NILES, IL. May 31, 2017—For Firehouse Productions, the annual iHeartCountry Festival in Austin’s Frank Erwin Center was a great gig. Overall audio and communications coordination for the one-day festival requires plenty of advance preparation and on-site work, but the task is simplified because most of the 12 artists performing use their own touring backline.
The festival lineup included some of the biggest names in country music, including Shure endorsers Little Big Town, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, and Kelsea Ballerini. The rest of the bill featured a mix of familiar stars as well as up-and-comers. For Vinny Siniscal of Firehouse, the show was an interesting barometer of the wireless preferences of touring country bands.
“We’ve been helping out on the iHeartRadio concert series since its inception, and one thing that was noticeable at this show is how dominant Shure wireless has become,” notes Siniscal. “That’s always great news for us, because for major live events and award shows, Shure UHF-R and PSM 1000 RF models have never let us down.”
Siniscal’s role is coordinating wireless and communications for the festival, working with on-site RF curator Luis Espinal and audio coordinator Simon Welch of Firehouse to confirm and implement the frequency coordination, and working directly with the bands to ensure all frequencies are clear and properly tuned.
The festival uses a turntable stage to minimize delays between acts, with one artist performing while the crew dresses the stage for the next performance. All artists come in a day earlier to rehearse, enabling the crew to get familiar with each artist’s stage setup.
According to Siniscal, the key to success is advance preparation. “We contact all the bands to find out what everyone is bringing, especially for wireless,” he says. “We also do an RF site survey in advance. That allows us to do almost all the frequency coordination in the office. We assign frequencies to all the bands and send them out in advance. That way, all we have to do on site is to confirm that our frequency plan is solid, make any needed adjustments, and make sure everyone is properly tuned up. With the round-robin staging, we have limited time to get the next band ready. So in some ways, the performance is actually the easy part once it’s all rehearsed.”
At this year’s iHeartCountry Festival, more than 85 percent of the wireless microphone and in-ear systems in use were Shure. Siniscal also reports that there were no RF failures or complaints throughout the day-long show.
“Channel counts for wireless were really high, because this is country music. Everything is live. When you include production comms and IFB, including all the iHeartRadio production for live streaming and capture, we had 420 wireless channels in use that day,” he says. “Of those, roughly 190 were on the air constantly throughout the production. Even in the best-of-conditions, that’s a challenge. But with good advance work and lots of Shure wireless, everything came off without a hitch.”