ACL: The Sound (Or Lack Thereof) & The Fury

budlightfromafar sept18.JPG
Photos by Chris Gray
Yes, that stage is as far away as it looks.
Check out all of our coverage from ACL 2011, including our hottest crowd shots and our slideshow from Saturday with Stevie Wonder and Alison Krauss.

When a bleary Rocks Off arrived at the media area this morning, there was some chatter about Stevie Wonder's supposed sound troubles, and more online, both in our review and the Austin American-Statesman's. (By the way, we've updated our review with a complete set list that we, ahem, "borrowed" from the Statesman's Austin Music Source blog. Thanks, guys.)

Like we said, Rocks Off didn't have much trouble hearing Wonder, definitely not up front, and not much even when we were what felt like miles away from the stag. We took the above photo from the appoximate position where we were standing Saturday night, shortly after Graffiti6 finished playing this afternoon.

It's a long ways off. As enamored of American classic rock and soul as many of their British countrymen, Graffiti6 is already on our short list of ACL discoveries and a group that merits further research once this whole blessed thing is over.

More importantly, we did not have a single problem hearing them from that spot. Not in the least. We could hear a little bleed from Mariachi El Bronx, but not much - it's about the same spot where we started hearing My Morning Jacket Saturday. Rocks Off is no sound engineer, but we have a few theories why Wonder's sound may have been less than stellar (although, one more time, his actual performance was).

stevie again sept 18.jpg
Marco Torres
First, when we shot that photo, we'd guess there was about a fifth of what must have been 40,000 people (maybe more) parked front of the Bud Light stage for Wonder. Where we were standing, we were surrounded by people doing things they do at festivals: Sitting, standing, sleeping, smoking, dancing and, most importantly talking and singing.

No matter how loud the band is onstage, that much crowd noise from that far away creates a significant dampening effect. Think about that the next time you and your friends are at a show at Fitz or House of Blues. It works there too.

The other reason we can think of is that Wonder's band was huge, in the neighborhood of 20 people, and maybe twice that many instruments once you finish tallying all the keyboards and percussion knick-knacks. From what we understand about sound technology, each vocalist and instrument needs its own channel, and perhaps the sheer number of voices (human and instrumental) onstage meant there was less juice to send them all out our way.

But like we said... we don't know. Sounds reasonable to us, but it is just a guess. If any actual sounds techs out there would like to chip in their thoughts, we'd be grateful. So. Moving on.



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