My company has worked countless smaller to mid-sized festivals and variety shows over the years, and through trial and error we’ve discovered several approaches and problem-solvers that make life a little easier when it comes to working with stage monitoring.
As always, the first step to success is advancing the gig. We never take the promoter’s word that the riders we’ve received are current, so we call each artist’s representative to make sure we’ve got the latest monitoring requirements.
The same goes for local performers who may have neither a rider nor a representative. And in both cases if they have stage plots, even better. It never hurts to ask.
Armed with this information, we begin laying out the “monitoring plan of attack.” First, how many mixes will be needed, and then how many for wedges and in-ear monitors (IEM)? Once that’s determined, pad it by at least a few to account for last-minute changes as well as extra performers or guest artists invited to perform.
For most bands, it’s pretty easy to figure out where the wedges go, short of special requests. Still, it’s a good idea to specifically determine who needs a wedge and where they’ll specifically be positioned, and then how that’s going to change for the next act, and so on.
Other gear to be added and/or struck should also be included in this ongoing choreography. Some of the festivals we handle also have acts such as dance troupes and choirs on the bill, and they often need area monitoring like side fills.
Basically it’s a game plan, entered on our master show log, that we follow for the fastest, most efficient (and accurate) changeovers. The log should also include all input and output patching, microphone swaps, power drop requirements, etc.
We’re fortunate to have a fairly deep inventory of stage monitors (wedges) in terms of sizes and types. This allows us to provide the best option for each act, joined by any additional drum monitors, side fills, and boxes for what we call the Front Line.
The term refers to an approach at smaller festivals with a limited number of monitor mixes where we place a row of wedges across the front of the stage, all receiving the same mix. This “front line” serves solo artists, acoustic duos and possibly trios, and singers with tracks, and can stay in place, saving us precious time during changeovers. While fewer loudspeakers on stage is always the preference, it serves as a good compromise between dedicated wedges and/or side fills.
Another variation of this deployment is what we call the Front Row. It looks the same but every wedge is on a separate mix. The wedges can be pulled into position for performers then returned to a straight row, depending on what’s needed. It provides more control over the wedges, reducing bleed onstage while allowing us to tailor the stage mix for individual performers. In either case, just remember to remove the front wedges if a dance act is on the bill – people want to see their feet moving on stage.
Switching focus to the back of the stage area, drummers always get a dedicated mix and wedge on our shows; they always seem to want vastly different things than the rest of the band. For acoustic acts with low-volume drummers (yes, they exist!), we deploy what we call a Drum Box, a wedge with a 15-inch woofer that can reproduce the kick and floor tom well. For louder rock or reggae drummers we will place a subwoofer to give the bottom end some added boost.