The late Kaj Kline at Strawberry Music Festival
Editor’s Note: Most sound reinforcement press focuses on big rock ‘n’ roll tours, massive stadium installations and the handful of companies that tackle the Super Bowl, the Grammys or Live 8 — type events. But hundreds of audio production companies load in and load out day to day in mid-markets across the country, providing the backbone for our live sound industry. We call them “Local Crew.”
In 1978, Kaj Kline was the embodiment of the “typical” audio professional: He had a small recording studio and a piecemeal sound system. By day, he worked at Leo’s Pro Audio in Oakland, Calif.; on weekends, he’d handle small gigs in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Then one day in 1978, he got a call from the Concord Pavilion, a local 8,000-seater, to rent a piece of equipment, and Linear Sound, which became Production Logic, was born.
From the beginning, Kline, who formed the company with his brother Kent, had established it as a full-service operation, meaning that when he picked up venues like The Stone in San Francisco or Berkeley’s Keystone, an engineer and maintenance came with the package. In those days, it was pretty much exclusively rock ‘n’ roll.
Emmet Foley, the heir apparent
Then in 1985, Kline purchased a Turbosound rig and jumped overnight into the big-time, to the point that a young band by the name of Metallica hired the company for its ’85 and ’86 tours. In 1986, Production Logic picked up a small festival, Reggae on the River, in Northern California, and the following year added the Strawberry Music Festival up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
“Reggae on the River is still probably the best event that we do — a real feather in the cap,” says Janine Kline, president of Production Logic. “I still get a charge out of it. Even my kids do!” (This writer can testify to the family atmosphere in Reggae on the River’s two-story sound and lights compound; also, he can testify to the tight, active, well-balanced and never-too-bottom-heavy mix by lead engineer Emmet Foley. It’s as good as sound gets outdoors.)
“It’s been such a pleasure to mix Reggae on the River,” Foley says. “This is some of my favorite early music, and the whole vibe with peace, love and happiness fits in with my thoughts on family and friends. Musically, the festival can be a challenge because we have short set changes and the dynamics and instrumentation can vary radically between bands. But the music itself maintains its gaps, where each individual instrument gets its own identity, unlike a layered rock show. That allows room for the mix to breathe. Plus, we got the Adamson Y10 line array last year, and these new technologies are so much cleaner and so much better that once you set up, you’re free to mix.”
After attending various shootouts with line array systems, Kline, Foley and crew chose the Adamson package largely because, as Foley says, “It had a beautiful vocal presence, the best we heard. And it gives you your best starting point for tuning no matter what venue you’re in.” The company also purchased a Midas Heritage 3000 last year — what Janine Kline laughingly calls a “big-boy board.” Set for purchase this spring is a small-footprint digital board to work on smaller events, such as those they do in the Rotunda of Oakland City Hall (Mayor Jerry Brown’s wedding, for example), and a few more Adamson subs.
By the early 1990s, the company started to expand into events, installs (including an ongoing summer season package at Villa Montalvo winery), press conferences, corporate, radio promotions and a wide variety of one-offs. They added lighting, pipe and drape, staging, etc., to become a true one-stop shop for event and sound needs.
Sadly, Kaj Kline, the father figure, mentor, teacher and friend to a generation of Bay Area production pros, passed away in 2004. Janine Kline, his wife, has carried on in the family tradition, with an emphasis on treating her people right. “We pay a little better on the scale, which helps,” she says. “But Kaj always treated people fairly, treated them with respect. He wasn’t a screamer or a yeller. He was a teacher.”
Foley knows that as well as anyone. Though he’s had a recording studio, Dogged Outt Productions, for 15 years, he came to Kaj Kline in the late ’90s because he wanted to learn. “He took me under his wing and taught me the industry standard,” Foley says. “He loved to teach. If you spent a day in the shop with him, you’d learn more than you would in any other situation. He taught the foundation and the system — from the truck pack to the show itself. He loved the industry and we all dearly miss him. I’m just honored to be grasping the torch.”