Culture / Entertainment

Houston Rodeo Shows Off High-Tech New Stage — and It’s a Star Of Its Own: Rodeo Concerts Will Be Forever Changed, Starting With Garth Brooks’ Bold Magic

BY // 02.23.18

This might not be your first rodeo. But trust us — you’ll feel like it is. This year, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is kicking things into high gear.

A dramatic new performance stage that’s star shaped and rotating sets a whole new scene in 2018. This massive new stage is state of the art and decked out with crazy strobing lights.

It’s the perfect symbol for the Lone Star State: Big and bold. Each of the star’s five, 36-foot points can be elevated to different positions to make for a multi-level performance — and much more variety than the old Rodeo stage provided.

“It was time to do something different and really up the game,” Houston Rodeo president and CEO Joel Cowley said at Friday’s private media sneak peek of the new stage. To Crowley it’s more than just a stage.

“It’s really a new presentation,” he says.

The smaller, old stage did its duty for 31 years. But it’s nothing like this one, which really “fits the room. It makes it much more intimate,” according to Crowley.

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NRG Stadium remains expansive in its Houston Rodeo setup, but the stage seems to fill it. With its pulsing lights and laser light show, it draws in fans who are farther away from the action.

Country music legend Garth Brooks gets the first crack at the new high tech concert stage in his highly-anticipated Rodeo opening concert Tuesday night. Brooks may have “Friends in Low Places” but he’ll be singing in front of a pretty high backdrop — say, 28 feet tall. And that motion-controlled video backdrop is just icing on the cake.

Entertainment automation technology company TAIT engineered and manufactured the rotating 126-foot-wide stage. The concert acts have a 48-foot diameter to rock out in, a whopping 80-foot expansion from the previous stage.

The Houston Rodeo organizers have seen the light, upping the ante with four times as many bulbs as before. Have you ever enjoyed a concert illuminated with 434 lights? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Lights line the tips and sides of the star stage, either making the star glow or send off lasers for a light show.

You can also see the Rodeo concerts like you’ve never seen them before, courtesy of a new aerial camera. The NavCam, a drone controlled by the same new technology as the stage, brings innovative camera angles and perspectives that will be shown off on NRG’s big screens.

For concert goers with poor vision (or really, anyone who just wants to sing along), the Houston Rodeo is stepping up its open captioning game. This year, you’ll be able to get the song lyrics on your smartphone live to the music.

Trail Ride Tradition

Talk about an early Rodeo tease. In many ways, this Friday is the real unofficial start of the Rodeo with the Trail Ride bringing horses through the city.

The Trail Ride dates back to 1952, when four horsemen rode from Brenham to spread Houston Rodeo awareness and cheer. Now, every year, more than 3,000 trail riders take part in this time-honored tradition. They came together today in Memorial Park, where they’ll crash before they come galloping into the Rodeo for the parade Saturday morning.

An old tradition and a new high-tech Rodeo stage? This is almost a whole new Rodeo in 2018.

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