Profile: FE Live Audio

Glasgow sound hire company FE Live Audio recently became the first rental firm in Scotland to invest in d&b’s V-Series, but how has it been putting the system to use? Adam Savage finds out. 

The last few months have been pretty busy for Glasgow-based FE Live Audio. Although there will be a number of reasons for the company’s recent good fortune, the addition of a concert-size d&b V-Series system to its inventory has helped a bit. Well, more than a bit.

Taking on a PA like the V-Series is quite something for a firm run by a group of guys still in their mid-20s that has been a specialist in full sound production for less than three years.

So far the rig has been rolled out for a number of high-profile gigs, including headline shows at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom from the likes of Interpol, but perhaps the most interesting use of FE’s latest arrival was not another big-name rock act, but a sold-out two-day country music festival. That’s right – the Scots like a good hoedown, it seems.

Taking place at the city’s Clyde Auditorium, familiarly known as The Armadillo, the Country to Country (C2C) show, which featured performances from Nashville stars Lady Antebellum and Luke Bryan, saw FE opt for a whopping 64-box configuration.

Sounds like overkill for a 3,000-capacity venue primarily used for conferences though, doesn’t it? Not according to managing director Ryan McIlravey, who also filled the role of project manager for C2C.

“The brief was ‘these bands play NFL stadiums in the States’ and they wanted ‘rock ‘n’ roll loud’ in a venue that doesn’t usually do these kind of things,” he explains. “We’ve done that venue before, but not for a show that was 110dB at front of house.

“On paper it does look a bit mental doing 20 a side or whatever, but the vertical coverage was really difficult – it wasn’t so much for output. It [the auditorium] is over three levels, but the top level is very high and steep and there’s an air conditioning duct that runs right across the roof.

“We got a CAD model of the venue and put it into d&b’s prediction software and it turned out we need to throw 45m to hit the back seat in the very top tier; at the same time you had people standing right up to the front of the stage. There was no way to do that without something like the V-Series – it allows you to hit every seat all the way down.”

And there were no major concerns when it came to weight either. “The good thing about the V-Series is that even when you’ve got a massive system like the one we had in The Armadillo, which is about as big as you would go with a PA like that, it was still under 750kg a side,” McIlravey reveals.

Of course, there was more to the setup than just a high-end loudspeaker system – 16 networked D80 amplifiers from the same German manufacturer, along with mixing consoles from Avid, Midas, DiGiCo and Soundcraft, were also supplied.

The choice of processors and in-ear monitors was crucial too, McIlravey notes. “We used Lakes for system processing – it’s on everybody’s rider these days, but it’s also just very good. We put out four LM44s on that show and engineers love it because they can just walk around and tweak things to suit. We had 12 channels of Shure PSM1000. I think we ended up with 42 channels of RF for one of the shows, which was tricky because it’s right next door to the BBC’s headquarters up here.”

New Kids on the Block

Few would dispute the fact that McIlravey and his fellow director Andrew McMillan – both just 25 years of age – and new co-director Andrew Baillie – hardly a seasoned pro-audio veteran himself at 28 – have made impressive progress for such a young crew. What’s more, they’re a versatile bunch.

“We’ve been doing it since we were 17 and just slowly built it up. We were the first company up here to have the d&b D80 amps, and the first to have the V-Series. We’re a big Nexo user too,” McIlravey says.

“We also handle all touring needs for Frightened Rabbit, Twin Atlantic and Enter Shikari, and do a lot with Travis and Paolo Nutini. In terms of growing the company we’ve found the touring stuff’s actually more important than the one-off shows.”

They may not be able to offer the same level of experience as many of the UK’s other rental houses, but the team believes its newcomer status has allowed it to be clever with gear selection.

“We missed out the analogue era, purely because of our age. We don’t even have an analogue multicore,” jokes McIlravey. “It’s meant we’ve always had the most cutting-edge product up here because others might have the equivalent of what we now have, but 15-20 years ago. It is all great kit, but unfortunately no one asks for it any more. We’ve been lucky enough to embrace digital without having an analogue hangover.

“We offer a high-tech PA with the latest amps and the latest desks, which nobody else up here can. The bands want to pay extra for it – they don’t care what age you are, as long as you’re providing the kit they want. We like our kit to be as high-tech as we can buy.”

As for what the immediate future might hold for them, the FE Live trio are understandably confident of much more touring work and one-off events coming their way, but they also see installations as a serious target area.

McIlravey concludes: “We’ve done a few big d&b installs over in Belfast so we’re going to try to grow that side of the business. We’re not really scared to invest the large sums of money if we’re doing it with the d&b stuff because it holds its value so well.”

Pictured (from left): Andrew McMillan, Andrew Baillie and Ryan McIlravey