According to lighting designer Mark Wood, this is precisely the kind of event that benefits from Entec’s seasoned troubleshooting. “There’s no getting away from it, this is a difficult one to light,” he comments. “Much emphasis is placed on maintaining good sight lines for the audience so the idea was to keep everything as discreet as possible. There are very few reflective surfaces in the room so a lot of effort was focused on getting colour in there. One way was to uplight the blinds on the back wall to achieve some bounce off of the roof. Due to access limitations, most of the atmospheric lighting had to be positioned at the far ends of the suite and on balconies to avoid running cable across busy walkways.”
Working alongside Will Wright, Richard Brennan and crew chief Nick Burlace, Wood reserved 22 iPix Satellite LED battens to light the columns down the room, while a chain drape either side of the stage was uplit with Thomas Pixel Par 44s, generating a very cool effect. ETC Source Fours with gobo break-ups were hidden behind each column and provided washes across the floor, and five Robe 600 LEDs lined the balcony.
For the stage itself, two lines of seven Clay Paky Sharpy Wash 330s were rigged on the back truss of the ground support with another seven on the front truss, joined by six 1kW Vision Fresnels.
“The great thing about the Sharpy on this event was that to have an impact, it doesn’t require haze which banned at the venue,” says Wood. “Its output is fantastic in that respect and bright enough for any room, and you can achieve some very deep, saturated colours, and lose hardly any intensity. The zoom is also top class, allowing you to use it as a key light and for a wide wash, which is why I also used it to wash the ceiling on a full zoom.”
Wood specified an Avolites Tiger Touch 2 console for lighting control. “It isn’t something I had used very often but Entec purchased one fairly recently and I really liked using it,” he explains. “It’s a small desk that I find it easy to carry around, and it was definitely the right choice for this event. Anything bigger would have been overkill, given the tiny FOH space in front of the stage.
“As usual, I did a lot of the prep work in Entec’s warehouse. The Touch 2’s very simple navigation makes light work of programming; I was programming ‘blind’ during the day before the rig was up, saving palettes, and then tidied everything up on the desk, assigning lights to faders during soundcheck.”
Like many of his colleagues, FOH engineer Liam Halpin has worked on all of the last three PCUK shows, and describes the event as “great fun to do, especially as the standard of the musicianship is always unbeatable.”
On show day, the truck tipped at 7.00am. “Last year, we had a rig day,” says Halpin, “but having become familiar with the venue layout, it was decided to cut costs this time by employing two extra people and have everything set up very calmly by mid-afternoon. It really helped that I’d already done three of these events and kind of knew what to expect while at the same time allowing for any surprises.”
In physical terms, the layout of the event defies convention, meaning that it required the main PA hangs to be positioned where side hangs would normally appear. Regardless, Halpin agreed that it was yet another fine showcase for Entec’s d&b audiotechnik inventory, powered here by the brand’s proprietary D6 and D12 amplifiers.
Supplemented by two d&b V-Subs at each side were four V8 top cabinets (per side), flown from the ground support in an upstage left/right configuration, facing down both sides of the room. At the front of the stage was a pair of Y10Ps covering the dance floor area and two Y7Ps mounted off the staff tube to cover near fill.
“It was certainly a wacky system design but it worked,” observes Halpin. “Height restrictions dictated that we install two groups of three d&b dual-purpose T10s on cluster brackets stands as delays. It was probably the smallest and easiest deployed line array you’ve ever seen!”
Halpin mixed the entire show this year on an Avid Venue Profile. He says: “Being that kind of house band-plus-guests arrangement, we always play it safe and run a fairly generic input list because it’s not a band that can ever send out a technical spec. Invariably, we find out that we have a drummer rather than what he’s actually going to be playing. The input count ran to about 40 channels but that included a lot of room for manoeuvre, to accommodate a much larger kit than we had, for example.”
Despite being a relatively small event in terms of audience size, Entec assigned the full technical might of its Dante networking system – an audio standard for the company since it bought into the concept two years ago. “I spent a good nine months developing what amounts to a fairly complex network but we’ve packaged it in such a way that it’s simple to operate day-to-day and is as robust as possible,” comments Halpin.
Two of the networking racks were deployed at this year’s PCUK event: a LM44 drive rack consisting of a pair of Lake LM44 system processors for system EQ and matrixing, and a Cisco 26-port Ethernet switch system; and a RedNet drive rack with two Focusrite RedNet I/O units – one analogue and one AES – as well as a Cisco switcher.
Halpin: “The Profile fed into the RedNet rack at FOH and the Lake rack on stage provided the outputs for the system. Having the Dante units allowed us to cut out a lot of conversion and simplify the patch. I went into prep the gig a few days earlier and using those Dante racks enabled me to foresee a few potential issues.
“You’re effectively running silence while you reload show files on the Profile so we had a little playback rack fed into the Dante system via the RedNets, down to the stage and matrixed in the LM44s. This meant that if I needed to do anything of that nature for a visiting engineer I had instant playback readily available for them.”
In addition to the main system, Entec fielded four d&b E12 speakers on tripod stands in the bar areas, predominately for the reception announcements. “We also ran background music to those speakers from a laptop that was on the network,” adds Halpin. “It was on a CAT5 cable which was a breath of fresh air compared to mini jack cables, and infinitely more reliable.”
“The way the room is laid out is very similar to a corporate event or an awards dinner,” says monitor engineer Maurizio Schiavi, describing the vibe in the Woolwich Suite. “So it wasn’t surprising that we placed some of our racks and amplifiers behind the rear drape for aesthetic reasons.”
Schiavi admirably rose to the challenge of squeezing 12 wedges into a 6m x 6m space with a nine-piece house band. “That was quite a feat in itself!” he laughs. “There was a lot that could have gone wrong in terms of the wedges firing upwards into the concave ceiling, causing unpredictable feedback through focusing. Liam and I went through a variety of system tests during the early part of the day to work out how best to deal with this phenomenon, and I used my Smaart Live rig to help me set the wedges’ EQ.
“All that mattered was that the performers were happy and that was great to know because these musicians are all very experienced with grown-up expectations of how the limited stage space would impact on the amount of instruments routed to their wedges. We had a chat and made a compromise.
“The singers had to work with the backline in close proximity and it was loud up there. But they’ve performed in every kind of venue imaginable so it wasn’t too demanding to have them play on a stage that wasn’t much bigger than that of an average live music pub. Fortunately, it wasn’t very hard to give them what they needed. In fact, during the gig itself, I was only asked to make a minor adjustment on one or two occasions which, for a show of that nature, was remarkable.”
Although Entec was fully stocked with five packs of Sennheiser IE4 in-ear systems on the day to cope with any request, the singers and musicians worked only with stage wedges, namely 10 d&b M4 and two M6 monitors that were placed downstage right for the BVs – a choice made in order to accommodate Jools Holland’s baby grand piano snugly behind the singers.
At the last minute, the original choice of a Yamaha PM5D-RH monitor console was replaced with the brand’s newer CL5. “I love that it’s fast to operate and so responsive,” says Schiavi. “When you’re mixing monitors you don’t have time to mess around, looking for something on your board like EQs, dynamics and mix sends. You want it right there so you can aid the performance quickly. That’s my job and that’s what I get with the CL5, as well as great sound.”
A standard range of Shure, Sennheiser, AKG and Beyer microphones were positioned around the drum kit, on the bass and guitar cabinets, and the horns, with Radial J48 active DIs assigned to keyboards, acoustic guitar and bass. Vocals and announcements, meanwhile, were catered for by wireless hand-held Shure UR2s with Beta58A capsules, and hard-wired SM58s on stands for the backing vocalists.
“We had a wireless Beta58A ready on a stand at the side of the stage that guest singers could just pick up as they walked onstage,” comments Schiavi, who used Shure’s Wireless Workbench software to co-ordinate and monitor radio frequencies.
“Seeing it on every Entec gig makes me very happy because as a monitor guy, RF problems can be a serious nightmare with a drop in level or complete fall out affecting not only vocal signals but also in-ears,” he says. “In monitor world, one should avoid all risks and Wireless Workbench is a great asset. You do a frequency scan before soundcheck, a few times before the show and monitor the condition of the RF throughout the performance, and that gives you a lot of confidence as an engineer to know you are doing the best for the artist.”
The sound crew also included stage manager James Kerridge, Tom Olorenshaw and Peter Eltringham, who was making his debut with Entec. Claire Walley at Dawbell looked after publicity for the event and Music Bank kindly provided band rehearsal facilities.
The Gig Company’s other recent projects have included an event for drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity Focus 12, for which the ‘dynamic duo’ successfully persuaded Van Morrison to perform.
“There are so many charity events out there and what we do is to deliver a distinctive fun element,” says Jenny Johnson. “When we started working on behalf of PCUK, the charity didn’t have a demographic for fund-raising like this but we’ve now created that and I think it’s really helped the charity as a brand. It’s not only the money you raise, it’s the other revenue streams and opportunities that it opens up.”
Reviewing the March event, Maurizio Schiavi spoke on behalf of the Entec crew: “There was very much a communal sense of ‘we’re all in this together… let’s make it work’, and our main advantage was that we didn’t overlook anything in our planning. I think we all went away with that great feeling of having done something positive for a very deserving cause.”
For Noreen O’Riordan, however, these events have a much deeper resonance. “This charity is very special to me for obvious reasons. It feels good for me to be able to give back some love and work alongside great friends who are very dear to me and my family.”
Photography by Mark Cunningham & Sue Moore