Late June played host to the biggest music festival in the UK, with a host of the world biggest artists playing for over 100,000 people. Each year Jim Parsons who is the course leader for our Live Sound FDA chooses a few lucky students to help undertake various roles including loading in and out as well as flying the main PA, laying cables, monitor engineer among many others. I managed to catch up with a few of them in between various other festivals and gigs that they have been working at throughout the summer. The world of live sound never stops.
The four students that attended were from a range of years from first year and second year live sound to third year BA top-up. They all arrived about a week before the main weekend to help with the load in of all the stage PA, cabling, desks, monitors and other stage equipment. After the main build days were complete they all headed to the Pyramid Stage to help build the system as well as run cables out to all the delay positions. The delay positions are the PA speakers that are placed way back into the crowd so that people who are very far back from the stage still get an accurate representation of what is happening on stage. For the show days the group were split in half with two heading down to the West Holts Stage and two staying at the Pyramid Stage.
This year the Pyramid Stage played host to the like of Muse, Adele, Coldplay, ZZ Top, Madness and many many others. The roles that were undertaken by the dBs guys on this stage included setting up all the stage monitors and their respective cables across the stage as well as the drum and side stage fills (monitors). When it came to show time the guys operated as stage technicians which involved setting up microphone, cables and power for all the bands on rolling risers allowing them to be easily transported onto the stage.
Here is one of the students, Ben Tucker, talking about how the change overs work. "The stage, like Pyramid operates on a ‘flip-flop’ system. During change over the risers would be rolled out, multi-core stems and power feeds would we plugged into the drops and stage boxes and the band were ready."
The PA setup on the Pyramid Stage is as extravagant as you may expect from the UK's largest festival. The whole PA is by Martin Audio and features 4 hangs of 17 MLA speakers and an MLD on each hang, totalling 72 speakers! There were then six delay towers, each with another 18 boxes of MLA, two of the outer delay towers used MLA compact, rather than full size - the other four delay towers were full size MLA. This coupled with the 32 MLX subs across the front of the stage makes for one powerful system.
Speaking to dBs Music student, Ryan Gardner about the PA he explained, "Each of the line array boxes was networked back to the systems control point at Front of House. This meant that by using the Martin audio control software, they were able to change the parameters of each individual line array box separately. The amount of control that this gives the system tech is unbelievable!"
The desks used to control this mammoth system include 3 Avid Venue Profile desks (these are the digital desks that have been pointed out in previous features), one of which was dBs'. The main PA was controlled by a SSL Live L300 console which took a left and right feed from each of the other desks and outputted it to the main PA. There was also a MIDAS XL88 as a backup.
West Holts Stage
Over on the West Holts stage where James Blake, Earth Wind & Fire, Underworld and Vince Staples were playing our two other students were looking after the patching for all the bands. This meant that they had a patch book containing the channel list for every band on that particular day, so that when it came time for the change over they knew exactly where each cable was coming from and going to.
The change over for the stage has obviously been tweaked over the years and now functions smoothly as Ryan explained to me. "The stage generally works in a circle motion moving anticlockwise. Whilst one band were on stage, We would be behind the backdrop getting the next band ready. We tried to fit as much as possible onto the wheeled risers. This made the changeovers really easy, as you would just wheel the riser on from Stage right, whilst the rest of the crew wheeled off the risers from the previous band on Stage left. It was a great system that worked well."
The PA for this stage was smaller than the one on the Pyramid stage, but non the less it was still quite substantial. It consisted of 20 MLA compact speakers each side of the stage and 16 MLX subs across the front of the stage. The fills were Martin Audio W8LC Loudspeakers and the stage wedges were by Synco.
The monitor desk for this stage was a Yamaha M7CL, while the FOH (Front of House) desk was a MIDAS 3000 Heritage which is an analogue console, this was mainly used so that any engineer could use it. However there were some bands that brought there own desks, these included Venue Profiles and SSL Live's which were the same desks used on the Pyramid stage.
Overall the weekend was a huge success, with Jim being sent an email from the Production Manager for the Pyramid and West Holts stages, Ben Milton who praised the students for there hard work and professionalism. Once again showing that dBs Music students are ready to take on anything!
We will leave you with these pictures which show the struggle of dealing with the mud, which some of you may be aware of if you have ever been.