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Ampco hits high at Lowlands Festival

Ampco provided the PA equipment for all 12 stages at this year's Lowlands Festival, which sold out in a record nine days, writes Paul Watson

Top Dutch rental company Ampco deployed its Synco PA systems to all 12 stages as well as a number of the smaller set-ups at this year’s Lowlands festival, which took place just outside Amsterdam on the third weekend in August. Now in its 18th year, Camping Flight to Lowlands Paradise 2010, to give it its official title, had a workforce of around 5,000 staff members, which included 50 Ampco engineers, each of whom were on-site each day, generating a combined total of 275 man-days for the duration of the festival.

Ampco’s sound team was on site two days prior to proceedings with an enormous 10 trucks of equipment; the day after the festival, its crew took just seven hours to clear it all away again.
 Marcel Albers, Ampco’s director of marketing and communications and Synco’s commercial director, says it’s all about teamwork and running a tight ship.
 “At Lowlands, we were able to call upon some of our [Synco Europe Network] partners from across Europe to bring in some of the gear,” he explains. “It’s nice for our Dutch company, Ampco Flashlight, to have an exchange of personnel – not only in a social sense, but more importantly so that we can all work together.”
 Some of the Synco Europe Network partners involved in supplying extra gear included DEE Sound & Light, Flashlight/APR of Belgium and English-headquartered RG Jones.

Martin Grainger, production manager, says that the workload is continually growing, which means more needs to go into the festival’s infrastructure and planning.
 “When I started working on the festival back in 2001 we had three full production weeks and a week to take it down. Now we only get 2.5 weeks,” says Grainger. “It’s more and more work but we still do it in the same amount of time; one thing which made the festival more efficient is that we marked the site to GPRS so everything goes into the drawing with the right co-ordinates instead of seven or eight people working with measuring tape.”
 A star-studded line-up over three days, including Snow Patrol, Blink 182, Massive Attack, Mumford & Sons and popular Dutch act Anouk, ensured that the festival sold all 55,000 tickets in just nine days. Festival director of 11 years Eric van Eerdenburg says that the vast majority of its festival-goers were Dutch this year and that although last year’s event attracted around 5,000 Brits, many international fans missed out because of the super-quick sales. He also reveals that careful planning was key in securing the right calibre of artist.
 “In the first eight years, capacity had built up to 60,000 – but it was just too full, so we dropped it. Then in my first year as director it dropped way down to 48,000, which was too low,” he explains. “It was my job to build it up again, so I spoke to Mojo [which organises the event] and we moved Lowlands to the weekend before the Leeds and Reading festival weekend – which we used to clash with – and capped the attendance at 55,000; this has enabled all the big names to come here and play, which is great.”
 The four biggest stages – Alpha, Bravo, Grolsch and India – used Synco by Martin Audio W8L Longbow line arrays with Synco WSX318 triple-18″ subwoofers. The smaller stages were equipped with Synco Touring Systems which were ground stacked. The Juliette Theatre was equipped with Synco by Martin Audio W8M mini line arrays with 20 cabinets per side. For monitoring on the various stages Ampco provided a total of 100 15″ Synco dual concentric wedges, and 40 12″ Synco dual concentric wedges. There were also 40 channels of wireless.
 Some 16 Midas FOH and monitor analogue desks were in use, and digital desks were provided for specific artists if requested – a total of 12 Yamaha, DiGiCo and Soundcraft digital consoles.
 To meet the strict noise restrictions on site, Peter van der Geer and his team of noise management experts from Utrecht-headquartered Event Acoustics used the company’s innovative product XLNT TexLnt. In essence several layers of wool and foil processed into long drapes that can be hung opposite a stage, it is designed to dramatically increase the absorption of bass tones under 100Hz. The biggest challenge was the dance tent, which doubled up as a nightclub in the small hours.
 “We wrote a special piece of software which looked at volume, frequency and time; and it solved the problem – especially in the dance tent, which we knew could potentially cause the neighbours the most problems,” explains van der Geer. “We achieved even coverage at the exterior – and if you walk to the sides there’s no sub anymore; it’s around 15dB less. It’s all aiming straight; and there’s no sub at the back anymore because it’s cardioid; and we also use Telnet to cover the whole thing. When combining the two, we lose 25-30dB at the back which is fantastic.”
Barney Pronk, who tours an Ampco rig in his role as FOH engineer for Anouk, says that you have to trust the people as well as the gear.
 “It’s important that the people involved are not only very good engineers, but real musical people,” says Pronk. “That’s 50% of it for me right there – and that’s what they’re like at Ampco; and of course the PA equipment is fantastic.”