18 minute read

Roskilde Festival


Situated outside of Copenhagen, Roskilde Festival erected its temporary city for 8 days of music, culture and revelry. TPi’s Stew Hume was on site meet the suppliers and volunteers who make this unique non-profit event possible...

It started with 2 college students who dreamt of recreating Woodstock in Denmark, but Roskilde Festival is now a beacon of the European Festival circuit. Each year, the 8-day festival opens its gates to some of the biggest names in music - and 130,000 festival goers! This year was no exception, and the likes of Eminem, Bruno Mars and Gorillaz took to the iconic Orange Stage. Throughout the non-profit’s history, one element has remained constant within the mindset of organisers - audience experience is paramount! To witness this mantra first hand, TPi stopped by to see the latest developments, most notably its recent partnership with Meyer Sound - Roskilde’s official sound partner.

Production Manager, Lars Liliengren gave a brief history of the event; like many among the extended festival family, Liliengren started as a volunteer, fulfilling multiple roles before joining full time. He began: “What separates Roskilde from other festivals is our dedicated team of volunteers,” began Liliengren. “Roskilde is a non-profit event with all earnings after expenses going to myriad worthwhile causes. But the whole event would be impossible without our volunteers who do everything from office work, stage management and security.” The PM explained everyone

- from the volunteers to suppliers and the crew - shares the same common goals and points to this as the reason for the festival’s success over the years. The supplier ranks, including ETP on staging, lighting specialists Comtech, Obscura, Litecom, Victory and Vigsø as well as Mediatec providing screens and Meyer Sound, in conjunction with Bright Group, handling audio.

THE SOUND OF THE FUTURE The relationship between Meyer Sound and Roskilde Festival has been in bloom for almost 10 years. Liliengren reminisced about the first time working with the company. “The first time we used a Meyer Sound system, the company - off their own backs - used to send crew to help the onsite team tune the PA.” The PM said this drive for perfection to ensure the ultimate audio experience for the audience meant Meyer Sound became part of the proverbial festival woodwork. So, when it came time to reassess contracts, there was one company Liliengren wanted to bring on board. He added: “We are always interested in working with companies who share similar ethos to us and Meyer Sound really tick that box!”



Below: Meyer Sound and Roskilde Festival joining forces in front of the Orange Stage.

As part of the official audio partnership, close to 1,000 Meyer Sound loudspeakers were deployed across the 8 festival stages as well as all other festival-related events and activities that also required sound reinforcement. Not only this, but Meyer Sound crew also designed each of the audio systems for every stage to create a top-quality audio experience.

Meyer Sound’s European technical support team, Michael Pohl and Dennis Tholema - regulars to the Roskilde site - were back for 2018. Both played a part in the audio design of each of the stages alongside Bob McCarthy, an audio veteran who has worked with the brand since the ‘80s.

The varying stage sizes throughout the site acted as a perfect arena to show the full range of Meyer Sound’s curved line array systems - the Leo Family. The largest system by far was at the Orange stage, anchored by Leo and Lyon main line arrays with added power from Leopard line arrays and deep bass from 1100-LFC and 900-LFC low frequency control elements. Systems for the Arena, Avalon and Apollo stages were built around Lyon main arrays, with Leopard arrays doing the heavy lifting at the Pavilion, Rising and Countdown stages. Lina arrays, the newest and smallest of the Leo Family, held its own at the Gloria Stage.

“I like to use the analogy of Goldilocks when explaining the various systems we have out here,” laughed McCarthy. “There’s a papa, mama and baby bear portion - all ideal for specific jobs.” The engineer pointed to the Gloria stage as a perfect example. “Gloria functions as a cattle shed throughout the year but for 8 days we have transformed it into an amazing performance space, thanks to the Lina system installed.” McCarthy also cited Gloria as proof of the care and detail the Roskilde production put into each of the festival’s stages. “Obviously this is hardly an ideal acoustic environment but the thought the festival’s production put in to draping

and a temporary real wall has made the world of difference acoustically in that venue. It’s something we at Meyer have experienced throughout the planning and build process and one we look forward to continuing in the years to come.”

Another noted addition to this year’s audio rider was a recent innovation from Meyer Sound, the new VLFCs, which brought a visceral feel to the experience at Apollo. “This is the wild evil cousin of the LEO family,” joked Andrew Davies, UK Tech Support for Meyer Sound, who spoke of the addition of the speakers to the Apollo Stage. “This venue is primarily used for DJs and electronic artists making it an ideal space for the VLFC to showcase its ability to sink to the depths of 15hz.”

Not only was the entire range of the Leo family at the disposal of the production, but a selection of other parts of the Meyer Sound tool box were made available too. Each stage used the Galileo Galaxy the company’s latest digital signal processing platform, operated by Compass software. Galaxies at the Orange, Arena and Pavilion stages distributed audio using the AVB digital network. Throughout the build, all the on-site engineers used the MAPP XT software which enabled them to accurately sculpt their coverage pattern for each stage. McCarthy explained he wanted to ensure each audience member received a top-quality audio experience, no matter where they stood - particularly at the Orange stage. “I like the idea that while the headliners are on stage, people don’t necessary have to fight their way to the front just to hear the artists. With this design, throughout the semi-circle around Orange, the sound is very consistent so even those who would rather hang back will still experience a great show!” It’s a statement echoed by the Liliengren. The day before opening the main arena, the Orange stage crew gave the new system a test at performance volume.



Production Manager, Lars Liliengren; Meyer Sound’s Bob McCarthy; Morten Büchert, Consultant and Project Manager.

“I was a very happy PM on that day,” beamed Liliengren. “This is the first year we have flown subs on the main stage and already the difference this 1100-LFC has made is outstanding. I can’t wait for our Roskilde audience to experience it for themselves.”

The systems were supplied by Bright Group, a leading European AVL rental and integration firm. The technical teams of Bright, Meyer Sound and the festival were fully integrated, collaborating on the sound design and deployment. For Bright Group, Roskilde afforded a unique, collaborative opportunity to demonstrate how its Meyer Sound inventory and support teams could manage a massive, multi-stage festival. “I’m looking forward to many more,” commented Bright Group CEO and President, Patrick Svensk. “We have been partners with Meyer Sound for years and we expect to strengthen our partnership through the festivals yet to come. Audio is key for a music-centered festival like this.”

The new partnership between Meyer and Roskilde goes far beyond simply offering the audio backbone for the festival. It’s also a chance to train the next generation of engineers. Under the name RF Sound, both the audio manufacturer and the festival, ran extensive training sessions prior to the event for a new crop of engineers who then oversee both FOH and monitor duties. The incentive was supervised by Morten Büchert, Consultant and Project Manager for the festival. “This partnership with Meyer Sound is an opportunity to move into uncharted territories,” enthused Büchert, who explained how the partnership has given a whole new generation of engineers the skills to progress their careers. Early in the year, Büchert put out a job advertisement inviting aspiring engineers to work the festival. After an interview process, 28 engineers were selected and sent on a training course in partnership with Meyer Sound’s Education department to learn about the design approach and products that they would be operating at the festival. “In past years we had vendors supply their own crew which gave us limited say on our vision for the festival,” stated Büchert. “Now with Meyer on our side and 28 engineers employed by us, we have really made sure everyone shares the same vision.” Büchert

also enthused how opening the doors for aspiring crew had brought fresh blood into the Roskilde family. “Rather than relying on traditional networks, we’ve got loads of new faces including 4 female engineers greatly improving the diversity of our crew.”

It was not just the new crew who benefited for this new educational incentive, but also travelling engineers. Out of the 28 successful engineers, Roskilde opted to put the most experienced on the smallest stage - Rising. “This might seem like an odd decision,” admitted Büchert. “However, that stage featured bands and crew who are still developing. Why not give them the opportunity to rub shoulders with an experienced industry veteran where they will learn more and progress quicker?” Büchert was clearly ecstatic about the first year of RF Sound, but did note, “this was only the beginning.” He continued: “We are currently working on a new incentive called the Rising Star program which we hope to launch next year.” Although he was very tight-lipped about some of the detail of this new scheme, he did reveal how Rising Star would effectively be a talent programme and a platform for people working with live sound both in application and research.

Whether you talk to the Roskilde or Meyer Sound teams, both parties seemed incredibly excited about the partnership and the opportunities it presents. On site during the festival were Meyer Sound Founders John and Helen Meyer. “Working with the whole team at Roskilde has been amazing right from the start,” said Helen Meyer, on the partnership. “It feels different than the other big festivals. Everybody is very cooperative, and always coming up with new ideas. Also, there’s a warmth to it... Everybody really cares about what they’re doing, and that makes it a very special experience.”

LIGHTING If you were to take a walk around Roskilde Festival, one of the elements which would stick with you as an audience member is how each stage has its own identity. From the famed Orange Stage, which doubles as the



Visual team for the Arena stage, Sune Verdier, Frederik Heitmann and Nicolai ‘Gubi’ Smith.

logo for the festival, to some of the smaller intimate stages, you can tell significant effort has been made to ensure each space within the site is unique and special for each festival goer. Liliengren outlined this ethos, explaining all the stages, except Orange and Arena, usually have a 3-year run with a theme. Each stage has an independent LD who created the concept and spec’d the rig for the show. Arena and Orange also have independent LDs, although as the 2 largest stages, they host headline touring acts and the goal is more focused on how the stage layouts accommodate an artist’s touring production. To realise the vision, Roskilde called upon a selection of suppliers including Litecom, Comtech, Victory, Vigsø and Obscura.

Following the festival, TPi caught up with Jes Hylby Christensen, General Manger and Head of Production for Comtech. The visual specialist provided equipment for the Arena, Pavilion, Apollo and Rising stages. Although working under different names over the years, Comtech’s history with the festival dates back to 1984 - making it very much part of the fabric. “There really is no other festival like Roskilde,” enthused Christensen. “It has such a strong family of volunteers who you work with each day on site. It’s great to collaborate with individuals who are so passionate about making the event as great as possible!”

The biggest stage under Comtech’s jurisdiction was Arena which, as it has for the past 10 years. This year the stage had an almost exclusively Robe rig. “Comtech was actually the first company in Denmark to stock both the Robe BMFLs and the Spiiders,” said Christensen. “Our stock of Robe really set us apart from the competition and has been a great relationship.”

Describing Arena’s rig was LD Sune Verdier, who, alongside his team, co-ordinated and ran lighting for the venue. Several years ago, Verdier’s team came up with a solution to tidy up the stage and ensure each visiting band was able to achieve their desired looks. In doing so, they created a malleable, automated setup that could give LDs the option to reconfigure the lighting rig, using a ChainMaster system. “The first year some LDs were

taken aback that they were able to have such a say on how this festival set would look,” smiled Verdier. “The following year we had some of the same LDs return to take full advantage of how many potential looks they could achieve.” In total, the visiting LDs were able to choose from 8 rigging configurations. If a band only had a small backdrop, the production could opt for the lighting rig to descend filling the black space. This year on each of the 10 moving trusses were 4 Robe Spiiders, 3 BMFLs and 2 Martin by Harman Atomic 3000 strobes. There were Spiiders along the front of the stage and upstage at the back, and in front of the house LED screen which was also movable. The rest of the rig consisted of 22 Robe Pointes which were added to the audience lighting positions.

A noted addition to this year’s design for the Arena stage was the outer tent lighting. Christian OIsson, a key member on Verdier’s team, devised a custom control system for the periphery lighting on a separate console to mimic the action of the main console.

For control, Comtech supplied a range of ChamSys MagicQ MQ500’s and MA Lighting grandMA2’s for its various stages - and, in one case, both. Christensen elaborated. “For Apollo we are using a combination of both brands with a grandMA2 Light running all video content while a ChamSys MQ500 runs lighting. Both desks are interconnected, meaning a VJ can control the video and colour treatment while our in-house LD can just controls the movement. All the while the colour palate can still be controlled by the touring crew. It’s a complicated system to connect but the results are undeniable.”

Christensen was keen to complement the range of SGM fixtures deployed on the various stages. Its “priceless IP65 rating” made them an essential inclusion on the various riders.

Vigsø also made use of SGM fixtures supplying a the lighting rig for the Countdown stage. CEO, Christian Vigsø described his company’s involvement with the festival. He said: “It’s the 3rd year we are providing



lighting for the Countdown stage, as we are a dry hire company. Roskilde provided the crew for the festival, which were very professional and caring about their job and the stage design!” The rental house delivered 40 SGM Q-7’s, 18 LightSky AquaBeams and 8 Martin by Harman MAC Auras.

VIDEO Mediatec is also a keystone at the festival, annually, having been involved since 2003 and growing alongside the festival’s expansion. Back in the early 2000s, the video package only consisted of one side screen for the

main stage. Now the company provides a site-wide video system for the Orange, Arena and Apollo stages. Managing Director of Mediatec Solutions Denmark, Karel Lemahieu, walked TPi through the company’s development with the Danish festival.

“Screens play an incredibly important role in the infrastructure of the festival,” began Lemahieu, who has worked in various capacities for Roskilde for over 18 years and become the festival’s main adviser for all video solutions. “Obviously the visual element allows a greater connection with artists and audience members. However, there is also the importance of screens in the festival’s safety plan!” During an incident there is nothing more effective then words on a screen to convey a message to the masses, the MD asserted. It’s now written in Roskilde’s guidelines that the 2 biggest stages will always have a screen so, in the event of an emergency, the production can get a message out to the audience. Not only that, each screen even has its own backup generator so in the unlikely event of a power outage, the screens will still be operational.

For both the Orange and the Arena stage, Mediatec opted for a similar screen arrangement as in previous years. Orange’s package consisted of 2 portrait Aoto Electronics M-8Es, 8mm screens standing 7.2m x 9.6m high with a 12m x 6m landscape ROE Visual MC12H backdrop wall. “Aoto is not a name you usually see in rental markets,” admitted Lemahieu. “It’s quite a heavy product compared to others in the market. However, due to our work with Formula One events, we have an abundance of the product. The quality of the image it creates is on par with others in the market.”

Thankfully, both stages were able to take the weight thanks to custom towers which Mediatec built for the festival several years ago. “At the last minute, a supplier had to drop out of the festival so Roskilde came to Mediatec to produce the side screen towers which the festival now own.” The Aoto also made an appearance at the Arena stage with pair of M-8E with a Glux BAtn backdrop LED wall.

According to Lemahieu, the design of the LED packages was focussed

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on flexibility. “We wanted to make sure each artist is able to put on the best version of their show,” enthused Lemahieu. For both the Arena and Orange, the LED back wall could be moved out of the way for load in and out and each artist had the decision whether to use it or not. On the Orange stage the ROE Visual MC12H was rigged on trolleys, so it opened like a curtain. Its see-through characteristic also gave touring crews the option to load a lighting floor package behind the screen. Arena rear LED was also movable with a possible stage clearance of up to 4m high.

“This flexibly continued with the back-end of the system,” stated Lemahieu. “We utilised Barco’s Folsom ImagePRO so we could plug in any hardware a touring production might bring and resize it to our screens. From media servers to a DVD player, we were ready for anything!” Mediatec brought back its popular camera package with a selection of Panasonic 4K cameras and the Ross Video Furio Dolly and Primo Dolly Systems. The robotic camera options offered slick profession visuals for stage screen and broadcast content - and is “certainly not something you would expect to see on a festival site,” laughed Lemahieu. The product is probably more at home at TV studio or high-level sport competition. Although the cost was high, Lemahieu believes the Furio Dolly more than made up for it in content. He noted that artists had commented on their preference for the set up as having several camera operators in your face can often be a distraction. “We just have to make sure to give it a good clean once the festival is over,” joked the MD.

In fact, the footage Mediatec produced for the streaming has been of such a high quality, artists often ask the company for a copy. A dedicated team from Mediatec burn the midnight oil at the end of each festival day cutting together footage so when the band’s busses roll out, they can take a DVD home. For the Arena stage Mediatec supplied 5 Grass Valley LDX 720p with a further 4 used on the Countdown and Apollow stages.

Last but not least was Rosklide’s Apollo stage for which Mediatec supplied an ROE Visual MC-7 complete with a Barco Folsom ImagePRO

and a Green Hippo Hippotizer media server. “Most of the artists are DJs who perform on Apollo and don’t often have a large touring crew or equipment,” stated the MD. But due to electronic music’s affinity with LED screens Roskilde produced a set up so these artists could bring some basic content which the onsite VJ could then transpose onto the screen using the Hippotizer.

As well as providing several lorry loads of gear for the festival, Lemahieu personally used Roskilde festival as a testing ground for the next generation of video technicians. “For each stage we have an experienced tech and a trainee,” explained Lemahieu. “There is no better training ground for someone new to the industry than a festival as you never know what problem you may have to overcome. This year for example due to the temperature, overheating was a serious issue compared to last year’s heavy rain. Roskilde has become a rite of passage for many of our staff.”

INFRASTRUCTURE Those returning to Roskilde Festival 2018 will have no doubt recognised the majority of the stages, thanks to supplier ETP. While the stages remained virtually unchanged, the audience area around the main Orange stage had a facelift. After 18 years of a restricted penning system, Roskilde felt it was time for a change. Mojo Barriers has been part of the festival’s infrastructure since 2001 following the tragic accident of 2000 during which 9 audience members tragically died due to crowd swells. This year, Mojo Barriers provided over 1,000m of barricades, all overseen by Craig Edwards, who took the lead on the army of volunteers helping put each piece of the barrier puzzle in place.

Also on site during the week was crowd expert Jim Gaffney. No doubt known by several readers of TPi, Gaffney is often seen on festival sites across Europe. For Roskilde, he was brought in as an independent consultant to oversee some of the new developments. “I was approached by Roskilde’s head of security last September as the festival wanted to



make some changes to the Orange Stage Arena,” recalled Gaffney. It was a big step for the organisers who had the sad memory of the accident still very much at the forefront of their minds. This year, the second row of barriers - which split in 2 and held almost 10,000 people - allowed the audience members to move in and out at all times. The pit dwellers, who wanted a front row ‘seat’ for performances, had to pick up a specific wristband which allowed them to enter the front pen via Mojo Barrier’s Line-Up Gate system. “The intention of this exercise and subsequent application was to change the layout of the Orange Stage Arena to allow the audience more freedom of movement in a safe environment whilst improving security access and maintaining good sight lines,” stated Gaffney. A central run of barriers was also requested to enable production personnel unhindered access from the stage to FOH.

The only major change in regards to the barrier departments in the build process this year was the need for accurate marking out before starting the build, due to the complexity of the set up. “It cannot be rushed,” asserted Gaffney. “Craig Edwards did a fantastic job with this, checking and double checking everything before the start.” He was also keen to complement the festival’s in-house production. “The Roskilde organisers are very good to work with and cooperate openly without ego,” concluded Gaffney.

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR Interviews completed, TPi set out onto the festival ground to soak up some of that the Roskilde-spirit both the production and suppliers raved about all day. Enjoying a beer while watching Clutch’s set - a personal highlight of the summer so far - TPi got talking to a fellow gig-goer only to discover him to be one of Roskilde’s many volunteers, enjoying the perks of a week of hard work. He told TPi his friends and family make it an annual tradition to help play a small part at the cultural gathering. The result is not only a fantastic festival but one that gives its loyal following true, local ownership. Hopefully TPi will visit the site again in the future and enjoy a beer in the shadow of the famous Orange canopy… TPi Photo: Ralph Larmann, Louise Stickland and TPi www.roskilde-festival.dk www. meyersound.com www.brightgroup.com www.comtech.dk www.litecom.dk www.vigso.eu http://vertigo.obscura.dk www.mediatecgroup.com www.mojobarriers.com http://etp.nu