Quakenbrueck,a small idyllic town on the Hase River in Lower Saxony, Germany, has played host to The Artland Bicycle Music Festival for the last two years. This year they did something different. Power was literally in the hands (or rather, the feet) of the spectators. Working with d&b audiotechnik, the festival organizers created a sound system that was bicycle-powered.
“We take audience participation to a whole new level,” explains Bob Giddens, member of The Artland Country Club Band and one of the principal organizers behind the festival. “If people don’t pedal, you won’t hear anything!”
Giddens may be a musician and an owner of a bicycle company but he freely acknowledges the concept of combining the two was a bit daunting.
“In 2010 the American pedal power band, the Ginger Ninjas toured Europe bringing their own system with them. This system worked fine but it was heavy and it was hard to pedal enough energy to power the sound. My bike business targets the idea of urban mobility, carrying more stuff on bikes and lowering the carbon footprint so it seemed to me that a logical step was to try and develop a more user friendly, efficient system.”
Together with fellow band member Heinz Rebellius, Giddens set about looking at different loudspeaker systems and how they could be adapted for pedal power use.
Rebellius continues the story, “We initially planned to use a system at the Frankfurt Musikmesse but the logistics were difficult and we began to feel that we had run out of options. Conveniently for us, Bob had recently sold a bike to Wolfgang Daub from d&b audiotechnik and mentioned our dilemma to him. To be honest, I think d&b chose us, because they liked the idea of a self powering music performance so much.”
Giddens is in full agreement, “d&b immediately understood what we were doing and offered all the help they could. We visited them, toured the factory and explained our concept; they even painted their loudspeakers green for us! The idea was that the system had to be mobile, transported on bikes, but also be able to reach three hundred people in an outdoor environment. We used E12 loudspeakers on tripods driven by D6 amplification.”
“It worked like a dream,” Rebellius adds, “This is a very powerful system. Even on an open air stage it delivers enough power to rock, but more than that, as a band we really like the sound of the system.
We don’t often get to sound check as, without a spectator to pedal, there is no electricity, but the d&b system never lets us down come show time.”
The pedal power system is run from four modified cargo bikes which, as Rebellius explains, are able to produce enough electricity for a performance from a Rock’n’ Roll band. “Instead of three guitars there’s only one and, except for heavy and electricity eating guitar amplifiers, we play directly into the board. And we learned: less is more. The D6 amps use almost no power in comparison! All the bands at the festival agreed that the music worked as well, if not better, than with a traditional electrical source.”
Giddens has continued to refine the system that transforms the energy from the bike to the d&b loudspeaker system.
Each bike has a rectifier that converts the 3 phase AC input from the motor to a DC output for sending to the custom built power box. The power monitor circuit continuously reads the voltage of the system allowing for enough energy to be stored when a baseline voltage needs to be maintained for keeping equipment such as mixers, projectors and recording devices running while audience members are getting on and off bikes during the show.
As Giddens remarks, “Pedal power works on many different levels. It’s environmentally friendly, it’s educational and it’s sustainable. Kids love using it, being involved in making the sound actually happen, and it helps them understand more about power consumption and ways of manipulating electrics better than any TV advertisement or school classroom could ever do.”
The Artland Bicycle Music Festival was one of only three nominees for the prestigious German Bicycle Award 2012, der Deutsche Fahrradpreis 2012, and scooped the runner-up award. However, Rebellius is keen to ensure the intimate and ‘feet on’ nature of the event is not lost in the future.
“We want to maintain this as a regular event; our next festival is already planned for July 28th 2012. There are ideas of enlarging it, but we are not so sure about that. We definitely don’t want to do this festival with a commercial background. We like to keep it small, which means not more than maybe three or four hundred people in the audience. Like I said earlier, we learned less is more, and often the better for it!”