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Meyer Sound MILO and MICA Rise to the Occasion at London's Tower Music Festival
For nearly a millennium, the Tower of London has held sway on the River Thames as the oldest fortress in Europe, and one of the world's most visited and recognizable landmarks. But for two festive weeks, the heritage site transforms into a musical centerpiece for the Tower Music Festival, a summer celebration featuring an eclectic mix of pop, rock, and opera, among other genres. The third annual event featured such notable acts as Bryan Ferry, the Gypsy Kings, Seal, Dave Stewart, and Elvis Costello, all braving heavy rain showers to perform in bustling central London through a self-powered Meyer Sound loudspeaker system provided by London-based sound reinforcement company Canegreen Ltd.
To achieve the utmost clarity in the outdoor location, Canegreen designed a main sound system consisting of two hangs of four MILO high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers and three MICA compact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers each, all housed under a covered seating area. Two delay stacks of six MICA cabinets covered the rest of the floor seating as well as the tiered seating around the FOH position. Eight 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers easily handled bottom end, while two MSL-4 horn-loaded long-throw loudspeakers and two UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeakers provided frontfill. A Galileo loudspeaker management system supplied system processing and drive.
The festival's congested urban location and distinctive logistics presented unusual challenges for Canegreen, beginning with load-in. "The site itself was difficult in terms of access," says Luther Edmonds, Canegreen's director of operations. "The stage was located in the moat surrounding the tower, and there was no easy way in for the equipment. That necessitated hiring a crane for a couple of days to lift everything into the area, and plenty of forklift movement to get it to the stage area."
The site within the moat is quite narrow, and the layout of the venue dictated an FOH position considerably more distant from the stage than usual, which added additional challenges to the mixing experience. "Being that far from the stage was certainly interesting," says Mike Savage, the festival's house tech as well as Stewart's FOH engineer. "We were listening to the mains and the delay hangs, as well as reflections from both the tent and the walls." Adding even more variables to the equation, festival directors imposed regulations such as a strict 90 dBA sound limit, no amplified sound before 4:00 p.m., and a brickwall curfew of 10:30 p.m. — no exceptions.
Canegreen Special Projects Coordinator George Breacker turned to Meyer Sound's MAPP Online Pro acoustical prediction program to help him craft a system design that could both meet the challenges of the venue and abide by the sonic restrictions. "I knew this was going to be an interesting project when I received the design brief," says Breacker. "Between the stone walls, narrow area, and strict sound limits, this was far from your ordinary festival site."
Given the constrictions of the site, Breacker explains, a line of subwoofers became a necessary component of the loudspeaker configuration. "Using a sub line gave even coverage across the field and kept the sub from bouncing off the walls. Doubling the line gave us rejection at the rear, keeping us in compliance with the level restrictions.
"The delay clusters allowed Mike to give the engineers and the people at the back enough volume without pushing the system past the noise limits," Breacker continues. "Positioning the system as wide as possible and toeing it inward improved the stereo imaging for more of the audience, and helped keep the sound from bouncing off the walls."
"I must say George did a fantastic job," adds Savage. "By combining MAPP Online Pro, the Galileo processor, and prodigious use of toe in, we were able to control all aspects of a very difficult and problematic venue, and give the visiting engineers a coherent sound source to work with."
Despite severe logistical challenges and a diverse musical lineup, the Meyer Sound system came through with flying colors. "With such a wide range of artists and musical styles, it was important for us to provide a system that could address everyone's needs," says Edmonds. "The MILO/MICA system performed admirably on all fronts. It provided excellent clarity, along with the critical focus needed for the narrow site within the moat."
For Savage, the high point of the festival occurred during its final night, when Stewart and his orchestra performed. "We had a 48-channel band mix, plus a 24-piece orchestra, and we recorded to Pro Tools," he reports. "We had a Yamaha PM5D on stage for the band, a submix of the orchestra on the house monitor desk, and then fed it to FOH on group direct inputs. There were two monitor engineers, Paul McCauley gamely stepped in to do the orchestra mixes, I mixed FOH, and Dave's recording engineer worked the Pro Tools rig out front. It was a fantastic end to a very challenging and rewarding two weeks."