The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, San Francisco’s music event now in its 13th year, returned to Golden Gate Park for a special Halloween weekend edition. For three days, more than 74,000 concertgoers flooded into the park’s vast lawns to experience sets by headliners The Strokes, Lizzo, and Tame Impala, along with more than 80 additional acts performing on four stages and in two tents. Since the event’s inception, Another Planet Entertainment, UltraSound, and Meyer Soundhave worked in close collaboration to provide an audio experience.
Since the inaugural festival in 2008, Meyer Sound systems have supported the annual festival’s main stage, with strategic system designs meeting the duel goals of providing clear, consistent sound and keeping the sound contained within the sprawling urban park, which is surrounded on three sides by residential neighbourhoods.
“In 2019 we did a system redesign, which really helped out with noise mitigation, which is something each year that we really work hard on to try and improve upon,” said UltraSound Director of Operations, Josh Osmond. “This year we did a repeat of the same design, which includes a combination of LEO and LYON main hangs left and right and LYON side hangs. 1100-LFC subwoofers are flown left and right, and we have a sub arc of 1100-LFCs in the pit and LEOPARD front fills.”
The distributed system incorporates five delay towers. The front three employ LEO and LYON loudspeakers, with the back row of two towers consisting of MICA loudspeakers to deliver consistent coverage throughout the audience area. LEOPARD, UPA, and UPJunior ground stacks and arrays cover the large, two-story VIP tent and cabanas lining the three-quarter-mile field.
Converting a large comedy tent into the full-time dance Soma Tent presented new sound-management challenges — namely, creating a high-energy environment with low-end-heavy programming without significantly impacting the surrounding neighbourhoods.
“After our successful efforts to control the sound leakage at the Lands End main stage, Another Planet asked us to drive this sound design,” said Meyer Sound Director of System Optimisation, Bob McCarthy. “They were very clear: the sound design comes first; all of the lighting and everything else came second, because noise control is key to the event’s success.”
He added: “We created a unique design where all of the mains are oriented on the side of the tent that faces away from the street. Then, we have loudspeakers mounted on the back of those, pointed toward the street, that are timed, phase-aligned, and set to cancel.” Downward-firing surround speakers created an immersive experience inside the tent, while acoustic draping helped contain sound.
Tightly controlled 1100-LFC and 900-LFC low-frequency control elements brought critical low-end energy. “EDM has a need for maximum bass at all frequencies, to use an old phrase. And the 1100 is the king of dishing that out,” said McCarthy.
In the weeks leading up to the event, UltraSound worked with visiting engineers to help them prepare for seamless experiences. Festival environments can be anything but predictable, however, Khruangbin FOH Engineer, Jade Payne believes the accuracy and quality of the Meyer Sound system made it easy to translate her mixes.
“You never know with different PA configurations,” she explained. “I use a lot of condenser microphones on stage, which isn’t very common, and those can easily pick up a lot of sub energy. But I know Meyer Sound systems and this one here is just very directional. The sound goes where it should go, and that is a tremendous help for the band to perform better. I really appreciated not having to spend the whole set doing damage control; I could actually enjoy myself.”
“Essentially the goal is to give the audience and the traveling engineers and the bands the best possible experience they could have,” said Osmond, “but also keeping our neighbours happy and make it so that everybody is having a good experience over the weekend.”
It’s an ambitious objective in a challenging year, realised through collaborative efforts across the Bay Area. “The city, the community, all of our production vendors have really just rallied around this festival,” said Another Planet Entertainment Senior Vice President and Director of Production, Mary Conde. “And through all of the challenges, we have been able to get this going and doors open. We have a tradition at Outside Lands.”
Conde continued: “We play ‘Here Comes the Sun’ when doors open; that’s a homage to Bill Graham, who used to play that song at all of our Day on the Green events. So, it makes me a little sentimental. I get a little tear in my eye when I hear ‘Here Comes the Sun,’ and it’s a beautiful, sunshiny day and 74,000 people are going to come here and have a wonderful time.”
The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival will return to San Francisco on t 5–7 August 2022.
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