Hardly a Blue Moment: Jazz Fest Sound Meteorology

“They call us the sound police,” explains Juan Lobostrie, a festival staffer who makes his way around the grounds on foot and via golf cart. Lobostrie and two others work to ensure that sound doesn’t bleed through from one stage or tent to another.

“Before the festival starts,” Lobostrie explains while taking me around in his golf cart, “we make sure all the towers are in the right positions, all the cable runs are made and that it all works. We pretty much facilitate the sound companies coming in.

“Once the festival starts, our job sort of morphs into the sound police because it’s very easy for one program on one stage to interfere with another. We use these SPL meters to document the sound and it shows the maximum sound pressure level you can go to,” he says. “With temperature changes and wind changes, if you have an acoustic set on one stage and an electric set on another stage, you can have sound problems.”

Much of the time, he adds, “it’s not volume levels, but frequencies that are the culprit, so we take some of them down and they cause fewer problems. Most of the time it’s lower frequencies that are causing problems.”

“You have to be a diplomat and it’s on a case-by-case basis,” Lobostrie says. “It’s not just one headliner, it’s multiple headline acts, and we all have to co-exist peacefully. Most people, once they get that they’re infringing on other people’s space, they realize it’s in their best interests to adjust sound.

“Everybody’s got quiet moments onstage during a show, and everybody does that from the Santanas to the Aretha Franklins. The technology has improved so much; you can control things a lot better. When a cold front moves in and it gets windy, the sound bounces around that much more. You just have to listen and recognize what the problems are based on prevailing winds, and then make your adjustments according to those winds.”