Great Lake Swimmers – North America pt 1

Great Lake Swimmers @ Southminster United Church
Lethbridge, AB
May 8 2012.
Photo by Brad Ferguson

So, we are just over a week into this tour. The routing on this tour is what I would call ‘very efficient’, with little to no time off, except for when necessary for long-distance drives. We’ve been through Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, and Nelson so far.

The bus is pretty full with 10 people, but it doesn’t feel too cramped. It’s a pretty well laid-out bus which allows me to keep a desk together. It may seem unnecessary, but it really does help me be more efficient not having to set-up and tear down my office setup two or three times a day.

I brought my hand-blender and some frozen fruit, milk, and greek yogurt on this run so every morning I can start off with a fruit smoothie. I usually follow with an all-bran bar, just to keep the body in check. After years and years of living on the road and eating terribly, I have finally figured out the correlation between eating well and feeling well. It’s funny how that works.

Usually when I start a tour with a new act I have a bit of anxiety, not knowing what I’m getting myself into. Despite not having worked with Great Lake Swimmers all that much (I had mixed monitors for them twice before this tour, and both times were in 2009), I had a pretty good relationship with everyone and wasn’t worried. They’re a pretty relaxed and easy-going bunch.

What’s interesting about this tour is that I’m not doing sound. I am strictly tour managing, and we are touring with a FOH sound engineer, and merch person. I have to say, being able to focus on being a tour manager only has really helped me focus on doing that job really well, and it has allowed me to relax a little bit while on the road. When you’re going 18 hours a day it’s hard to keep your head above water some days, but thankfully that isn’t an issue on this tour.

While in Chicago, I took a tour of Wrigley Field, which was amazing. If you know me, you know how much I love baseball, and to be in such a beautiful and historic baseball venue was pretty spectacular.

Being a tourist on Wrigley Field – Got a little bit wet though due to rain.

The day after Chicago, GLS had a Daytrotter session in Rock Island, Il. While we were on the way there, I looked at a map and realized that Rock Island is right next door to Moline, Il, which is where John Deere’s world headquarters is located. As you may or may not know, I grew up on a farm, and in 1988 my father founded a John Deere dealership. It’s been the family business ever since, and I was practically raised at the dealership. It was my first job and I started off by cutting the grass, and ended up selling parts, delivering lawn mowers, and managing the company’s computer systems. I’ve always wanted to go to Moline to see what it was like there, and I managed to call a cab and I finally got my chance.

1934 John Deere Model “A”

Once we crossed back into Canada, we had a night off in Saskatoon which allowed me to visit some family, which was really great. We are now rolling into Vancouver for a well-deserved day off, and we play The Commodore Ballroom tomorrow, before heading to Victoria and then south of the border to Seattle.

I look forward to sharing some photos of the left coast with you soon!


Sam Roberts Band – Toronto, ON pt 2

Here’s part 2 of this post. This one is more of an audio nerd’s guide to this show. For part 1, which is a less nerdy account, click here.

To the surprise of many, I had to be at Massey Hall at 9am. This was because we had to oversee how the audio rig was installed. This goes for everything from how the PA system is flown, to the placement of stage risers, monitors, backline, how my console gets set up, you name it.

What Massey Hall looks like at 9:00am. Note the fly point for audio in the upper right.

We were lucky enough to have the new L’Acoustics KARA system for this show. We flew 2 SB18 and 9 KARA per side. These speakers covered the two balconies only. On the ground we had another SB18 and 5 KARA covering the floor seating. There were 3 SB28s per side providing the thump. I think ultimately if we had the option we may have gone with 12 KARA per side, but the system was not near limit during the show. I made sure to look at how the headroom was a few times.

L'Acoustics KARA at trim. The white line hanging there from the array is a tape measure that allows us to measure the height of system. There is also a inclinometer on top of the array that allows us, in conjunction with the tape measure, to ensure the array is pointed exactly where we want it to be.

Once the sound system was in the air, it allowed me to start setting up my monitor console. I was mixing the show on a Avid Venue Profile system. This is my console of choice these days. They also make a lesser expensive SC48 which is quite similar just lacks a few features but nonetheless is a very capable console as well.

We were using L’Acoustics 115XT Hi-Q monitors and Sennheiser ew300 IEM G3 in-ear monitors. The cool thing about using the Sennheiser G3 IEMs is that you can set up what’s called engineer mode on the beltpack which you can program in all of the frequencies for the guys on stage, and with a click of a button the beltpack switches frequencies so you hear what is actually being transmitted to the stage. This is advantageous over setting up your own monitoring frequency and AFL’ing out of the console because you can actually hear what is coming out of the transmitter for each band member. This also allows you to only have one cue bus set up which on the Venue is handy, otherwise you would need a work-around. This is probably the only drawback to the Venue in my mind. The PM5D has it beat on that front (and only that front).

A pair of L'Acoustics 115XT Hi-Q, and Sam's pedal board. Please note the giant coil of cable for when he runs around the stage for Brother Down.

All in all the show went really smoothly. The one adjustment I had to make between day one and two was that I re-angled Jimmy’s wedges before the second show started. He tends to not be very close to his wedges so I stuck a DI box under the back of each one so they were pointing downward a little more than they do naturally. He really likes 12am wedges which I think is because they are notorious for aiming into the knees of a performer and always have to be shimmed up. Because he is always so far away, I think he actually hears them quite well. The 115XT Hi-Qs do aim up quite a bit, so by angling them downward he had a better night.

This is what the show looked like from my position. I was indeed being blinded the entire night by the light on the opposite side of the stage. Next time I'm going to have to bring my sunglasses.

Sam Roberts Band – Toronto, ON pt 1

I’ve decided to divide this post into two separate posts – this one will discuss the show and how it was in general, and the other will talk more about the logistics and audio production.

Sam Roberts Band played at Massey Hall in Toronto on June 3rd and 4th.

Massey Hall. I apologize to all of my photog friends for going hipstamatic-crazy in this post.

It was good to see the guys fresh off their great shows at Malkin Bowl and Sasquatch Festival. It was a shame I didn’t get to join in all the fun, but it made these shows extra special to be a part of.

The best part of working with them is that everyone just gets along so well. Not only the band but the crew too, which isn’t always the case. Denton and Phil (Tour Manager and FOH mixer, respectively), have been good friends of mine for years now and it’s always great working with them because they are both very, very good at what they do.

An Empty Massy Hall.

The other undeniable factor that really made this show special was the fact that it was in Massey Hall. I’ve done 4 other shows in this room before but it has always been as an opening act. When opening up here it’s usually pretty stressful since openers rarely get more than 30 minutes to play, and are rushed off the stage – it’s hard to enjoy the experience as much as you do as a headliner.

Dave Nugent and his fans

One of the great things about Massey is the geometry of the room. The way the balconies wrap around the side makes it feel like the audience is right on top of you. The audience on the top balcony at the side are literally overhanging the stage – the only disadvantage to these seats is that some of the stage is blocked visually by the PA system and lighting.

SRB's Set List from Saturday June 4 2011

Sam played two different sets between night one and night two, and I think I really enjoyed night two’s more because he threw in Dead End (my fave) and Uprising Down Under. I took my in-ear monitors out during Uprising so I could hear it in the room. It’s a bit echoey on stage because the room is so tall and was built before modern-day sound reinforcement, but it was still nice to listen to.

Both shows went off without a hitch, and both nights Sam, being the class act that he is, took time to shake hands of quite a few audience members before walking off stage.

If you don't feel like singing along to Brother Down, you have problems.

Class act, all the way.

Stay tuned later this week for my audio nerd post.