Even in sunny Southern California, the sound reinforcement business slows down some in winter. It’s a good time for companies to make repairs and purchases, and take stock of the past year’s work. We checked in with Dave Rat, whose Rat Sound company increased its loudspeaker inventory this year to meet the demand of the increasing number of festivals in SoCal and beyond.
“There’s continuing pullback in proper, full-blown tours because there are so many festivals,” Rat says. “Bands are able to travel around the country or the world and pretty much hit all the major markets just doing festivals now, so we’re seeing fewer conventional tours and more of the festivals, which is both good and bad for us.”
Rat says that with more bands cruising festivals rather than staging full-blown tours, he receives more requests for small-format packages at FOH and monitors. “And we need just lots of boxes, between delay clusters and multiple stages,” he says. “We’ve been focusing on increasing our inventory of large-format speaker boxes.”
Rat Sound is primarily an L-Acoustics house; they stock hundreds of K1, K2 and V-Dosc boxes. “We adopted them in 1998, and it helps that their U.S. headquarters is in Oxnard right near our old shop. There’s a very strong demand for their products. They hold their value and they’re extremely reliable, and they sound good. We can’t buy it fast enough.”
Rat services Coachella each year, and that festival employs L-Acoustics loudspeakers almost exclusively. This year, the promoters who stage Coachella added another music event, Arroyo Seco Weekend at the Rose Bowl. The company also continues to tour with steady clients including Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, whom Rat mixed until early this year when he passed the FOH baton to Sean “Sully” Sullivan.
Since coming off the road, Rat is able to focus more on custom package design that helps gigs run smoothly. “We’ve been developing our racking and cabling systems for decades, making them relatively small, compact, efficient, and we design a lot of our own interfaces and snakes and splitter systems,” he says. “We’re working more on those custom packages. For a band like the Chili Peppers or Pearl Jam, we need something that sets up really fast on large-format gigs, so we’ll build big metal racks that allow all the amplifiers for the entire side of the P.A. to go into one rack. A lot of the larger companies do this stuff. We’re a small company, with the personality and attentiveness of a small vendor but the skill set of a larger one.”