One of the fast emerging collectives on the UK festival scene are the Chai Wallahs, whose increasingly familiar marquees are dedicated to providing an eclectic blend of music appealing to different lifestyles.
Founded three years ago by Si Chai, today, Chai Wallahs attend a number of summer calendar events — including Green Man in the Brecon Beacons — and are quickly becoming seek-out destinations.
Inside the organic-looking structure a selection of the UK’s finest underground talent and established Afro-beat, Funk and Reggae artists perform alongside DJs in a free-form mix, with the emphasis on acoustic music earlier in the day. It also provides its own chill area in the form of a unique café bar.
Green Man has become one of Chai Wallahs’ more recent destinations, and after their debut last year, this summer they were again out in force, with London-based sound engineer Harry Bishop piloting a Soundcraft Vi4™ in the 800-capacity tent.
“The Soundcraft Vi is my weapon of choice,” said Bishop, who last year took Soundcraft’s original Vi6 digital desk around the festival circuit.
This time around the Soundcraft Vi4 had been sub-hired in from Mark Hornsby’s PA company Hark, with whom the sound engineer has a close relationship. Hark also provided a Vi6 and Vi1 at Green Man’s second stage (the Far Out Tent).
Harry Bishop has been an aficionado of Soundcraft mixing desks since the early days of analogue, and remembers mixing on a Series I board at Plan B in Brixton many years ago. “I am very familiar with the analogue desks but the Vi is a step above, and my favourite digital desk,” he says.
The reason for this is the easy transition it offers the engineer from analogue to the digital world. “The most obvious factor is its analogue feel because the channel strip is linear, it’s not multi-layered, and everything is one touch away.
“One factor that grabs you immediately is the intuitive interface and the user programmable fader pages, while the sound of the desk is also excellent — the parametric EQ’s are very accurate and analogue sounding. This is always my ‘go-to’ desk — there’s no need to look anywhere else.”
Chai Wallahs choose their own roster of artists who rarely bring their own production and so Harry ends up mixing most of the performances — a situation with which he is entirely comfortable.
With at least ten bands a day operating for four days without sound checks, providing live audio is no easy task. But from a generic festival patch the speed of access the Vi4 affords, provides the opportunity to change desk templates with ease.
For many of the repeat performances Bishop can simply dial up the stored show mix. “Inside the desk structure I use the snapshots to recall the different band mixes and when a new band comes through I recall a ‘line check’ snapshot which provides me with a clean slate to work from,” he says.
The desk provides him with a highly flexible mixing environment he says — notably because of its zoning and monitor capabilities.
In fact with 27 output busses, each containing parametric and graphic EQ, he has a near endless ability to zone different areas, set delay times, assign record groups and monitor sends.
“Because we have a number of zones [to address] I set quite a detailed programme which I design on the offline editor. I have a sub array, which I can control on the matrix, I have delays and a café seated area on a different matrix. It’s quite an in-depth design.”
His tasks also involve creating five monitor mixes via talk-to-stage whilst using the shout box to communicate with the stage manager.
This summer Harry Bishop has trucked his trusty Soundcraft desk around other UK festivals such as Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Bestival, Shambala, Beach Break Live, Manifest on the Isle of Man, Sunrise and Electric Picnic. And thanks to his Soundcraft Vi4 he can reflect on a job well done.
Bishop followed this by undertaking PA tech duties on a short Groove Armada club tour, where another Soundcraft Vi4 was deployed for stage monitors and a Vi1, Soundcraft’s new compact derivative, was at FOH.
Photo Caption: Sound company Hark provided a Soundcraft Vi6 console at Green Man’s second stage (the Far Out Tent).
Photo Credit: Ian Hunter