions into a new 50,000 square foot facility in nearby Thousand Oaks, CA, at the end of the year.

“That’s two and a half times the space we’re currently in,” Alt beams excitedly.

And that my friends, is a story with a happy ending.

About Live Events  

Live Events is a full-service entertainment production company with 135 years of collective experience in the entertainment production industry and five generations of fireworks and special effects display leadership. Live Events is committed to creating memorable experiences that move and delight audiences of all sizes, backed by imaginative and hardworking people who are the core of their success. Headquartered in New Castle, Pennsylvania, Live Events divisions and offices span nationwide from Pennsylvania to California. For more information, visit and follow Live Events on social media.

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