Yamaha CL5 ran Waves plug-ins via Dante Virtual Soundcard, with Steve mixing FOH for international artists and Subfrantic Africa’s Charles Duke handling the local acts
Mixing monitors on Yamaha CL3 was performed by Subfrantic engineer James Kerr, with local acts handled by Ebenezer Odunlami

With an audience of over 700,000, The Experience is Africa’s largest live concert and possibly the biggest annual, single stage live music event in the world. London-based Subfrantic looks after the complex mixes, with Yamaha CL series digital consoles a vital part of this challenging, all-night production.

Founded and hosted by Pastor Paul Adefarasin since 2005, The Experience is an interdenominational gospel concert which takes place in Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, every December. So popular is it, however, that an adjacent cricket pitch is also needed.

Featuring many of the highest profile names in gospel music, alongside acts from Nigeria and other African countries, Subfrantic Managing Director Steve Davies first became involved in 2013.

From approval of PA system specification to FOH an d lighting

“I was brought in following a long professional relationship with House on the Rock (HOTR), the church which organises the event,” he says. “My initial role was to approve the specification of the PA system and to supply a team to mix monitors and handle changeovers, working with local suppliers to ensure that the right equipment was supplied for the event. Looking after the FOH mix was quickly added. December 2014 saw us handling stage, FOH, and lighting too.”

CL Series, an obvious choice

One of Steve’s first decisions for 2013’s event was the choice of mixing consoles. “I’ve been mixing gospel shows for over 15 years and the way I do it for an event like this takes more than 48 channels so, although I’m still a big fan of the PM5D-RHs we have in hire stock, that ruled them out,” he says. “We supplied HOTR with a CL5 and a pair of CL3s for their Lagos cathedral less than a year before and I love our rental CL5s, so the CL series was the obvious choice. Not only are they great consoles that my team and I know backwards, the client already owned them which reduced the rental costs from local suppliers.

“In 2013 the CL consoles performed admirably, the Dante network was rock solid and all the artists were happy with them too. So this year the choice was simple; the only change was that we updated the firmware and had a slightly different network design.”

With a pair of Rio-3224Ds handling i/o, the Dante network was handling around 62 channels, with more at each end of the multicore via local inputs for communications, video, etc. The CL5 ran Waves plug-ins via Dante Virtual Soundcard (DVS), with Steve mixing FOH for the international artists and Subfrantic Africa’s Charles Duke handling the local acts.

“The show is essentially run as a festival, so we had a festival patch which takes on all comers,” says Steve. “It naturally had a gospel and African slant, with the inclusion of choir mics, talking drums and a few other niceties specific to the event.

"Thanks to the CL consoles, nobody who wasn’t on the technical side realised how complex the event was, they just got to enjoy 12 continuous hours of worship and great gospel music"

“We also ran DVS enabled laptops on stage and at FOH to do backup multitrack recordings on Nuendo Live, should the dedicated record splits that we sent to a third party have had a problem. We find ourselves doing more and more live recordings using the DVS/Nuendo Live combination, to the point that we’ve had to build a studio at our London warehouse to handle the post-production.”

Mixing monitors on the CL3 was performed by regular Subfrantic engineer James Kerr, with the local acts handled by Subfrantic Africa’s Ebenezer Odunlami. They ran 15 wedge mixes, four stereo wireless IEM mixes and a drum fill, using all 64 input channels for the mix and talkback, as well as stereo inputs for effects returns and VT playback.

CL and QL series desks

“I’ve been a Yamaha digital console user for over 10 years and the CL and QL series desks are currently my first choice for FOH or monitor duties,” says James. “The CL3 is a lot of desk for its small footprint, with a very flexible bussing structure. The Custom Fader Layers were a real bonus when loading up the next band’s scene, having all the relevant input and output faders in front of you without having to flip through the layers to find what you’re after.”

He continues, “We took the precaution of having a CL3 backup on stage, due to the +30 degree heat and substantial humidity, but we could have left it in its flight case. The whole system was so reliable that it was unnecessary.”

To keep the event sunning smoothly, a Subfrantic team including Gareth Cox and Sean Murphy handled re-patching and changeovers on stage, while Ebenezer - as HOTR technical head - managed a team of local crew who made sure equipment was turned around quickly and efficiently.

“The fast-paced nature of the changeovers demanded a lot from the desks, we needed to have mixes ready for each band member, quickly change input and output patching, create custom fader layers and flip-flop between myself, local and international engineers in an incredibly short time,” says James.

12 continuous hours of worship and great gospel music

“Thanks to the CL consoles, nobody who wasn’t on the technical side realised how complex the event was, they just got to enjoy 12 continuous hours of worship and great gospel music.”

“We were very happy with how the system performed again,” confirms Steve. “If we are asked to do The Experience again this year, we will approach it in much the same way. That is unless Yamaha feels like lending me a RIVAGE PM10…”