Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit perform at The Caverns on 9 October

Home to the Emmy-winning PBS television series Bluegrass Underground, The Caverns is a naturally-occurring subterranean amphitheatre at the base of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee’s Pelham valley. Counting performances from many of the biggest and fastest-rising names in music, its Big Mouth Cave draws more than 50,000 visitors each year to experience concerts in a unique setting with natural acoustics and beauty.

Like all other music venues, this prehistoric site had to close for the current pandemic, with Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit kicking off The Caverns’ Covid-compliant Above Ground Concert Series with a four-night run of outdoor shows on the grounds above the cave.

Sound was provided by an L-Acoustics K1/K2 system from Escondido, California-based Sound Image.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit perform at The Caverns For ten years, Sound Image has been the primary audio provider for The Caverns and was brought in to supply the new Caverns Amphitheater – as the grassy hillside overlooking scenic Payne Cove is now known – with a sound reinforcement system for the four-time Grammy Award-winning artist’s shows in October. In keeping with CDC and state guidance for large gatherings, audiences watched the gigs from socially distanced ‘pods’ – roped off sections for two, four or six family members or friends – which were at least six feet from each other and 15ft from the stage.

The main PA comprised left and right hangs of four L-Acoustics K1 enclosures over five K2, with two Kudo cabinets positioned below as front fill. Two additional ground-stacked K2 were deployed off stage right to address a few of the audience pods not covered by the main arrays. Four groups of three vertically-oriented SB28 subs, each set up in cardioid mode, ‘kept the low end off of the stage and did some delay steering to maintain smooth low-end coverage throughout the listening area,’ according to Sound Image system tech Chris Demonbreun. The entire system was powered by 15 LA8 amplified controllers located under the stage, driven with AES and analogue fallback, while an L-Acoustics P1 processor at FOH provided system processing and control.

Demonbreun points to Danny Poland, production manager for The Caverns, as the final decision-maker to use L-Acoustics – ‘which is always a great idea, in my opinion’, he concurs. ‘With approximately 750 people each night spread out across the hillside seating, which is 200feet wide and 400ft deep, Danny knew that we would be able to get full audience coverage with K1/K2, and that it would sound great.’

‘Although we typically use existing venue or local PA when touring, L-Acoustics is one of the more common systems we see, and I’m always thankful for it,’ agrees Sound Image system tech Chris Demonbreun. ‘I’ve enjoyed mixing on K2 and V-Dosc rigs in the past, so when I was told we were going to be on K2 for these shows, I knew we would have plenty of coverage and clarity, and we certainly did.’

The new Caverns AmphitheaterWith all four shows being outdoors, Hogsed notes that weather conditions are always a potential challenge: ‘Having to deal with wind and rain, my experience was different every night. During the second and third shows, I was actually mixing under a tarp while Chris, my system tech, held visqueen over the console. Thankfully, even though the weather was highly unpredictable, the L-Acoustics PA was consistent and balanced.’

Aside from praising Hogsed for his ‘killer mix every night,’ Demonbreun chalks up a good part of the system’s success to the resources found in Soundvision. ‘I believe that this system did better than other competitive PAs would have done thanks to the use of new L-Acoustics autosolver tools like Autofilter and Autoclimate,’ he says. ‘They allowed me to make sure that the people in the front didn’t get blasted with high end while still allowing those in the back to hear nice, clear, full-range audio. It sounded nearly the same everywhere, within 4dB from the front to the back, which is something that L-Acoustics makes it easy to do.’

‘Personally, I was told repeatedly by the artist team, who were both behind the scenes and in the audience, that they were blown away by the audio – especially for a brand-new venue,’ says Caverns General mManager, Joe Lurgio. ‘Without having a dress rehearsal, we were nervous that we might have undersized the rig, but it sounded great from everywhere in the ‘house.’ The amphitheatre is a natural bowl shape and allowed for the sound to hit everyone, and Sound Image really delivered the right set-up for these shows. We can’t wait to do more.’

More: www.sound-image.com

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