The Live Audio Academy

Festival Fun!

Five tips to make your festival productions the best they can be.

With the summer festival season winding down, I think it is good to reflect on how we did as audio professionals.  What did we do right this year?  And, what can we improve upon for next year?  From doing my own gigs and listening to others, here are some thoughts:

  1. Being organized makes everyone’s lives easier – Bringing in multiple acts with different audio needs can get tricky. Both you and I know that you can have one conversation with a band and think you know what they need for their show, but they show up with: a new band lineup, a funky looking instrument you have never seen before, tracks on a phone that is in need of a charge (or you need the password for), etc…..  And bands can say the same thing about their sound company.  A quick call or email the day before the show will clear things up, and everyone will know what to expect.  Be firm about current stage plots and input lists.  And make sure sound check and show times are on both of those documents.
  2. The weather will show up when you least expect it – Be prepared with more than just tarps. Wind will pick those up and toss them.  I was onstage sound checking my drums with a group that was about to open up for Heart when big blue clouds rolled in.  I bet we got at least two inches of rain within ten minutes of leaving the stage.  Lightning, wind.    BUT, the audio contractor was very prepared with a huge roll of poly.  Ten feet wide when unfolded.  Three of those covered the entire stage.  And, saved all of our gear from severe water damage.
  3. You will have faulty gear show up to your gigs – I judged a country showdown at our local fair, and almost everyone had good, functional guitars and gear. A few acoustic guitars had some pickup issues, and their sound was pretty thin.  Alright, the fundamentals were almost phantom.  You couldn’t hear them.  This is a perfect time to put on your best smile, stride up on stage, and place a microphone in front of the nice sounding acoustic guitar.  Bypass the pickup completely.  Problem solved, and you are now “the man/ woman”.
  4. Mute all of your inputs during changeovers – Ladies and gents, this seems like an easy, no-duh thing to do.  Guess how many times this festival season that I heard pops and stage discussions that were not meant for audience ears?  Too many!  And, it happened to some pros as well.  It happens to the best of us.  I started using a checklist for preshow, changeovers, and teardown to help keep myself and my crew focused and organized.  Mute input and output zones is on that list.
  5. Make sure you have more than enough trained helpers – You may be able to handle a simple festival on your own, but don’t. I have done plenty of that, trying to save money.  By mid-day, I grew tired and started making silly mistakes.  Let me be the first to remind you that sound guys and gals are more remembered for their failures than their successes.  If you surround yourself with happy, trained people, everything goes better.  Your changeovers are smooth and organized.  Troubleshooting is way easier with more people at your command.  The whole production will be more professional, which will earn you more business.  And, you can take a break and get refreshed.  Both you and I know that there is great food at festivals.  How else are you going to get your fried Twinkie if you are stuck behind a mixer?!

There are many more gold nuggets of festival advice out there, and we all want to hear about it.  Please comment your most important tip below so we can all make our last festivals of the year as best as we can!

-JR-

August 10, 2015

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