Guinness World Records-certified as “The World’s Largest Music Festival,” Summerfest recently drew close to a million fans to 75-acre Henry Maier Festival Park along the lakefront in Milwaukee, providing live music from more than 700 bands performing over 11 days on 17 stages, as well as at 23,000-capacity Marcus Amphitheater.
Long-time Summerfest provider Clearwing Productions returned once again to handle the challenge of supplying and coordinating sound, light, staging and logistics.
Making its debut at the Summerfest Miller Lite Oasis Stage was a Martin Audio MLA (Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array) consisting of 11 MLA and one MLD down fill cabinets per side, along with 12 MLX subwoofers.
The lineup at the Oasis stage included an eclectic mix of artists such as the popular alternative band Fun., Kool & The Gang, Joe Walsh, Ziggy Marley, The Roots, Cake, Sublime with Rome, Atmosphere, Paul Oakenfold, Robyn, plus Rodney Atkins and Garry Allan from the Country Throwdown Tour.
“We went with 12 MLA per side rolling out at 63 Hz to keep as much low end in the main array as possible and used the subs as more of an effect,” explains MLA support specialist Jim Jorgensen. “One of the goals of this particular event was to maintain the coverage in a specific area, which MLA is really designed for.
“In terms of the low end response,” he continues, “Ziggy Marley’s “engineer first brought up the system without the subs on and he was happy. When he added in subs, the ear-to-ear grin on his face was priceless”
According to Jorgensen, “One of the main things that people experienced using MLA was that the PA never got in their way. They didn’t have to spend hours tuning it. No one turned it on and thought it wasn’t going to work or we needed to change anything to get the sound and coverage we were looking for.”
In terms of MLA’s exceptional control, the crew used a daytime setting that covered up to just behind the mix position with -4 halfway through the picnic tables and a “hard avoid” behind that to keep the volume at manageable levels for those walking past the stage.
The MLA night setting went all the way up to nearly four feet in front of the buildings with a “hard avoid” past the restaurants in the back of the seating area so that festival goers could dance while standing in line but be heard when ordering their food.
The MLX subs were stacked two high, three wide on the stage and delayed outside to inside to narrow the sub bass spillage and contain it to the area.
Reactions from mix engineers to MLA for the different bands were “uniformly positive,” says Jorgensen. Robyn’s engineer said it “was pokey in all the right places,” which in Scottish audio speak means it stood out where it was supposed to. Fun.’s engineer said it was the biggest sounding PA he’d ever worked with in that “he kept pushing and pushing it, and it just kept getting bigger.”
“Clearwing’s Steve Harvey (systems engineer-north stages) who had previous experience with Martin Audio’s W8LC arrays quickly understood how MLA worked and was able to explain the system to other people while becoming an advocate,” adds Jorgensen. “He’s quite sharp and has great ears, so he got it right away.”
Working in tandem with MLA were 12 Martin Audio LE2100 stage monitors and Wavefront enclosures for side fill, along with a DiGiCo SD10 at front of house and a Yamaha PM5D for monitors, all provided by Clearwing.
“Most of the stages on the grounds had Martin Audio wedges and fill speakers,” Jorgensen adds. “People were also talking about how well Zac Brown covered the Marcus Amphitheater with MLA during his show to a sold out crowd.
“It is impressive to see that MLA can go from a traditional Midwestern-sized festival stage all the way to a full scale summer concert shed with the same coherence and coverage abilities. Basically, people throughout the event commented on the whole run as to how MLA was dynamic, it flexed and grooved, and adapted to the style of music coming out of it.”