Sound System: ROMP audio crew never misses a beat

·4 min read

Jun. 24—With crowds entering the grounds at Yellow Creek Park for the 19th annual ROMP Fest throughout the weekend, the clear sounds of the musicians on the main stage wouldn't be possible without the assistance of a sound crew to enhance the melody, harmonies and instrumentation into the overall experience.

For Owensboro native and Nashville sound engineer Steve Chandler, it's just another day at the office.

"My main occupation ... is a studio engineer and producer and I do records," he said. "So, I kind of treat this like a big control room."

Chandler, who's in charge of the front of house sound, has been with the festival "since the very first day" when the event took place down on the river at English Park.

The festival teams up with Mid-Coast Sound for the logistics and tailoring a specific set up.

"They'll use it for other events but ROMP is usually the one that tests out the good stuff," he said.

The sound system is a "full-blown" and "state-of-the-art" Meyer Sound Laboratories, with the front console situated yards in front of the stage underneath a tent on its own small stage platform that contains about 150 inputs.

"This is a rig that you would use at any arena — any size arena or football stadium ...," he said.

He estimates that the total value of all the equipment being used is close to $1 million, which is needed for an event like ROMP.

"Most PA speakers — we have 20 of those — they're a little over $20,000 a pop, but that's the high end industrial stuff," Chandler said. "And (the) console is probably $70,000. But if you're gonna do it that way, you got to go that route."

Sometimes, Chandler said that some bands may bring their own console to the show, in which they set the band's system up and then route them through the festival's system.

Chandler said there are a number of different people assisting with sound, such as having monitor engineers off to each side of the stage for each monitor wedge along with backline and guitar techs, runners on stage and more.

And with that much manpower, the performances usually go on without concern and always have system techs on the ready to "jump" on any problems.

"Generally, nothing ever misses a beat," Chandler said. "It's very well organized and they watch; any issue up there, ...they'll have a replacement in their hand and take it out."

But Chandler said that they've had good luck at ROMP for the most part.

"I had a screen go out one time (and) I went ahead and did the show and they were there ... taking the screen out and (were) working on it," he said. "By the end of the last song, there it (was). But the console worked fine. That's why that gear is so expensive because it's so well-made, it's so good ...."

And while sound is getting squared away minutes from a performance, Chandler said that the crew anticipates what will be happening because they check most of everything well in advance.

"When we tune the system, we get most of the little feedback or anything like that; we get all that stuff out of there and get it all dialed in real well," he said. "That way when we come in, all we have to do is input lines. ...Once all my lines work and I know that they're working and they're clean and they're checked out, I just tell the band to get up there and play and ... just jam up there for two to three minutes and I'll test it out and then hit it ...or (I'll say) 'Come on, just bring it. We've got you covered. Just bring it'."

And after years of being a part of the festival and music in general, he doesn't have plans to stop anytime soon.

"...I'm not going to quit working because I love what I do," he said. "There's so much good talent out there that I don't want to go home and sit down and not do anything anymore as long as I'm able, and I can be a positive to somebody's production or help somebody to reveal their best. It never gets tiring. I don't have to be here, but I love being here. And with the technology changing every year, that's kind of exciting for me as well ...."