VENUE | S6L 10K Tour Through the Baltics

By in Live Sound, Music Creation, VENUE | S6L 10K Tour

Had a great time in Sweden, land of the green. Because of enlightened tax breaks, it apparently costs the same to have a top of the range Tesla as it does a Polo for your company car. Olof at Arva Trading has one of course: 0-100kmph in 3 seconds. I was too scared to sit in it. I drive a very old Land Rover that does 0-100kmph eventually.

Saw some old friends and met some new ones too. Nordic people, it seems to me, love new technology, and our S6L was incredibly well received. A high percentage of the first models to leave the factory will be heading for Northern Europe. We had a great turn out and some insightful thoughts from our Swedish roadie chums.

“High-fives” in Finland

So, we kind of cheat on the next part of the journey—our previously mentioned guitar-totting, rock-fiend chum, Michael Bohlin, brought the van on the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki whilst Chris and I had the weekend at home to wash our socks and recover our voices. I can’t say I’m sorry I missed that one; 17 hours of mad drinking, Nordic cruisers with nothing but Scando-karaoke and a band, playing Finnish Tango for the elderly to dance to for amusement!! Apparently it’s a thing, Finnish Tango! Not really Michael’s thing though, as you’ll know if you’ve seen him strutting around Euro festival stages with his band, Pain. Though I think he had a serious bonding session with a single malt from my neck of the woods to get him through it. Thanks Mica—you took one for the team!

Mikko Salinen (Mon Sunrise Avenue), Mats 'Skuggan' Wennersten (FOH & Director of Ears & Eyes AB), Robb Allan

Finnish roadies. Man, you wouldn’t want to play poker with these dudes. If these guys played their cards any closer to their chests they’d be behind their backs. I’m a Celt; so naturally a gregarious, storytelling kind of a fella by birth. Ask anyone! By environment, by osmosis after 16 years living in Spain, I’ve absorbed the expressive, emotional way of being in the world. This puts me at the opposite end of the European cultural personality spectrum to these fellas. But hey, that’s the fun of travelling, and these guys love audio, are really clever, and have a deep dry sense of humour they let you see only when you finally bond. Chris, being Belgian and analytical by nature, is somewhere in between the two camps. We’re not exactly a laughin’-in-the-aisles rock ‘n’ roll party here, but I think the odd upward thrust of a beardy chin translates as a “YAHOOO!!” where I come from. Still, by the end of a long day’s demoing, in serious and grown up manner, we have a whole new bunch of friends and orders for ten consoles. Ossi, our sanguine partner in these parts, says he is quite satisfied and almost smiles. I say, “It feels like a high five moment dude, but I can’t tell from your face.” I force him to high five me anyway. If you can imagine Scotty coercing Spock into a high five you’ll get the picture.

Robb Allan, Jukka Hyvärinen (FOH Pariisin Kevät), Kimmo Ahola (FOH Nightwish)

I honestly think that the way we can teach any engineer the fundamental workflow of S6L in five minutes flat makes everyone want to work on the desk, whether we have a language (or sense of humour) in common or not. I mean, it looks gorgeous and you want to be seen standing behind it, but you also want to mix on it because it’s so comfortable and easy to find your way around. One of our Finnish chums says it makes him want to touch it. We had a design goal that you should be able to walk up to the console at a festival, seeing it for the first time, and five minutes later be positive that you can deliver the goods. It has to be powerful and elegant, but not intimidating. The feedback that we’ve been getting as we cross the chilly Northlands is that we’ve done exactly that.

On to Tallinn

So we tear it all down, pack the van, and head for the Helsinki ferry to Tallinn. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Tallinn but it’s a beautiful town. The centre is medieval, all cobblestones and weird little building with turrets. It looks like the kind of place in those old Hammer Horror movies, where the villagers chased Frankenstein’s monster out of town with pitchforks and flaming torches. Great spot for a weekend break. There’s a restaurant near the main square that only sells food and drink that were available in the Middle Ages. So no beer, wine, potatoes, rice, pasta, distilled spirits, any Mediterranean vegetables, or a whole bunch of stuff we take for granted. There’s also no electricity, just loads of candles and roaring open fireplaces—it’s very atmospheric. All the staff are dressed in the old Dracula/Frankenstein villagers kit. Genius! You eat trout or wild boar with root vegetables and bulgur wheat, washed down with cider or mead. Awesome.

So our man in Estonia, Kristo, and our German colleague, Ansgar, met us from the ferry around midnight at Kristo’s studio. We were stopped coming off the ferry, by the way, by the local constabulary—obviously we looked a bit shady. They had a quick look in the back of the van and let us go. I was relieved! I thought we might be locked up, chained to a dungeon wall, or put in stocks or such like. Chris told me not to be so ridiculous. Fair enough, I was just getting into the vibe. We unloaded and finally got to the hotel at two in the morning. Fortunately the bar was still open. Absolutely needed a G and T bracer after such a long day—medicinal purposes only, it goes without saying.

We only had a brief couple of hours in Tallinn making the S6L jump through hoops for the local roadie community. We actually worked out that there are more VENUE systems per capita in Estonia than any other country in the world!! So although the actual numbers were small, everyone in attendance actually owned an S3L or Profile or one or more of our other consoles. We even had a couple of guys drive over from Riga in Latvia to get a peek at the future of live sound mixing—a ten hour round trip.

Diplomatic fracas in Latvia

Speaking of Latvia, that was our next stop, just for an overnight on the way to Warsaw where we were having our next demo session. Unfortunately Angela Merkel’s people and our people had forgotten to synchronize the calendars; the result being that when we got to our Hotel, there was quite a heavy Police presence. When we pulled up outside our hotel we were instantly surrounded by the local boys in blue shouting at us in Latvian. Don’t know about you, but my Latvian is a little rusty. Chris speaks about five languages but he was no help either. However, as the gesturing and shouting and loosening of holsters became more insistent I kind of got the message they didn’t want us to stop there. So I drove off and we parked around the corner and walked back to find out what the Riga was going on. Turns out there was a bit of a get together with the aforementioned @angie_merkel and the new Greek chap, who doesn’t wear a tie, to have a friendly chat about who owes what to whom and when they’re going to pay. As it happens, most of the delegates were staying in our hotel, so the local plod saw us disreputable looking roadies rolling up in a foreign van and thought best to keep these chaps moving—could be anything in the back. When we finally managed to find a language in common and showed them we had lovely unthreatening audio kit in the back they allowed us back to park in the car park. Maybe we need to shave and put on suits, because we obviously looked very suspicious in the Baltics.

No rest in Warsaw

Estonia to Warsaw via Riga is a lovely drive—it’s a one-lane highway through a forest nearly all the way. Never seen so many wild flowers. What happened to them in the rest of Europe? Did they get banned? I must have missed that bit of news. Had a nice, five-minute break to admire the view of the dark and moody Baltic Sea as we went along, took some pictures—it’s not the Med, chaps. Finally arrived in Warsaw after a twelve-hour drive, never getting much beyond third gear. I did see a deer though, and a gazillion trees. Dropped the kit in the warehouse of our marvelous Polish partners, Konsbud, and dashed off to the airport to get home for the weekend.

Suitably refreshed and rested, we reassembled in Warsaw with our Polish pals. Agnieska and Jarek, the owners of Konsbud, had the most organized and intense line up of the tour so far. We had new groups of sound colleagues every hour on the hour from 10 until 6 with no break! They threw in the odd Scooby-snack to the demo room now and then to keep us from fainting. We showed 53 Polish engineers how the S6L does its thing over a nine-hour period. National TV, radio, major theatres, rental companies—I’m pretty sure anyone that has ever pushed a fader for a living in Poland passed by. Got some great feedback and inspired ideas. We were tired out but also really lifted by the response and interest we had there. Chris snuck off early for a week’s holiday riding his bike in the Alps with his lovely wife, while I drove the van to Berlin with Ansgar. Next week we will have to face the tremendous brainpower and attention to detail of the entire German pro-audio community. Bring it on, can’t wait!!

Robb Allan, Tomasz Lewandowski (monitors Astral Concert & Play), Jarek Denis (monitors for Bracia Figo Fagot)

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As a live sound engineer, I have been lucky enough to work with some amazing artists including Coldplay, Massive Attack, Manic Street Preachers, Natalie Imbruglia, Richard Ashcroft and Lisa Stansfield. I have also mixed broadcast sound on David Letterman, Saturday Night Live, Jay Leno, the Brit Awards, the MTV Music Awards and the 2010 World Cup Kickoff Concert.