JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Walk away and breathe. It is a simple but well-established tool when it comes to dealing with everyday stressors in our lives.
Providing Airmen, Caretakers, and their families the ability to get away, breathe, and be in the moment is a primary goal of the Air Force Services Center (AFSVC) and its managers of Air Force entertainment programs.
“We all have stressors in our daily lives, so it’s important to look for ways to get away from those stressors, even if it’s just for a few hours,” said Jeri White, director of production of Air Force Entertainment LIVE STAGE.
“It’s great to be able to bring entertainment to a base that gives Airmen, guards, families and friends a way to enjoy the camaraderie…maybe some time to find the best cornhole player , letting loose in a new bounce house, or bonding with an older child over the experience of a first gig,” White said, “and all at no cost to individuals.
Since 2016, White and the AFSVC team have worked with facilities and artists – comedians, musical artists and other artists – to bring free first-class performances to venues across the United States.
The AF Entertainment team works with booking agencies to source talent for tours but it’s a true partnership between AFSVC and facilities when it comes to entertaining an audience.
“We work with facility managers to find the right kind of performers and venues, and with Force Support Squadron teams to execute a plan that ensures every event is a huge success, that it’s a more intimate comedy show or a full-fledged concert series,” Blanc said.
Michael Freund is LIVE STAGE’s assistant production manager and is often on the ground during installations to make sure everything runs smoothly.
“These events are some of the most important things to me because they provide a fun event for all ages and are free,” Freund said.
“I work with a team of operational and technical contractors to ensure that the production aspect of concerts runs smoothly and safely,” he said. “It takes a team of extremely skilled professionals to oversee the myriad details involved in making the event a success.”
Minot AFB, North Dakota, was one of five facilities that hosted LIVE STAGE rock festivals in August along with Skillet, Hoobastank and We the Kings.
“I think it’s sometimes easy to forget, especially after the degree of isolation that has occurred during the COVID shutdowns, how important social events like Rock Fest are for boosting morale, especially at a remote base like Minot,” said Matthew Balas, 5th Force Support. Deputy Squadron Director at Minot.
“Local bases often don’t have the resources to be able to provide this level of entertainment, so when an organization like the AFSVC can come in and deliver such a high-end product that’s free for Airmen, it’s a great opportunity!”
Having a high profile concert on their facility left a positive and lasting impression on every Airman and family who was able to attend, Balas added.
“From the artists, staff and crew of Air Force Entertainment, and all of the many local partners…the entire team has come together for one purpose…to make this event a memorable event for all hardworking and deserving Airmen and their families,” he said. , “and everyone involved knocked it out of the park!”
“When I talk to people at events, they say our shows give them a day to forget about everything that’s going on and really have fun,” Freund added.
Like elsewhere in the entertainment industry, when COVID hit in 2020, the AFSVC tried to keep the dates they had set for concerts and variety shows working with grassroots leaders to decide whether to hold or postpone a show. Most of the time, the AFSVC was able to reschedule the show to a later date as the booked artists understood the situation and worked with White to find new dates. For some installations, this meant concert dates were pushed back a year.
Although the first LIVE STAGE concert after the COVID breakout took place in the summer of 2021, it hasn’t necessarily been smooth sailing thereafter.
“Over the past year as we’ve been planning and preparing for gigs, the COVID numbers have started to climb again and we’ve been concerned and reaching out to grassroots leaders,” White said. “Most often we’ve heard commanders say, ‘We’re doing this concert. My people need it. My airmen and my families have been locked up long enough. We need this like a shot in our arms.
It was an important comeback, White said, because one of the goals of the concerts is to get Airmen and Guardians out of their sleeping quarters.
“We are working with each base hosting a concert to make the event more than just a concert and encourage them to put Airmen on planning committees, so they have a voice in the event,” he said. she declared. “We know it’s easy for bases to do things for families and kids and sometimes it seems like we’ve forgotten about our Airmen.
Bases are chosen for a particular type of entertainment based on a matrix that includes such things as priority of need, location, and lack of opportunity for other entertainment in the local off-base community. Normally, a base will see a live concert approximately every two to three years.
“We’re trying to deliver a gig on that schedule, but COVID has done a number on that, so we’re still trying to get back to basics that missed out,” White said. “We are also looking at which bases are close enough to each other to be able to run back-to-back weekends, saving on the cost of production, labor and groups, as we can book them as package.”
The cost savings are significant, considering the size of the LIVE STAGE concerts.
“When we bring a concert, it comes with all the bells and whistles and is what the base population would experience at a big concert off base… the stage is 100 feet by 40 feet, has a 35ft high roof and has three 12ft x 16ft video walls.We have state of the art lighting and audio systems that use the latest technology and meet the highest standards.
“We go to great lengths because the Air Force believes in its Airmen and its Guardians,” White said.
“People who haven’t been to any of our events may not understand that these are major events,” Freund said, “and when I say major event, I mean major music festivals. scale with a full stage, food vendors, family events and more featuring wildly popular artists.
There are many chances that people will experience an event in the months to come.
• Illusionist Mike Super began a 40-installation tour Sept. 20 at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, and ends Dec. 4 in San Antonio after performing coast-to-coast.
• The Fall-Fest 2022 concert series begins in October and includes Tyndall AFB, Florida on October 14; Moody and Robins AFB, Georgia, October 15 and 21 respectively; and Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, Oct. 22. It includes performances from Fuel, 30H!3, Skillet, and Sick Puppies.
• The 2023 program includes 15 to 20 major concerts and nearly 150 variety and comedy shows.
To find out what’s happening near you, contact your Force Support Squadron through their website, Facebook page, or drop by one of your facility’s FSS facilities. Information is also available at www.myairforcelife.com.