ADJ LED Lighting Rig illuminates Community Music Festival at Historic Texas Venue

Based on the site of a 100-year-old cotton gin that serves as a local landmark in Athens but had been abandoned for decades, Common Area Market is the brainchild of Marine Corps vets and married couple Chris and Amanda Marholz. After traveling the world serving their country as marines, they settled in Athens to raise their family and follow their dream of founding a business that would draw together their passions of music, food, hospitality and event planning. Named after the Marine Corps term for the place where they would gather to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate milestones, the vision for Common Area Market is a venue where the people of Athens can gather to eat, enjoy live music and celebrate big events.

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, the first phase of the site’s redevelopment has been completed. This included renovating the main building as the Ol’ Gin indoor event space, creating an outdoor area called The Backyard featuring a temporary outdoor stage (there are plans to add a larger, permanent stage in the future) and opening an onsite burger bar (Athens has a claim to being the birthplace of the hamburger!).

As with many in the hospitality industry, the young business was hit hard when it had to close in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is weathering the storm and, having opened at the end of May, organized the CAM Fest event in June to kickstart the summer season. With two acres of outdoor space, the venue was able to welcome hundreds of socially-distanced guests who enjoyed great food and live music from six bands over the course of the eight hour event.

Production for CAM Fest, as well as all of the other in-house events hosted at Common Area Market, was provided by another new local company, Gain Stage Productions. Founded just last year by experienced production industry pro Wes Akin, the birth of this new company is closely linked to that of the venue. Having spent some time away from the industry, but maintaining a passion for live music, Wes attended some of the earliest trial events hosted by Chris and Amanda at Common Area Market while the first phase of the renovation was still underway. He quickly began sharing his experience and knowledge with the Common Area Market team which, in turn, led them to encourage him to return to his passion for entertainment technology and setup his own company.

Wes fell in love with the entertainment technology business at the tender age of eight when he experienced ‘Country Caravan’, the touring ensemble of South Plains College. Having spent the entire evening watching the sound engineer in action, he decided his future career path there and then. At eighteen he passed up college opportunities to play football and instead enrolled on the Commercial Music program at South Plains with a specialty in Audio Engineering. Following graduation he worked as an Audio Engineer both in regional clubs and bars, as well as on national tours. He also picked up experience at AVL contractors, designing and installing sound reinforcement and lighting systems for colleges, houses of worship and event venues.

“I loved what I was doing,” enthuses Wes. “I got to hear great live music, hang out with great people and I got to play with the coolest toys on the market. I used to tell people that I partied like a rock star and got paid for it!”

Despite his passion for the industry, eventually Wes fell out of it and took a different career path. Twelve years passed by; he married, had two kids, settled in Athens and then wound up at the Common Area Market where he was inspired to rekindle his passion. He began investing in an audio and lighting rig to supply local concerts and events, as well as undertaking various installation projects. Within the space of just over a year Gain Stage Productions has cultivated a great reputation and loyal customer base, including the venue that started the whole thing off.

For CAM Fest, Wes setup a rig based around six Global Truss floor-standing totems that were positioned around Common Area Market’s temporary outdoor stage. He stood his four ADJ Vizi CMY300 hybrid moving head fixtures on top of four of these totems, which lined the back of the stage. This allowed for projection of GOBOs onto the corrugated metal side of the gin building, which forms the backdrop to the stage, as well as shooting beams out over the band into the audience.

“The full color mixing combined with that 300W LED engine makes the Vizi CMY300 a really great fixture,” comments Wes. “I have several buddies who use them, so I had seen them in action many times before I invested in my own. They are fast moving, have great output, the color mixing is very impressive and you can create loads of different effects with the two prisms and two GOBO wheels; I’m still learning all the different things I can make them do! I used them for CAM Fest, then for a dance recital two weeks later. Especially when I put them inside, in a room full of haze, those things just rock!”

Color washing was provided through a combination of ADJ 18P HEX LED pars and UB 12H LED bar fixtures. Two bars were mounted to the forward truss totems to wash the stage, while two more were positioned on the stage to illuminate the drum riser. Six of the pars were rigged to the rear truss totems to provide backlight, while a further two on the forward trusses provided front light for the stage.

“With their wide beam angle and bright output just those two fixtures were enough to light the whole stage,” states Wes. “In fact, I had to dim them down a little bit as they are so bright and I didn’t want to blind the performers! The 18P HEX is a really great fixture and that wide beam angle is very important to me as on a lot of the stages I do I don’t have much height, so being able to cover a wide area with a single fixture is very important to me. Then, when I do get the height, I can cover an even bigger area. So with the 16 of those fixtures that I own there’s not a stage I’m going to do that I can’t cover with an even wash. The edges on it are also good, they’re not real harsh, so they blend well together. The colors on it are great too, they mix well with the other fixtures I have, so I don’t need to spend time trying to get colors to match.”

Just prior to this event, Wes took delivery of the latest additions to his lighting inventory, a pair of ADJ Vizi Beam Z19 moving head washes. Naturally, he was keen to try them out at CAM Fest, where they were rigged to the two central truss totems. Each of these fixtures feature 19 x 20W quad color (RGBW) LEDs that are arranged into seven independent zones, allowing the creation of animated ‘eye candy’ effects.

“I’ve been very impressed by the Z19s from the day I took them out of the box. With the variable zoom and zone control you can make some really cool effects with them. I’d become so used to regular static pars as my wash lights, that are locked into wherever they are set, the ability to move the washes around depending on what the music is doing has been a revelation, it has really allowed for a new level of creativity. They are very cool fixtures and I totally intend to pick up more of them.”

Wes operated the rig from ADJ’s myDMX 3.0 software, which he finds to be a flexible control solution for a wide variety of different events and productions. Meanwhile, atmospherics were provided by an ADJ Entourage 1400W professional touring grade faze machine that is built into a durable flight case.

“The Entourage works great: lots of output, good control and quick warm up time,” enthuses Wes. “It also fires on demand, so there’s no delay between when I trigger it and when I actually start to get output. But the best thing is that it’s actually built into a flight case, that was a real game-changer. It makes it very easy to move around and also means that it’s always protected – in the trailer but also up there on stage.”

CAM Fest was a resounding success, enjoyed by the hundreds of Athens locals who came out to enjoy the live music as well as food from Athens Burger Bar and other local vendors. It also provided the perfect showcase for both Common Area Market and Gain Stage Productions, two businesses operated by people living out their passion and at the same time serving their local community.


CAM Fest 2020


Production Company

Gain Stage Productions

Production Manager

Wes Akin

Gear List

4 x ADJ Vizi CMY300

2 x ADJ Vizi Wash Z19

12 x ADJ 18P HEX

4 x ADJ UB 12H

1 x ADJ Entourage

1 x ADJ myDMX 3.0

6 x Global Truss Totems