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Glastonbury Festival 2008

RG Jones deploys Martin Audio's Longbow large format line array PA for Glastonbury

  • Glastonbury Festival 2008

This year, we got to do the whole gig, speakers 'n'all (with a little help from some friends). Having last year established that you don't have to be fulfil the stereotype of a touring PA company to be able to handle such a high profile festival stage, and weathering the media feeding frenzy that followed the 2007 event in the wake of some tricky meteorological conditions, RG's were approached to submit a design for the loudspeaker system for this year. 

Whatever the system ended up being, it would have to be able to meet the strict criteria laid down by the festival licence that basically meant a 40dB drop between the levels measured at front of house and those experienced at the nearest property, around 900m away directly in line with the focus of the system. Oooerr. It would appear that we are becoming renowned for providing systems that perform the impossible - when will people realise that sound just doesn't 'stop'. What we need is some kind of invisible, portable, easily re-configurable, enormous acoustic wall. Either that or get everybody to wear headphones - wait a minute, they were doing that in the Silent Disco tent - it's only a matter of time. You heard it here first, loudspeaker systems of the size and power now commonly seen at festivals worldwide will soon be replaced by personalised 'sonic experience generators', that adhere to all health and safety, environmental and ecological edicts laid down by the Ministry of No More Fun (MONMF), whilst delivering a sensory experience akin to 100,000 watts of loudspeaker power shifting vast quantities of air, all in convenient, solar powered, one-size-fits-all helmets. I wish I wasn't joking... 

So, in order to deliver a satisfactory sensory experience in the arena without upsetting the neighbours meant coming up with something intelligent yet practical. As Senior Project Manager, Simon Honywill decided that seasoned veteran system designer Jim Cousins would be a good ally, being conveniently associated as he is with Martin Audio, Simon's system of choice. Many would doubt the wisdom of involving a manufacturer in such a venture, as commercial politics is the last thing that Glastonbury needs, but Jim's approach is so well grounded in a lifetime of real-world experience that this was never a consideration. 

System engineering was undertaken by Simon's long-time get-out-of-jail-free-card Mark Edwards, who co-ordinated the planning of signal flow and wireless system management, and spent the weekend tripping over all manner of festival detritus out in the field. Makes a change from swimming in the frozen waters of St.Petersburg I guess. 

Also brought in to supply hardware for the main arrays were RG's close neighbours Capital Sound, under the technical management of another long-standing freelance colleague and occasional ex-RG's man Ian Colville. The convenience of having Capital just down the road was economical as well as just plain handy. 

The system took the form of 60 W8L Longbow, Martin Audio's large format line array, arranged in 4 main hangs, each with a single downfill at the bottom. The Synco delays were configured in an arc of three across the field at around 110m from centre stage, each hang consisting of 16 W8LC. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the system design was the immense bass array, 54 cabinets wide across the front of the stage and designed to operate as a single cardioid array, electronically processed to form a curved wavefront to give coherent coverage throughout the arena. It was quite simply awesome, giving real power and depth whilst maintaining control over how the system fitted the audience area. 

Comprehensive, zoned system processing was the key, and a vast array of XTA hardware was deployed to give the requisite control over the whole system should the offsite noise conditions dictate. To say the design was a success is qualified by the highly positive responses of the promoter, festival management, environmental noise consultants and engineers alike, all of whom had big smiles on their faces by the end of Sunday. 

The highly organised and acclaimed stage end of things was as slick as ever, led by the astoundingly well appointed Mark Isbister and Ali Viles, who has become extremely domineering in his old age, but no less calm and collected. Viles was expertly aided by Ben Milton and Steve Carr (both to be seen the following week in dinner jackets at Henley), with Laura Yensen completing the superior team. On monitors, débuting RG Jones brand new Synco monitor system, Isbister was accompanied by the singularly un-phaseable Steve Watson, of whom it can be said that his eclectic taste in night-wear has a tendency to be more revealing than necessary when the light is from the rear. 

Who was best? No question, Crowded House, Goldfrapp, John Mayer and Seasick Steve. The Raconteurs were pretty special too. Leonard Cohen was timeless, and being out in the crowd during 'Hallelujah' was almost akin to a religious experience. Diverse, entertaining and surprising as Jay-Z opening his set singing Wonderwall! Next please.

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