The recent BottleRock Napa Valley festival, held at the Napa Valley Expo fairgrounds in the heart of downtown Napa, CA, offered an eclectic musical lineup of over 80 bands, including Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, Zac Brown Band, Train, The Black Crowes, Jane’s Addiction, Alabama Shakes, Jackson Browne, Primus,Blues Traveler, Brandi Carlile, The Flaming Lips, Violent Femmes, and many more.
Delicate Productions of Camarillo and San Francisco was in charge of audio, lighting and LED for what was the inaugural run of the festival. The need to provide exceptional coverage while eliminating noise spillage in such a tightly defined area was a critically important factor, with Delicate meeting the challenge with a Martin Audio MLA (Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array) system for the main stages, along with a complement of Martin Audio gear for the other stages.
Delicate’s design team for the system was comprised of lead audio engineer Brian Basilsky working with company president Jason Alt and general manager George Edwards.
The main (Sliverado/Willpower) stage consisted of a L/R hang with16 MLA and 4 MLD down fill cabinets per side, a left-left side hang of six MLA Compact (no right-right side hang because of nearby houses),12 W8LM for front fill, 24 ground-stacked MLX subs, and 16 MLA Compact enclosures for delays. The Monitor/Stage system included L/R hangs of four W8C, four W8CS compact subs; and two WS218X subs for side fills, along with four WS18X drum subs.
Rounding out the Martin equipment at the festival was a MLA Compact system with DSX subs at the second stage, W8LC systems for the third and comedy stages, and a smaller trapezoid WT3 system for the local stage.
Alt states, “There’s no system out there that could duplicate what we achieved in terms of audio control with MLA. The way we were able use to steer the subwoofers and the system, our ability to determine an accurate end point and really have audio die off before the end of the property line was so important. The only audio that people heard at a distance was because of the immersion layer in the atmosphere. It had nothing to do with audio really spilling that far.
“The fact that the fairgrounds property line is literally 100 feet across the street from houses,” he continues. “And those residents were very concerned at the beginning that having a big rock concert going on that close would cause all kinds of problems in terms of the noise and even their paintings falling off their walls. But by the end of it, because of what we did with steering the system and especially the subs, there were no problems.
“Even though the stage was only 200 feet from the end of the property line,” Alt adds, “we were able to get the subs down to -35dB fifty feet from stage right––the low end dropped off that dramatically. If you stood across the street it was hardly even noticeable. But if you walked to the side of the stage feeding into the fairground, there was full-on 90-degree bass coverage.
“It all came down to really impressive calculations from Brian and Ferrit (MLA specialist Martyn “Ferrit” Rowe) that produced those results. We had interaction and worked with all of the people on that street throughout the festival and not one of them complained. Most sat on their porch and enjoyed the show.”
MLA offered other advantages in needing to meet the needs of 80 acts within necessarily tight fime frames. “Besides the control, MLA helped us work much more effectively with all of the different acts at BottleRock,” Alt says. “The system gives you such a blank canvas for what each artist wants the system to sound like; we were able to accommodate all of their sonic wish lists quickly and effectively. Deploying MLA and getting it up happened in a timely fashion so that every artist had enough time to set up and the headliners were all able to tune the system, take a good listen to it, and adjust it to their specific needs.
“Coverage-wise, we didn’t do a typical right-right hang because of the neighborhood’s proximity, but we did cover 30,000 people very well with a decent amount of boxes. I don’t think we could have achieved the same sonic goals with another system, especially with the county’s noise ordinances. One of the headliners, Zac Brown, carries MLA as their touring rig and their system tech didn’t make a single change to the way we deployed it. They didn’t even have to EQ it that much.
“We actually got very positive feedback from all of the artists and engineers,” he concludes, “including those smaller bands who were opening up the main stage. Even though they were only playing to a few thousand attendees because it was early in the day, the crowd wasn’t getting blown away because the engineers didn’t have to mix too aggressively. MLA really did its job of working with every artist on every level.”