MSI Preps For Obama Inauguration

MSI is preparing for the upcoming inauguration of president elect Barack Obama, to be held in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009.
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by Clive Young. 

After New Year's, the sound reinforcement business goes into hibernation. It's the time of year to sweep out the warehouse, take a look at that handful of amplifiers that were acting up at the end of the summer, and put out a few feelers to make sure there's work at the other end of the winter slumber. Unless you're Bob Goldstein, owner of Baltimore-based Maryland Sound Industries; he'll be busy dealing with the biggest event of his career--maybe even the biggest of anyone's career.

"We're thinking this may wind up as probably the largest amplified event ever, period," he told me when I caught up with him just before Thanksgiving. The big gig he was referring to is the upcoming inauguration of president elect Barack Obama, to be held in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009.

MSI has provided audio for presidential swearing-in ceremonies before, making this the company's third go round handling all audio duties for the event; additionally, it had lesser roles in earlier inaugurations, "throwing up some Altecs and such," he said.

The Altecs are long gone, of course. Much like the last full inauguration MSI took on, it will field JBL VerTec systems, hung on custom motorized portable poles, but even so, things will be different this time, says Goldstein: "They're expecting 4-5 million people, and usually when they say things like that, I go with about a third of the number, but this time? It'll be at least 2 or 3 million--if the weather's good, maybe 5 million.

"We've done a lot of events at the National Mall, and to be fair, it's easy to get a bit jaded, but when you're talking the Capitol to the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial to Virginia, it's one enormous area--two and a half to three miles of wall-to-wall people."

As a result, planning has involved far more than just deciding where to place loudspeaker delays. Goldstein reserved hotel rooms for his crew back in May and good thing, too: Local newspapers are reporting that some hotel rooms in the area are going for as much as $9,000 a night on the evenings surrounding the event.

"DC is sold out, Baltimore is sold out, the whole surrounding area? Forget it. This makes New York hotel rooms on New Year's Eve look cheap," he laughed, referring to another high-profile event that MSI provides sound for annually.

Despite the challenges that face MSI as it prepares for the event, Goldstein is looking forward to the event: "I'll be right there as a witness to history."