Sound fellas: the fine art of mixing for a festival stage

James Murphy is bringing his Despacio to Glasto: what’s the best sound you’ve ever heard at a festival?

Despacio soundsystem: it’s got Dolby noise reduction and everything

Despacio soundsystem: it’s got Dolby noise reduction and everything


Those making the trip to Glastonbury just got an extra sweetener, with the news that James Murphy and Soulwax pair David and Stephen Dewaele are bringing their Despacio soundsystem to the festival.

This is music-nerd heaven: the unreal rig was put together by Murphy with New York sound engineer John Klett, and made its debut at last year’s Manchester International Festival. If you scooped out the inside of a mirrorball’s brain it might look a little something like this.

Murphy has rightly got a reputation as one of music’s thinkers, and labours over the nitty gritty of the texture and sound of his records and work. This isn’t something that often translates into a festival setting: in the hustle and bustle of running live shows in a field, sound engineering is often a necessarily efficient rather than an artistic business.

But when artists and production crew take a long, hard look at the backline, the results can be spectacular. The Despacio soundsystem is becoming a legend in its own aural lifetime. Two years ago at Body and Soul, I remember being utterly blown away by the sound on the Upstage, specially built by Le Tissier and Slipdraft. I haven’t heard a better festival stage since.

So what’s the best sound you’ve heard at a festival? And would any sound engineers out there like to big up some of their mates who never get a mention for the sterling work they do driving the desk?

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