MerleFest 2019 flows smoothly with DiGiCo
Tuesday, 30 July 2019
mfstageWilkesboro, North Carolina’s annual Merlefest
USA - With most music festivals these days being multi-stage productions, sound reinforcement providers have become remarkably adept in speedily switching over backline setups and minimizing downtime between artists’ sets. But Wilkesboro, North Carolina’s annual Merlefest, reinforced by Greensboro-based SE Systems, was able to take that transition speed to a new level this year thanks, in part, to DiGiCo mixing consoles and the manufacturer’s new 4REA4 networked audio solution.
Established in 1988 in memory of Eddie Merle Watson, the son of bluegrass icon Doc Watson, as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College, the festival has pushed the boundaries of what Watson called “traditional-plus” music to feature acts as diverse as Elvis Costello, the Doobie Brothers, and Zac Brown Band.
SE Systems has been the sound provider from the beginning, and the systems have grown along with the festival, which annually draws more than 75,000 people to the school’s campus. This year, MerleFest utilised 17 DiGiCo consoles - ranging from the compact S21 to the large-format SD5 - spread out across 13 stages for FOH and/or monitoring.
“On the main stage there were three, maybe four, bands that were just straight-up type bluegrass the whole four days,” says Chris West, who handles production, system design, and installations for SE Systems. “Some people still see MerleFest primarily as a bluegrass festival, but two-thirds of the bands on the main stage had a drum kit, just to give some perspective.
“The main Watson Stage had an SD5 at front of house, and then an SD11 for the Cabin Stage,” says West, explaining that the Cabin Stage is a side stage, attached to the Watson, that gets active whenever the main stage goes quiet for a changeover. “We never go down on sound at all. Bands don't get a chance to do soundchecks or anything like that once we get rolling. It’s a near seamless stream of music from the day’s first song to the evening’s final note.”
As for the DiGiCo 4REA4, West used it as a large matrix mixer, instead of bringing in a separate console that all of the other consoles feed, and that, in turn, fed the PA.
(Jim Evans)

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