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(California, USA)


California Company Supplies JBL HLA System For 50-Show North American Tour


The 1998 B.B. King Blues Festival, produced for the seventh year in a row by Front Row Productions, was handled this season by Proformance Lighting & Sound of Emeryville, CA. Sponsored by The House of Blues and Southern Comfort, the North American tour played to both indoor and outdoor venues throughout the United States and Canada. In addition to key performer B.B. King and his band, featured artists included The Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Jimmie Vaughn, Storyville, Koko Taylor, Delbert McClinton, Buddy Guy and others, depending on location and scheduling.

The successful entertainment project, with 50 dates staged during August and September of 1998, grossed $6 million dollars, with shows held in some smaller 3,000-5,000 seat venues, in a number of shed-type amphitheaters like Michigan's Pine Knob, Massachusetts' Great Woods and California's Shoreline Amphitheaters, and at selected outdoor sites like the 15,000-person capacity Gorge venue in Washington State and Wisconsin's Olin Park.

Proformance supplied all sound and lighting system equipment and crews for the B.B. King tour, after having successfully handled the project in 1997. "As an integrated services company, we can offer certain packaging and logistical advantages that some other sound-only rental companies can't match," noted Proformance founder Mickey Morgan, who served as crew chief and sound engineer for the 1998 B.B. King tour. "We a great deal of effort into training our crews, and into packaging our equipment. Proformance does a lot of work in the corporate and industrial show environment, and we believe our company philosophy of quality and customer service makes us a good choice when event promoters need a sound and lighting rental package."


For the 1998 B.B. King Blues Festival, Proformance supplied their new HLA system from JBL Professional. A typical event was served with a hanging left/right main array system comprising up to 32 HLA model 4895 mid/high units, each loaded with 10" and 14" cone loudspeakers based on JBL's Differential Driveď technology.

The tour carried 16 HLA model 4897 double-18" bass enclosures. These high-powered units are equipped with JBL's innovative Linear Dynamics Apertureď vent design, helping to provide more acoustical output than traditional port designs. The 4897's are also constructed from advanced materials (including carbon-fiber panels) instead of wood. The rigid construction of the 4897 cabinets help to convert more of the bass-frequency energy into acoustical output, rather than into cabinet-wall vibrations as occurs with more traditional wooden speaker enclosures.

Compact JBL MS-28 two-way enclosures were used as frontfill units for the shows, with five of the small cabinets powered by a single Crown amplifier and placed on the front edge of the stage, receiving a full-range mix with separate compression and equalization.

"Our philosophy at Proformance is to supply a high quality system that any engineer can walk into and go right to work on, and feel comfortable with," noted founder Mickey Morgan. "We pay close attention to what is requested on contract riders for the touring groups. We offer popular, commonly-available mixing consoles like the Soundcraft Series 5 and the Yamaha PM4000. Our signal processing is in alignment with what the professionals require…units from tc electronics, Eventide, Lexicon, Aphex, Drawmer, and Klark-Teknik. We use the BSS FDS-380 OmniDrive for controlling the JBL HLA speaker system. And, the JBL Smaart Pro measurement and analysis software package is used on a daily basis to fine-tune the rig for each venue's different acoustical characteristics."

To power the HLA speaker system, Proformance relies on power amplifiers from Crest Audio. Each amplifier rack contains Crest Model 9001 amps to power the HLA 4897 bass units and the low and midrange frequency sections of the HLA 4895 3-way units. Crest Model 7001's are used to power the high-frequency compression drivers. "With the HLA 4895's 16-ohm transducers, we can typically place four transducers on a channel without resorting to 2-ohm loading," notes Wesley Sharpe, Technical Director for Proformance.


The B.B. King tour, booked into a wide variety of venues, provided the Proformance crew with opportunities to set up the loudspeaker system in different configurations. "Some days we stack, most days we fly," noted Doug Fowler, system engineer for the tour. "We'll take a look at the audience area and determine what we need for optimum coverage of the space. The size of sound wings will vary at the stacking venues; most of the amphitheaters have things pretty well worked out to accommodate standard chain-motor hoists and hanging hardware."

At a typical show, Proformance technicians worked with local crew members to rig the HLA speaker arrays, linking them to the amplifier racks with multi-pair cable bundles. The arrays are then hoisted into the air by HLA truss modules (developed and distributed by ATM Flyware) "The JBL speaker 4895 and 4897 modules are relatively lightweight, It only takes two one-ton chain moto hoists to suspend 16 of the units in a hanging array," noted Fowler.


The stage monitor system, supervised by Proformance engineers Marcel Cacdac and Jeff McDonald, was powered with Crown MacroTech 2400 and 600 amplifiers. BSS' FDS-355 loudspeaker system controllers are used by Proformance to supply bi-amplified monitor mixes. A single HLA 4895 and 4897 were used on stage left and stage right as sidefill monitor stacks.

With up to 5 or 6 acts on the show each night, sound checks with live bands were rare. Pre-show preparation fell to the production crew, who did complete line checks and daily adjustments for each instrument. Some artists traveled with their own front-of-house and/or stage monitor soundmixers; others relied on the Proformance team for their needs.

Mixing duties for Storyville, opening act for most shows of the tour, were handled by Jared Tuten of Austin, Texas; The Neville Brothers were mixed by Jeffrey Gex of New Orleans. B.B. King was mixed by independent engineer Doug Fowler. A variety of other individuals were involved since acts on the shows varied during the course of the tour. Some soundmixers were able to "settle in" and work to hone their efforts on the tour, night after night.

"It's great to have the same console and sound system every day on this tour," noted Chuck Hull, production manager and front-of-house mixer for Dr. John. "We often do fly-in dates, and have to live with the "P.A. du jour"…I always appreciate it when I can spend some time working with a system in different venues. This HLA system is clear, clean, powerful and lets me get great detail on the mix, even in acoustically-tough rooms."


The production crew called a bus "home" for more than two months, as the tour's fast-paced schedule had 5 and 6 shows booked in a row during each week. Production Manager Terry "T.J." Jackson has served the B.B. King Blues Fest for several seasons, and has had to cope with tight schedules, long drives and a variety unexpected situations.

"On a tightly-scheduled tour like this one, where our off-days are often spent criss-crossing the country doing thousand mile drives, it is very important that the production package be efficient, flexible and reliable," noted Jackson. "Proformance has put a lot of thought into their touring rig. The JBL HLA system has performed admirably, and the overall quality of sound for the shows has been excellent. It always depends on who's turning the knobs, of course, no matter what gear is in use. We've gotten a lot of compliments this time around, and the Proformance team has done a great job."


Note: In September, 1998, Proformance Lighting & Sound was acquired by Current Events, a production services firm with offices in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Atlanta. Current Events/Proformance can be reached by contacting :

Mickey Morgan
Current Events/Proformance
5806 Paladeau St.
Emeryville, CA 94608
Phone (510) 658-5411
Fax (510) 658-0278