I filed this one under bad gigs, although it really wasn't that bad. What was astonishing though was how quiet the acts were that came across my stage. The event was Picnic in the Park, a fest held every Fourth of July in a town near me. They take over a park and put a stage at one end. The rest of the space is full of vendors and happy sweaty people seeking shade and enjoying the music.
The rig was 6000 watts front of house and four monitor mixes at 500 watts a piece. The stage was two flatbed trucks under a tent. It could have been a feedback nightmare but for once it wasn't too hard to get things under control. A digital desk out on the lawn made that an easy job.
The first act was a local concert band. Sixty members shoe horned on to the stage (no strings, thankfully). I threw some condensers up as high as I could get them and it didn't seem that loud for sixty people honking away, but it was working all right.
The second act was a forty piece chorale. They were basically inaudible. The piano was getting picked up on the overheads through the wedges and I had it off in the house. The wind noise was louder than the singers. Unfortunate, but it was a short set and people could hear enough that they didn't complain.
Next up was a four piece bluegrass band. Upright, guitar alternating with banjo, fiddle and mandolin. Three of them sang and the fiddler just fiddled into his vocal mic. For some reason I could barely get any level out off them. Despite having great mics on their instruments and a couple of them through really nice direct boxes, they were barely tripping the meters. At least they didn't ask for too much in the wedges. I figured they were just plucking for sound check and they'd belt it when they started in. It did get somewhat louder, but surprisingly, not that much. I eventually got them dialed in and they had a good set.
Following that was a seven piece a capella act. They had said when the arrived that one of them had a vocal processor. No problem. When I got up to mic them the kid handed me a DI. A really nice one. A Radial. I said that wasn't it and he should go get what else he had. He ran to his car and handed me another DI. Whirlwind this time. OK, no processing for you and fire your regular sound guy. They did all right level wise but all of them cupped the mic like rap stars. It was right on the edge of feedback armageddon the whole time. I gave them a lesson on why mics come with handles and not just grilles with wires coming out the back. They asked for my card. Smart kids.
And the headliner at least was a real class act. A group with the words "Old Timers" in the name. Five guys, eight inputs. Put the channels up, dialed the wedges in, magic happened. It was angelic. These guys cranked out big band numbers, swing tunes and square dances for not nearly long enough while a thousand happy people dozed in every available square inch of shade. Only a few nutters braved the desert wasteland down front to alamand and promenade.
And that was it. Nothing too wacky or difficult. Just not what I mix on a regular basis and in a somewhat screwy environment. I was on my toes for six hours and it felt great. Sort of the way hitting yourself repeatedly in the forehead with a hammer feels great... when you stop. I had been getting wistful about the old days and summer festival stages gone by.
But I don't really miss festivals that much.