At the recent Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee, a whole extra set of shows was happening behind the scenes, featuring many of the festival’s top acts, including Mumford and Sons, the Decemberists, Ray LaMontagne, Widespread Panic and Bruce Hornsby. All of them and many others were laying down tracks and doing interviews in the Hay Bale Studio.
Asheville, North Carolina-based Music Allies oversaw the backstage studio area, and the studio itself was operated by Nashville’s The Toy Box Studio and engineered by producer/recording engineer Lij. The performances captured in this space were subsequently broadcast across the country by approved radio partners, who had dedicated booths in a large radio tent next to the studio, overseen by Tom Hansen of Nashville’s WRLT-FM (Lightning 100). This marked the eighth year of the backstage studio at Bonnaroo.
The studio trailer, sound-insulated by hundreds of hay bales, was outfitted in part by the Nashville location of GC Pro, which provided a Solid State Logic AWS 948 console for the studio, in addition to a full complement of processors and backline microphones, instruments and amps.
Sean O’Connell, founder and CEO of Music Allies, believes that the proceedings backstage illustrate Bonnaroo’s dedication to spreading the weekend’s music beyond the festival walls. “When we started this several years ago, we were thinking of ways to get radio involved in a way that the local stations could not necessarily cover. These sessions go out to 45 radio stations – in Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Nashville and more – so it’s a great way for people who aren’t at Bonnaroo to get a taste of why it’s so special. There is no other festival that has this kind of radio involvement.”