To SIR, with Jubilation

by Baker Lee
in FOH at Large
Illustration by Andy Au
Illustration by Andy Au

While a 50-year time period is a mere speck on the timeline in the grand scheme of things, it is worth noting that on the day-in, day-out scale of measurement the achievement of 50 years is something to celebrate. Consider that a 50-year time period is more than half of most people’s lives, the 50th wedding anniversary is deemed the Golden Anniversary and, in Judeo-Christian tradition, the number 50 is thought to be the Jubilee year which is a time of joy and universal pardon. Leviticus 25:10 reads, “Thou shalt sanctify the fiftieth year, and shalt proclaim remission to all the inhabitants of thy land: for it is the year of jubilee.” Of course, now that this article is of biblical proportions, it means that it cannot be refuted or denied.

‡‡         The Big Five-O

That said, here’s a look at some things (and people) that are celebrating their own jubilee year. Will Ferrell, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban are among the celebrities turning 50 in 2017 — as is the release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. While these events were all pretty well advertised in the daily and weekly tabloids, allow me to present a few of the other jubilee events that might have gone unnoticed while we were celebrating the former. In 1967 The Doors first album was released, as was The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer.” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” is now 50, and Jimi Hendrix played his first major festival at The Monterey Pop Festival 50 years ago in 1967. The very first issue of Rolling Stone magazine was published 50 years ago and The Carol Burnett Show debuted, while Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate and Hair all opened in the movies (along with the Sidney Poitier film alluded to in the title, To Sir, with Love).

1967 was the first year of the now iconic Big Mac as well as the release of “Pringles Newfangled Potato Chips.” The Beatles’ single, “All You Need is Love,” charted at #1, and people were able to take their first ride in the new 1967 Chevy Camaro — as well as the Boeing 737 jet plane. Texas Instruments introduced the very first hand-held calculator; Barclay’s Bank of London initiated the first ATM machine and Amana Corporation issued the first commercial countertop microwave oven. Thurgood Marshall became the first African American to serve on The Supreme Court, and the 25th Amendment was added to the constitution.

Although not as widely reported as the other mentioned firsts, another major event that took place 50 years ago was the opening in Los Angeles of the backline company, Studio Instrument Rentals, otherwise know as SIR. This is not to say that there weren’t any stores that would provide rehearsal space or rent musical equipment to musicians in need, but SIR was breaking ground by becoming a rental house specifically for the new and expanding music scene of 1967. What has to be understood is that — while seizing the opportunity at hand and catering to a new and growing need —SIR founders Ken Berry and Dolph Rempp were innovators who brought into existence an entity that would become a mainstay of a new and evolving music business.

By 1971, Ken and Dolph recognized the vital and growing music scene in San Francisco and sent Michael Johnson to open the San Francisco SIR. 1974 saw the expansion of the brand to New York City and, with the help of current New York CEO Bo Holst, Michael Johnson opened SIR at the now-iconic 52nd Street location. In 1977, the Nashville branch opened, and by the year 2000, Miami also had an SIR. At the close of 2008, offices had been opened in Seattle, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Palm Springs, San Diego, Portland Oregon and Chicago, and while new markets were being explored around the country, new territories were being expanded in the world of audio and production.

‡‡         Rehearsals to Events

As a rehearsal space, SIR has always provided audio for the bands, but in the early part of this century, it became abundantly clear that there was a growing need for SIR to provide professional audio equipment as a rental and production item for their clients. Los Angeles and New York were the first to venture into expanding their audio departments, and now both coastal SIR offices stock Midas, DiGiCo and Avid digital consoles as well as the Behringer and Yamaha boards for the more intimate spaces. The wireless departments of each SIR have grown to include PSM 1000 and G3 in-ear units as well as Shure and Sennheiser wireless microphones. Speaker systems for both Los Angeles and New York include the d&b V system line array and d&b M6 and M4 monitors. Recently SIR Nashville and Miami have begun to do full on productions and the Chicago branch — while still young — has ramped up their production schedule as well.

In 2009 — in conjunction with servicing their existing clients for major festivals, top television shows and concerts and events — SIR New York opened Stage 37, a 13,000 square foot event and rehearsal space which has been successfully providing audio and production for top name artists and corporate events. “It’s a learning process,” says SIR’s New York CEO Bo Holst, “but after 50 years of being in business, I think we’ve gotten a good handle on how to make it all work.” One thing that makes it work so well is that all the SIR offices make sure to employ the best techs available for rehearsals, concerts and events. From backline to audio SIR makes sure that each tech is knowledgeable in how to deal with the people running the shows as well as the equipment provided for the events. SIR has also proven itself to be a great training ground for up and coming technicians — as many SIR alumni have gone on to hold prestigious jobs in backline, production and audio for major touring bands and television as well as other audio and backline companies.

Longevity counts, and while the SIR group has proven that they are in it for the long haul, they are by no means resting on their laurels and taking their position for granted. It’s a competitive business and it’s a difficult proposition to be able to provide everything that any given client might request. New “must have” equipment is always showing up on riders, and although it becomes a difficult task to keep up with current demands, the company places great importance on being up-to-date and relevant in all their chosen endeavors. For SIR, it is not only a dedication to excellence, but also a willingness to grow and change with the times that has kept them at the forefront of the business for the last half century, and, as the company celebrates their jubilee year, they view this same commitment to distinction as one that will sustain them through the next 50 years.

Baker Lee has headed up the audio/production department at SIR NY for the last 16 years.