For its 11th year, Live on the Green (LOTG) returned to Nashville’s downtown Public Square Park with a lineup of national, regional and local artists. The 46 bands appearing over the last three Thursdays in August (and Labor Day weekend) included Gary Clark Jr. and Johnnyswim. Audio provider Brantley Sound put dBTechnologies VIO line array rig through for crowds totaling well over 100,000.
“In one sense or another you could call it a neighborhood festival,” Brantley Sound systems engineer and production manager Jim Wakefield said after the event’s conclusion. “It’s just that from a production standpoint you have some fairly unique neighbors, like the Davidson County Criminal Court building.”
Built in 1937, the courthouse is an imposing Art Deco building on the edge of the park. As a backdrop to the main stage, its presence dictated no noise prior to 3 p.m. on the Thursday dates. Other surrounding neighbors presented issues of their own as well, among which were even taller buildings providing huge reflective surfaces ideally suited for bouncing sound in all the wrong directions.
“We had to load-in on Wednesday evenings for the Thursday shows,” Wakefield explains, “then put the P.A. up, check it and then return the next day. The headliners came in at noon. As we had to stay silent until after 3 p.m., and the show started at 6 p.m., there wasn’t much time to get everything done and make it work. Coverage had to be uniform everywhere, but couldn’t spill into any of the surrounding areas. There were short turnovers between bands, too. In every direction we turned, speed and efficiency were factors. A lot of talented engineers came through every day, and had to just walk up to their consoles and be able to mix.”
As part of the formula for dealing with the event’s sonic challenges, Brantley Sound set up a dBTechnologies system that included 24 VIO L212 top boxes flown left-and-right of the stage. For the low-end, 24 ground-stacked, VIO S218 double 18-inch subs were deployed in eight stacks of three with the bottom box in each stack turned to create a cardioid pattern. Compact VIO L208 enclosures were used as front fills, and as a final complement, a small L208 array served a VIP seating area at stage right.
“Before we brought the VIO system to the park, we did a demo in our shop,” Wakefield confides. “We flew it, listened to it critically, and it sounded good. We wanted to give it a shot. Once we started doing the tech advances, a couple of engineers came up to us and expressed skepticism, purely on the basis that they had never used it before. I’m happy to say that no one was disappointed in the least, everyone had a great time and was extremely impressed with it.”
Industry veteran Wakefield — whose normal “day job” is 200 or so days on the road annually at FOH with the Little River Band — typically updates his rider every December. Due to an unexpected change this year, he did it in September. “I was making changes on my rider,” he adds, “ and after my success with the VIO rig at LOTG, I added it to the top five among my P.A. choices. It flew easily, the subs had phenomenal pattern control, and so did the top boxes, which were almost dead on the backside. The latter fact was extremely critical at LOTG, with the courthouse staring us down behind the stage. These boxes are clean, articulate and natural sounding. With the proprietary Aurora Net software, we could monitor and control everything. When it said I was at the end of the cut-off pattern in the array, I was at the end, period. Other boxes have high-end compensation like you can find with VIO, but it doesn’t always sound natural. With VIO it does. You get ‘more of’ what you need.”
In monitor world, Brantley Sound’s Tracy Kent worked the stage using a dBTechnologies RS16000 Tour Rack wireless system handled emcees and announcements; “None of us had really given the RS16000 a serious listen before,” Kent admits. “But we wanted to try it out. It’s a true diversity system, has 24-bit transmission, and lets you choose among 16,000 frequencies. The results were surprising, it sounds as good or better than what everyone always uses. It will be interesting to see where this technology is headed.”
Marcel Cacdac, FOH engineer for headliner Gary Clark Jr., showed up at LOTG carrying a control package from Firehouse Productions. Using an Avid Profile along with his own mics and cabling, he simply plugged into the VIO system.
“I used a smattering of Waves plug-ins that day,” Cacdac notes, “standard issue things for the Profile, and a Rupert Neve designed master bus processor that was inserted on my left and right. A Manley VoxBox was on Gary’s vocals as an insert, linked to a compressor and I used a de-esser and EQ on it too. It’s a proven device in the studio, and was a really great front-end for his vocal here.”
Cacdac also freely admits, "this wasn’t the type of festival where I could push back and say I needed something that’s open on my rider. I was impressed with the rig’s performance, however. It was punchy, responsive, it breathed well. I just forgot about the system while I was mixing and had a really good show that night.”
Another LOTG headliner was Los Angeles-based Johnnyswim, a husband and wife duo that covers a lot of ground sonically ranging from pop, soul and folk, to Americana.
“Their show is at once intimate and acoustic, and then can also go completely modern in its aesthetic,” says the band’s FOH engineer Gene Kim, who mixed at LOTG from behind an Avid Profile. “I mixed pretty quietly for the first couple of bars that night, just to get that festival audience to lean in and build tension. Then I went bigger to the new record’s sound, which has a lot of unconventional drum tones supported by paralleled effects and triggered samples. It was a densely populated mix in terms of how and what drove the low-end. At first, I too was concerned about the P.A.’s performance, because I was unfamiliar with it. However, once I fired it up, my reservations vanished. At the end of the day, if you can’t make a great show happen with a Profile and these boxes, it’s your own fault.”
Nashville radio station WRLT — which presents Live on the Green each year — is already laying plans for 2020’s return of the festival. “It’s hard to find a festival with this many acts and so much amazing music,” says Wakefield. “And on a production level, where else can you find this many top-rated engineers coming through town at once?”