Only in its second edition, Rock on the Lawns has already established itself as a festival of choice for South Africans who enjoy the warm sun, great food and good old fashioned rock ‘n roll on offer. This year, AMP Events did not disappoint – headlining UK indie pop-rock band The Cure in Johannesburg and Cape Town in March.
FINDING THE CURE
The Rock on the Lawns Festival, presented by AMP Events, is a one-day outdoor celebration of rock n’ roll, featuring both local and international artists. The inaugural event, held at Sun International’s Carnival City and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town in 2017, set the bar high – with 90s rock icons PIXIES delivering their first South African performance to sold-out crowds in both cities.
In August last year, AMP Events announced that The Cure would be featuring as the headline act for the 2019 edition of the festival, which was held on the Festival Lawns at Carnival City in Gauteng on 16 March, and at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town on 21 March.
Billed as one of the best-loved indie rock bands of all time, The Cure has released 37 singles, including ‘Friday I’m In Love, ‘Close to Me, ‘Love Song, ‘Boys Don’t Cry, ‘Just Like Heaven’ and many more. Their critically-acclaimed album, Disintegration, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and is considered one of the most important albums in music history. The haunting voice and eccentric presence of lead vocalist, Robert Smith, has cemented the band’s reputation as a formative influence of the gothic subculture that gained popularity in the 90s and inspired many fans to don black PVC and larger-than-life hairdos on the lawns in both Cape Town and Johannesburg.
According to Mandy Scanlen, who serves as production and artist tour liaison for AMP Events, MacPherson and the AMP Events team have been working for the past two years on bringing The Cure to the country. “Andy [MacPherson] knew exactly who he wanted to headline the 2019 edition of the festival, and it took two years of negotiating to make it happen. Ultimately, he succeeded, which is a massive feat when you consider that they are also headlining Glastonbury Festival this year, and have just been inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.”
AMP Event’s list of achievements includes bringing some of the world’s most celebrated niche acts to South Africa, including Symphonic Rocks, PIXIES, Myles Kennedy, +LIVE+ and Kings of Chaos featuring Steven Tyler and Slash, among others. “We have spent the past decade perfecting the craft of staging boutique music events, of creating one-on-one experiences with the music and the artist, of making memories that last a lifetime,” states MacPherson. There is little doubt that Rock on the Lawns featuring The Cure delivered on all accounts.
In addition to the headlining act, Rock on the Lawns provides a platform for local rock bands to perform on a world-class stage to both Johannesburg and Cape Town audiences. This year’s lineup featured some of South Africa’s favourite artists, including Zebra & Giraffe, Karen Zoid, Ard Matthews and Fokofpolisiekar, among others.
A WINNING TEAM
Since its inception in 2010, AMP Events as established a solid reputation for delivering curated, boutique experiences for South Africa’s music-loving public. At the helm of the company is Andrew MacPherson, a talented musician in his own right, who turned his attention to the production and promotion aspects of the music industry after a career as a performing artist and crew member. “I have been in the industry for many years, and crewed myself before launching my own venture,” MacPherson explains. “As such, I am able to draw on my own experience and my considerable network in the crewing business to put together outstanding technical teams for the shows that we produce and promote.”
Gavin Taylor and Sven Baden Hansen at Rock on the Lawns 2019
At the heart of MacPherson’s team for Rock on the Lawns is Gavin Taylor, who served as production and technical manager on the event. “Gavin Taylor has been AMP’s production manager on every single concert, tour, and event that we have ever done – and the Rock on the Lawns Festival was no different,” says MacPherson. “He single-handedly oversaw all of the technical negotiations and planning with The Cure’s production team, Gearhouse and various other stakeholders to bring the show together. It was Gavin’s job to make sure that we had a festival set up that worked for all nine artists, which he accomplished with stellar results,” he concludes.
As with the 2017 edition of the festival, AMP Events called on Sven Hansen of 4Plus3 Productions to manage the site, whose job it became to ensure that all elements of the layout, implementation and management of the site run smoothly. Hansen and his crew worked in close collaboration with AMP Events in the months leading up to the show, and were instrumental in ensuring that Taylor’s designs and plans were implemented to the letter.
In the weeks leading up to Rock on the Lawns, MacPherson, Taylor, Hanson and Scanlen pulled on their considerable joint networks to put together a crew that comprised some of the most experienced and respected technicians in their respective fields.
Gavin Taylor worked closely with Gearhouse SA and The Cure’s production team in the months leading up to the festival to design a stage that would accommodate all nine artists. “The production requirements set forth by The Cure were quite demanding – especially on the lighting and AV fronts,” Taylor points out. “I worked in close collaboration with Travis Smith and the Gearhouse team, and after considerable negotiations, we were able to provide all of the equipment required, locally – which is a huge testament to the high standards that Gearhouse maintains as an international-level rental and technical services provider,” Taylor says.
In keeping with the spirit of the festival, Taylor placed a lot of emphasis on sound quality, which was achieved using a K1 L-Acoustics line array on the main stage, together with delay towers strategically dispersed around the festival grounds to ensure even coverage across the beer gardens and dining areas. Revel Besalga, who served as senior sound engineer for the festival, states, “We had two Avid Profile consoles on the show, one for front of house and another for monitors. Zebra & Giraffe and Fokofpolisekar both brought in their own sound crews, and both used the DiGiCo SD12. As a result, we had a very basic three-way split between the festival crew, the crew for different local artists and The Cure – who basically took care of themselves,” Besalga explains.
“From a technical perspective, Rock on the Lawns is, actually, one of the easier festivals – despite the number of artists who perform during the day,” Travis Smith reflects. “The majority of the show is good old fashioned rock n’ roll and, therefore, very few bells and whistles are needed,” he says with a smile.
On the lighting side of the production, the show featured an impressive lighting rig that comprised 48 Robe Robin 600 washlights, 33 Robe BMFL blades, 24 Martin by HARMAN MAC Vipers and 12 Robe Pointes, among others. Gearhouse also provided the lighting fixtures specified on The Cure’s rider, which included a further 11 MAC Vipers and 11 SGM P5 LED lights that were rolled onto the stage for the main show.
“Once we wrapped up our portion of the festival, The Cure took over the stage and added a couple of stage towers that were prepared ahead of the show,” explains Smith. The additional lighting, together with two Martin Jem ZR45 Hazer Smoke Machines, created a lot of atmosphere onstage after the sun went down.
“A massive thank you to you and all your team for looking after us all so well on our first trip to South Africa – it was a hugely enjoyable and truly memorable experience for band and crew alike – the “rock on the lawns” shows were wonderful – the warmth and enthusiasm of the fans genuinely inspiring – and the organisation and accommodation during our ten day visit was never less than excellent…the scenery wasn’t too bad either! We look forward very much to our next visit.”
ROBERT SMITH (THE CURE)
In addition to the lighting rig, LED Vision, a part of the Gearhouse Group, provided a breath-taking LED video wall backdrop for the stage, which featured custom-designed content throughout The Cure’s performance. Two additional side panels were flown on either side of the stage and displayed video footage of the action onstage, ensuring that everyone had a good visual experience. As the festival grounds included an extensive beer garden and catering area, Taylor specified relay screens that were positioned along the outer rim of the Golden Circle area, along with audio delay towers, to ensure that everybody had a good view of what was happening on stage.
Festival stage manager, Michael Spaan, echoes Smith’s views: “Even though we had a lot of acts on the lineup, the show was not difficult to manage. Because the show is primarily old-school rock, the bands are predominantly three- and four-piece ensembles, with lead vocals, lead guitar, bass guitar and drums – which made change-overs relatively simple throughout the day. Also, the team loaded in the rig well in advance, and we had two days of soundchecks ahead of the show. As a result – it was a pleasant day at the office for the crew.”