Performing at Outside Events
Performing outside can be fun but it does bring up a number of issues that need to be considered and taken into account. This advice has been compiled from our own experiences:
Where will this come from? If you're close to a building then running mains leads to the performance area is an option. You just need to ensure that you have enough mains cables of sufficient length and a RCCB (residual current circuit breaker) for each lead. You may also have to use safety cable covers if the leads are likely to present a trip hazard as Gaffa tape doesn't work well on grass!
Another option is to hook up to a generator. This does bring up another series of issues - will it be shared with other services (the caterers perhaps)? You would also need a surge protection device if this isn't already incorporated into the generator (if someone else using the feed turns off a high consumption device it can cause a sudden spike in the power which can in turn damage your own equipment). As portable generators are not as reliable as the national grid you should also consider using an un-interruptable power supply (UPS), especially if you have computer equipment on stage.
You don't need me to tell you that the UK weather is so unpredictable. You may set up under blue skies but that heavy rain cloud could be just over the horizon. Having a suitable rain cover is always a good idea and this needs to take into account that rain rarely falls straight down from the sky so protection from both overhead and around the sides is essential. Plastic bin liners can be used as waterproof speaker covers to great effect. When positioning equipment be aware that digital displays can be hard to read in bright sunlight.
The temperature can drop quite quickly too as the sun goes down. This can affect the tuning of instruments and also make them harder to play with numb fingers. You may therefore need to think about heating and also additional stage clothing for yourself.
Outside ground areas can be soft and/or uneven and a firmer surface of boards may be required. The legs of a speaker tripod stand can sink into soft ground, making the whole unit unstable and a potential safety hazard. It also doesn't look cool performing in mud and wearing wellies!
If playing off the back of an open-sided lorry, how stable is the flatbed when band members start dancing? Gear stacks can become unstable and microphones start punching you in the mouth.
Without walls for the music to bounce off, your outside performance could sound a lot different to normal. You may need to increase your mid and bass levels and also add a bit of reverb to compensate. Wind direction can also affect what the audience hears (& what you hear too). On-stage monitors can be less effective and you may need to use in ear monitors. You could also find yourself competing with local traffic, aircraft noise etc.
When you're on a stage, the access to the performance area is usually restricted. However, if you're in the middle of a field then you may need to come up with ways to prevent unauthorised access 'from all sides'.
Will you have sufficient light to safely breakdown your equipment at the end of the event? The generator hire company may pull the plug right after your last encore so, unless you eat a lot of carrots, you may need some battery powered lighting with you.