Sometimes, upgrading a piece of gear can mean the difference between garnering a few more clients and becoming a top-rated sound reinforcement provider. For Rayne, La. — based Gulf Coast Sound (www.gulfcoastsound.com), that magical purchase was an Electro-Voice Xlc compact line array. “From that moment,” CEO Larry Habetz remembers, “it's been like pouring gas on the fire. Buying those boxes qualified us as a player in the field. It was about two years [later] when we bought our first Midas — the Heritage — and that was the next five gallons of gas on the fire. Again, it improved our status and how we were looked upon in the industry and rider acceptance. The previous console package we had was usable, but not as acceptable as it had been earlier. We were working with higher-profile bands who were demanding higher-profile consoles, so that pushed us out to the next league.”
Gulf Coast Sound's Larry Habetz at the company's new Midas board
Subsequently, the company (which had been Gemini Concert Systems until Habetz bought the company in 1999 from Randy Pylant — who is back in the business — and renamed it Gulf Coast Sound) has added the Midas Sienna monitor board to offer a more well-rounded package that also includes Klark Teknik processing and Helix EQs, and a “gaggle” of in-demand mics. The whole rig was recently brought out for a Gladys Knight show in Charenton, La., “and their front-of-house guy said he never worked with a better group of guys with better gear,” Habetz says. “He said it was first-class all the way around.
“That's the thing about this business; it's worldwide,” he continues. “It's a very small community of people who make this business turn. There are a lot of guys willing to help you along the way. [Included in this core is the Telex family.] I was working on an install on a Saturday afternoon in Little Rock and needed a piece to finish and called Rocky, the plant manager over in Morrilton [where Electro-Voice's manufacturing facility is], which is about an hour away from Little Rock, and said, ‘I need this one piece so I can get home. Is there any way I can run over to pick this up?’ And he says, ‘Well, if you can wait a couple of hours, I'll run it out to you.’ So a couple hours later, he shows up in short pants and flip-flops and a T-shirt, and I said, ‘I didn't mean to interrupt your plans today. What were you up to?’ ‘Well, I was out at the lake fishing and I had to put the boat away and drop a few things off at the house and then go over to the plant and pick this up and run it over to you.’ ‘I could have come over and gotten this.’ ‘Well, I wanted to see the project, see how everything was going.’ This is but one story; I can't tell you how many times I have called Monte Wise [special projects manager for Electro-Voice] after-hours, weekends, holidays, et cetera. He is always eager to assist us in any way possible, and it's stuff like that that really shines in this business.”
Habetz points out that as the sound reinforcement community is quite small for a worldwide business, this tight-knit community can feel the drastic effects from a natural disaster. Gulf Coast Sound wasn't hit by the hurricanes — Rita went to the west of the shop and Katrina to the east — and the aftermath of their destruction had a residual effect on his business. “New Orleans was out of commission and still is in large part,” Habetz says. “There's not that many venues up and running. Some of the people we were doing work for were working in these venues, and we were picking up some of their other work. We were fortunate that our direct work was not based in that area. We do a lot of work in Memphis, North Mississippi, Southeast Texas, Arkansas, Alabama.
“The damage in New Orleans is not to be underestimated, but there are people saying, ‘I don't have a roof on my house’; well, 20, 30, 40 miles down the coast in Mississippi, there is no house. There are slabs where there was once a house. Down in South Louisiana, there's nothing there. These were small towns that got washed away. I did a show with Lonestar in Biloxi [Miss.] three months ago and I drove up and down the coastline highway, and it just brought tears to my eyes. I was in New Orleans two weeks ago and the city is coming back online; there are still a lot of blue tarps covering houses, but you're starting to see signs of life.”
While the area continues to rebuild, Habetz is looking at expanding his clientele. “We want to build good relationships. I want to know people on a first-name basis and I want people to know me. It's getting harder for me to do this because we're starting to book so much that it's hard for me to be there for every show, but I pride myself on always being at a show. If my company has a show going on any given weekend, I'm there.”
Learn more about the clients and venues served by this busy Fort Rayne, La.-based sound reinforcement provider.