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Hometown Hero Regional Winners 2019

Kevin M. Mitchell • FeaturesNovember 2019 • November 13, 2019

The local companies that put on the music festivals, take care of the corporate meetings and provide innovative upgrades to everything from houses of worship to museums stir a passion with FRONT of HOUSE magazine readers. This year, there was a surge in nominations for the 36 companies who appeared on the Hometown Hero ballot and also a marked increase in voting before the six regional winners were named. The companies that won their regions are of all sizes, from the small to not-so-small. (As they grow, some soundcos have become too big for the Hometown Hero category, and must vie instead for the Parnelli Sound Company of the Year honor.) But they all have one thing in common, and it no doubts contributes to their longevity: They are all committed to keeping their inventory up to date with new gear — always a challenging feat. So congrats and good luck to the regional winners! Final voting at parnelliawards.com.

For Victoria, BC’s annual Symphony Splash event, KiAN set up the P.A. on a floating stage.

CANADA

KiAN Concert Sound Services, Richmond, BC

“KiAN Sound was proud to be the audio supplier for “ROAR” the North American tour of Bollywood/Pollywood artist Diljit Dosanjh, an Indian singer, actor, television presenter and social media celebrity,” says KiAN general manager Derek Mahaffey. “He is recognized as one of the leading artists in the Indian music industry.” KiAN Sound also supported Major Tom Audio with a Meyer Sound LEO/LYON P.A. system for some of the North American dates on Judas Priest’s Firepower tour, which ran from March 2018 to late June of this year.

The British Columbia-based audio company returns to the winner circle — in fact it’s their fifth trip up here. They do it by keeping busy. “KiAN Sound continues to service its regular clients and once again provided the audio system for the Pacific National Exhibition main stage summer night concerts,” Mahaffey says. This featuring artists Smokey Robinson, Vince Neil, Billy Idol, The Beach Boys, MC Hammer, Styx, Cheap Trick, 98 Degrees and TLC. On the project front, KiAN Sound was again selected as the audio vendor to design, supply and install a new audio system for the renowned Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, BC, a venue owned by Live Nation. That project, which is expected to continue into 2020, so far includes a KiAN Sound-installed Meyer Sound MJF-212/210 monitor system including Meyer’s new UPQ-D2 loudspeaker as side fills and two AVID S6L-24D digital console systems.

KiAN handled the tour for Indian artist Diljit Dosanjh.

KiAN Sound also continues to try to give something back to the community, and the soundco has sponsored all-girls hockey team with a rock ‘n’ roll-style moniker: “Twisted Sisters.” And KiAN also supplied audio for the 30th annual Victoria Symphony Splash event, where tens of thousands flocked to Victoria’s Inner Harbor to watch the orchestra perform from a floating stage on Aug. 4, 2019.

KiAN Sound owner Mark Reimann

KiAN Sound has had a 35-year relationship with Meyer Sound, and they are on the verge of adding new Meyer products to their inventory. Founded in 1974, it was the first major sound company in Vancouver and continues to dominate today. “To win the nomination for Canada for the fifth time is something special for us. Thank you for all the continued support that we have received over our 46 years of business,” says company owner Mark Riemann.

 

MIDWEST

Logic Systems Sound & Lighting, St. Louis, MO

Logic Systems continues serving more of the greater St. Louis region while not forgetting about the local needs of the community it is so very much a part of. Founded by audio engineer Chip Self in 1986, today there are currently around 75 fulltime employees working with him and a lengthy list of part-time and as-needed team members. (Important note: All those people don’t keep Self from getting behind the console and mixing as much as possible, as that is still his first love).

Big crowds attended the St. Louis Blues 2019 Stanley Cup victory rally beneath the Gateway Arch, with Logic Systems providing the sound.

“Over the past couple years, the audio department has continued to expand our L-Acoustics inventory,” Self says. “In the past year, we’ve added to K2 and Kara inventory, and have added Kiva-2 to our collection, along with an assortment of point source enclosures and stage monitors. In consoles, we’ve recently added a [DiGiCo] SD-10 and a couple more [Avid] Profiles. One of our more interesting additions has been the Outline Newton routing processor. For large festivals and multi-console events, it’s a great solution to multiple problems.”

Hockey players — not rock stars — were the main attraction.

If you follow hockey, then you know it’s been a big year for this town as the Blues took home the Stanley Cup for the first time. Logic Systems handled all production elements for the Blues Stanley Cup parade and celebration, which drew huge celebratory crowds. At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, Logic also handled audio, video and lighting for an event sponsored by Dave Chappelle at the site of the Dayton, OH shootings. “The show was to bring the community together to reclaim their city,” Self says. “Headliners included Chance the Rapper and Stevie Wonder. None of the artists were announced in advance. The event planners expected around 20,000 people but ended up with closer to 100,000. The atmosphere and outpouring of love from the community was something I’ll remember for as long as I live.”

Chip Self

Logic has been here before, including last year. “I continue to be astounded that we have been selected for such a prestigious award,” Self says. “To be singled out by our peers for such an honor is deeply humbling. We do our best every day, to provide exceptional service and attention to detail. That our peers recognize this, and bestow this honor means the world to the team and I.”

 

NORTHWEST

Morgan Sound, Lynnwood, WA

Three times a charm for Morgan Sound, as this is their third regional win — and the company has also once took home the Parnelli for best in North America. “It caught us by surprise, because we’ve just been keeping our heads down and working our butts off,” says Steve Boyce, sound reinforcement director.

Morgan Sound crew setting up for a concert at Legends Casino.

“We are honored and thrilled to be recognized by our peers,” Boyce added. “There are many great companies out there and to be singled out this way is a very special thing to us and a wonderful reward to our crew who works so hard and does such a great job for us.”

Charlie Morgan started out as a guitar player, playing in bands in the 1970s, and started the company after buying some P.A. gear. The company grew quickly and Charlie’s wife, Susan, quit her teaching job to become a key part of the company. 2018 was a rough year for the company, however — Susan, the co-owner, passed from cancer on July 25.

In Morgan Sound’s early days, the young company was Gordon Lightfoot’s audio company of choice. “That was a big boost to the company as well as the origins of many adventures on the road,” Boyce says. “Throughout that time, Morgan Sound provided audio for concerts and events such as The Mount Hood Jazz Festival,” which ran from 1982 to 2013, “and the Bumbershoot Festival’s main stage” in Seattle.

Today there is a fulltime staff of 20 and more than a dozen freelancers. “Although our installation division installs many brands of speakers and other various equipment, our live sound department has always primarily invested in JBL/Harman products,” Boyce says. “We have a substantial collection of VTX A12s, V20s, S28s, S25s and M22s, as well as still holding onto some of our VerTec VT-4889s. Our main amplifier complements these days are the Crown I-Tech 4x3500HD and 12000HD.” For consoles they own quite a bit of Yamaha — CL5’s, CL1’s, QL’s, plus Avid Profiles (they are about to take delivery of some Avid S6Ls).

Steve Boyce, Stephen Weeks, Charlie Morgan and Scott Reed of Morgan Sound

“One of the more high-profile recent projects was an event for the Latter Day Saints at T-Mobile Park” in Seattle, home of the MBA Mariners. “In the early planning stages, the coverage area was from a stage at second base, and we would cover from foul pole to foul pole. It eventually grew to use the entire stadium for about 49,000 people. We are also particularly proud of our partnership with Legends Casino that started last year,” Boyce concludes, of the Toppenish, WA based hotel and casino complex.

 

SOUTHWEST

Onstage Systems, Dallas, TX

Once again, Onstage Systems takes the best in Southwest category, and they’ve had another impressive year. “We have continued our relationship with our clients by raising their capabilities for concerts, conventions, festivals and touring,” says Hyacinth Belcher, who with her brother Chris, run the company. (The Belchers grew up in the business — literally — as their parents Charles and Vickie founded the company in 1978, and they took over for them in 2006.)

Onstage Systems provided sound for the 25th annual Wildflower Arts & Music Festival in Richardson, TX, which featured Lynyrd Skynyrd.

“We have grown outside the Texas boundaries into venues that span from California to Canada and the Eastern U.S.” But they are still serving the local community’s needs to providing support to Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra; and a 50th birthday celebration for Mark Cuban that included performances by none other than Stevie Wonder and the Chainsmokers.

They also continue to keep up the concert engagements of George Strait, who, “for someone that has retired from touring, sure stays busy!” Otherwise, Onstage has expanded its market share by supporting several key local venues with installation support to further grow the L-Acoustics brand in the Dallas-Fort Worth and North Texas areas.

George Strait is a regular client of Onstage Systems.

Among the community festivals supported by Onstage are JMBLYA (Austin area), Lights All Night (Dallas), Wildflower (Richardson, TX), Off the Rails (Frisco, TX) and Ubbi Dubbi (Fort Worth)— to name a few. “Our fundraiser and nonprofit clients include a marathon for breast cancer awareness and the American Cancer’s Dallas Cattle Barons Ball,” says Belcher. “Our continued support for EDM events included Freaky Deaky Festival in Houston, which posed extreme challenges in sound design, requiring three EDM stages worth of audio to be contained within strict decibel levels outside the festival grounds.” To keep up with it all Onstage has added to its inventory with new gear from L-Acoustics, DiGiCo and Shure, among others.

Onstage Systems also handles corporate and especial event gigs.

Belcher adds that what was needed most last year was space, and so last year Onstage purchased a 75,000-square-foot facility. “We have also increased our personnel by appointing a general manager, an audio department manager and added another audio systems technician,” she says. Expanding this department has resulted in several certified training sessions, including from L-Acoustics, DiGiCo and Shure. “We are honored to receive recognition from our peers and our clients in the world of audio and will continue our dedication and devotion to the best in live sound.”

 

NORTHEAST

SPL Sound, Vineland, NJ

Steve Ponzetto started what would become SPL in 1979, and by the time he graduated from high school in 1981, the audio company was a full-time gig. He was playing bass in bands when he says his drive for perfection led him to purchase his own sound system.

SPL Sound typically relies on its large Crown-powered JBL rig for large events.

In 2000, the company moved into a new warehouse facility in southern New Jersey as their reach expanded into New York, Philadelphia, Atlantic City and the Washington, D.C. areas. “We serve the casinos, corporate events and meetings, colleges and county events in the tri-state region for events 1,000 people and up,” Ponzetto says. The gear they use include JBL VTX-V25-II, VTX-G28 subs and the new VTX-A8, all Crown powered, he reports. “We have consoles from Avid, Yamaha, Midas and will soon be adding some DiGiCo products.”

Highlights of the year include working with Cher, Britney Spears and James Taylor. “We have several part-time employees,” Ponzetto continues, but has some sad news to report from the year just past. “Our long-time employee, Ned Willson, who had been with us since the beginning, passed away in December of last year, leaving a big hole.”

Ponzetto is gratified to have his company recognized by its peers with this regional honor. “Being a very small company, it is very gratifying being recognized for the effort I put into every gig to make sure thing are up-to-date and functioning properly, and trying to treat clients the way I would want to be treated.”

 

SOUTHEAST

Blackhawk Audio, White House, TN

Blackhawk saw all markets go “up across the board” this year and to keep up with it, they did some sizable investing, including 40 additional Meyer Sound Lyons and Meyer’s new point-source ULTRA-X40s; 32 EAW Anyas and an additional EAW Otto subwoofer. “We also invested in a Roland DGA LEF-300 (30” VersaUV flatbed printer) for printing our custom interface panels,” says owner Rick Shimer.

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Blackhawk was founded by Rick and his wife Angela in 1986 and it all “started with a couple of JBL scoops I had from working at the Opryland theme park,” he laughs. “I thought, ‘I could make some extra money renting these speakers!’” Today, the company has around 25 employees at their peak times, and they serve a wide-ranging clientele, from arena and stadium events, to televised award shows to large scale sound system design and install projects. “Our company has a proud heritage of servicing the Christian touring market. We also work with national corporate accounts, major television networks and a wide range of event producers and even a few festivals for 60,000 people or so a night.”

This year’s highlights include Winter Jam Tour Spectacular 2019, an in-the-round tour that went into more than 40 major U.S. arenas. “On that, we used our new EAW Adaptive P.A. — Anya, Anna and Otto. Nothing like a high-powered, in-the-round arena system with only 96 boxes of P.A.!” Then there was TobyMac’s “Hits Deep” tour that took them to another 34 arenas. On that project, Blackhawk used its Meyer Sound LEO family of speakers and DiGiCo consoles — specifically LEO, LYON, Leopard, 900LFC, 1100LFC, MJF212A, 700HP, JM1P and DiGiCo SD10s.

Blackhawk Audio owners Rick and Angela Shimer

Install-wise, Blackhawk is particularly proud to have worked on Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. “We were adding to the two DiGiCo SD5s and a SD12 that we installed last year,” Shimer says. “Then Shades added a complete EAW Adaptive system featuring Anya, Anna and Otto speakers.”

 

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