Touring Legends Unite For A Worthy Cause
July 2012 Issue 155
launching a brand new festival capable of attracting a sizable enough crowd to see it into a second year is no easy task, but it was one that industry veteran John ‘Grubby’ Callis achieved. By pulling together friends and colleagues, the respected audio pro established a highly praised concert, generating £50,000 for charity in the process. TPi’s Zoe Mutter heard the story behind the inspirational fundraising event.
Beaming smiles filled the field behind the Kings Arms pub in Wiltshire, as crowds gathered on a glorious sunny Saturday in May for the inaugural Concert at the Kings. But beneath the surface of the day of musical treats lay a deserving cause and a group of friends determined to generate funds and support.
“I got the idea for the event three years ago, just before my 50th birthday, as I pondered the fate of my prostate. I thought it was really important to raise awareness of men’s cancers to the music industry,”explained event Founder, John ‘Grubby’ Callis. “The best way to do this was to ask everyone I knew for help to put on what we knew how to do best; a concert.”
Sound engineer, Grubby, who currently works with Paul McCartney among numerous other artists, began his journey in the music industry in 1977, forming a string of lasting friendships along the way. As a result of these valuable relationships, the event held in All Cannings was an all round triumph. On top of attracting more than 4,000 people, the concert raised £50,000 for Cancer Research UK, All Cannings parish and Above & Beyond, the charity that supports the nine central hospitals in Bristol.
Aside from the line-up, which featured stars such as Brian May, Midge Ure, Mike & The Mechanics, The Sweet and The Strawbs, Grubby reinforced the other motivation for those attending the concert: “I had no idea I was ill, it was my wife who made me go for a test after my brother had prostate cancer. We never thought in a million years I would have it or that it would be so aggressive. If I had not found out then I would not be here now.
“Andy Scott [The Sweet] went for a check-up too and it came back positive. We also lost a good friend in the village to cancer. That was it, I got angry and found something positive in me from somewhere and said ‘The show must happen’. And it did.”
THE PERFECT CONCERT BACKDROP
From conception to pre-production, the planning process lasted three years, including three days of rehearsals at The Ritz in Putney. But the operation wasn’t entirely smooth running, pointed out Grubby: “The council’s noise abatement officer gave us a 65dB noise limit 10 weeks before the show, which threatened us with prosecution if we exceeded it. I went to our local MP and Chair of Wiltshire Council and it was soon sorted.
“Overall it was a fairly easy event to package, however. With the support of Mike & The Mechanics, Brian May, Kerri Ellis, The SAS Band with Midge Ure, Patti Russo, Madeline Bell, Tom Robinson, Chris Thompson and the Fabba Girls, The Sweet, Dave Kelly Band, Dan Chisholm and the wonderful ‘whispering’ compere Bob Harris, how could it fail?”
Grubby had long believed his local pub offered the perfect backdrop for a concert, with its flat paddock and ample surrounding fields for parking. After receiving permission from landlord Richard Baulu to hold the event at the Kings Arms, the sound engineer and Scott requested the brewery change the licence to allow outdoor entertainment for 5,000 people.
“It took a year to get a licence, but once we did I had to get cracking and find some acts and put an event management plan together,” said Grubby. “Barry Marshall from concert and tour promotion company Marshall Arts was a great help and was behind me all the way. He gave me Wolfie [Mark Wooliscroft from Marshall Arts] to be my mentor, who knew exactly what to do, where and when.
“Being out on McCartney at the time, I had the support of Beat The Street buses, Edwin Shirley Trucking, Neg Earth and Concert Sound Clair immediately so I did not need to look any further. However, I know all the other supply companies would have supported me as well...maybe next year. The concert also wouldn’t have been possible without the valuable service from Eat To The Beat.”
Andrew Lennie from event consultancy Worldwide Events was brought on board to compile the event management plan and handle health and safety, leaving Grubby and Production Manager, Tim Bricusse, to concentrate on the production. Prior to the event, Lennie liaised with the council, police, fire department and ambulance service, whilst drawing up an event safety management plan and risk assessment to be implemented on the day. A career spanning 30 years has allowed Lennie to work with the likes of Elton John, Pink, Paul McCartney and Bon Jovi before joining the team behind Concert at the Kings.
The health and safety professional said: “As John [Callis] is an engineer for Paul McCartney and one of my clients is his promoter Marshall Arts, they recommended me for the job. It was John and Richard [Baulu]’s dream to create an event that would raise a considerable amount of money for Cancer Research and local good causes. It was very successful in this objective; they pulled it off and I’m genuinely happy for them as they put so much time and effort in!”
G4S Secure Solutions Ltd Events division supplied a mixture of 25 security and stewarding staff on site, plus the same number again in local volunteers looking after the village and approach routes to the venue. Head of Security, Paul Couch-Burden [V Festival, Sonisphere] was responsible for overseeing the concert to ensure the visitors were able to enjoy a safe and secure event with no overcrowding or behavioural issues and to work directly with the site Health and Safety officer and event control. He commented: “Due to the nature of the event, its location and the worthy cause, plus it being a ticketed event, meant that this was an extremely fun-filled and good natured event that caused no issues to myself or the organisers.”
RUNNING LIKE CLOCKWORK
Production Manager Bricusse and Grubby’s friendship, which has lasted over 35 years, formed the foundation of a perfect partnership to turn initial event concepts into a reality. “It was Grubby who got me started back in 1985 on a Gary Numan tour as third man on the PA crew. I owe him a lot for this and he is my closest and dearest friend, both of us being each other’s best man at our weddings,” said Bricusse. “Grubby being a great friend, I would always be there to help in any way I can. It was a real pleasure to be asked to work on Concert at the Kings and I would be there again any time.”
After starting out in the mid ‘80s working for PA companies such as Malcolm Hill and Tasco, Bricusse changed direction and became a guitar and backline tech for the likes of Simple Minds, Robert Plant and Duran Duran. “I then found myself being offered more Tour and Production Management work starting out with bands such as Soundgarden and Aswad,” he explained. Bricusse’s time at Hit & Run Music as an in-house tour and production manager saw him take on a wide range of acts including a selection of the artists appearing on the line-up for Concert at the Kings; Mike & Mechanics and Brian May.
The design of the charity event was heavily determined by what the suppliers could provide. The PM continued: “As we had no money as such to start with and this being a charity event, it was a case of asking production suppliers to let us have what they could offer for as little cost as possible.”
Grubby and Bricusse selected production suppliers they had worked with in the past. Concert Sound Clair supplied a state of the art PA, monitor system and crew, while Neg Earth designed the lighting and provided fixtures and crew for the event. “Concert Sound Clair did themselves proud with the service they offered and bearing in mind the weight restriction we had on the Star Events stage, the show looked great. Dave Ridgeway and the Neg Earth team did an amazing job of putting on a top class lighting show,” said Bricusse. “With Stage Miracles on board and the likes of Mike Grove as Stage Manager along with four of the Miracles crew, the whole thing ran like clockwork.”
A sizeable amount of kit was needed for the day’s performances, with an 18 tonne truck supplied by Concert Sound Clair for audio equipment, a 45ft arctic truck from EST / Trans Am and another 45ft truck from Star Events, which provided staging. In addition to this, extra trucks were required to carry generators and site lighting towers from Power Logistics, marquees and spot towers.
As with all first time concerts, the experience presented a steep learning curve for all involved. Bricusse explained: “Ticket sales were fairly slow to start because it was the first time for an event of this kind in the village and we wanted to keep it as local to All Cannings as possible. The weather didn’t help; we had rain for what seemed like weeks prior to the show and you can’t blame people for being put off by this. However, the week prior, the sun came out and stayed out and ticket sales really picked up.” The valuable lessons learnt throughout the inaugural concert have allowed the team to generate ideas for strategic selling plans that will be put in place for future events.
THE PATH OF AUDIO RIGHTEOUSNESS
Audio engineer, Simon Hart, has been mixing FOH since the ‘70s when he was persuaded to take a sabbatical from his career as a London bus driver to join Phil Dudderidge and Roger Lindsay’s Europa Concert Systems as third man on an Emmylou Harris and The Hot Band European tour. “I ran multicores while the world took a few turns, until I found myself mixing FOH for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers at The Paradiso in Amsterdam. Since then I have been mixing FOH for the likes of The Hollies, Marc Almond, Tony Hadley, Paul Young, Queen, Dean Martin and Ultravox to name a few,” said Hart.
“Grubby is an old friend so when he called and explained what he was setting up, we were pretty much on board from the word go. Prostate cancer is a real nasty that has touched a lot of guys in our industry. We are all so happy that Grubby has emerged from his bout with such a good outcome and only too happy to make all efforts towards raising both funds and awareness for the cause.
“In March, Spike Edney [SAS Band] and I met at the site with Grubby and Tim Bricusse and agreed some of the finer details. I learned of Concert Sound Clair’s involvement at that point, which was most welcome news. I have had a long and happy association with Concert Sound, and in particular with Robert Collins who has kept me on the path of audio righteousness on many occasion.”
Hart’s brief to Concert Sound Clair was for 48 channels of Midas analogue, two reverbs, two Summit TLA100’s for the lead vocals, DBX 160 Compressors and Drawmer 201 Gates, a TC Electronic D2 and an Eventide Ultra Harmoniser. Hart continued: “With this production, the talent, the material and the inputs were changing constantly throughout the rehearsal period. I knew we were not going to get a sound check so I decided early on to go down the analogue road. If I’m starting from scratch, without the benefit of production rehearsals, I can just get there quicker the old-fashioned way. FOH city was all analogue - 48 channels of Midas Heritage 3000 for the SAS Band and 48 channels of Midas XL4 for everything else.”
A basic set-up, pre-production and line check took place the afternoon before the show but due to rigging constraints the team was unable to achieve the optimum height for the PA. “However, Rob, Andy Walker and myself walked the field and tried various PA algorithms and EQs until we were nodding and smiling in agreement,” said Hart.
The FOH engineer was dealing with 16 channels of drums and percussion, six of keyboards, nine of guitars and bass, three of brass, six of backing vocals and two of lead vocals. A collection of microphones were carefully selected including Shure Beta 58’s on the vocals, Beta 98’s on the toms, 91 on the kick, 57 on the snare, KSM42’s on the guitar amps and overheads plus DI boxes. “All the acts are excellent vocalists with different timbres and vastly different levels from the lead vocals, especially male to female, but we managed to hang on with the TLA100’s. I wouldn’t leave home without them. And two very different drummers playing the same kit made for some interesting changes to the dynamics,” said Hart.
Grubby and freelance Monitor Engineer, Will Fisher, came up with an arrangement whereby he would work for the SAS Band and mix monitors for the rest of the festival for the charity. Fisher has recently toured as a PA Tech with Concert Sound Clair with Katy Perry, Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas and as a monitor tech / engineer he has worked with Lacuna Coil, The Backstreet Boys and Duke Special.
“I love doing festival monitors; I’ve looked after the John Peel stage at Glastonbury and Bloodstock Open Air for several years now. For this event, it was decided that the Midas PRO9 was the best for the job for a number of reasons. With its 80 inputs it could accommodate all the lines from stage for the whole day. Channels one to 40 were used for the SAS Band and the Sweet as there was a certain amount of gear-sharing going on there and everyone else fitted in the other 40. Also, I think the flexibility of the PRO9, in fact the whole Midas Pro series, is really unrivalled in the digital console market. Coupled with the fact that for me it sounds better than any digital console, it was the obvious choice,” said Fisher.
Showco SRM wedge monitors were picked for the concert and due to the size of the stage Fisher had to limit most musicians to using just one wedge, apart from a pair on centre mix for the guest vocalists and a pair for the MD, Jamie Moses. “For the SAS Band and The Sweet I ended up using 12 wedge mixes, a drum sub mix, one IEM mix and six mix stems to the drummer’s own mixer. The rest of the bands fitted into the fairly standard ‘four mixes across the front plus a drum fill’. Although I had catered for up to eight separate IEM mixes, I only ended up using one for Kerry Ellis. This was a very sparse mix, just her own vocal and a bit of Brian May’s acoustic.”
Andy Walker, Systems Tech and Operation Manager from Concert Sound Clair formed a close friendship with Grubby whilst working with him for three years on Paul McCartney’s live shows. “The second he asked if I would get involved in this event I jumped at the chance,” Walker said.
The chosen system for the event was Clair Brothers i5. A total of four i5’s were flown, while three EAW 750’s were stacked on the four ground stacked BT218 subs. Front fills were Clair P-2’S and delays were EAW KF 750 stacked on SB 750’s behind FOH.
“The i5 system is the main PA we use for our clients such as Paul McCartney so it was the logical choice for the concert. I’m a fan of the Lab.gruppen PLM control and it was very easy to fly and stack the system. It took about three hours for myself and colleagues to complete. We used Lab.gruppen PLM 2000Q in Clair Brothers stack racks. We made use of their X-over ability along with Lake Controller Software to manage the entire system. Small and easy, just the way I Ilike it.
“The atmosphere was amazing too, everyone was there because they were friends of Grubby’s and we were all up for a giggle. My highlight was working with my friends because we don’t always get to see each other. To have so many of us in one place was brilliant and of course it was for a good cause and because we all love Grubby.”
The audio engineer that has been responsible for Paul McCartney’s FOH mix for more than 20 years, Paul ‘Pab’ Boothroyd, also helped by gathering support for the event. “Grubby had a lot of areas already covered, but I was able to make friends Jim Grithith and Claire Wimpress from Vanguardia Consulting aware of the good cause, who kindly got in touch with him offering their help,” said Pab.
“It’s great when friends come together and it all works out. It was an amazing day and I didn’t have to mix for a change, but I did assist monitoring the dB levels outside the site in various locations with Claire and Jim. I’ve just got one thing to say though, turn It up next time!”
BAND OF BROTHERS
Phil Freeman, an in-house Lighting Designer at Neg Earth, felt fortunate to participate in the show, illuminating the performances throughout the day. “Grubby has been in this business almost as long as me, and over time, we became like a band of brothers who needed a reason to get together,” said Freeman. “With John’s enthusiasm for this project, and Tim Bricusse putting his time in as production guru, it certainly sounded like a worthy and enjoyable venture. We wanted to make it an exciting event and something credible for those in the business to be talking about for a while so that there would be good reports, furthering the possibility of another event next year.”
The lighting brief was heavily dictated by the stage, which had a limited load allowance and a compact floor capacity on which the bands would play. Added Freeman: “Clear floor space was a priority and with height restrictions and limited loading capacity, I was faced with making the lighting work around tight parameters to start with. Before we had gone too far, I had to lose a set of vertically placed pars and the floor par lamps due to the lack of space.”
Freeman chose to include 10 Clay Paky Sharpy Spots in the rig, with six over the middle of the stage and four on the floor upstage. “The Sharpys gave a very bright and extremely narrow beam for the concert, producing something of a wow factor,” commented the LD.
Into the lighting mix he also added 20 Martin Professional MAC 301 Washes; six on the downstage truss primarily as a stage wash, 10 units at two heights spread across the back ladder wall and two on the back truss as a wash. A total of four 4 lamp Par bars were chosen, two on the back truss and one either side upstage placed vertically on the floor. A single 4 lamp narrow Par bar was then positioned in the centre of the back truss to produce an additional beam look.
Another eight 2-lite DWE units featured on the face of the the downstage truss for audience lighting and eight ETC Source Four 26 Degree Profiles were used as key lights. A total of 22 PixelRange PixelLine 1044 Linear Battens were attached vertically to the side of the ladders, making 10 verticals of two high with MAC 301 units between each vertical.
Being a fan of Avolites’ lighting control desks, Freeman chose to operate the show from a Pearl Titan Expert, a console he described as “great for any on-the-fly show”. Added Freeman: “As any ability to drive a lighting show from the early years came courtesy of our friends at Avolites, I’m happy to continue the relationship with a console I could almost programme blindfolded. I feel so comfortable with the ability to grab faders with lamps under them in a live situation and now there is a split roller on the desk you’re able to group playbacks into a more cohesive order.”
The ability to include multiple varied LED units into a show has allowed Freeman to make great savings on both weight and power consumption when lighting productions such as Concert at the Kings, for which he specified a 125 amp three-phase connection. “This was plenty for the show. I feel you need to mix and match in design terms to complete an event and use units with a real lamp source alongside LED technology for the best effect,” the LD added.
For Freeman, the event at All Cannings became a necessary success in order to raise money, awareness of worthy causes and also of the roles each member of a production team plays. He explained: “For a long time over my years in this business a lot of people never quite understood our job out here and what exactly it is that we do. Well, this was indeed one of those times to show people who we are and what we can achieve.”
ABOVE AND BEYOND
On the back of a flourishing debut l event, the organisers have already confirmed a second Concert at the Kings will be held on the last weekend of May 2013, but this time the entertainment will be spread over two days. Radiant with pride after the concert, Grubby summarised the accomplishments of the tightly bonded team: “I’m so grateful to the 100 or so volunteers who worked for the whole duration for nothing; they were the best crew around. I couldn’t have done this without the support of so many people whose knowledge was greater than mine in so many areas. The music industry is a team and everyone was there for one reason - to help me raise awareness and money.
“The concert was very special on so many levels. From Stage Miracles to Barrie Marshall, everyone was behind me and they did it for love not money. This showed in the performance of everyone on the day. They all went above and beyond, which was evident in the responses of gratitude we’ve had. Crew, punters and the stars; they have all been so positive and if we can get just one person to have a prostate blood test, we’ll have achieved what we set out to do.”
Photography: Roger Goodgroves
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