Now in its ninth year, City Showcase took place for the first time this month at the British Music Experience (and other venues within London's O2 Arena complex) over a 4-day period. With a reputation for showcasing new talent, City Showcase is a not-for-profit company whose aim is to help unsigned acts make it in the commercial world of today's music industry.
This year's festival was dubbed City Showcase Rocklands, with many venues in southeast London participating in the build-up, providing the opportunity for the best to play the stage at BME, the interactive music museum within the O2.
City Showcase can boast many new discoveries over the years, and if the mixing console had a role to play in providing an edge for the wide variety of talent on view, then Soundcraft's new 64-input Si3 digital surface, in the capable hands of experienced FOH engineer Pete Freeman, can also take a pat on the back.
By day Freeman is technical manager and FOH sound engineer at Gibson Guitar Studio in London's Rathbone Street (Gibson being one of the five major sponsors of the BME). This was his first year on duty at the Festival, where he was called on to mix the bands and act as general site manager under the guise of his own company, APA Live Events Ltd.
And he ensured those supporting sites were well-equipped. Various compact Soundcraft Notepad mixers (some with integral digital effects processors) and small self-powered PA systems were installed in the O2 Shop and Union Square, and popular bars and restaurants such as Slug & Lettuce, s&m, Frankie and Benny's, Spur, Las Iguanas and Ha Ha.
Each hosted one act per day, and on his choice of the Soundcraft Notepad, Freeman says, “We needed the mixer to be easy to understand, and to facilitate a self-soundcheck system. The Notepad was great for this as it worked really well.”
Back at the 500-capacity BME sound stage, Freeman was flying around the Si3 he has used a thousand times before at Gibson.
“The feel and work flow make it really easy to get around the board swiftly, and create a mix as an act is taking the stage. I've always loved the desk's FaderGlowâ„¢ too!” The patented system shows what mode the faders are in, and the OLED displays in the output section ensure that the sound engineer never gets lost in his board navigation or operational status.”
In fact, only one band was accompanied by its own sound engineer — requiring a fast-track induction from Freeman. “It's a really simple desk to explain,” he says, “but that's probably because I know it inside out.”
Aside from FaderGlow, there are many features that he likes about the Si3. “I love the effects, and the preamps are great even when running upwards of 48 channels. It's nice not to have to bring a stage box and run a multicore if it's not necessary.”
The ease with which he was able to soundcheck acts and then save and recall the settings also simplified his task. “Cues can be designed on your laptop and then simply loaded onto the console via USB stick — it's things like this that are useful.”
Finally, he says, there is the desk's design aesthetic. “I think it has a real retro 70's cool look about if with the FaderGlow and the case colouration. It makes you feel like soundchecking with the theme from Shaft!
“Different horses for different courses I suppose …”
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