Powerful Performance

W hether it’s a rock show or a jazz festival, producing crowdpleasing events requires a lot of energy – and not just people power. Without an energy supply, and the building of small energy systems, events – like a Blue Rodeo concert or the Edmonton folk festival – couldn’t take place. Paul Corcoran, senior vice president of venues and facilities at concert promoter Live Nation Canada, talks about the power required to put on big shows.

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What are an outdoor music festival’s power needs?
Generally this is based on the number of stages; the amount of sound, video and lighting equipment for each; special needs for performers such as dressing rooms; tour bus requirements; and pre-performance staging areas. Additionally, food and beverage services, health and safety needs, parking, campgrounds and special site amenities such as amusement rides and interactive displays are factored into the overall requirements.

How do you determine how much electricity you will need?
A survey is done to assess the power needs by either the local utility company or generator suppliers, depending on the location of the event and proximity to power transmission service. A large-scale festival with multiple stages, camping, an arts and crafts village and other on-site amenities will draw enough power to service a town with a population of more than 100,000.

Are there any special power considerations for particular aspects of a show?
It is important to isolate the power supplying the audio elements of the show from the rest of the site to avoid that low level “buzz.” This is commonly referred to as a ground loop in the power system (which can create interference in audio or video systems).

Who installs the power?
Depending on the size of the festival site, it may require a dedicated crew of six to eight to prepare for the event. Generally, two of the crew are licensed and certified electricians who are responsible for overseeing the installation, arranging the temporary connections and co-ordinating the electrical inspection by the local utility and provincial electrical inspectors.

How do festival producers work with local utilities and power suppliers?
A power grid is prepared based on the various elements required, and a plan is developed to service the event either through the use of the local utility and/or portable generators. If there are options for delivering some power via local solar or wind generation efforts, this will be determined in advance with the parties involved in the execution of the event.

How long does it typically take to set up/tear down power infrastructure for a major outdoor festival?
Set up and tear down could take as long as three to four weeks if the local utility will supply power, but the power must be delivered to the site either overhead or underground. Once the power is on the site, it could take seven to 10 days to run all the temporary cabling and related distribution equipment. Tear down generally takes less than half the amount of time it takes to set up.

How do you ensure an uninterrupted flow of power?
Portable generators are generally the only solution to uninterrupted power. You can’t always rely on the local utility, especially if the weather conditions cause a local power outage.

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