Brooklyn has become an international destination, and it knows how to party. Each year since 1979, the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival takes place at the Prospect Park Bandshell, making Brooklyn the summertime center of the universe—at least on weekends. This year, the largely free event delivered 29 shows over 10 weeks, from June 4 through August 10, to an estimated 175,000-plus people, featuring artists including Patti LaBelle, Liz Phair, Iron & Wine, Salif Keita and Bomba Estereo (free concerts), as well as The National and Courtney Barnett, and Father John Misty and Jason Isbell (ticketed double-bills). What was different this year was the sound: an L-Acoustics PA system was acquired and will now be an integral part of the event going forward into its fifth decade.
“This was a big year for the event, its forty-first year,” marvels Brendon Boyd, of Boyd Design, the event’s Production Manager who was celebrating his 20th year with the festival, where he began as a lighting apprentice in 2000. “It took us a couple of years to get the process for acquiring this new system together, but we knew it was time to upgrade the Festival’s sound. We also knew we wanted an L-Acoustics rig. During the bid process we went back over three years’ worth of contract riders to see what the bands were carrying and what they were requesting, and overwhelmingly it was L-Acoustics.”
The new system, which was installed by local systems integrator Audible Difference Inc. (ADI), was centered on a stereo line array with 10 K2 loudspeakers per side, augmented by seven ARCS II speakers per side as sidefills and outfills. Beneath the newly renovated bandshell stage, eight KS28 subs rumbled away while another 10 K1-SB low-frequency extension enclosures were flown with the line arrays. In addition, six Kara speakers lined the lip of the stage as frontfills, with a single short throw X15 used as a center speaker. A total of 19 LA12X amplified controllers powered the entire system.
On the management side, the L-Acoustics system topped its wish list, too. “I have a background in audio, and as producer of the Festival I worked hard to get the L-Acoustics PA,” says Jack Walsh, Senior Vice President, Performing Arts and Executive Producer for the event. “We were definitely looking for a brand that was first rate and would attract more of the kinds of artists we want to hear at the festival. We talked to our contacts in the touring world and they all kept coming back saying, ‘L-Acoustics.’”
But there were also serious practical concerns that had to be addressed. Walsh points out that the venue is large, with a capacity of 9,000, with only about 2,000 of them in fixed seating and the rest spread over lawns and other areas, requiring the PA system to be able to cover that entire audience area. At the same time, the system also had to be able to confine the sound within that splayed footprint, to avoid the kinds of noise complaints that have followed as music festivals have moved into urban cores.
Walsh says the coverage provided by the L-Acoustics system was spectacular—every seat was a good one. At the same time, he adds happily, “Not a single complaint. Achieving wide and full coverage while minimizing spill was our goal, and the main array and fill speakers did the job, aided by cardioid subwoofers, which minimized low frequency spill. And because the L-Acoustics technology allowed some of the subs to be flown, we were able to have the low-frequency energy nicely distributed throughout the audience. From the front row to two hundred feet back, it was nice and warm sounding.”
Boyd, who supervises the month-long rigging and staging process that precedes the seasonal festival each year, says L-Acoustics’ sound quality, rider friendliness, and value all contributed to the choice for the new sound system, but that the decision was enthusiastically endorsed by the reactions of the artists who performed through it this year, and the fans who heard them. “This was the first year where there were absolutely no artist complaints about the sound at all—and I’m the production manager, so I hear them first!” he says. “This year, it was all praise and compliments. The artists loved it.”
For more info on the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, visit www.bricartsmedia.org.