Now approaching its 30th year, Nottingham-based Rock City — originally set up by Director George Akins, and today probably the UK's longest-surviving independent venue — has commissioned a brand new sound and lighting infrastructure.
NOTTINGHAM, England — To keep pace with modern tour riders, and the growing move by the medium-sized venue market to offer bands the opportunity to leave their production in the truck, visiting sound engineers can now mix their acts through premium Soundcraft 64-channel Vi6 at front-of-house and 48-channel Vi4 at the monitor position.
The desks were chosen by the venue's technical manager Dave McVea, and installed by the SSE Audio Group installation project team, led by Alex Penn and Steve Dando.
Ironically it was Alex's father John who came through the club on its opening night in December 1980 when he was providing tour support for the Undertones (who were booked as the inaugural act).
Rock City is owned by DHP (Daybrook House Promotions) who went through a long process of consideration before it made its final choice of an audio supplier. Managing Director David Davies explains:
"One of the deciding factors was the flexibility the system gave us. We at Rock City have a wide variety of events and performers across our stage in any year so the system will have to withstand many varied demands. It is this that eventually made us choose the solution offered by SSE Sales."
Although Alex Penn had provided Dave McVea with digital desk options the venue's technical manager said that the Soundcraft desks had largely picked themselves. "I know everyone says it, but it's just so easy to walk up to this desk. With the Vistonics II interface you have everything you need right in front of you.
"I've always liked Soundcraft desks and for me it was a no brainer — I suggested this to SSE and they were happy to supply. Also, having only ever mixed FOH previously on the Vi series, I was doubly impressed when I tried my hand at monitors using the Vi4, I surprised myself at how fast I became on it in a short space of time."
His belief was confirmed on the very first night the console was used, when American sound engineer Stephen Shaw found himself mixing Buckcherry on a digital desk for the first time — and was absolutely blown away with the speed of his learning curve. "In fact he gave it a ringing endorsement."
McVea also praised the reduced footprint of the Vi6 and Vi4, giving them much more space in both their FOH and monitor positions (where they have been able to extend the stage). The Vi4 is supported by a custom 3-bay rack, containing all amplification and processing for the monitor system — built by SSE's in-house manufacturing operation, Sigma Fabrications.
Although a 64-channel analogue multicore has also been provided, Dave McVea says the industry is moving increasingly towards a digital domain.
What excites him and his technical team is the added efficiency and saving on prep time the Vi platform will offer — with engineers able to email their show files ahead. He also notes the possibility of recording via a MADI interface and giving bands the opportunity to be able to â€˜virtual soundcheck'. "This is something we are looking at closely," he says.
SSE Sales offered full two-day training on the Vi6, masterminded by Steve Dando, with Deep Purple sound engineer (and Soundcraft aficionado) Gert Sanner also assisting with time alignment.
Equipping the 1900-capacity room is the latest phase in a progressive upgrade by DHP. While Rock City itself is served by two other rooms, clustered into the neighbouring estate are other DHP-owned venues such as The Rig, Stealth, The Rescue Rooms and The Social.
David Davies described the move — which includes a new lighting package and other interior upgrades — as "a major step forward" which had required "a significant investment".
He said, "For a long time we have wanted a system which we know compares with anything else on the circuit. It's a vision Dave [McVea] had and it has required two years' hard work on his part although the installation process only took three months. This is quality technical infrastructure which we can now pass onto our acts, and will put this grand old lady back on the map."
For more information on the Soundcraft Vi Series go to: http://www.soundcraft.com/products/product.aspx?pid=147
Soundcraft is a unit of Harman International Industries, Incorporated (www.harman.com).
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