Having a reliable audio system, staging and backline gear for waterside concerts, festivals, and parties comes with special concerns when the elements threaten to get involved. Outdoor festivals and events around Lower Manhattan and New Jersey may be subjected to unpredictable rain, hail, and high winds that could be disastrous to your equipment. Outdoors shows exposed to the weather are not a big deal if you are prepared. The threat of inclement weather paired with a unique venue may require you to put just as much energy into protecting your sound gear as you did in staging it.
Unexpected weather can happen at any venue. Exposure to water or salt can be disastrous to your equipment which could short out or fail altogether. If your gear is powered by sensitive electronics don’t count on it not being affected by moisture and condensation caused by wet conditions.
Salt and water damage can be irreversible. So either view the equipment you want to bring as expendable, or rent or buy a kit for the show. And don’t forget to use the proper type of water-rated electrical cabling. The best protection for your equipment is when it’s safe from the elements, is designed to travel, is well maintained and is in peak operating condition.
A little rain on the microphone is not a problem. Mics need to be dried off as soon as possible. If you put them away wet they may rust and have mold grow on them.
For weather resistance, cover speaker stacks and monitors with thin plastic bags (they let the sound through and keep the water out). Secure plastic covers and tarps in place when the wind intensity increases to help avoid rips or tears. If speakers are not properly protected, pooling water will damage speaker cones and cause mold to grow in drivers. Be sure to dry them out as soon as possible.
If you don’t have bags to protect monitors, turn them over when it starts to rain. Cover microphones, soundboards, amplifiers, and other electronic equipment with tarps or plastic. Plastic bread bags slip easily over a down turned microphone.
If your electrical system is wired properly, a wet mic is not a safety hazard. Remember – when people’s skin gets wet it conducts electricity better. Proper system grounding is essential. Make sure everything is grounded and make sure there are no shock hazards. Inspect all outlets that the sound system and stage gear are powered from for proper wiring.
SAFETY FIRST. If electricity is exposed to the elements, if lightening is present, cancel the gig. Equipment damage is secondary to injury. Systematically power down and disconnect everything. Wet surfaces also increase your chances of slip and falls so be careful.
After the event, you’ll need to completely wipe off and dry out the insides of your audio equipment as soon as possible. To be completely sure, it’s best to disassemble each piece of gear to give the interior and circuit boards a thorough cleaning and a chance to dry out. Salt will slowly erode the electrical connections inside, so don’t delay cleaning.
If you are lucky, rain will only be temporary, and the show will continue once things dry off.