Anyone sceptical about the growth of the UK country music scene should visit the Country 2 Country Festival. In only five years the festival has gone from a two day single venue event to a three day event on three sites in three countries. This year, London’s O2 Arena, Glasgow’s SEC and Dublin’s 3Arena played host to the fifth – and biggest ever – C2C, with 50,000 fans attending across the three days.
SSE Hire provided the audio for the O2 event, a gig the company has supplied since 2014. While the festival is an indoor event, the scale of the O2 means that with the exception of a roof and a distinct lack of mud this is a full festival operation for the SSE Hire department. A full complement of L-Acoustics K1 and K2, multiple line systems and broadcast feeds were all installed across the Arena.
Headlining this year’s festival were some of the top country music acts from across the Atlantic. Brad Paisley brought the opening night to a close, with Reba McEntire and the Zak Brown Band heading up the Saturday and Sunday nights.
Over in the US, Brad Paisley is looked after by audio company Sound Image. SSE Hire has strong ties with the US company having formed the Transatlantic working partnership UAC with Sound Image to support each other’s clients when touring across the Atlantic.
For Paisley’s C2C performance SSE supplied a complete control and monitors package including a Midas XL4 analogue console and two ‘old school’ racks of processing and effects at Front of House.
SSE Project Manager Dan Bennett commented on the Sound Image collaboration. “UAC really comes into its own at C2C. Sound Image has a strong presence in the US country music scene and many of their clients perform at C2C. Our UAC partnership is a reassurance to these artists; they know the gear is to the standards they are used to; they know their line systems will work with our package; they know that presenting us with a 110V control and monitors system is something we just take in our stride. Basically it just gives artists and their production teams great confidence that their show will take place with a minimum of hassle.”
Headliners:Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire, Zak Brown
Festival means flip-flop consoles at front of house as part of the package from SSE Hire. Two identical AVID Profile digital mixing consoles were provided. One console acts as the live console, mixing the current act on stage while the second console is configured and prepped for the next act on stage. At the end of the set the desks are “flipped” over and the process carries on like that throughout the day. SSE first developed the flip-flop system over twenty five years ago and it has been widely adopted at the major festivals around the world, greatly reducing the changeover time between bands on stage.
Dan Bennett explained the choice of the AVID Profile: “We use the Avid as just about every FOH engineer is familiar with the console, and most have a show file that they can dial in straight away. Plug in their USB stick and not only is their show file instantly available but so are all the plugins off their user licence.”
“The Profile is an intuitive console but if an engineer isn’t familiar with it, the SSE crew at Front of House can give them a quick overview to help them put together their mix. We have our own plugins available for all the effects they might require and we’re happy to give them as much support as they need.”
For C2C SSE supplied a third house console, a Yamaha CL3. Instead of having a DJ playing music between changeovers on the main stage, C2C built a B stage, close to the FOH mix position where artists performed short, largely acoustic sets, mixed on the CL3. Dan Bennett commented, “We had a couple of RIO stage racks on the B stage linked to the the CL3 console at FOH. Artists were limited to just four people on stage at any one time and were encouraged to be as acoustic as possible.”
Testimony to the scale of country music’s following is that the BBC ran a pop up radio station for the entirety of the event. BBC Radio 2 Country broadcast from midday to midnight each day. The service included a range of specially commissioned programmes and guest presenters from the world of country music, brand new documentaries as well as live broadcasts and exclusive performances from backstage at the C2C festival. The BBC connection didn’t end there either: legendary DJ and broadcaster “Whispering’ Bob Harris was the compare for much of the event.
As the Zak Brown Band brought the festivities to a close on the Sunday night, no doubt plans were being formed for C2C 2018. If the popularity of the 2017 event is anything to go by, “book early” would appear to be wise advice for those wishing to attend!
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