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Review: Better things at British Summer Time

Massive Attack provided the perfect start to Barclaycard presents British Summer Time 2016, fitting Eurochild into a stellar set for the first time since 1993, post-referendum.

“As sons of immigrants, we are both very disappointed with the situation,” frontman Robert Del Naja said, speaking for fellow founder Daddy G. “We can’t allow ourselves to fall victim to the populist bullsh*t going on at the moment. We can’t let the bigots and racists back into this situation.”

Twenty-eight years since they formed, Massive Attack stretch their considerable musical muscle far beyond the confines of trip-hop or any other pop pigeonhole. Accompanied by a super-tight band, and a chamber orchestra for final song Unfinished Sympathy, a run of guests take the mic in Hyde Park, TV on the Radio singer Babatunde Adebimpe, reggae legend Horace Andy, fresh from hospital, hip-hop duo Young Fathers, Tricky and Deborah Miller among them. Massive Attack’s own high-def screen completes the picture, running right across the platform, bearing poignant graphics and slogans: ‘We are in this together’.

Future proof

Star Events’ VerTech roof is the backbone, and broad shoulders, of British Summer Time’s Great Oak Stage. Already supporting Es Devlin’s designer trees, with more branches this year, 900sqm of Video Design LED screen, a colossal PRG lighting rig and several hangs of Capital Sound’s masterful MLA PA system from Martin Audio, some 80 tons plus in total, it had to be stronger still for 2016. Star fitted extra roof beams to accommodate the wants of Massive Attack and fellow headliners Mumford & Sons and Take That over the festival’s 10 nights.

“We’re imposing a massive load onto the roof as part and parcel of the festival offering,” Star Events’ Project Manager, Tez Sheals-Barrett, tells Access on site. “So when individual headliners want to bring in their own particular brand and flavour for the event, that can mean considerable amounts of additional weight and we have to manage it carefully. We are using our Active Roof Technology system throughout the festival period and recorded a maximum of 115 tons in the air with Mumford & Sons’ rig plus the pre-rig for Take That.”

Despite blustery conditions front of house for Massive Attack, Capital Sound maintained the festival’s record for audio control, separation, and volume across the site using their new Dante digital network, a switch from previous years’ analogue system. Capital’s rental partners Martin Audio, back at British Summer Time for their fourth year, used their flagship MLA PA and DISPLAY optimisation software on the Great Oak Stage, as well as the second Barclaycard Stage and Sony PlayStation stage.

“DISPLAY added significant new functionality,” says Martin Audio’s system tech Toby Donovan. “By utilising FIR filtering to improve LF control, and making some adjustments to the overall tonality of the system, MLA now sounds better than ever.”

To help amplify the sound quality provided by Capital Sound and Martin Audio, Star Events supplied British Summer Time with five 15m and two 11m T Towers, for the delays, the latter replacing 2015’s V Towers.

“They have much narrower masts than the V Towers, which makes for better sightlines,” Sheals-Barrett says.

Similarly, the company’s new Z Towers made their festival debut in Hyde Park this year, serving as screen goal posts, to the benefit of the whole model.

“Z Towers are narrow masts too and they don’t have scaffold bases, which are time consuming to build and come with a big footprint,” she continues. “As a result, they improve sightlines for punters and increase capacity.

“Star is always evolving its products, making them easier to transport, easier to build, more efficient and safer, but there’s a lot to do here in two weeks,” Sheals-Barrett says in conclusion. “The AEG side of the VISTA hospitality structure is 5m bigger to meet demand. That means another 5m of overlay. But we keep learning and improving our method, pre-fabricating elements for example, to meet the same deadline.”

Check out pictures in the gallery above from Massive Attack’s night on 1 July and Mumford & Sons headlining set on 8 July.

Image credit: Peter J Hayes/In The Bag