It takes an audio engineer to know what an audio engineer needs — whether that mixer is on a first-call tour, a small-town festival, a local sporting event, a church install or working on a casino's audio needs. For Pearl Productions' co-owners Don Lanier, and Earl Parrish, years of working behind the board have catapulted their East Alton, Ill. (just east of St. Louis), SR company from just working in and around the Midwest to packing up the trucks wherever a client needs them to be.
Parrish got his engineering start in Texas (though he is an Illinois native) working for Collins and Cole Acoustics on gigs for Marty Robbins, Steppenwolf, and Gary Lewis and The Playboys. Lanier started work as a DJ and part-time sound system tech working for local groups and at local venues, including St. Louis' Fox Theatre. From there, he went on to be a lighting tech and electrician for Obie Lighting in California. He then moved back to Godfrey, Ill., and opened a company called Nitetech Power Systems, providing broadcast power for National Mobile Television, Bud Sports, CBS Sports and other national media. While expanding Nitetech's power business, the company was contracted by the Alton Belle Casino, where Lanier spent five years as the concert showroom operator and show designer.
In 1999, when the casino undertook management changes, Lanier sold off most of his Nitetech inventory. “I was tired and needed some rest,” he says. “I met Earl at a local show, and he asked if I would do weekend FOH duties for him. I had employees who just didn't get the magnitude of what I was trying to build, so I sold off Nitetech, keeping key parts of the business, and went to work for someone else for the first time in 25 years.”
Lanier and Parrish have to multitask to keep up with the company's day-to-day duties: Lanier works as system designer, FOH engineer and production manager, and as sales rep for religious and other markets; Parrish serves as the monitor and systems engineer, and lighting director, as well as maintains Pearl's Website (www.pearlproaudio.com), graphics and advertising. Also onboard is Lanier's nephew, Steven Lanier, who is part time and a monitor engineer in training, as well as systems and lighting tech. Lou Watson handles transportation, delivery and logistics.
Lanier and Parrish can often be found working on local and regional festivals, fairs and religious events. The company is expanding its installation division as the church market has pulled them into it more and more. “We handle the training for several churches for new staff, and we teach churches how to use technology to be more user-friendly,” Lanier says. “I try to impart the basics and work up.” In addition, Lanier and Parrish will soon boast a larger lighting division with the addition of a new roof system, while they continue work on upgrading its power capabilities. “We have generators and equipment that were used during Hurricane Katrina, and we're adding to this all the time,” Lanier says. “We design and construct a line of equipment for these needs. I've built panels and custom cabling and power distribution systems for many years.”
But the main hub of Pearl Productions is its top-of-the-line audio stock, which includes a large inventory of Peavey gear (the company is a Peavey dealer): SP Series, QWave Series speakers and monitors, CS 4080/4000/3000/1400 amps and the newest Peavey DSP, the VSX 26. “I've recently used [the VSX 26] for several shows and was simply amazed at the ease of control it brought to my sound system,” Lanier enthuses. “We recently purchased two new Crest HP-8 x48 consoles for FOH and monitor. I will be updating one of these consoles to the new [Crest] VCA console. We have a Crest/Peavey sound system through and through, and it really does a good job of reproducing the music faithfully and without a lot of ‘black box’ magic.”
Pearl Productions will also add Peavey's first foray into the line array market, the VersArray. “Having a line array system just adds another tool for us to offer customers who won't use anything other than a ‘line array,’” Lanier says. As for Pearl's future business plans, Lanier is reticent to reveal his strategy, asking, “Why give my competition a lesson in what to do? Growth will come for those who work hard and are service-oriented. A regional company is just that if it is willing to stay put and accept that the phones are not ringing. We're not playing that game; we're active in the community and in our business circles. We intend to grow as fast as our bank will allow us.”
Sarah Benzuly is Mix's managing editor.