LONGBOW & GLASTONBURY &NDASH; A GREAT BRITISH TRADITION
Please mummy, what's an Arctic Monkey?
It's summer, it's sunny, it's festival overload. Every back garden in the country seems to have a festival in it these days, and if see the words Arctic Monkeys once more I'll...I'll... go somewhere else very quickly, or something like that. What is an Arctic Monkey anyway? Shouldn't it be Arctic Foxes?
It's highly encouraging that almost everyone I have had the chance to chat to that has any amount of understanding about speakers and stuff wants to know about MLA. It's nice to know you're right every now and again. But this article isn't going to be about MLA, which as I type appears to be absolutely smashing the Hyde Park problem, but about its very fine heritage.
In 2008, which seems like a very long time ago, I was responsible for bringing a Martin Audio system to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, quite simply the most famous festival stage in the world. As high profile gigs go, this is out in space – the world watches, and listens and everybody wants to know 'how was Glasto?' It has become as much of a British summer icon as Ascot, Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show, a fact borne out by the number of familiar faces to be seen staggering about in hospitality in some very fashionable 'casual waterproofs'. The stage left ligger platform on some occasions is like an entire edition of Hello brought to life.
With the essential assistance of Martin Audio's venerable R&D department, a system design was put together to fulfil some basic criteria – loud and proud onsite, quiet and unobtrusive offsite and don't upset the neighbouring stages. Oh, and keep all the engineers happy, because it makes production's life a misery when they start moaning about the PA – festival sound suppliers are easy targets. 'But it's not brown and French', or 'I only mix on black, German PA systems, this is unacceptable'. How about 'we need something American and heavy enough to cause subsidence on Michael's farm'. There was a degree of trepidation from production, faced with the possibility of a tirade of whingeing from people who all have an opinion, especially when the R G Jones's track record at major festivals at the time was yet to be established. At the time, there was a phone call to the office at RG's, from a well known but to remain un-named character on the festival circuit that went something like this:
Caller - 'Hello, is that RG Jones?'
Andy at RG's – 'Yes, can I help?'
Caller – 'Are you the blokes that are doing Glastonbury?'
Andy at RG's – 'Yes'
Caller – 'Well I've never heard of ya' - click...brrrrrrrr......
Once again, it's nice to be able to prove people wrong. In the years since the system was first introduced on the Pyramid, it would not be inaccurate to say that not one single person has had anything negative to say about the system. In fact, many have taken the time to say how much they have enjoyed the experience, something that can be quite difficult in a working environment such as that. As a neutral platform to mix on, the Longbow/W8LC system delivers a combination of punch, fidelity and coverage with a classic, British horn-loaded panache that is hard to find on any of the other stages. There is a depth and dynamism to it that engineers seem to lock into very quickly, with mixes coming together easily and quickly. And then there is the bass...lordy, it's immense.
The 54 cabinet bass array is over 30m long, stretching across the front of the stage between the main arrays. In cardioid cells of three cabinets, the front to back energy difference is remarkable, and out in the field the physical impact phenomenal. With the right mix, you can almost see the wavefront moving up the field (as it knocks people over – not really!) Martin Audio has been doing a great deal of research into the fine tuning of steered bass arrays, presenting an AES paper on the subject recently. If you ever want to know what it's all about, come to Glastonbury. The coverage pattern fits the Pyramid field perfectly, the interference with other stages almost non-existent, which certainly can't be said for many of the systems I heard on my site-wide travels.
The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2013 was an abject lesson in how to present a festival sound system, and I was proud to be a small part of it – the overall sound of the bands on all three days, the slick turn arounds, and the smiles on peoples' faces said it all. Standing loud and proud over everything, now seemingly part of the look of the Pyramid, was the Longbow system, doing its thing – delivering the best audio to 120,000 happy punters, whilst at the same time behaving itself immaculately offsite.
Saturday night at Glastonbury saw a triple whammy of reasons why it's great to be British – The Rolling Stones, on the Pyramid Stage, sounding great through a great British PA system. All that was missing was the rain.
Simon Honywill is Front of House Engineer for Jose Carreras, Katherine Jenkins and Chris Rea, and is a long term user and advocate of Martin Audio.