The Richmond Folk Festival is a celebration of traditional music, with artists from around the world performing on seven stages spread across 17 acres of riverside parkland in downtown Richmond, Virginia.
The event features the unique folk arts of many global cultures, including artists from Argentina, China, Morocco, Cuba and Ethiopia, and musical forms ranging from bluegrass and rockabilly to blues, jazz, zydeco, Iraqi oud, and many more.
Attendance to the free three-day festival was estimated at 200,000. All the audio hardware for the eighth annual event was provided by Soundworks, a full service live audio production company headed by Steve Payne.
“We specialize in events like this, so being selected by Venture Richmond and the National Council for Traditional Arts to supply the audio was a real honor,” says Payne. “It was a great opportunity to show what we can do.”
Soundworks installed Turbosound speakers on all seven stages, with Flex Array systems covering the two large outdoor venues and a variety of Aspect, Aspect Wide and TMS systems for the five smaller tented spaces.
“I try to buy the tools that I enjoy using and that I think are exceptional, and Turbosound speakers are a perfect example of that,” says Payne. “They’re pretty legendary in Europe, but not as common here in the States.
“The Flex system is amazingly efficient; the output and musicality are unbelievable for such a small box. On the main stage, we covered up to 10,000 people with just eight per side, and had headroom to spare. In fact, I doubt we ever hit the limiters in the three days of the festival.”
Routinely drawing crowds of 8-10,000, the main stage featured the Turbosound Flex Array system. Twin arrays of eight TFA-600HW 3-way enclosures were supported by four ground-stacked TSW-218 subwoofers per side, all powered and controlled by Turbosound’s new 20000DP amplifiers. To complete the picture, Payne used three self-powered TQ-310DP speakers as frontfills across the stage lip.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Flex Array, but these new amplifiers really put it over the top,” says Payne. “They’re 4-channel Lab.gruppen amps with Lake processing, optimized to work with Turbosound speakers. The processing includes FIR filtering, which really smooths everything out and lets the Flex system shine. The clarity is so amazing, it’s almost like a second-generation upgrade to the system.”
The second stage, which saw audiences of about 5,000 fans, was similarly outfitted, but needed arrays of just six Flex TFA-600HW over two TSW-218 subs per side. The two frontfills were TQ-445DP, a 1600-watt self powered, bi-amped 3-way design descended from Turbosound’s classic Floodlight touring system.
The remaining five venues were all in large tents, with capacities ranging up to 1,000. For these stages, Soundworks used a ground stacked approach. The largest tent, featuring a dance floor and more club-oriented acts, utilized the Turbosound Aspect TA-880H, a trapezoidal 3-way enclosure, three per side, over a pair of dual18-inch subs.
For the next smaller tent, housing up to 600 fans, Steve Payne installed the trapezoidal touringwide-dispersion version of the Aspect line, the TA-500t, filling the tent with just two mains per side over a pair of TSW-721 subwoofers, famed for the low frequency extension achieved by their single 21-inch driver.
The remaining tent stages, featuring traditional acoustic bluegrass music, were served by Turbosound’s new TMS portable system, a small footprint, high output design featuring a two-way mid/high box pole-mounted above a single 18-inch horn-loaded neodymium subwoofer.
“The TMS system is great for smaller spaces,” says Steve Payne. “We added them to our inventory for smaller local events because they’re really fast to set up and sound really good. We put two per side in the smaller tents and they really delivered for us.”
The final piece of the loudspeaker puzzle was the stage monitors. For the main stage, Soundworks supplied Turbosound’s latest wedge, the TFM-560, a bi-amped design housing dual 12-inch drivers paired with a 1.4-inch exit high frequency compression driver. The TFM-560 offers exceptional feedback rejection and even-tempered coverage for the artist while minimizing spillage into nearby microphones. All other stages were populated with a total of 48 Soundworks SW2 wedges, a proprietary 15-inch/2-inch design developed by Steve Payne.
Even for a major regional production company like Soundworks, an event like the Richmond Folk Festival puts a definite strain on inventory. “I don’t think there was so much as an XLR turnaround left in my shop,” says Payne with a chuckle. “It was a good opportunity to clean the cobwebs out of the corners!”
Fortunately, Soundworks has a long-term partnership with another provider, Southard Audio, which stepped in to supply extra microphones, wedges and consoles. “Soundworks and Southard Audio have a long tradition of working together,” says Payne. “They’re located further west in Harrisonburg and are also a big Turbosound user. That allows us to cooperate rather than compete, which has helped both companies over the years.”
Now that the dust has settled, Payne feels the Richmond Folk Festival was a huge success, both for Soundworks and for the city. “People here have really come to appreciate this event,” he says. “It’s a lot more than fiddles and banjos, and gives people a chance to hear artists from all over the world performing the traditional music of their countries. We had nothing but compliments on the sound, from the artists and engineers to the fans and organizers. It’s something we’re really proud of, and I can’t think of a better endorsement for the power and musicality of Turbosound speakers.”