Picture this, if you will: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Marilyn Monroe, and Bob Hope all performing onstage in a one-night only show. This could only happen at the Sands or somewhere else on the Las Vegas Strip of the late ‘50s, right? No, try a rodeo arena in Colorado, where The Ultimate USO Show made a stop not long ago at the Estes Park Fairgrounds and Events Center. Showcased by Rat Pack Events and Cal Neva Entertainment, the living tribute came to life using an Allen & Heath SQ-5 mixer and GX4816 stage box.
"I was basically a one-man band when it came to running this show’s audio,” notes Neal Johnson, who took a break from his usual duties as a systems designer in the Denver office of Clearwing Productions to manage the task. “To compound matters, shortly after I arrived I was informed that horses were going to be traveling through my cable path at times, and I couldn’t bury my lines. It’s a good thing I had the SQ-5, because all I had to do was disconnect a single Cat5 cable, then plug it back in once they had passed. I didn’t have to worry about not having enough manpower to deal with restoring cumbersome patching each time.”
The SQ-5 was provided by allies to the cause Dean Hinton and Travis Stefl from Louisville, Colorado-based Pro Tech Marketing. With 14 inputs coming from the stage for star vocals and The Ron Davis Big Band, Johnson managed four monitor mixes with the SQ-5 as well.
“I used virtually every feature the desk had,” he explains. “Its peak/RMS compressor, four-band parametric EQ, a raft of vintage outboard hardware emulations, gated reverbs, and delays from the RackExtra FX package it is
equipped with right out of the box. Filling the outdoor dimensions of the space properly would have been difficult without all those tools at my disposal.” Confined to a working area in the grandstands no bigger than the compact SQ-5 itself, Johnson utilized Allen & Heath’s SQ MixPad app to access the console remotely while dialing-in the wedge monitors onstage.
“Even working alone I nailed it all pretty quickly,” he adds. “It’s much easier when you can stand right next to the performers and ask them what they want to hear. I initially thought I was bringing more console than I needed. But if I ever find myself in a situation like this again, I won’t leave home without it.”