Drawing more than 2.5 million visitors to Houston’s NRG Stadium over its three-week run, this year’s RODEOHOUSTON® was a record-breaking success on multiple counts. Featuring daily double-bills of spirited rodeo action and major concert events hosted by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ (HLSR), attendance records for the event were topped no less than three times in 2019: on March 1, when Cardi B performed for an audience of 75,580 fans; again on March 10, when Los Tigres del Norte slightly overtook the lead with a crowd of 75,586; and finally on March 17, when George Strait, the “King of Country,” packed in an all-time NRG Stadium record attendance of 80,108 for his 30th Rodeo performance.
Keeping this many music lovers happily singing along with their favorite artists required a massive concert sound system, and Houston-based LD Systems once again took the bull by the horns and deployed 360 L-Acoustics loudspeaker enclosures for the event’s PA.
With a diverse Star Entertainer Lineup that ran the gamut from pop (Camila Cabello) to EDM (Zedd) to rock (Carlos Santana), as well as plenty of country artists (Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, etc.), RODEOHOUSTON required a sound system that was as versatile as it was powerful. LD Systems’ solution? A system based on L-Acoustics’ K1.
“We first started taking delivery of K1 in August of 2012 and began to use it at the Rodeo in early 2013,” recalls LD Systems Director of Production Services Robert Ausmus, who notes that the company has been providing sound reinforcement for HLSR since 1992. “We’ve used K1 for this event every year since then, first and foremost for its ability to throw and provide exceptional low-end pattern control in difficult acoustical environments like this. The systems we used prior to L-Acoustics were never quite able to achieve optimal control, and low-end impact was always an issue. That’s never been a problem with K1.”
Using L-Acoustics’ Soundvision acoustical modeling software, LD Systems ultimately specified a temporary fixed system featuring eight arrays comprised of four K1-SB subs over nine K1 enclosures plus six Kara downs—hung four per side across the long sides of the stadium—and four additional arrays of four K1-SB over ten K1, flown two per end zone. A total of twelve hangs each comprised of six K2 addressed the full circle of upper bowl seats, while four hangs of eight K2 fired at the temporary chute seat located on the dirt after the rodeo.
For George Strait’s final-day concert with special guests Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, four under-scoreboard hangs each made up of four ARCS II provided supplementary coverage to the 6,347 seats that were added to the stadium floor after rodeo dirt and infrastructure were removed. Eight compact Kiva II enclosures were also deployed for apron fill, while two-dozen ground-stacked KS28 subs provided additional low-end kick for the record-breaking show.
The last time Strait performed at RODEOHOUSTON was in 2013 as part of his farewell The Cowboy Rides Away Tour. Since then, the production has seen the debut of a 360° rotating star-shaped stage, which required a slight modification of the event’s sound system design. “Soundvision is an indispensable tool,” says Ausmus. “This year, the array locations needed to be tweaked a touch and Soundvision was used to validate these new locations. This was especially helpful for the George Strait transition, where Soundvision played a key factor in the design to ensure optimal coverage and performance. There were no ‘second chances’ based on extremely limited time with the system prior to sound checks starting less than 16 hours after the last rodeo performance with Brad Paisley. It had to be right, and with Soundvision it was.”
All of the L-Acoustics loudspeaker systems were collectively driven by a grand total of 138 LA8 and 12 LA12X amplified controllers, most of which were housed in LA-RAK carts stacked above the flown arrays to minimize both cable runs and gear footprint. Furthermore a stage monitoring package featuring 16 115XT HiQ monitor wedges, two Syva side-fill stacks and two SB18 subs rounded out the L-Acoustics complement.
According to the HLSR team, the performance of this year’s sound system was a complete success—from the crisp intelligibility of the spoken word during the sporting events to the breathtaking fidelity of the concerts that followed them. “At the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, we strive to be the best at everything we do, and this includes our stadium presentation and all the necessary technology,” shares HLSR Audio Visual Presentations and Broadcast Managing Director James Davidson. “It’s a challenge to maintain our high standards in that 72,000-seat room, and the only time that the sound is worthy of the A-list artists we bring in is when we have LD Systems supporting us with their L-Acoustics rig. It’s always the no-excuses solution.”
“We produce 20 major stadium concerts during our show, featuring some the biggest stars in the entertainment industry,” adds HLSR Entertainment Managing Director Jason Kane. “Having a partner like LD Systems providing first class-sound with its K1 rig is essential to delivering an unforgettable performance. When the artists agree to play our event, their production teams are always at ease when they learn that we fly L-Acoustics.”
Following RODEOHOUSTON, LD Systems’ K1 systems are being kept in high demand on a number of festivals, including Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, plus at the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville and on many cross-rental opportunities. With such a relentless schedule, Ausmus adds that he appreciates what he calls L-Acoustics’ “tireless 24/7 support. In my 38 years in this business, I personally have never seen another manufacturer match their commitment to customer care. They’re a true team of veterans, and they’ve almost always been able to send someone out to assist us when we’ve requested it. It’s really been a pleasure to be made to feel that we’re a part of such a winning team and product line.”