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Earning the Spotlight

Jamie and Tricia Lunski were probably at the last big concert, wedding, conference, festival or event that you attended within the region. Chances are, you never saw them in person, but the robust stage, lighting features, drapery or setting was the work of the Lunskis and their crew. For the last several years, the husband-and-wife duo have been expanding their sound, light and technology company by taking on more major jobs, adding high-end or innovative services or organizing and putting on events of their own. They go undetected by most at the events they create or serve—and they prefer it that way. Based out of a massive, unassuming yet inspiring workplace warehouse in downtown Grand Forks, HB Sound & Light’s team has become the go-to production and tech firm for visiting U.S. Presidents, major rock bands, big-time conferences and any other organization or group in need of beautiful lighting, memorable stages or sharp sound.

We went backstage, and behind the scenes of HB’s hidden and vastly under-talked-about operation to see how they’ve built an impressive client portfolio, how they remain calm when the lights go bright, and why, as we think you’ll agree, HB is as capable of taking the stage as they are at setting it.

Enter The Sound And Light Empire

Above the main reception desk of HB’s Grand Forks headquarters is a full-size mini-Grand piano painted aqua blue. The piano is one of several significant art or decorative features located in their space. Formerly a stadium seating manufacturing facility, and at a different time, a tobacco and candy shop, the current iteration of the warehouse is a pure reflection of HB’s creativity, broad range of abilities and attention to the details that reveal what the HB brand is all about. “It’s really hard to compare us to any entity,” Tricia says, “we do so many things.” The warehouse has loading docks for semis, speakers stacked on speakers, monitors above those, containers full of rigging, rows of scaffolding, and lights (all sizes and types) that seem to be more than any event would ever need. There are guitars, drums, sound mixers, keyboards and drumsets if traveling musicians need them.

Part of what HB is trying to do with their homebase is to create an atmosphere the team feels is worth returning to. Despite the massive assemblage of sound and lighting equipment, there is an organizational aura to the place and more than that, the type of ambiance that is flat-out cool to be in. Most weeks, the HB team is putting on five to ten events.

In one week this summer, Jamie went from running the Rib Fest to a Methodist church convention to a Bakken oil show, all of which took him across the state. There is not a normal pattern for any of them, just a never ending schedule of stage set-up, sound work, shipping and logistics, or for the other part of the team that installs electronics for commercial and residential spaces, daily jobs of all sizes. All of it, especially the events, brings adrenaline along with the necessary start-to-finish job arc that typically climaxes with a great sense of accomplishment and pride. “There is just nothing like it,” Jamie says. “It’s why we do all of this. We go to an event preparing for so much, deal with a lot while there and then get a few moments of satisfaction knowing we pulled off something memorable,” he explains. “Then, we pack it all up and get ready for the next job.”

When they acquired the warehouse space, the Lunskis knew they wanted to make it their own. Tricia painted the upper third of the tall ceilings a different color than the walls below for effect. Staged display walls mimic settings one might see at a television camera museum or as Tricia’s office includes, an ode to Mac computer monitors and magazines. One entire wall of her office was built as an art installation/magazine storage area. She has always collected magazines. Jamie’s office features multiple guitars, including his father’s. All of it is fun, refreshing and certainly unexpected for the traditional office decor of the region. There is no doubt that the Lunskis, despite the chaotic industry they operate in, exist with a vision and commitment to lasting for the long haul. Walking around HB and talking with them gives you the sense that you are witnessing the start of some bigger story, the kind that explains the humble roots of an industry giant that everyone else is trying to emulate.

In the breakroom, there are massive event signs that seem to come from a movie set (built in-house by the HB team) that provide a pop of wonder and a reminder of a past job that went well. In the conference room, violins and other instruments have been hung and lit on the walls. Every room in the facility has some type of art piece or uniqueness to it—a spool of wire tangled across a wall, polaroid photos displayed in a grid, lego sets encased in glass, old cameras mounted to a wall. Everything there seems to have a purpose, as if the Lunskis are trying to make a day at HB like another high-end event: memorable because of the setting and the details that were never overlooked.

Seeing Jamie operate at one of his events is enough to help anyone understand why the warehouse is as cool as it is. He isn’t the type to stop at anything other than near perfection. Talking with Tricia about her latest idea or willingness to try new things in the community also makes it all add up. Jamie is a perfectionist. He is also capable of operating in chaos. Directing multiple team members to erect a stage or fix a speaker set-up, all while answering a phone and pointing other crew members to fix an unexpected issue, is nothing for him. Both he and Tricia thrive at multi-tasking their way toward an outcome that always draws a standing ovation, even if the journey to get there is hectic. “We are driven by figuring things out,” Tricia says. “We are always inspired by having the opportunity just to do things.”

The HB Way

Both Jamie and Tricia experienced parental losses at a young age. The experience, both agree, has pushed them to maintain a philosophy in life that involves chance-taking, trying new things and operating to reach an outcome and not just to avoid a failure. They are certainly not control addicts, but they aren’t afraid of doing things in a way that puts a great deal of time, money and pressure on their abilities. Often times, the team makes their own stages, signs or set-ups. There is a wide variety of tools for wood or metal in their warehouse that allows them to release their DIY skills when needed. The whole crew is flexible to any situation, creative at heart and fully aware that reaching the end of that start-to-finish job arc will probably never happen the same way twice.

The entire HB team is excited to be on the job, but shy about talking about the job they do. Jamie is the most difficult. He admits that he is used to being behind the stage, not showcased on it. As they continue on the rapid pace and successful escalation they are on as a regional sound, light and technology powerhouse, its clear that the Lunskis, the rest of the crew, the warehouse and the HB way are all worthy of turning the spotlight away from their clients and on to themselves. G

// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here

PHOTOS BY Manstrom Photography From Issue 6, 2019


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