The Unforgettable Rock Isle (Mulwala) Festival 1972

The Unforgettable Rock Isle (Mulwala) Festival 1972

mulwala

mulwala2Story by Paul Mulholland - Jands Owner & Managing Director

Prior to the 70’s the standard rock’n’roll PA speaker system consisted of columns containing 4 X 12” or 300mm cone loudspeakers. The two major Australian guitar manufacturers being: Leonard in NSW and Strauss in Victoria both built such a product with the budget models being fitted with MotoRola speakers and the performance models fitted with JBL D120s. Whether it be the Rolling Stones indoor at the old Stadium in Rushcutters Bay or Deep Purple outdoor at the Randwick Race Course, the sound system was made up of column loudspeakers. The advantage of the JBL 12 was that it had an aluminium dome which provided some high frequency response up to about 8K. As more PA was required it was simply a matter of stacking the columns higher and wider. It mattered little as most of the audience struggled to hear anything and were there mainly for the experience.

Jands first entered the PA business in a serious way (if you can call it that these days) when they contracted to provide the PA system for a 2 day festival in Heddon Greta Speedway outside Newcastle in 1970. Jands contacted Howard Page, a freelance sound engineer with considerable experience, who offered to provide a state-of-the-art PA system of the like never seen before in Australia. Howard had discovered that a conservative radio parts company by the name of AWA happened to have in their rental inventories some horn loaded Altec Lancing speakers. Armed with a rented speaker system and microphones, a Jands 10 channel mixer and Jands 100V amplifiers, the Jands crew headed to Newcastle. The PA was set up Saturday morning. Despite technical difficulties which resulted in the opening act going on an hour late all agreed the sound from the PA for the next day and a half was the best ever heard in Australia. Jands were now in the sound business.

The following week the principles of Jands sat down with Howard Page and developed a plan to acquire our own equipment. In those days everyone built their own cabinets so the first task for Jands was to decide which components should be purchased. After much deliberation it was agreed to buy JBL speakers, horns and drivers. We then set about manufacturing speaker cabinets.

As the only game in town at that time, Jands quickly found themselves providing sound reinforcement systems for the various festivals that were being announced around Australia in the early 1970s.

One of the most memorable (for all the wrong reasons) was the Rock Isle (Mulwala) Festival held over the Easter long weekend somewhere on the banks of the Murray River in 1972. Billed in their advertising as bigger than Woodstock it was to prove a giant disappointment.

Every bit of sound equipment owned by Jands was loaded into the truck on Wednesday along with 6 of our 7 staff and headed off to Mulwala. This still remains as the most miserable experience Jands staff can recall!

Although it was fine when we arrived, the rain quickly started and the PA setup was completed in heavy rain. From the pictures you can see the PA was painted blue on the outside with black internals and flares. At the time it seemed like a good idea to differentiate your brand so Jands decided to go by the name Pacific Sound and the blue was a lame attempt at identifying with the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say it was dropped a year later and everything was painted professional black. The PA was your typical 4 way of the time consisting of W cabinets running up to 250Hz, horn loaded 12’s running up to 1200Hz, JBL flares and horn drivers running up to 6k and the famous JBL ring radiator running to 16k. The ring radiator was to play a special part in this festival.

Despite the promoter’s concept of holding the festival midway between Sydney and Melbourne and capturing the audience from both major capitals, the audience came from neither. The crowd was small and the first night regrettably saw a punter drown in the river bringing quite a sobering air to the festival.

The 2 international acts were “Canned Heat” and “Steven Stills” who failed to excite the water logged and muddy crowd, who by midnight on the first day were well and truly over it. Jands was required to provide its own accommodation on site so we hired a tent before leaving Sydney. Unfortunately, the rain was such that the tent never got erected and we all slept in the back of the truck. It became clear early on in the piece that the festival would lose money, and Jands not wishing to be part of the losses, insisted we be paid on the first night. The promoters reluctantly agreed and provided us cash from the gate. Having no idea how to keep the money safe at the site, which was rapidly deteriorating into a muddy free for all with no security or barricades, someone came up with the brilliant idea of putting it in one of the ring radiator boxes. Late on the first night the box was pulled down off the stack, loaded with the money and put back up on the stack where it stayed until it came back to Sydney 4 days later, was unloaded and banked.

With the rain getting even heavier and acts unable to get in and out of the site the promoters finally curtailed to the weather and cancelled the third day of the festival. Jands packed the PA into our truck, contracted a local farmer and his tractor to tow us out of the site and headed home on Sunday afternoon much the worse for wear and looking forward to our first shower in 4 days.

Jands went on to do almost all the festivals in the 70’s and 80’s often in fairly difficult conditions, however Mulwala will go down on record as being the worst.

Click here for more photos of the Rock Isle Mulwala Festival

 

TicketAbout Mulwala:

The Rock Isle Mulwala Festival was held over the Easter weekend (31 March – 2 April 1972) and featured local bands including: Russell Morris, Lobby Loyde, Leo De Castro and Friends, Country Radio, Chain, Carson, Taman Shud and The Aztecs. The festival also featured, Canned Heat and Steven Stills band “Mannassas”, with Chris Hilman.

 

SpeakersSound System (each side):

2 x Jands Hurler c/w 4 x JBL 2225
1 x JBL 4550 c/w 2 x JBL K130
2 x Jands 4580 c/w 2 x JBL K120
2 x JBL 2350 90 Horn with 2480 Driver
2 x JBL 2355 60 Horn with 2440 Driver
1 x JBL 2360 Long Throw Horn with 2480 Driver
2 x HF enclosures each with 2 x JBL 2402
2 x HF enclosures each with 2 x JBL 2405
24 x Jands 150w Power Amplifiers

 

Crew:

Howard Page, Phillip Storey, David Mulholland, Eric Robinson, Paul Mulholland, Edward Robinson, Andrew Batchelor.

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