Friends With Benefits is a nonprofit organization that produces concerts to benefit local charities, raising more than $100,000 in the past year alone.Every April, in downtown Augusta, the organization puts on a concert called The Major Rager, and it also offers a popular series called The Riverwalk Revival. The shows are held at the lovely Jessye Norman Amphitheater, adjacent to the Augusta Commons on the shore of the Savannah River, and they are recorded and webcast.
The Jessye Norman Amphitheater was once a local hotspot but it lost its mojo for awhile until Friends With Benefits and The Riverwalk Revival series helped bring it back to life. Today, it’s hotter than ever, with a full calendar of high-profile shows throughout the season.
The Amphitheater shows enjoy a reputation for exceptional sound, with Augusta sound and staging provider Quest Sound Productions LLC providing a powerful system featuring Renkus-Heinz STXLA/9 line array loudspeakers, driven by Crown amplifiers.
“We handle the production for every Friends With Benefits show,” asserts Quest Sound co-owner Rob Boggs.
“Riverwalk Revival has featured bands like Yonder Mountain String Band and Trampled by Turtles, and Major Rager has featured Umphrey’s McGee and Gov’t Mule. Naturally, we want to provide the best possible sound, and we use a lot of Renkus-Heinz loudspeakers, so the STXLA/9s were an obvious choice.”
The STXLA/9 is a non-powered line array-a powered version is also available-that features Renkus-Heinz’ exclusive Isophasic Plane Wave Generator, which provides constant beamwidth and directivity down to 200 Hz. High-mids are handled by two Renkus-Heinz CDT-1.5 CoEntrant drivers with 6.5-inch midrange drivers (250W RMS each) and two 2.5-inch high-frequency drivers (80W RMS each). Dual 12-inch low-frequency drivers (500W RMS each) provide smooth, clean lows. Optional weather resistance is available for outdoor venues.
In June 2016, more than 1,500 fans flocked to Riverwalk Revival to enjoy the music of two-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Jason Mraz. Long-time Mraz front-of-house engineer Ettore DeDivitiis mixed the show on Quest Sound’s Midas Pro2 console, while Boggs mixed monitors.
“Mraz used in-ears, and we added two powered speakers for backfills, so the stage was completely clean, which made things easier,” Boggs explains.
“For the mains, we used five STXLA/9s per side.The Savannah River flows immediately behind the stage area, and people in boats pull up during shows, so we faced additional speakers toward the river. Mraz played solo acoustic guitar-the tour is called ‘Jason and his Guitar’-and STXLA/9s go down to 60 Hz, so we didn’t need subwoofers.”
The show was a big success, filling the amphitheater to capacity. The crowd got their money’s worth and then some, according to Boggs. “Jason Mraz was fantastic,” he enthuses, “and the Renkus-Heinz STXLA/9 system sounded great! It was one of those gigs you check off your bucket list.”