Probably the Best Festival . . .
Saturday, 20 October 2001
The summer is about Festivals and this year was no exception: in late August, L&SI mingled with the crowds at the Reading Festival, part of the Carling Festival Weekend, which also plays in Leeds and Glasgow.

Sound for Reading (and Leeds too) was supplied by SSE. Chris Beale explained that the company had adopted a slightly different approach for the main stages this year, using BSS systems to split the Nexo systems into six separate zones and thereby optimize performance and controllability.

SSE used SIA SmartPro computer-based analysis software to give them precise system control. This ensured both systems behaved in exactly the same way in terms of SPL, EQ, dynamic performance and other general characteristics, allowing bands to have as near the same sound as possible at both sites - notwithstanding the natural variants of wind and atmosphere. True to form, the elements remained as stoically unpredictable as ever, and weather conditions changed dramatically at Reading and Leeds across all three days of the festival.

The noise control factor at Reading was crucial, with difficult limits to meet and the site located just 600 metres away from leafy Caversham - a wealthy suburb inhabited by non-festival sympathisers! With the wind blowing in the wrong direction - as it was on the Sunday - containing the noise turned into a nightmare.

Overall, however, the noise complaints stayed encouragingly low. Friday night provoked a few, but by Saturday preventative measures were well in place. "By far the worst sound whinges were caused by content," stated Beale. Sunday’s high humidity and torrential rain incited one main stage act to start a thundering chorus of ‘Fuck You Reading’ - chanted very slowly and audibly - proving enough to prompt most of the local chattering classes to move butts off comfortable sofas and jam the EHO’s noise pollution lines. Beale adds, slightly bemused: "Oh, and there was also one woman who called in to complain about her dislike of Polly Harvey’s lyrics!"

Lighting was less fraught, though no less complex. The lighting equipment for the main stage was again provided by Neg Earth Lights, crew chiefed by John Shelley with High End Studio Beam PCs and Clay Paky Golden Scan HPEs providing the backbone of the system. Control for these was divided between two Avolites Diamond 3s, a Sapphire 2000 and a pair of WholeHog IIs.

With the main stage now only being the tip of the iceberg at most festivals, lighting for the equally-important ‘other’ stages at the Reading site was supplied by Brian Leitch’s company Siyan (formally the Art of Darkness). Control again was almost exclusively Avolites. In fact, Reading proved to be something of an Avolites gig, with their desks out in force across the various stages on site. The line up for the Radio One Session stage was an impressive collection of established and popular off-mainstream acts. Here, a miscellany of fixtures including Vari*Lite 5Bs, Clay Paky Golden Scan HPEs, Starlight Mk5s, Martin MAC 600s and Atomic strobes, smoke machines and assorted conventionals featured, this time controlled by two Avolites Pearls.

While the lighting was imbued with a slightly retro feel, headlining act Manic Street Preachers’ visuality was highly defined by stunning video footage running for much of the set. This was produced by various directors, much of it shot in Cuba, and specially edited by XL Video’s Richard Burford. The band’s video hardware was also supplied by XL Video, featuring an ‘exploded’ LED wall, composed from 36 individually flown LED panels.

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