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On the road with Simon Honywill: Festivals! Meltdown, Glasto and Teignmouth Folk Fest

The FOH engineer kept track of his summer exploits exclusively for PSNE. Glastonbury lies ahead, but there's plenty to think about before that...

Simon Honywill writes…

A trip to Copenhagen in early June to be drip-fed Carlsberg at the expense of DPA Microphones (cue Orson Welles voice-over: “Probably the best microphones…in the world…”) was a welcome distraction before a visit to the Southbank and James Lavelle’s Meltdown Festival. (Read part one of Simon’s diary, which detailed his jaunts to Istanbul and Old Trafford, Manchester, in May and June, here.)

The 15 June show featured the Philharmonia Orchestra playing live to Max Richter’s eclectic score for Ari Folman’s unique animated documentary film Waltz With Bashir (pictured). I have never seen anything quite like this film before – it is, I think, unique, and for an animated work is decidedly harrowing, focussing on the director’s own experiences of rediscovering his lost memories of his part in the war in Lebanon in the early 1980s. Musically, it swings from banging electronica to beautiful, melodic orchestral passages interspersed with solo piano, with some OMD and PiL thrown in to make sure everybody understood the where and when of the piece. I loved it, and enjoyed deploying SFX speakers in the Royal Festival Hall boxes and playing with the LCR configuration to give maximum imaging to the dialogue against the soundtrack and orchestra.

As I write on 20 June, I am in the middle of a demo of Martin Audio’s remarkable MLA Mini system for an ex-student of mine. (I’m an advocate for MLA, you should know.) His regional PA company is providing sound services for Teignmouth Folk Festival in the seaside town’s seaside theatre. It is fortunately the last event they will be staging in the Carlton Theatre (pictured), a shrine to corrugated iron sheeting and asbestos that would appear to be held together with rust and guano.

The home of Muse, Teignmouth is a beautiful place to be on a hot British summer day, and they are soon to be getting a shiny new Carlton Theatre on the same site, and not a moment too soon. And as we are in the midst of a series of hot British summer days I have absolutely no problem with driving across my home county to step out into blazing sunshine, stroll along the promenade and dive into a small, hot, black hovel to play with the best small format PA known to man. I just think they should move it outside.

And, then, next week (at the time of writing), it’s Glastonbury, the Pyramid Stage and significantly more MLA than Teignmouth, where I shall be wearing two hats as MLA advocate for Martin Audio and the face of RG Jones, now in their seventh year as providers for the iconic venue. This is a two-part diary, so once it’s done there’ll be much to say on the subject from the viewpoint of somebody who is brave enough to tell the festival that they need this system. Whether I’m right or not remains to be seen – check back next tomorrow to see if I survive…