Twenty years after its inception, Newham Council’s annual free festival Under The Stars continues to pull in crowds of up to 10,000 at East Ham’s Central Park.
Graham Baker of turnkey technology providers, Centre Stage, has been servicing the event for all but one of those festivals.
A roster of headline acts including Naughty Boy, Norman Jay, Cocojam, Musical Youth and the traditional Sunday showcase of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Baker appear this year turned to his friends at W1 Productions, knowing they had recently acquired JBL’s new VTX A8 / VTX B18 line array from UK and Ireland distributors Sound Technology.
Both parties agreed that this would make the perfect debut for a rig that could be flown 12-aside, with six B18 subwoofers a side in a cardioid sub array. A further four A8 provided infills along the front while the entire system was powered and processed by W1 Productions’ newly-purchased Crown VRacks.
Ensuring that the system was fully optimised were W1 Productions project manager, Lawrence Chichon, FOH sound engineer, Jack Hale, and systems engineer Tom Matthews, with the support of Sound Technology’s Stuart Strachan.
Centre Stage, whose sister company, Alistage, was also involved in providing front of stage barriers and risers, found the tie-up with W1 Productions and the new JBL rig to be mutually beneficial. “We have dry-hired systems from W1 for many years, and it was nice to give this new PA a test drive,” stated Baker.
JBL’s next generation dual 8″ compact line array offers 110º dispersion combines two 8” woofers, four 3.5” midrange drivers and two 2” high-frequency drivers in a single low-profile cabinet designed for medium-sized applications such as this.
Jack Hale noted in particular how well it coped in the high winds. “Normally the slightest breeze will throw off a PA, but this certainly wasn’t the case here.” He added that a quick ‘on-the-fly’ tutorial of JBL’s proprietary Performance Manager network configuration software and LAC3 Line Array Calculator proved just how intuitive it was to understand. “It was really quick to rig and tune,” he said. “Having set your [splay] angles in the software, as the system is being lifted into the air it simply opens up accordingly.”
Reviewing the system’s sonic qualities, he observed: “The top end was nice and open, very clean sounding and there was also plenty of bass. Levels were where we wanted them to be and there were absolutely no complaints. Everybody seemed very happy.”
For Graham Baker and his team this was another triumph. In conclusion he said: “Site manager Jimmy Stone, who was also production manager, remarked on how good the system sounded, and the quality of the coverage.”
W1 Productions’ Alan Beck added: “It’s always great to be involved with shows like this. Together, Graham Baker and Newham Council have built Under The Stars into the ideal Summer festival: great crowed, great surroundings and simply good music. To be able to improve it further with our new JBL VTX A8 system has been the icing on the cake.”