Summer is here, and the busy festival season is upon us. Many of us in the live sound production business find ourselves at festivals in two distinct camps: one group is the audio provider that supplies the sound system, while the other group consists of the mix people who show up with the artist. No matter the size of the audience or what level of production is being provided, these two groups work together to provide the highest quality experience to both the artist and the audience.
The most significant difference between a festival and a “normal” gig is the time allotted for changeovers from one act to another. It’s common for opening acts to get only a protracted sound check, and often, a line check that does nothing more than verify an input is reaching the console. It’s not common to do this while the audience is in the venue – unless, of course, you’re working a festival.
So, what we need is a “best practice” guide that will help quickly get a band on stage, perform a line check, rough in the monitor mixes, all in as short a timeframe as possible. Here I’ll outline a common guide that works quite well in festival world. This procedure, or one like it, needs to be as common as finding the kick drum in channel 1 of the console:
— Set the backline and all associated band gear
— Run all input cables
— Get all band members on stage
— Verify final positioning of vocal microphones and stands
— Establish the number of mixes required and where they need to be
— Position stage monitor cabinets
Chances are, you’re already doing what’s listed here; the order you’re doing it in may be different. Hopefully there’s competent venue crew to help.
Putting It Together
Now it’s time to make noise and twist knobs. Have a musician test an input by playing his/her instrument or speaking into his/her microphone. Tell the musician to play and/or sing at the volume to be used during the set. This is very important.
Add the input to the musician’s monitor mix as needed. Any other band member who needs this input should raise their hands with their index fingers pointing up. This is the “Give me more of that” sign.
When the musician requesting the input has sufficient level, they make a fist with their raised hand. This is the “Stop” sign.
Add the input to all other monitor mixes as requested. Continue to other inputs, repeating the steps. The front of house people can get their line check at the same time the monitor people are doing this.
There you have it. The band is ready to play. Everyone on stage can hear everyone else on stage. You may also note that this procedure can be used by the act’s regular crew or by someone with the system provider or venue crew who have never seen nor heard the act before. Those who are working with artists and have show files for popular consoles may find that having a “festival file” for their artist is a good idea.
Now, everyone go out and have a great summer. Try to lay off the corn dogs as much as possible.