An estimated 60,000 people attended the Global Citizen Festival; the stage featured a circular video screen that projected images of the performers.
NEW YORK, NY—As Global Citizens, participants in the organization by the same name work for one thing— to end extreme poverty throughout the world. Since it was established in 2012, Global Citizen has welcomed 170,000 people to the organization, who all work to improve the lives of our world’s poor.

The goal of this campaign targets an end to extreme poverty throughout the world by 2030; bringing attention to its cause, Global Citizen, in cooperation with the Cotton On Foundation, hosts an annual music festival in Central Park, with performances by a number of its participating musicians.

Providing the sound system again for this year’s show, held September 28 with a line up of Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, John Mayer and Kings of Leon, was Red Hook, NY-based Firehouse productions, boasting two JBL VTX line array systems, with two pairs of JBL 4888s for front fill. The entire system was powered using Crown I-Tech 12000HD amplifiers.

New to the company’s inventory this year was its arsenal of 35 JBL VTX-G28 subs, arranged along the front of the stage in cardioid mode (three speakers stacked together, with two facing forward and the third facing the stage, along with two additional subs for a little extra).

“We got these subs two months ago,” explained Matt Dittmar, VP Design and Engineering for Firehouse Productions, who said since acquiring the new subs, the company has used them at two major shows—the MTV Video Music Awards and the iHeart- Radio Festival. “The note they (the subs) create is actually musical, versus just pushing the beat back and forth.”

Firehouse Productions vice president of Design and Engineering Mark Dittmar gave PSN a tour of the stage before the show.
While Firehouse provided the sound system, each performer brought along crews to man FOH and monitors. At FOH for Stevie Wonder was his long-time FOH engineer Danny Leake, mixing on a DiGiCo SD7 digital console.

“My company’s motto is ‘Paint a Picture with Sounds,’ and I try to paint a pretty entertaining picture,” Leake told Pro Sound News.

Leake said he always has to stay alert when working with Wonder too, as the artist tends to stray from the set list—if he even provides one. “He puts on a very unscripted show, and he’ll change it up,” Leake said. “He’ll just start playing piano and expects people to follow him. You can see Stevie perform five different times, and you’ll see five very different shows.”

Leake said he mainly uses onboard plug-ins for Wonder’s live performances, but he also keeps a Lexicon 960L on hand for reverb on vocals. For mics, all the vocalists, including Wonder, use Shure KSM9s, while the band uses a variety of Beta 98s, Beta 91s, 57s and Neumann KM 84s.

“We’ve gone through a lot of vocal mics, and the Shure KSM9 was the one we sort of fell into over the last two or three years,” said Leake. “For Stevie, it cuts through all the extra junk on stage, and it’s also good for the background vocals.”

Wonder has two engineers handling monitors for his shows, with Dwayne Jones manning the band’s monitor system on a DiGiCo SD7, and Bill Barnett mixing the in-ear monitors for Wonder himself, also on an SD7.

Leake and his crew conducted soundcheck for Wonder the day before the concert, as large-scale performances at Central Park are placed under strict regulations as to when they can play music through loudspeakers. He explained that no one could play music before 10 a.m., and there was a hard curfew of 9:30 p.m.

Danny Leake (center), FOH Engineer for Stevie Wonder, stands with monitor engineers Dwayne Jones (left) and Bill Barnett (right) before soundcheck.
“At 9:30, if you’re not finished playing, they’re going to pull the plug on you,” Leake said. Dittmar added that during soundchecks, they couldn’t send audio through the delay systems.

The Global Citizen show took place on the Great Lawn in Central Park, which is an open field that spans between 81st and 86th Street in the center of the park. The openness of the field was an added benefit for Firehouse Productions, as it had few sound reflections, Dittmar said.

However, one of the challenges Dittmar faced was that the park only allowed delays and FOH to be set up on the dirt baseball fields scattered along the Great Lawn in an a-symmetrical formation. The park also restricts access for larger trucks in the area, so the crew had to manually push the equipment from the trucks at Central Park West into the site.

“The logistics of the show are harder than the actual sound system,” Dittmar laughed.

RF coordination was also a challenge, as the wireless devices had to share frequencies with New York City’s vast number of broadcast studios. Firehouse Productions brought its own RF coordinators to the show, and Dittmar estimated they used about 125 frequencies during the event. This number, he said, was more manageable than the estimated 380 frequencies they used during the VMAs earlier that month.

The day of the show, it was difficult to wander through Central Park without catching a glimpse of the nearly 60,000 attendees waiting to see the performances. Between acts, world leaders, celebrities and staff members of the Global Citizen organization spoke to the crowd about the importance of working to end extreme poverty throughout the world, and told them what they can do to help. For more information on Global Citizen and its mission, visit

Firehouse Productions