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Bonnaroo Brings It On

For its 10th anniversary, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, held June 9-12, 2011, more than delivered.

Audio for the What Stage at Bonnaroo was once again
provided by Eighth Day Sound, which fielded a d&b
audiotechnik system with hangs of 18 J8s on
each side of the stage.
For its 10th anniversary, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, held June 9-12, 2011, more than delivered.

As in past years, 60,000-plus attendees braved the elements, which this year included oppressive heat and choking dust, to hear their favorite musical artists and check out new acts. With five main performance venues— the headliner-ready “What Stage,” the slightly smaller “Which Stage,” and three roofed structures: “This Tent,” “That Tent” and “The Other Tent”—plus dedicated comedy and cinema tents, smaller side stages and spectacles, the festival provided attendees with nonstop music and entertainment.

The sound companies contracted to handle the five main stages were all familiar faces to the festival, and after handling the job for several years, each had the festival’s sound down to a science. Of course, the inadvertent interaction of a multi-stage setup presents interesting challenges, but the weekend’s engineers rose to the occasion, providing clear, powerful sound that thrilled fans and avoided interfering with the other stages.

What Stage, which hosted the main headlining acts over the weekend, including My Morning Jacket, the Black Keys, Widespread Panic, Arcade Fire and Eminem among others, once again featured a system provided by Highland Heights, OH-based Eighth Day Sound, whose Jordan Zur and Jordan Kolenc served as the stage’s main front-of-house engineers.

The main speakers were d&b audiotechnik J8 loudspeakers, in arrays of 18 on either side of the stage, with flown side fills of four d&b J-Subs and four d&b B2s per side, supplementing the low end. Additional side coverage was handled by a dozen more J8s. Front fills featured six of d&b’s C7- Top loudspeakers. This year’s subwoofer array was enhanced from last year, featuring 36 d&b B2 subs in a cardioid pattern, with an additional 24 B2 subs providing low end for Eminem.

What Stage was the only one of the five main performance venues to feature delay towers throughout the audience, and each of those three towers included eight d&b Q1 loudspeakers. The stage monitor setup included a number of d&b M2s and M4s.The FOH position hosted two Avid Venue D-Show desks and a Yamaha LS9 digital mixing console, while the monitor mixing area featured two Yamaha PM5D boards.

Zur noted, “We are lucky to have been present at Bonnaroo for all 10 years of its existence. We are also lucky that all of the main headliners are Eighth Day Sound accounts. With all of that, we have a very good idea of what needs to be done for each act, and things run very smoothly.”

Which Stage, located in the heart of the festival’s main campus, hosted the likes of Primus, Mumford & Sons, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Buffalo Springfield, Alison Krauss & Union Station and many more. The audio system was again provided and operated by Dallas-based Crossroads Audio, and the backline was provided in part by Studio Instrument Rental (SIR)’s Nashville location. Crossroads Audio’s Chris Williams served as the stage’s main FOH engineer. The main loudspeaker array featured 12 Meyer Sound Milo high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers—10 regular boxes along with two 120-degree boxes per side—while 600-HP subs and Meyer 700-HP subs provided low end. A number of JBL VP- 7212MDPs served as the stage monitors. Both the FOH and monitor positions each had a Yamaha PM5D and an Avid Venue Profile on hand.

Between sets on Saturday, Crossroads’ Williams reflected on Bonnaroo 2011, commenting, “This is our eighth year here at Bonnaroo, and after all this time, it just keeps getting better! The biggest difference this year is that more of the acts at Which Stage brought their own consoles. We are happy to give the acts exactly what they need to that end, and despite the logistical challenges of fitting all these consoles in the FOH tent and getting them wired up, it does take some of the pressure off of us in a way. Next to that, the biggest challenge this year is dealing with the dust!”

The festival’s three “tent” stages helped start up the festival on Thursday, and over the next several days, hosted a few dozen acts per tent, including such acts as Girl Talk, The Sword, Loretta Lynn, Bootsy Collins, Bruce Hornsby and Robyn, among many others.

Detroit area-based Thunder Audio was charged with audio duties at This Tent and The Other Tent, for which it provided identical systems. Thunder Audio’s Toby Phillips (This Tent) and Matt Bitz (The Other Tent) served as house FOH engineers. For both tents, mains included arrays of eight Meyer Milo array loudspeakers (a change from last year’s Micas) and four Meyer 700- HP subs on either side of each stage, along with a number of M’elodie loudspeakers as infills. Crown-powered Nexo PS15s served as stage monitors. Yamaha PM5Ds served as the stages’ main consoles, mirrored at FOH and monitor mixing areas. Notable processing included Meyer Galileo with system analysis via the Meyer SIM 3 Audio Analyzer.

That Tent featured a system provided by Louisville, Colorado-based Brown Note Productions, with the company’s Peter George returning as house FOH for the tent. Mains featured d&b J Series loudspeakers, seven per side, d&b B2-Subs in an updated configuration, and d&b M4s as stage monitors. The main consoles, mirrored at FOH and monitors, were Avid Venue Profile desks.

George noted, “Other than the dust and our lack of sleep, everything has gone very smoothly again this year. It can be an overwhelming festival, but it’s a lot of fun, and after all these years, it is relatively easy to serve the audience and performers with a high production value. Our job is to narrow the gap between what the talent can give and what the audience receives, and we are proud to have done our job successfully at past festivals, and to have been asked back again this year.”

All in all, the weekend proved to be another successful Bonnaroo, and next year will surely see thousands of familiar faces return to one of the most innovative and well-planned music festivals in the country, with great sound to complement the event’s inviting atmosphere.