There are approximately 3,072 things that can go wrong during a live performance on a concert stage.
Prior to showtime, though, there can be even more.
If all goes as it should, audience members never think about all the groundwork laid by some unknown entity well in advance. Making sure the show goes on, and stays on, requires folks with traditionally well-shouldered heads, quick minds and the ability to remain calm in all situations, as well as a high comfort level with current technology. Drew Dedo, Harbor Entertainment’s founder and front-line responsibility-taker, fits this description to a T—the T that spells “trouble,” the fickle foe he makes it his personal task to keep at bay.
Seated outdoors at a folding table a couple hundred feet from a full-production concert stage facing West Main Street in Savannah, Tenn.—the site of country star Darryl Worley’s 15th annual Tennessee River Run fundraising event, held this past weekend—Dedo explains that one of two essential generators had failed late the previous night. Its replacement had arrived mere minutes earlier, less than two hours from the concert’s kickoff time. Also, because West Main doubles as a federal highway passing through the city, road closures weren’t as simple as getting a local official to sign off on setting up a few barricades. So, no equipment could be loaded into the concert area until the road was closed at 9 p.m. the previous night: the eve of the show. It’s all in a day’s . . . er, night’s, work.
Three tractor trailers and a 26-foot box truck, carrying a stage, audio and lighting gear and the stage set for headlining act Randy Houser, had to be unloaded and their contents assembled. All told, the job took five hours and some change, with as many as 30 traveling crew members joining Harbor’s 10-person team, all coordinated by Dedo. The setup was completed just twelve hours before the day’s opening act—the first of nine—would hit the stage, just before 2:30 p.m.
Dedo’s team began initial planning for the event last spring and visited Savannah in August to scope out the site itself. “We plan the labor, design the layout, the stage, how we want it to sit, and bring in the appropriate vendors and team to make it happen,” says Dedo. Even so, he says the backstage area underwent a half-dozen additional layout modifications once the team arrived. “You just kind of adapt, and pick it up and move, and try to keep communication open,” Dedo says, summarizing a cardinal rule behind planning the sometimes unplannable.
Contagiously relaxed while fielding pre-concert requests, phone calls and walkie-talkie transmissions, Dedo says Harbor Entertainment’s 10-year history began as a matter of savvy practicality. “I was a drummer in a band in Gainesville, Florida, and I started [Harbor Entertainment] as the production company of the band, to do the advance work,” he says, referring to a process in which details of an act’s technical and other requirements are relayed to the organization and venue responsible for hosting a performance. “‘Cause nobody wanted to talk to the drummer, but they will talk to a production manager.” In 2007, after beginning to build his reputation as an event producer, he moved to Nashville, hoping “to play [music] and to produce somebody’s tour. I thought you could wear both hats.” When practicality again reared its head, Dedo made one hat out of his two complementary interests. “It’s still a way for me to be connected with music,” he says. “It’s a passion of mine to make these shows happen, and to produce them.”
He has nothing but praise for the community involvement behind the Tennessee River Run, from the battery of essential law enforcement professionals and the fire chief (who personally brought in the generators) to local restaurants who donated food. He also cites Darryl Worley’s generosity in putting on the event, which “does a ton for the [local] people.” Dedo’s own contribution to the fundraiser is his acute awareness of the need to show appreciation to the featured artists by giving them a quality experience. It’s a long-range perspective, in line with Harbor’s habit of establishing lasting client relationships.
“Surprises are never fun, and it’s not really a good way to make friends,” he begins. “We want [artists and their teams] to know that if they see our name attached to something, that they know it’s going to be taken care of. You want them to come back,” Dedo emphasizes, “and these kinds of events can’t happen unless these artists come back year after year. So it’s important.”
Dedo’s business partner and creative director, Kasey Lowry, joined Harbor full-time about three years ago. Her specialty is design, which has resulted in more corporate-event work for the pair’s full-service event production, design, planning and management company. “[We’re] meshing our skills together,” Lowry says of the collaboration, which, along the way, also meshed the two of them: their wedding will take place early next year. For the Savannah event, a less typical one (but one well suited to her partner’s music-production background), she’s donned a service-oriented cap. “With shows like this, if you’re willing to kind of do whatever, that’s usually helpful,” Lowry says. “If it’s carry a case of soda, or direct traffic, make sure a cable’s run in the right place. . . . It’s just making sure people get what they need. The crew knows what people need. We’re just here to facilitate.”
With showtime fast approaching and all systems go, Dedo is in his element, anticipating the rush of the event he’s spent weeks preparing for. “It’s fun,” he says, “to stand on the stage and watch a concert . . . to be backstage and get to be part of the energy that comes off of it. But once we get [an act] to the stage, and that intro happens, and their foot hits the stage . . . you’ve gotten them there—that time is theirs. You just hope you’ve done everything you can to make sure their show can be great.”