HOUSTON, Texas -- Billed as the world's largest live entertainment and exhibition event, the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ -- with rodeo and concert events known as RodeoHouston® -- is also one of Texas' largest charities having contributed over $330 million to the state's youth since 1932. But ask any of those youth about this year's event and they'll likely rave on about Reliant Stadium's stellar three-week rodeo and concert series, which was heard via the world's largest L-ACOUSTICS K1 stadium system provided by LD Systems, Inc.
From February 25 to March 16, the 72,600-seat stadium hosted a nightly double bill of two hours of rodeo action immediately followed by an hour-long concert from a world-class artist. To be expected, the concert list included a long list of contemporary country music favorites like Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Zac Brown Band, Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean. But the schedule was also interspersed with a fairly broad range of other popular musical artists, including Mary J. Blige, Bruno Mars, Pitbull, Styx, Demi Lovato and Julión Alvarez, among others.
This year, for the very first time, RodeoHouston also extended its normal 20-day run by an extra night for a concert-only performance on March 17 from the iconic George Strait as part of his farewell The Cowboy Rides Away Tour. Without a rodeo event scheduled earlier that day, an additional 7,400 seats were added to the floor area enabling the sold-out show -- which also featured Martina McBride and Randy Rogers Band -- to break Reliant Stadium's largest attendance record with 80,020 fans present.
Houston-based LD Systems has long been the exclusive audio provider for the Rodeo and last year made the recommendation to the Show's COO Leroy Shafer, CEO/President Skip Wagner and the organization's executive committee that they raise 2013's production values through the use of an L-ACOUSTICS K1 system. The Rodeo agreed and, as a result, LD Systems purchased nearly 400 enclosures and 150 amplified controllers from L-ACOUSTICS in the fall of 2012.
Using L-ACOUSTICS' SOUNDVISION acoustical modeling software, the manufacturer and LD Systems collaborated on an ideal system design for Reliant Stadium that utilized 280 enclosures powered by 48 LA-RAK touring amplifier racks. The system comprised two concentric rings of loudspeakers -- an inner ring of K1 arrays to address the lower bowl seating areas, plus an outer ring of KUDO arrays to cover the upper bowl seats.
Inner arrays were divided into two different configurations. The eight hangs along the longer east and west sides of the obround arena were comprised of four K1-SB subs, nine K1 elements and six KARA downfills, while the four arrays flown facing the north and sound end zones featured four K1-SB and ten K1. To minimize both the cable runs and gear footprint, LA-RAKs were stacked on top of each array -- three on arrays with KARA downfills, and two on those without.
For upper bowl coverage, LD Systems flew 12 outer arrays each made up of six KUDO enclosures and topped with a single LA-RAK.
The signal path for the stadium's flown audio system was fully AES digital, with a redundant analog system in place as a backup. L-ACOUSTICS' LA Network Manager software provided system monitoring and control.
For concert monitoring down on the stage in the center of the arena, the sound reinforcement company supplied a dozen 115XT HiQ wedges and two SB18 subs, all powered by four LA8s.
To accommodate the extra 7,400 floor seats for the final evening's concert, LD Systems supplemented its system that night with four additional six-cabinet KUDO arrays, two six-cabinet KARA arrays and four four-cabinet ARCS II arrays, complemented by 24 SB28 subs on the floor and 13 self-powered 108P enclosures for front-row coverage. This brought the total L-ACOUSTICS loudspeaker count for the closing show up to 369.
"The system that we deployed for RodeoHouston last year consisted of 130 devices, which were a combination of line array and conventional trapezoid-type cabinets, so we more than doubled our loudspeaker presence in the stadium for 2013," notes Rob McKinley, president of LD Systems. "But this year's system went well beyond simply being bigger. The fidelity of the L-ACOUSTICS arrays was a huge step up, and the overall impact and pattern control -- especially on the low end -- were a dramatic improvement over our previous rig. With K1, every seat in the stadium got the same sonic experience as the next, which was a big selling point to the Rodeo. There wasn't a bad seat in the house."
According to Show Interim President and CEO Leroy Shafer, the use of LD's K1 rig was a complete success on all counts. "This system far exceeded even my expectations, and I was a proponent from the word 'go'," says Shafer, who has been with the organization for the past 40 years. "Based on LD System's demo for us last fall, we knew that it would be a great improvement for music, but I don’t think we were quite prepared for how much it seemed to improve the stadium's acoustics for our rodeo announcers. When they realized that the audience was hearing them very clearly and warmly, they began to perform better as well, toning down and talking naturally rather than pushing and straining like they had to in the past. As a result, our rodeo spectators this year had a much more enjoyable experience because it felt like the announcers were sitting next to them comfortably carrying on a conversation rather than barking at them through a P.A."
Following the bull riding, barrel racing or mutton bustin' each night, the L-ACOUSTICS system did, indeed, continue to also impress musical artists, engineers, band managers and spectators alike. Robert Ausmus, LD Systems' longtime director of production services, notes, "We heard so many people this year talking about the noticeable improvement in sound," he says. "For the first time, the entire stadium sounded like a much more intimate arena, and the compliments across the board from audio novices to seasoned professionals were extremely favorable. Even RodeoHouston's executive committee, which had to approve the increased budget for our system this season, told Leroy and Skip that they were all very happy and unanimously agreed that they had absolutely made the right decision."
Celebrating its 81st anniversary, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo drew a record-breaking 2.5 million people this year. For more details, visit www.rodeohouston.com.
Based in Houston with a satellite location in San Antonio, LD Systems has grown over the past 39 years into both a leading production services provider and systems integrator. For more information on the company, visit www.ldsystems.com.
L-ACOUSTICS is a leading innovator and manufacturer of high-performance loudspeakers, amplifiers and signal processing devices for touring and installed sound markets. Known around the globe for pioneering and championing the modern line array loudspeaker concept with V-DOSC, the company has received numerous accolades for its K1, KUDO, KARA, KIVA, ARCS, XT coaxial loudspeaker systems and SB line of subwoofer enclosures, all powered and processed with the LA4 and LA8 amplified controllers in fulfillment of a "total system approach." Product distribution and customer service for the USA is handled by L-ACOUSTICS' subsidiary in Oxnard, California.
Credit for all photos: Andy Tennille