Eric Church was rehearsing for her first-ever ‘in-the-round’ tour last summer when her manager John Peets noticed a major flaw in the stage design: every time the country music star made her way to the stands to get closer to the fans , it completely disappeared from view.
“The stage is built like a submarine, a rectangle, and the middle part of the rectangle is raised,” explains Peets, “so when he approached the pit at the end, I realized that the lines of sight were not good. I was losing it.
If Church was rehearsing in an arena he rented somewhere in the country — the norm for touring artists — making such crucial changes to the stage production could take weeks. But Church was holed up in the Amish country of Pennsylvania, in the small farming town of Lititz, at a state-of-the-art production and rehearsal facility known as Rock Lititz. A sprawling 96-acre campus with two cavernous rehearsal studios and a series of “pod” buildings, Rock Lititz is its own village, built and run by live music professionals who have spent much of their lives behind the scenes. , in tour buses or suspended from light trusses. Most importantly, it is home to 40 different vendors and production companies, from audio and effects experts to touring pioneers Clair Global and set designers Tait.
When Peets recognized the problem with Church’s scene, he simply walked across the street to meet Tait’s team in person. “We were able to communicate directly with the engineers,” he says. “They were able to come in, resolder rigs, knock down sections, take a second look and make incredible adjustments on the fly.”
This reputation for having everything an artist could need at your fingertips has made Rock Lititz a go-to destination for today’s road warriors. Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Beyoncé have all rehearsed on campus — Bieber even strolled into town to mingle with locals at a dinner party — while fellow guests, like Sammy Hagar, used the sound stages to knock out a series of green-screen music videos in two days. Last December, Phish livestreamed its annual New Year’s Eve show from Rock Lititz.
“We’re filling a need the industry didn’t even know it had yet,” says Andrea Shirk, president and CEO of Rock Lititz, who oversaw the campus opening in 2014. an environment that has been thought out for the crew and the artist and the management, we have brought efficiency and comfort to each of them and this allows them to do their job very efficiently.
Along with the big, towering black boxes on campus where the hard work of rehearsals takes place, Rock Lititz puts a healthy emphasis on relaxation. “We want it to be the live entertainment station,” says Shirk. The campus includes a gym, bike shop and trails, as well as a craft brewery. There’s also an on-site hotel with 139 rooms, including 16 suites and two artist penthouses. In the short term, artists and their teams live there for five days, but rehearsals for stadium tours may have them in Lititz for up to seven weeks.
Shirk acknowledges that Rock Lititz’s location — centrally located between New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. — is important in bringing artists back, but she says there’s some understanding between staff and client that can’t be reproduced anywhere else.
“Everyone on my team has worked on the road. We recognize that rehearsals are a difficult time,” she says. “We see ourselves as a hospitality business and I really think we make life easier for the guest.”