Study Hall

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Audio On The Edge: Pushing The Limits At The Reggae On The Mountain Festival

Inside the audio approach for a growing Jamaican-bred music fest at its new location in the Santa Monica Mountains.
King Gillette Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains above Los Angeles was the setting for this year’s Reggae on the Mountain festival. Credit: Denis M. Hannigan

Among the local crew at the festival, house mixing chores were divided as needed among a group including Don Bish of DTK Entertainment and Jason Reminger. Chris Malmgren served as systems engineer and was a vital force when it came to configuring the arrays and tuning the system. Using dBTechnologies Aurora Net software, he monitored and controlled the PA in real-time throughout the event.

In the interest of keeping things accessible to all who passed through over the course of the busy schedule, the input scheme was kept bulletproof simple, with elements provided selected for reliability and widespread acceptance. Wireless was used extensively, with vocals being delegated to Shure UR4D+ systems using handheld transmitters equipped with SM58 capsules.

Setting The Pace

Sunday’s headliner was Matthew Paul Miller, better known by his Hebrew and stage name, Matisyahu. At once a singer, rapper, beatboxer, and alt rocker, at ROTM the genre-jumping musician relied upon mix engineer Tony Cooper to translate what was happening onstage to the house. Having just done a show the previous night at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Morrison, CO, Matisyahu and his supporting crew members made their stop at ROTM the last of a three-month tour.

Talent kept tabs on their performances with the aid of DVX DM12 TH and DVX DM15 TH floor monitors. Credit: Denis M. Hannigan

“Matisyahu’s show is incredibly dynamic and captivating,” Cooper says. “The level of musicianship surrounding him is high. They are more like a jam band or jazz musicians in that no show is ever the same. By the time we got to ROTM, 50 percent of the show was pure improvisation. Part of the excitement of being a guest engineer at festivals is the fast pace and the fact that anything can happen and probably will.

“When I stepped up to the Avid Profile in the house, I looked up and in all honesty I had never seen a PA like that before. I barely paid any attention, however, as I glanced around some more and saw a couple of familiar faces teching the rig, including Chris Malmgren, and felt like I was in good shape. Without the luxury of a sound check my main focus was how I was going to come up with a pleasing mix right away.”

With little time to think about configuring the Profile console in front of him either beyond calling upon a Waves SSL channel strip plugin and some API compression, Cooper moved quickly past his line check and started the first set with most of his faders halfway down and the vocals two-thirds of the way up. Making little tweaks and adjustments from there, he continued to dial the rig in during the show’s opening moments.

Shure UR4D+ wireless transmitter topped by an SM58 capsule capturing Hirie’s vocals at ROTM. Credit: Denis M. Hannigan

“In a festival situation like this where you’re not carrying your own PA, it’s like getting into a new car,” he says. “Once you get behind the wheel, you have no idea how it’s going to run until you start driving it. At some point when the situation safely warrants it, it’s my belief that you have to take that car to the edge, find its maximum speed.

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