I'm writing this just two days after mixing Malvern's West Fest outdoor festival on what must have been one of the hottest days of the year. Last year, the same festival was quite literally ankle deep in mud and we had to drag the multicore through a towel held in a bucket of water to get all the mud off it when packing up. I didn't want a repeat of that this year, so I decided to mix the main stage using my Mackie DL1608 mixer, which has iPad control and therefore needs no multicore. It only has 16 channels, but it was easy enough to set up one template that could handle all the bands, with four vocal mics across the front, DI boxes for bass, acoustic guitars and keyboards, mics for two guitar amps, and a simple drum-kit miking setup comprising kick, snare and two overheads, one of which could be used for vocals if the drummer needed to join in with the singing. If we'd needed more channels, I could have added a small analogue mixer on stage to submix the drums, but as it turned out, we still had one channel free for the compere's radio mic.
Everything was set up and tested the day before the show, so after satisfying ourselves that all was working as it should, we put covers over everything and left the security team to keep an eye on things.
On the day of the show, everything powered up fine, but just halfway through the first band's set my iPad went dark and then showed an overheating message, leaving me to waft it around in the air to try to cool it. The mix was OK by then, so that wasn't too problematic, but for the rest of the day I used the iPad out of its case, resting on a damp towel to keep it happy. So once again the towel came to the rescue! There was also an issue with visibility, as the sunlight was so strong that the iPad display was almost invisible. It was down to low-tech improvising to create some shade.
Around lunchtime, we noticed that the subs, which contained the power amps for the tops, were getting too hot to touch, as they were in direct sunlight, so we had to rig up a 'sail' to put them in shadow. This got me thinking that the designers behind all this technology often look so closely at the details that they miss the bigger picture. For example, why is it that nearly all PA gear is finished in matt black, when using it in sunlight is guaranteed to make it overheat? Why do iPads overheat as soon as the sun comes out, and at the same time become invisible to the human eye? In planning this festival, we put a lot of faith in fancy technology, but in the end it was low-tech solutions and Gaffa tape that carried the day. Next year, more attention will be directed towards practical fixes for this year's problems. For example, silver sub-jackets made from reflective-backed 'radiator' foam should stop the amps from overheating, possibly augmented by an office fan or two behind them. As for the iPad, I might just see if I can find an old Punch and Judy booth to mix from, as that would provide the necessary shade. That's the way to do it! Of course, next year it will probably rain...
Paul White Editor In Chief