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Small But Mighty: Deploying A New Rig At A Small-Town Summertime Festival

A “proof of concept” for a long-developing streamlined approach to event production.
Having fun at the festival in Rome, NY, with new RCF arrays on hand for a tryout flying from the Stageline stage.

Despite all the hassles and stressors that come along with it, summer festival season is my favorite time of year to be working in production. To me, it’s always been a unique pleasure to spend a warm late summer evening enjoying food and drinks with friends and family while watching a great band perform.

This summer, my hometown (Rome, NY) hosted an end-of-summer music event, which was just such an opportunity. The all-volunteer production team consisted of myself, my colleague Bill Di Paolo, who runs regional production company Entertainment Services NY, and the band members themselves, who all work by day for a local systems engineering firm called Advanced Automation Corporation and by night perform classic rock covers as the Band Tyler.

Once the idea was proposed, it quickly came to fruition: the city offered the use of its Stageline SL100 mobile stage, Bill and I would provide lighting and sound support, and several Entertainment Services stage technicians volunteered their time and skills as well.

Streamlined Approach

Besides being an opportunity for our local community to come out and enjoy a fun event, the show was also a “proof of concept” for myself and Bill – having worked together for over a decade, we’ve spent a lot of time building a streamlined approach to event production.

The kit at front of house.

Our focus is on efficiency, seeking to provide maximum value for the client’s budget by using equipment that travels light, sets up fast, and looks and sounds great. This event was a chance for us to put to good use some recent investments in the form of powerful but small-footprint lighting and sound consoles, along with an all-LED lighting rig.

Bill’s current “A-rig” sound system was aging, and he was interested in upgrading to a modern solution that fit with our “small but mighty” production philosophy. After a lot of research and discussion of available options, we contacted Tarik Solangi, VP of sales and marketing for RCF USA.

We explained that we were looking for a small, lightweight system for easy transport and flexible deployment, and Tarik agreed that the RCF HDL6-A compact-format line array would likely be a good fit. He arranged for us to demo the system and RCF signed on as a sponsor of the event.

The author demonstrates the HDL6-A rigging to Bill DiPaolo and stage techs Bud and Austin.

Just As Predicted

For the show, RCF provided six HDL6-A per side as well as two SUB8004-AS single-18-inch subwoofers per side, which I ran in a cardioid array to minimize stage wash. The system was in the air in a matter of minutes, and the stage crew was impressed with how easy it was to pin and fly. A quick lap around the field with my measurement rig confirmed that the system performed just as my EASE Focus prediction said it would, and I needed only a single EQ filter to hit my target curve.

When the band took the stage for sound check, they sounded great right out of the gates, only needing a few tweaks to balance the drums in the mix with what was coming off the stage. The band members all wear in-ear monitors and two out of three guitars on stage are taken direct, so it’s a quiet stage, and with a good PA it’s relatively easy to get them sounding very clean and tight out front.

It’s a very quiet stage for the band Tyler.

As sound check wrapped up, I received a text message from an employee of Advanced Automation Corporation who was working at the office – 1,000 feet or so down the road – saying she heard every single word clearly from inside her office.

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I’ve had bad experiences running out of headroom on small-format PAs in the past, and I was a bit nervous about having enough gas for an outdoor rock concert, but the system gave me everything we needed. The band sounded tight from the first song, and we received a steady stream of compliments about how clear the system sounded.

A view from behind the festival’s featured band.

“I was really looking for something that could go up quickly for small and medium sized events, where rigging options are often limited,” Di Paolo says. “That we got so much sheer firepower out of a box in this product class was amazing. I’m looking forward to offering this system to our clients.”

The HDL6-A system surpassed my expectations for a rig of that size, and I’m already looking to the next show with it. They truly are, as my friend described them, “angry little boxes,” and deserving of a serious look (and listen) by anyone in search of a small yet potent PA solution.

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