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Event Spotlight: The Topanga Days Country Fair

The Topanga Days audio crew included industry veterans Dennis Fink, Mark Gander, Neil Shaw, Greg Oshiro and Brian Vessa.

Along a narrow, 15-mile winding road linking the scenic Pacific Coast Highway to the 101 freeway as it cuts through Southern California’s San Fernando Valley lies the sleepy town of Topanga. Actually, this area in the Santa Monica Mountains is only quiet for 362 days each year; things get a bit busier over each Memorial Day weekend when some 15,000 revelers of every sort–old hippies, young hippies, poets, painters, musicians, movie stars, moguls, cowboys, school teachers and normal folk with everyday jobs—drop by for the Topanga Days Country Fair. The fair is a three-day celebration of dance, performance art, handmade crafts, games and an incredibly wide assortment of music from bluegrass to Latin funk, folk, rock, world music and everything in between.

Held as a fundraiser to support the Topanga Community House (a facility founded and built by the community in the early-1950s), and said to be the “biggest Bohemian bash in Southern California,” the event provides live music, belly dancers and activities ranging from apple bobbing and horseshoes to watermelon seed spitting. But the event’s main focus is three stages of nonstop music. This year’s headliners included folk/pop icon Maria Muldaur and her Red Hot Blueisiana Band, Rich Armstrong, Hot Buttered Rum, legendary The Doors’ drummer John Densmore with his band Tribaljazz, The Weepies, MC RAI and a host of others.

For the past 22 years, event sound was provided by the generous volunteer work of the FGS Intergalactic Cartel and Holding Company. FGS is comprised of established pro audio veterans Dennis Fink, Mark Gander and Neil Shaw, combined with the talents of Greg Oshiro of Greppen Solutions and Brian Vessa of Sony Pictures Entertainment—all of whom shared FOH mixing duties.

The main stage P.A. system featured pole-mounted JBL VRX 932LA Constant Curvature line arrays above VRX918S 18-inch Differential Drive subwoofers and JBL SRX 712M stage monitors, all powered with Crown Macrotech amplifiers via dbx DriveRack 480 crossover/processors. In keeping with the fair’s homespun tradition, bales of local Topanga hay were piled next to the subwoofers, thus helping to load the sub’s output, acting as “wings,” providing increased bass from the open-air stages.

The mic contingent included Audix OM3s on vocals and Shure SM57s/SM59s to capture instruments. On drums were Audix ADX51s (overheads and hi-hat), D6 on kick, D2s and D4 on toms and Shure SM57 on snare.

At the FOH position was a Soundcraft K3 24×8 console, with dbx 1046 quad compressor/limiter, two Universal Audio LA-2 (x2) and 1176 (x2) limiters, a Lexicon PCM81 digital effects processor, Lexicon MX200 dual reverb processor, BSS FCS-960 Dual Mode graphic EQ and a BSS FCS-926 Varicurve dual equalizer/analyzer. Additionally, a copy of John Eargle and Chris Foreman’s landmark text Audio Engineering for Sound Reinforcement was kept at FOH for handy reference.

For more information about the event, visit