This article was produced and published by Total Production International and reproduced with the kind permission of the magazine’s editor.
Secret Garden Party flies in the face of trends in festival organisation and tends to do whatever feels good. That includes 15 stages, a world of creativity and the sorts of things that you might only believe if you see it. The festival says no to sponsorship and yes to eclecticism and to Funktion-One. No less than 10 of Secret Garden Party 2015’s stages were filled with sound from the British manufacturer’s loudspeakers.
Every July for the last 11 years, Secret Garden Party has floated into Mill Hill Field and painted the Cambridgeshire landscape with colour, life and music. What started out as a one-stage event in 2004 has grown magnificently, to the extent that seven years later another 14 stages had been added. In 2015, the daily capacity was around 32,000 people for each of the four days.
Two Funktion-One rental partners, Vortex Events and Audio Feed supplied sound to a total of 10 stages. In doing so, they showcased a decent chunk of the manufacturer’s range of loudspeakers, mixing some old favourites with the latest release – the Funktion-One Evolution Series.
This is the fourth year that Iain Rendle’s Vortex Events has worked with the festival. It’s a relationship that continues to flourish, he explains: “We have been Funktion-One users based in Hertfordshire for about 10 years now and have been involved with Secret Garden Party for the last four. Working closely with ‘The dark Horses’ who handle the Technical production we year we have been asked to do more stages.”
Vortex Events took care of Pagoda, The Lost Disco, Labyrinth, Labyrinth Live and Toad Hall. Rendle continues: “Pagoda is one of the most coveted and legendary stages on site, with queues to get on sometimes taking hours. It’s a floating platform just off the edge of the lake, which offers one of the most open and picturesque party environments onsite. This year we put in the new Evo 7 system and custom made a new PA tower system to form something a kin to a latest generation Dance Stack.”
Rendle and his crew positioned four stacks around the edge of the arena, pointing in towards the centre. “The height gained from the truss towers allowed us to keep all the energy focused within the arena,” he says. Each stack comprised two Funktion-One Evo 7EH 2-way speakers, two F215 Mk2 and four F121 bass enclosures, with F101 speakers deployed for infill. Pagoda’s system was powered by Full Fat audio (FFA) amplification and driven by XTA DP448s. FFA’s Dave Millard and Vortex Events’ Luke Lalla-Maharajh engineered the sound.
The Lost Disco – formally Feral Fever – was transformed into a big open party in the woods, formed around an impressive structure with raked levels, walkways at the back and a large dancefloor in the middle. Here, the system was made up from 10 Funktion-One AX88 mid-high speakers, eight F121 bass enclosures, two BR221 bass reflex speakers, six F215 Mk2s and F101s (for infills). Funktion-One RM18s and PSM318s were chosen for DJ monitoring, with FFA amplification and XTA control throughout.
“The AX88s are very useful,” reflects Rendle. “The dispersion characteristics on the vertical mean the coverage of the crowd when placed up high is excellent. The sound is clean, punchy and our engineers Martin Vis and Jono Bell managed to get them into all the positions they wanted, creating an arena free from any unwanted dead spots.”
Labyrinth was a new addition for Vortex this year and, aptly, featured more of Funktion-One’s latest generation Evolution speakers. “The stage was located down a secret pathway,” says Rendle. “At first I was dubious as to how many people would actually find this stage; I guess I hadn’t taken into consideration how much the Secret Garden Party goers like adventure.”
The system comprised four Funtkion-One Evo 7E spakers, two Evo 6E speakers, 12 F121 and four F215 Mk2 bass enclosures, along with a stock of F101 speakers for infill. Again, Full Fat Audio (FFA) amplification and XTA processing were used. “Our engineers Curt Gilmore, James Brown and Josh Gerrard made sure it never skipped a beat,” adds Rendle.
Labyrinth Live, a little pop up stage located halfway down the secret path leading on to the main Labyrinth stage, was small but well equipped with two stacks of Funktion-One F218 Mk2 bass enclosures and Resolution 2s driven by FFA amplifiers and XTA processing. Ben Skipworth, engineering, was commended for his contribution in all sorts of adverse weather conditions throughout the weekend.
Vortex Events’ also looked after Toad Hall- a 24-hour bar with a live stage and ‘off the wall’ acts like Dueling pianos. “This was a haven for all of the partygoers for the weekend,” reflects Rendle. “This year we decided on using eight Funktion-One F1201s and two F118s. All of the 1201s were positioned perfectly spaced in a ‘U’ shape attached to the outer polls on the tent pointing in. The coverage was perfect in the space. Engineers Nick Waters and Ollie Chamberlain mixed a variety of Performers over the weekend.”
Audio Feed took care of an equally eclectic mix of spaces and stages, which included Maya Jane Cole’s tent, the Lake Stage, Kitsch Inn, Dance Off and The Drop.
Maya Jane Coles’ private party tent was stocked with two Funktion-One F1201 speakers, a pair of F121 bass enclosures, and F101 speaker and FFA amplification. “This was a lovely sounding cosy place out of the rain for her and her mates,” reveals Audio Feed’s Will Wright.
The Lake Stage – a large floating toy boat in the middle of a lake – was home to a pair of Funktion-One AX88s and some F118 bass enclosures on a floating pontoon. Power came from MC2 amplifiers and control from XTA.
“There was the cocktail bar, which was a lovely example of how usable the smaller Funktion-One speakers can be for different applications,” says Wright “The main system was a pair of F121s with F1201s on poles. Then there were four F101s filling four raised seating areas with XTA processing doing all the time alignment to make for a very relaxing listening environment. MC2 E Series amplifiers supplied power.
Darren Stratford, Leigh Simmons, Alex Barrie and Chris Lynden looked after the sound at Maya Jane Cole’s tent, the Lake Stage and the cocktail bar.
The Kitsch Inn featured a live stage and hosted a wide range of bands all the way until 6am every morning. The system here was made up of four Funktion-One Evo 6E speakers, two F215 Mk2 and four F121 bass enclosures, with XTA processing and MC2 amplification. At FOH, Luke Basson mixed on a Midas PRO1 console.
Wright explains: “This was our first outing for the Evo 6Es and I was particularly excited about hearing some live vocals through those new 10-inch axe heads. I was not disappointed. Frequency response was spot on, but the real excitement came from the overall energy that the system seemed to deliver. The transients in the mid-range were constructing one of the most stable stereo images I have ever heard in a live situation. Eyes closed and I really couldn’t tell you where the speakers were.”
The Dance Off was installed with a quadraphonic stack system, with the front left and right comprising two F221 bass enclosures and two Resolution 4 Touring speakers on each side. The rear positions also used two Resolution 4 Touring speakers, which were combined with two F121s. “The system layout was properly triangulated to achieve a perfect square for maximum phase coherence and also maximum rejection outside of the stage, explains Wright.” This was hugely successful and something that I’ve been using the big long measuring tape for for a while now. This was also all driven with XTA 4 Series and MC2 amplification. We were testing the new E60 on the top end of the Res 4s and I was very impressed. It sounded fantastic and is one of the lightest amplifiers I’ve ever used.” The Dance Off was engineered by Simon ‘Diggers’ De La Cour.
“The Drop was a great little project for us,” says Wright. The system was set up using eight Evo 7E speakers, two F215 Mk2 bass enclosures, 12 F101s and two F1201s, with amplification from XTA’s new APA amp. The system was controlled using an XTA DP544, two DP448s and a DP226. Audio Feed boss, Oz Jeffries, looked after the running of The Drop during the event.
Wright continues: “I decided that the processing needed some thought as it was such a new system, an interesting venue and a great lineup. So I ran the 544 as a main processor, with the inputs set to digital being fed from the DJM900, this then fed the two 448s, one for left, one for right with the four outputs from the 5 Series feeding inputs A and B on both 448s. Again this was all done digitally.
“I did this so we had a separate outputs on the 5 Series for the top row of Evos, meaning the level could be changed without altering each individual band. Having the system routed like this and using AudioCore on a remote tablet made getting my head around the sonics of all the new stuff very easy. As for the sonics, that blew me away.
“The transients in the mid-range and HF were astonishing – building a solid stable image right the way to the back of the dancefloor and delivering an exceptional amount of energy to the party goers. The APA amplifiers were very impressive. The bass sounded very real and organic without sounding too fast and unnatural – especially in the crossover area with the F215s. It was seamless.”