API festival review: Part one

With the festival season now all but over, API sets its sights back over the summer months to take a look at the highs, lows and major pro audio talking points of the UK’s key events….

So, where better to start our UK festival retrospective than Glastonbury? With arguably one of the least inspiring or imaginative line-ups to reach Worthy Farm in recent years, the crushingly underwhelming headline acts drew a great deal of debate and discussion. Was Beyonce and her brand of brash commercialism really deserving of a headline slot, while innovative artists such as Paul Simon and Morrissey were unable to secure such lofty positions on the bill? Would Coldplay have been better suited to Jamie Oliver’s family festival? Are U2 welcome anywhere?

Anyhow, questionable line-up aside, our primary concern was with the audio system in place. For the fourth year in a row, RG Jones Sound Engineering provided audio for the festival’s Pyramid Stage, supplying a Synco by Martin Audio PA, a custom Synco sub-bass array and Synco stage monitor systems. Synco Network members Ampco Flashlight of Holland also supplied additional crew and matching equipment.

Handling the Pyramid Stage for the entire weekend was a Martin Audio W8L Longbow rig, with 64 cabinets flown in 16-deep dual inner and outer main PA hangs on each side, with a further 64 W8LCs flown in four delay positions, all timed using Smaart. Loudspeaker control was taken care of by XTA DP448 digital controllers, with Klark Teknik DN360 for ‘grab’ EQ.

The system was proposed by Jason Baird, Martin Audio R&D director, and tuned in conjunction with noise monitoring specialists RG Jones systems tech Mark Edwards. The array has also been refined over the past three years with the assistance of noise monitoring specialists RPS Planning & Development as a measure to prevent the Worthy Farm locals from complaining about the noise levels.

Heading up the stage was Mark Isbister with Alistair Viles, Matt Sussex and Tim Wann, and monitor engineers Steve Watson and Ben Milton. Stage operation was streamlined with a pair of Yamaha PM5D consoles, along with the team’s usual Yamaha LS9 ‘shout’ board. Isbister commented: “The equipment was very similar to last year’s. We know we’ve got a formula that works including ARCs side fills and Synco wedges.

“More bands than ever this year used our FOH and monitor desks, partly because more bands are aware of what’s available, and we fulfill an element of being caretakers: here’s your wire and power, and off you go,” he added. “Likewise, quite a few big bands used Synco wedges, they’re gaining in acceptance as people get more used to seeing them on the festival circuit here and in Europe, and they’re a great wedge, they sound brilliant.”

Midas desks also made their presence felt at Glastonbury 2011, with RG Jones supplying XL4s with an XL88 matrix mixer at FOH for the Pyramid Stage, which was used by such artists as BB King, Wu-Tang Clan and Plan B.The festival’s Other Stage saw two XL4s at FOH and two H3000s on stage. One of South West Audio’s Pro6s was put to use at FOH at The Park Stage.

Part two of API’s festival review follows tomorrow.