The rugged elements of beauty that make Red Rocks one of North America’s most treasured outdoor venues present challenges to even the most seasoned of sound engineers. A few of the more notable difficulties include the rapidly changing weather conditions, rock outcroppings that deflect sound, thin air at high altitude and a 20 degree incline from the stage to the last row of seats that require sound engineers to aim systems upwards. When dealing with music that is meant to be played loud, with lots of bass, pleasing concert-goers within the venue is paramount – and keeping it within the venue is critical.
For Red Rocks, as with many communities, the sound engineer’s challenges extend beyond the venue. The rising popularity of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has been the principal cause of recent debate about sound ordinances for many residents of Morrison, the Colorado community adjacent to the historic amphitheater. For the 2015 season, some wanted EDM shows banned altogether. Instead, a new sound ordinance restricting bass levels and overall average decibels was introduced for 2015, a move which has “lowered the ceiling” for all Red Rocks performers, to quote Denver Arts and Venues executive director Kent Rice. The new ordinance also “lowers the boom” on those who have difficulty staying within the limits. Violators can now be fined $10,000 for every five times, consecutive or not, that they exceed the one-minute decibel limit during their show.
For the promoters of Zeds Ded and the Mad Decent Block Party (MDBP), the challenge was not only to stay within the strict regulations, but also to live up to the demanding expectations of their fans. PK Sound’s new Trinity array played a key role in satisfying both sides of the issue. Brendan Hoffman, director of touring for MDBP, concluded, “Aside from the ability to sculpt the sound field, which is very powerful, this PA sounds stunning and offers incredibly transparent audio reproduction."
Ideally, when it comes to addressing the concerns of citizens about nearby concerts, the answer is control and containment rather than simply turning down the volume. So how do you develop a transparent and powerful sound field for a high-energy EDM crowd, yet keep the performance focused within a 9400-seat outdoor theatre? Trinity’s 3D Wavefront Control was the answer, equipping FOH engineers with the tools to focus the sound field precisely within the steep inclines and rock outcroppings of the amphitheater. An additional layer of control – PK’s Kontrol™ software – enabled the sculpting of the sound field, remotely and in real-time, to accommodate changing conditions.
During the busy summer months, Red Rocks is booked with shows every day, requiring that setup and strike take place within tight timeframes (two hours in most cases). By drastically reducing the setup time and enabling finger-tip control of the line array remotely, Trinity’s engineers at PK Sound have addressed the intensifying issues of live concerts in general. With PK Sound’s rugged yet refined systems, music icons such as Zeds Dead, Dillon Francis, Keys N Krates and all the performers using Trinity at Red Rocks were able to deliver to their full potential to sold-out crowds, despite the well-known challenges of the venue. “I’ve never been more impressed technologically and sonically by an array in my life,” says Jared “J.Paul” Jackson, sound engineer and tour manager for Keys N Krates. “When it comes to my job, nothing makes me happier than walking into a venue or festival and seeing the PK logo on the mains and sub cabinets.”