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KISS and Mushroom Events Deliver Epic Pre-Show
With all due respect to other sporting codes, the AFL Grand Final is the biggest event in Australian sport. And the biggest ever pre-show entertainment went off in grandiose and imitable style on the last Saturday in September, 2023, with legendary glam rockers KISS, completely produced, designed and delivered by Mushroom Events.
“Outside of the Olympic and Commonwealth games, this is the biggest production in Australian sporting history,” stated Travis Hogan, Producer and Production Designer on the AFL Grand Final for Mushroom Events, and we do not disagree.
The show was the kind of pure rock’n’roll spectacle that only a band as outrageously theatrical as KISS could pull off. A KISS choir sang them in from the roof of the scoreboard. The band appeared through a haze of smoke and played three of their most iconic songs; ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’, ‘Shout It Out Loud’, and ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’. The pyro started at the top and just kept going – 3,500 shots in all, from 52 positions, including the top of the MCG itself down to 47 flames on the ground.
500 young dancers came out dressed as the band and formed a giant KISS logo as they played air guitar. Four kids who looked about six years old, dressed as each member of the band, broke the cuteness meter when they got on stage and rocked out with their counterparts. Paul Stanley even smashed his guitar in the finale. It was beyond huge, it did not take itself too seriously, and it was utterly, utterly joyous. I cannot remember a better piece of entertainment delivered at a sporting event in this country.
Remarkably, Mushroom Events put this show together in five weeks, after the previously booked artist unfortunately had to pull out of the performance. KISS were not due in Australia until the week after to play Sydney, but schedules were massaged, and the act was secured.
“We started work on the show on 14 August and loaded in on 18 September,” states Simon Johnson, Production Manager and Lighting Designer on the Grand Final for Mushroom Events. “We had Pro-Stage Victoria make four of the stage elements from scratch. They built them and figured out how to fit them with C02 canisters and lighting fixtures. There were a lot of welders welding aluminium late at night.”
“As producers, Mushroom Events produced and designed the show, engaged the band, built it, and made it happen,” continues Travis Hogan. “It was fully in-house delivery, and we’re proud of that. PRG supplied the main stage structure, which was built in America a bit over a decade ago. There are eight pieces of 16×8 foot stage on aircraft tyres. They are insanely effective, and we will most likely build more. Everything else on the ground was built by Pro-Stage Victoria.”
The entire pre-game production had to break down into small pieces and come on and off through a small, low access point. All in all, there were more than 700 wheels, and 300 plus crew, with 40 minutes to get it on and plugged in, and just 10 minutes to get it off. “We got it off in nine-and-half minutes,” grins Simon. “We needed absolute military precision to get it on and off in that timescale. We only got to rehearse the movement three times. In comparison, The Superbowl half time show in the US gets to rehearse for a month solid. Some of the international crew were surprised by how little time we get on the field. While we did the load in the Monday the week before, we were only allowed three days on the ground to preserve the turf.”
The military precision was also in evidence for the half time entertainment, with Mark Seymour and Kate Miller-Heidke. “The half time was the stage for the band, eight video dollies as individual elements, and 10 of the lighting trusses” continues Simon. “There were also eight pyro positions to set and arm. Again, we only had three rehearsals. We had an ad break to get it on, and an ad break to get it off, travelling almost 400 metres. In this scenario, each crew member only has time to do one role.”
Topping it all off, the crew also assist in rolling out and setting up for the post-game presentations. “The presentations were done in conjunction with Peter Jones Special Events,” relates Simon. “We assist in getting the stage on and production manage extra things like the confetti cannons.”
With glowing coverage and an absolutely stunning result in the broadcast, Mushroom Events pulled off the most colossal sporting production in the land. “We were very happy with the result,” says Simon modestly.
“When you get to the end of an event like this, it’s a bit of a relief that it’s over, but you don’t yet appreciate what you’ve pulled off as a collective. A few days later, you watch it back and finally realise the scale of what we all have done!”
Photo Credits: Mitch Lowe, Tim Lambert, Jason Allen
“Simon went heavy on lighting this year, and it suits the band,” says Travis Hogan. “If you’re going to do lighting in the middle of the day, you have to do a lot of it. It has to be big and bold.”
- 50 x Martin Quantum Wash 24 x Martin Aura XB
- 68 x Chauvet Strike M 33 x ColorBlaze 72
- 20 x Color Force 48
- 16 x Color Force 72 18 x Solaris Flare
- 8 x MDG Hazer ATM 8 x FQ-100
- 2 x grandMA2 fullsize
- plus all rigging and cabling
- Pyro was provided by ShowFX Australia
- A total of 3500 pyrotechinc shots were used, fired from 52 positions
- 3200 flame cues from 53 flames including 6 x 5 Finger Sunshines and 47 Galaxis units
- All flames were wireless and run to timecode from a grandMA2 console
- All pyro were wireless and run off 98 modules
- There were 46 CO2 jets run off around 60 CO2 bottles built into stage pods
- 28 crew on show day to make it happen and nine people for two weeks to put all systems in place
- Provided by Creative Technology
- 120sqm of ROE CB5 run from Brompton processors
- 3 x disguise D3 servers 2km of single mode fibre
- Creative Technology: Video Panels and Venue LED integration
- Pro-Stage Victoria: Staging and Risers PRG: Staging and Lighting
- ShowFX Australia: Pyro and Fireworks Deluxe Backline: Backline
- JPJ Audio: Broadcast and On-Field Audio Hase Productions: Video Content Articulate: Communications
- Labour: Gigpower and the Australian Defence Force
- Travis Hogan – Producer & Production Designer
- Tom Macdonald – Creative Producer
- Anna Toman – Talent Producer
- Simon Johnson – Production Manager & Lighting Designer
- Choreographer – Yvette Lee
- Hayden Vassallo – Assistant Production Manager
- James ‘Oysters’ Kilpatrick – Audio Director
- Chad Spencer – Lighting Director
- Stephen ‘Stig’ Moor – Production Crew Manager
- Ann Gibson – Production Coordinator
- Allan Spiegel – Pyro Designer
- Chris Newman – Rolling Stage Manager
- Jeremy Nolan – Stage Manager
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