Reggae on the Mountain is a festival that has grown steadily, evolving to a point in mid-August of this year when it drew 5,000-plus fans of the Jamaican-bred music to its new location above Los Angeles at the King Gillette Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains. Nestled into the lower reaches of the Las Virgenes Valley and offering unspoiled views of broad meadows and low ridgelines, the event spread 25 acts over the course of its two-day weekend run, including headliners Steel Pulse, Julian Marley, and Matisyahu. Like virtually any festival, this, the 10th anniversary edition of Reggae on the Mountain (ROTM), was one challenged by time and logistics. CA-based Kilroy’s Lighting and Production, which handled all technical matters from power to sound and lights. According to Kilroy’s technical producer Matt Smyrnos, another major production issue centered around the festival’s expanded size this year. “Changing venues changed everything,” he says, referring to ROTM’s move from further down the hill at the Topanga Community Center up to the higher altitudes and bigger spaces offered at King Gillette Ranch. “It was like the difference between the Little League and the big leagues – at least four times larger than in the past.” Not The First Rodeo In the most basic of audio terms, adequately addressing ROTM’s growing pains meant dealing with a significantly larger area of coverage and bringing in additional loudspeakers. To that end, an inventory of dBTechnologies VIO components supplied by MixOne Sound in Orange, CA was enlisted to handle the task. The main left-right arrays flown at ROTM’s Mountain Stage were each comprised of 12 VIO L212 line array modules. Deployed in a cardioid array along the front of the stage, 27 VIO S218 subwoofers provided extended low frequency response. On stage, a combination of dBTechnologies DVX DM12 TH and DVX DM15 TH floor monitors served performing musicians, with side fills complementing the monitor blueprint in the form of a single VIO S218 sub topped by a pair of VIO L210 cabinets at both stage right and left. Front fill duties were delegated to full-range VIO X10 two-way systems mounted in strategic downstage locations just in front of the floor wedges and just behind the subs. “The VIO and DVX enclosures aren’t new to this festival,” Smyrnos notes. “We’ve used them in the past with good success, and at this event we rolled out the L212s expressly to deal with the longer throws required of the bigger space. At 600 feet these boxes sounded remarkable, we had no need for delays. “Setup was about as painless as any setup can be,” he continues, “and while some are reluctant to place self-powered boxes like these in full Southern California summer sunshine with the air temperature hovering over 90 degrees, we did it – and have done it before – without any problems. They can take the heat without succumbing to any disruptive power issues. The dBTechnologies Aurora Net software monitored and controlled the PA in real-time throughout the event.
Setting The Pace Sunday’s headliner was Matthew Paul Miller, better known by his Hebrew and stage name, Matisyahu. At once a singer, rapper, beatboxer, and alt rocker, at ROTM the genre-jumping musician relied upon mix engineer Tony Cooper to translate what was happening onstage to the house. Having just done a show the previous night at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Morrison, CO, Matisyahu and his supporting crew members made their stop at ROTM the last of a three-month tour. “Matisyahu’s show is incredibly dynamic and captivating,” Cooper says. “The level of musicianship surrounding him is high. They are more like a jam band or jazz musicians in that no show is ever the same. By the time we got to ROTM, 50 percent of the show was pure improvisation. Part of the excitement of being a guest engineer at festivals is the fast pace and the fact that anything can happen and probably will. Without the luxury of a sound check my main focus was how I was going to come up with a pleasing mix right away; in a festival situation like this where you’re not carrying your own PA, it’s like getting into a new car,” he says. “Once you get behind the wheel, you have no idea how it’s going to run until you start driving it. At some point when the situation safely warrants it, it’s my belief that you have to take that car to the edge, find its maximum speed. “When I’m using a PA I’m not familiar with the same thing applies. I’ll push it to its limits just so I can find my own. That way I can take the opportunity of a dynamic build or powerful moment onstage and really push it, and I’ll always know exactly where I am.” On The Radar As the show progressed and the darkness of the mountain night enveloped the stage and crowd, Cooper kept pushing, taking aim at building a full, rich low-end, clean high-end, and mid definition. “The rig responded to what I asked of it well, and the subs were absolutely crushing,” he states. “After the show I started asking Chris questions about it and he told me it was self-powered. I didn’t believe it, but it was true. Everything about this festival was enjoyable. This PA totally blindsided me, nothing I experienced was on my radar before. Now I’d be glad to do it all again, even put these boxes on my rider in virtually any mid-to-large situation.” ROTM prides itself on being a community event, but given the level of the talent and the growing numbers of the fans that attend, it’s clearly more. For example, a portion of this year’s gate went to charitable organizations, including Woolsey Fire victims. Along with the move to the new location, the festival extended its hours and added activities such as silent disco, a yoga stage, and wellness lounge, plus a second stage also equipped with VIO L210 arrays and VIO S318 subwoofers.