Festival Sound – Planning is important, but flexability is critical

I am providing sound for the Old Time Fiddler’s Gathering, June 19-20 in Watkins Glen State Park, Watkins Glen, New York. The main stage will be the setting for 4 bands each day, with each band playing 60 minutes. I will have 30 minutes between bands to reset the stage and perform a rough sound check.

Over the past few weeks, I have drawn up my own equipment lists. I have a spreadsheet of the needs for each band; how many microphones, which microphone, where to put the direct lines, monitor configurations. I have stage drawings for each band. And I have my master equipment list to keep track of everything that needs to get loaded.

Over the past few days I have collected equipment from various sources. A monitor system from Bound for Glory, main speakers and amp from The Cornell Folk Song Society. One or two personal loans. Together with my own equipment, I created a system to meet the needs of the show.

I spent the morning today loading the truck. Speakers, stands, amps, cables. I ran through my checklist and verified that I loaded all the equipment.

If I had my druthers (and I don’t) every band would provide me a tech sheet that details all their needs. I would have a stage plot drawn up for each band and would be able to quickly reset mics and stands. But the reality is that even when the tech sheets and stage plots are provided, they are often incorrect by the time of the show. I expect for each band to be asked for changes. Perhaps a friend is in town and they asked her to join in for a couple of tunes. Perhaps the band has changed and they have not updated their sheets. Whatever the case, I’ll be making changes as we go and we all make do.

The key is that whatever the surprise they throw, the sound crew needs to adapt.So, along with the list of equipment I know I needed, I added in the extras. A few extra microphones and cables. DI boxes. Stands. Adapters of every shape and size. Tools and duct tape. I expect equipment to fail, so I make sure I have backup plans. If I need something, I make sure to have two of them.

With luck, I’ll be able to adapt to the changes as they come.


The festival ran smoothly, with a the exception of a couple rain showers that had me pulling back the outdoor speakers to bring them under cover.  One band showed up with 4 people, when I expected two, but after a little conversation I was able to accommodate them. All in all a good weekend.


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