The Versarray system met with cheers on the Jagermeister stage at metal festival Sonisphere. Dave Robinson rocks up.
Peavey once again teamed up with the Jagermeister brand to bring its Versarray 212 system to stages all over the UK at a string of this summer's major festivals.
Although the amount of boxes may vary depending on the size of individual stages, the core Peavey set-up comprises two hangs of Versarray 212 mid/high enclosures (last year it was 112s), with Versarray 218 subwoofers, situated beneath the stage, to provide the low end. Crest CV-20 56 Premium and HP-Eight (40-frame) consoles are deployed for FOH and monitor work, respectively, and all power is provided by Crest Pro 9200 and 7200 amplifiers.
Festivals featuring the kit included Download in June and Sonisphere at Knebworth in July, where The Defiled headlined the Jagermeister stage; the Splendour Festival in Nottingham on 24 July, headlined by Feeder; and Kent’s Hevy Music Festival, in August, where Funeral for a Friend was the big act for Jagermeister.
Ed Shackleton, normally a jobbing engineer at the Garage in Highbury, was the systems tech working with Peavey at this year's Sonisphere event. It's only his second time at the heavy metal weekender hosted by Knebworth House, but he's been working with Peavey gear for a lot longer. As well as helping to build the system, his job at Sonisphere is to caretake the desks and mix bands where a FOH engineer is absent.
Alongside the Peavey kit, Shackleton brings his own outboard rack with him: this features TC reverb, a TC FireworX and EQStation, Drawmer compressors and gate.
“Although it’s a little stage, I want to present it as if any engineer can walk up and use it like a bigger stage. Some people still associate Peavey with old Bandit amps from the ‘80s, and I want to show them that [the company] has upped its game in a very big way. We’ve got the PA sounding right and the guests engineers have said, ‘What’s the PA?’, and when I’ve told them they’ve said, ‘Really? I didn’t know that Peavey made PA!’ It’s been fun surprising people. Many engineers don’t really know what the Jagermeister thing is about, they expect to have your regular big PA company’s stuff up there - they don’t know it’s a bit of a different thing, but they are all very positive about it.”
The analogue Crest desk has been a serendipitous choice too.
“Digital is everywhere these days. I love digital, I tour with digital stuff. But most people just want to grab the controls, with no learning curve. Digital desks are ideal for touring, but for festival stuff, there should be a big analogue board out there really with a knob for every function really - because you haven’t got high-level engineers for every act on every stage. So most people have walked up to the Crest and been very happy about it.”
Shackleton's main issue at the event was noise levels, but he managed to stay out of trouble. “There was a big concern with leakage off-site this year, but because we’ve got a line array its fairly well-aimed. The noise police have been happy, I’ve not been told to turn down, even by the guest engineers who can be a bit naughty.”
Backline on the Jagermeister stage is, of course, also from Peavey, as are the monitors. Another surprise here: “Bands don’t expect Peavey to make big monitors that kick out an awful lot of power. And these make a hell of a racket, so the bands have been pleased and asked for more more more!”
What’s Shackelton's trick for handling loud rock bands like this?
“Restraint!” he smiles. “Start off lower than you would want to, then ease it up and see how it goes. It’s nice to have the kick and snare absolutely slamming but you need to compromise sometimes. Metal is extremely demanding on the PA. And these new Versarray 212 boxes are much improved: you’ve got the slam there if you want it, and the guitars sound great through the 12” drivers.”
Tom Carson, music manager for Jagermeister in the UK, says the company had evolved a mission of supporting and sponsoring UK bands, from small unsigned acts to more substantial signed acts.
“We just try to do what the record companies used to do - keep them on the road, provide them with some support. We only have a small roster of bands in the UK; we’re getting bigger but there has never been a template of how that should be, we’re not a 'corporate' brand,” he says. “A small roster means we can have a relationship with the band and work more closely with them. We’ve been at Sonisphere for three years, and at Download for a lot longer. It’s a natural development to make it bigger and better each time.
“For three months each year we are out in the fields. That’s what we are about really: getting out there, getting bands playing live.”
Ed Shackleton has the last word: it’s a bit gonzo, it’s a bit rock ‘n’ roll and we’ve worked some long days, but it’s been brilliant.”