Meyer SB-1 Sound Beams At Party In The Park 2000
By Karen Mitchell
Neither rain nor wind nor waterlogged consoles could dampen the party spirit as 100,000 of the faithful, including Prince Charles, communed in London's Hyde Park on July 9. The event was Party in the Park 2000, a benefit for the Prince's Trust, a charity for young adults.
The Party in the Park sound system, furnished by London's Canegreen Ltd., featured Meyer Sound Self-Powered SB-1 parabolic sound beams, MSL-4s and MSL-6s. The FOH system was controlled by SIM in conjunction with a BSS Soundweb 9088.
The implementation of the Meyer sound beams was built upon lessons learned from the 1999 NetAid concert," said Party in the Park sound designer Andrew Frengley. "At NetAid, John Meyer's fantastic sound beam units were really an unknown factor to us, but proved so beneficial for HF delivery to the back of Wembley Stadium. They did the same at Party in the Park."
The day-long bash, which set a world record when 100,000 tickets were sold in under seven hours, attracted an international audience for the live performances - 43 acts over a nine-hour period. Artists included The Corrs, Ronan Keating, Destiny's Child, Backstreet Boys, Five (with Queen), Savage Garde, Jon Bon Jovi and Christina Aguilera.
The immense party was produced by 95.8 FM Capital radio and broadcasted live on TV and radio, even as a deluge swept across the large concert stage, said Canegreen managing director, Yan Stile.
"Canegreen's giant Meyer self-powered stage and satellite audio systems delivered the goods to each and every area of this vast open space," he said. "The downpour began during Bon Jovi's set. Huge quantities of water fell on the stage left monitor control area and took out a Midas XL4 and Midas XL200."
Fast thinking by the Canegreen stage crew came to the rescue: A spare XL4, which they plumbed into the system, made it possible for the show to continue, without compromise, although not without moments of concern.
It became so wet both onstage and off, Frengley added, that it was lucky the concert was able to continue to the end, closing with an ensemble of well-known London musicians called the SAS band fronted by Lionel Richie.
Salient to his system design for Party in the Park was the broadcast consideration, Frengley said. "The primary factor was that it was a Channel Four TV show with a live audience on the grounds as well as a radio broadcast," he said. "One of the briefs was to minimize the amount of delay towers for camera shots."
The Party in the Park, Hyde Park site is both long and narrow, Frengley said. "It's close to 500 meters in length but only about 120-130 meters wide," he said. "What I tried to do was minimize delay points and to keep a linear geometric shape. I realized that basing the design on the Meyer sound beams was going to be the way forward. By bringing them out to delay positions, and beaming them down the field, we extended the reach while necessitating only six delay points."
The Party in the Park stage area is massive. "It's a big old stage of 80-feet wide by 70-feet deep," Frengley said. "In the middle was a 40-foot revolve and there were also two further revolves of 16-feet diameter at upstage left and right. Outside of the revolves were two large I Mag screens and outside of that were the PA clusters. The clusters were about 160 feet apart, and that's a long way."
There were no hitches or catches at load-in, which took place the Wednesday before the (Sunday) show, he said. "We were ready to go."
The rain, coupled with a strong wind, caused the Canegreen team to push it hard on the day of the show, he said, but the system held up under duress. "The rain started at around 12:30 in the afternoon with a couple of showers. It was about 4:30 when a rain of tropical magnitude hit us - without the tropical temperatures. We had a couple of inches with Bon Jovi."
Everything was powered by generators at the delay positions, and a delay was lost at one point when the breaker tripped on the generator, Frengley said, but its integrity was intact.
On stage, though, some bulges began to appear in the roof, and one split over the monitor area subsequently dumping about 100 gallons of water onto one of the XL4s, the control console for system two, and on the XL-200 playback console.
"We were running an A and B system with an auxiliary monitor console which we were working for Savage Garden and for Bon Jovi, and we also had a playback system," Frengley said. "Hence the three consoles out front."
The water drenched everything, knocking out two consoles and half the line system. "It was full of drama and you had to deal with it," he said. "There were a couple of acts who went on stage without any monitoring, but all the playback came from TV trucks. All the backstage hospitality area feeds were knocked out and the Internet feed went down for the rest of the show."
As the rainfall continued, about 15 percent of the audience left the park, although some diehards danced about in the mud, Frengley said. "The audience were fine. In a funny way they weren't being compromised. It was the artists who were being compromised."
In a situation such as this, "decent production people" grasp what's really happening, he said. "Basically, the mature people from crews of all the disciplines, not just audio, understand you're doing a job and that things beyond your control can go wrong no matter who you are."
The good people don't moan, but those who aren't up to it complain. "When these things happen you're not trying to impress anyone. You're fire-fighting, trying to minimize the amount of problems so that you can get to the end of the show," Frengley said. "Those who understand are grateful at the end of the end of the day, but it can be a difficult political situation."
The Canegreen/Party in the Park team went beyond the call of duty to ensure that the show went on, he said. They included: sound chief Peter Hughes; Roger Lindsey, system one FOH; Jerry Eade, system two FOH; Richard Brooker, FOH playback; Chris Peters, monitor system one; Mick Tyas, monitor system two; Graeme Devenish, floating monitor tech; Richard Martin, patch master; Brandon Reese, stage chief; and Paul McCauley, radio mic deployment.
Additional Party in the Park crew members were Paul Knight, stage one; Matt Grounds, stage two; Luther Edmondo, stage three; Damien Dyer, floating technician; Giles Copeman, delay tech; Jim Cousin, Meyer Sound European SIM engineer; and Tarkan Akdam, RF engineer.
"All our boxes have the Meyer RMS and I've always been a believer in the RMS tech and benefits," Stile said, "but we didn't use them on this show because we didn't realize how useful a tool they would be on the couple of occasions when we've lost delay power to the rain. In hindsight, they'd have helped."
When the Meyer Sound self-powered products were first introduced, Stile said, he worried that rain would get into the amps and cause problems. "But in the Party in the Park environment, the biggest test of rain-proofing we've had, there was no problem at all. The rain didn't get into the amps."
The Party in the Park downfall, he said, was more than standard fare even for hard-core Londoners. "It was so bad we laughed because we got wet and dry so often, but my guys were concerned for their safety. I don't even think the audience realized how fortunate we were to get through the whole show and get through it safely. Without that spare console, it would have been the end."
House PA System
2 SB-1 Sound Beams
1 SB-1 sound beam
2 Yamaha PM4000s
3 Midas XL-4s