Los Angeles, CA (July 19, 2021)—During 100 years of operation, the 17,480-capacity Hollywood Bowl never shut down its summer season for longer than 12 days. Like music venues nationwide, however, the Hollywood Bowl, which opened in 1921, was forced by the coronavirus pandemic to go dark. Unlike other venues though, reopening has taken a little extra elbow grease.
“To have more than a year and a half without any show or activity there was very unusual,” says Fred Vogler, principal sound designer and mixer at the open-air venue. He also works with the Music Center, a group of four venues and four resident companies in downtown Los Angeles, including the LA Phil, which summers at the Hollywood Bowl.
Because the summer season traditionally kicks off in June and lasts about four months, the last concert at the Hollywood Bowl was back in November 2019. As a result, Vogler and the venue staff had to be a little more thorough with their systems checks before the inaugural show of 2021, a free concert for 4,000 frontline workers and first responders on May 15—the first of four, variously featuring Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil, La Santa Cecilia, Thundercat and Flying Lotus.
“We’ve had to build new cabling and do a lot of connector cleaning—stuff that didn’t have to be done as thoroughly in the past,” says Vogler. Happily, some of the infrastructure had already been shaken down by a number of video shoots of the LA Phil with guests, including Common and Father John Misty, for the orchestra’s Sound/ Stage streaming series.
“They used that stage because it’s so big and it’s outdoors, so they could spread everybody out.“ Vogler adds, “They didn’t utilize the sound system or some of the things you need for a live performance,” so there was still plenty of work to be done prior to the opening show.
The venue has long remained current with its L-Acoustic speaker systems and DiGiCo mixing consoles. “We upgraded the SD7 consoles to Quantums in 2017. We have the latest software for those,” says Vogler, who had a chance to try it out on the May 15 event. “The new software looked great and the system sounded perfect,” he reports.
As for his own performance, he says, “I’m not going to say I was up to par yet; I’ve been off for such an extended time. I’m eager to get into a rhythm again.”
No doubt Vogler will get back in the groove once the 14-week calendar, covering all music genres, gets underway. While Covid-19 protections mandated by the state, the county and Cal/OSHA have been moving targets at times, it now appears that the venue will be back at full capacity in July. That will be music to the LA Phil’s ears, having taken a financial hit from last year’s shutdown. Shows announced to-date include Christina Aguilera, H.E.R. and Viola Davis, making their LA Phil debuts with Gustavo Dudamel; Kamasi Washington and Brittany Howard as part of the LA Phil/KCRW World Festival, and the return of St. Vincent, among others.