EPI turns a massive black tent into a two-night concert and party venue, taking inspiration from the Emerald Isle and the California punk scene.
Event planners love to go on and on about their love of working in a white tent, because it’s a blank canvas that can be transformed into anything.
But what if the blank slate is a black tent?
Elite Productions International (EPI), Laguna Hills, Calif., transformed a Southern California beach-adjacent parking lot into an unforgettable celebration under a 120-by-100-foot black tent, not once but twice over St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
The black tent with a clear canopy extension for an indoor/outdoor reception transformed the bare lot into a dedicated concert venue and reception, featuring a stage design, lounges, pool tables, three bars and a private VIP area. The site required that EPI design the event around existing trees, working the greenery organically into the space to complement the bar area, architectural designs and furniture vignettes. Over the two days, more than 4,700 guests from 550 companies attended the private conference reception.
Back in black
Lili Shadab, EPI creative director and president, says the black tent was chosen for this year’s edition of the annual reception because it fit with the theme and design direction. A black tent is, she says, “very
rock ’n’ roll.”
“Lighting is always considered in any event space. With a black tent, we used a lot more LED screens versus lights to create the perfect atmosphere,” Shadab says. “Something to consider in using a black tent is definitely lighting and heat, as well as adding perishable design elements such as florals at the very end, especially if it’s a particularly warm and sunny day.”
Avalon Tent & Party, Anaheim, Calif., installed the tent, and Signature Party Rentals, Santa Ana, Calif., provided 11,000 square feet of flooring. Given all of the site’s obstacles—parking meters, light poles, trees, and planters, plus beach traffic—planners needed to be “very strategic and precise in our CAD drawings—every inch counts,” Shadab says.
“The sheer size of the tent can tend to be a challenge as well,” she continues. “To accommodate the existing trees, we created custom leg extensions to reach over it. The presented layout doesn’t offer many options, and that can be limiting from a design perspective, but on another note, it also presents us with the welcomed challenge of creating something unique and never seen before, year after year.”
Day 1: Sophisticated St. Patrick’s Day
Massive floral displays in green, white and pops of orange helped create an elevated St. Patrick’s Day motif for the first day of the event, while plush green velvet couches with white pillows made the space comfortable yet chic. Massive green tinsel chandeliers were hung in the tent for an added sparkle of green, shimmering under the custom lights.
“Even though this event was happening over St. Patrick’s Day weekend,
we wanted to elevate the space and bring a more sophisticated style, and felt the black tent was perfect for this,”
Bagpipers welcomed guests to the event, along with costumed stilt walkers and models with looks designed by celebrity hair and makeup artists to shape the experience.
Guests were treated to specialty cocktails and catered food, and favorite local food trucks, such as In-N-Out, surrounded the parking lot, allowing out-of-town guests to get an authentic taste of Southern California.
Attendees enjoyed sounds of a DJ turning tables from a custom-built booth overlooking the outdoor space, while local favorites performed inside the tent.
Day 2: California punk
When the revelry of day 1 came to an end, the EPI team had less than 18 hours to transform the space for the next night, which took inspiration from California’s punk rock and skateboard scene and the evening’s performers, pop punk band Blink-182.
“To save time we often choose staple pieces knowing that we will reuse them, perhaps in a different configuration and layout,” Shadab says. “The trick is to accent with additional furniture, different accessories and florals to enhance each theme.”
EPI designed a splattered paint canvas that stretched behind the bar and was emulated for the stage. Edgy florals in blue and silver hues added to the starkly different mood, while colorful sofas and pop art pillows created an MTV clubhouse vibe. A model transformed into the infamous “nurse” from a Blink-182 album cover greeted guests, and an energetic dancing banana (another Blink reference) helped get the guests pumped for the performance.
“We incorporated a lot of elements from Blink-182, borrowing from their album cover and overall style, and the black tent worked really well for that,” Shadab says.