Sandblasted Sideways: Sound In The Arizona Desert

“If you want to make a million in audio,” Ryan Jenkins asks, “you know how you do it? Start with two million. I say that tongue-in-cheek, of course, but there is an air of truth to that statement. You can spend yourself into oblivion easily in this business. That’s not my model.”

Jenkins is the owner and founder of Arizona Concert Sound Solutions, “a company smaller than the name,” he says of his Phoenix-based dispensary of high-quality audio for small to medium budgets. Jenkins – who counts his wife Christine as the company’s only other full-time employee – has carved a niche in the Arizona marketplace working with municipalities, county fairs, and several promoters of electronic dance music (EDM) events.

While not aggressively seeking out corporate gigs, Jenkins does serve a fair number of what he calls corporate bands – i.e., groups in the area numbering 12 or so people and including a horn section that can play all the standards people expect to hear at corporate parties.

And even though you probably won’t see him straddling a Big Twin Harley, Jenkins and Christine have also been making the annual run to South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – a complete rig in tow – where he manages sound in one of the largest campgrounds giving shelter to attendees of this mother of all hard-core biker gatherings.

Sandblasted Sideways

Keeping an ever-vigilant eye on the bottom-line, Jenkins hires freelancers as he needs them to round out his staff. About 90 percent of the time he works outdoors. One day he may be in a parking lot, then in a community park the next, or doing what he calls a “dirt gig,” which is any event where he, his crew, and the gear are getting sandblasted sideways by blowing dust and grit.

An all-too-common scenario this summer just past, during which six major dust storms slammed through Phoenix and southern Arizona, dirt gigs are not for the meek or timid. Ditto some of the EDM gatherings, where the gear has to be wrapped in plastic sheeting to avoid being splattered by neon paint liberally hurled by the gallon over audiences.

The venerable MC3210M, a life saver when the dust starts blowing around.. (click to enlarge)

As a seasoned veteran of the worst Mother Nature can conjure up in his home state, Jenkins relies on old school technology to manage dirt gig tasks at hand, most notably an aging-but-reliable Yamaha MC3210 analog console (circa the mid-1990s).

“The wind can blast us with desert debris all day,” Jenkins says with the authority of a true survivor, “and it doesn’t matter. Dirt can’t get in this console’s faders, because there are none. This is a case where low-tech triumphs over the new.”

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