Sam Roberts Band – Canada Day in Surrey, BC

Having done monitors for SRB quite a bit in the past, I’ve always wondered what the band sounded like out front. I finally got my chance when SRB’s regular TM and FOH technicians had to sub-out for another show, and I got the call to take care of the boys.

After Arkells’ show in Owen Sound on July 30, I high-tailed it to the airport and got on the red-eye to Vancouver. An hour after the flight had landed I found myself in a random hotel in Surrey, BC. I managed to get about three and a half hours of sleep before I had to wake up and do soundcheck.

Despite a couple of curveballs, soundcheck went off relatively well. The system was a D&B J-series line array, with J-subs in a left/right configuration and a mono-cluster of B2 subs along the front of the stage. Because the subs were originally in a line one high, we had a lot of sub spilling on to the stage, so we opted to stand them up in a cardioid configuration. This helped a lot with the stage sound but created a few alleys in the audience area. It was a sacrifice worth making though.

After soundcheck I managed to get to the hotel and have a power-nap but not before I ate an obscene amount of sushi. BC is the best for sushi.

Showtime came, and things went off well.  They played a great set and covered a lot of my favourite songs. Once I got into the comfort zone I found myself dancing and singing along while I mixed – if you’ve seen me mix a show I usually look pretty tense, so I must have been having fun.

What’s next:

As soon as the show came, it went, and now I have a couple of days off before Arkells start-up next weekend. My cross-Canada tour resumes and I’ll end up in Ottawa and Moncton next weekend before flying home for a few days of R+R. Lots of Arkells gigs this summer, as well as some with Great Lake Swimmers, Elliott Brood, and the good ol’ Cuff the Duke boys.

2011 in review

Well friends, another year has come and gone, and I have another big list of shows behind me.

I thought I would join the large number of people who make their Top 5 of 2011 lists, so with no further adieu, here it is. I refuse to rank these in any order though – it would be like choosing a favourite child – I love them all equally.

Top 5 Shows of 2011 in Chronological Order:

1. National Parks Project @ Royal Cinema – May 19 2011

2011 Marked the centennial of the founding of Parks Canada. A number of artists embarked on an expedition to capture the parks in music and film. The result was simply stunning, and I was lucky enough to mix the concert that was held at The Royal Cinema in Toronto to celebrate the release of the project. On this night a great variety of musicians performed including Bry Webb, and Sarah Harmer.

You can find more information on the National Parks Project here (as well as purchase the film or CD).

2. Sam Roberts Band @ Massey Hall – June 3 + 4 2011

Massey Hall is the Holy Grail for a lot of Canadian Musicians likely due to the history that building holds. Neil Young’s live record from 1971 is one of many that were recorded there, and it makes sense why people would want to record shows there. It’s a very lively room and it feels like the audience on the sides of the balcony are on top of the stage. While acoustically it has is challenges, it is definitely a special place to do a show, and I’ve been lucky enough to do a few in that room. Despite having been there before, it didn’t feel any less special. This show was one that kicked off a month of work with Sam, and it was a very good month.

3. Arkells @ Bayfest – July 10 2011

One thing that really keeps me on my heels with Arkells is the range of shows that I do with them. It isn’t uncommon to go from a small club that only holds a couple hundred people to a large outdoor festival that holds tens of thousands. Obviously adjusting from one sound system to another can be a challenge in its own, it is especially challenging when you go from one extreme to another. Fortunately though some days I really luck out and get to mix on a sound system that is the best in the world.

This show was being headlined by The Tragically Hip, and their FOH mixer Jon Erickson is a man of good and uncompromising taste. He spec’d a L’Acoustics V-DOSC rig for his summer festivals, and the cherry on top were that his choice of subs were not the L’Acoustics subs, but the Jason Sound Industries J-61. Now obviously he has a long history with these boxes but that’s not why he continues to use them. They are a good sounding sub. They have far less distortion, and they are a horn-loaded sub, which means while they are not punchy, they produce the nicest sub-bass you’ll ever hear live. The only down-side is that you need a pile of them, but thankfully when you’re The Hip in Canada, you can pretty much get what you want.

This was the best sounding rig I’ve mixed on, and it doesn’t only take good speakers, it takes a good PA tech, and Juice is a rising star here in Ontario. Kudos, bud.

Photo by Nora Penhale

4. Ra Ra Riot @ Malkin Bowl – September 24 2011

Starting a tour with a new band is always a new band can always be a little bit stressful, but even by day two of touring with RRR I felt right at home. Combine that with working with my one of my favourite teams in Canada – Live Nation Vancouver, at the beautiful Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park, and you get a show that is not only easy, but fun too.

5. Tokyo Police Club @ The Phoenix – Dec 8 – 10 2011

What happens when you get three sold out shows in a row? How about when you add snow machines, a great lighting rig, and a Christmas theme? This show was one of the most fun shows I’ve done in quite some time, and it really put me in the Christmas spirit. There’s not much more to say, so you should probably just watch this video:

Professional Sound Magazine features Sam Roberts Band @ Massey Hall

Professional Sound Magazine ran a feature on the two Massey Hall shows that I did with Sam Roberts Band. The article gives a great run down on the audio production for the shows, including a paragraph on what I was dealing with on the monitor side of things.

Click here to view!

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






Sam Roberts Band – Let It In (Ottawa, Canada Day)

As promised, here is a video from Canada Day. This was shot using my iPhone which I left on Sam’s amp. The audio came out very decent, considering. The only thing that is too much is the crash cymbal, so watch out for that one.

For those curious about the National Parks Project that Sam Roberts participated in, click here, it’s well worth it!

Sam Roberts Band – Ottawa, ON (Canada Day)

It’s not often we spend three days on one show, especially when only four songs are being played.

The Canada Day celebration on Parliament Hill is probably the largest production I’ve been on. It had a revolving stage with a divider that created three staging areas. We put all of the backline on this section of the stage, and had to pull out the downstage microphones, pedal boards, and monitors when we would roll out.

The SRB backline on our section of the stage.

I managed to sneak my iPhone onto Sam’s guitar amp during his first set, and the bass rig for the second and third sets to shoot video of the process. It turned out really well. I’m going to edit some video together and upload it in a few days, but in the meantime, here’s a video of my phone going for a little trip as the Duke of Cambridge is being introduced:

In between each set (on rehearsal and show days) we had many hours of downtime, which we managed to fill with some texas horseshoes, bocce ball, baseball, playstation 3, and catering. We even had some visits from some really cute dogs.

Charlie Bronson.

Satchmo the dog.

There were some really impressive things happening on the stage that I didn’t think of getting photos of. One in particular was the haze system. They attached a blower to some plastic tubing that went through all of the steel trussing for the stage. They then poked holes in the plastic all the way up, which delivered a bunch of haze throughout the entire upstage area. When the blower was shut off it really illustrated how much haze that hazer actually put out.

Denton (SRB TM extraordinaire) riding the haze

The show ran fairly well, all things considered. I wasn’t directly mixing monitors – the production had their own people to operate the audio end of things, we simply consulted those people for both FOH and monitor mixes. I had to actually tell the one tech on stage, who would be on wireless intercom with the actual monitor mixer any changes that were to be made. It certainly is a different way of working, but it did allow me to be right on stage with the guys to help them get it dialed in. Thankfully I had my cheat sheet I made the night before outlining how each guy likes their wedge and in-ear monitor mixes – it really did help too.

Fireworks cap off a long three days - I don't think I could ever get sick of staring at these buildings.

After the long Canada Day show, we made the trek up to Kirkland Lake, Ontario. This would be the second time I’ve been there, as I was there with Cuff the Duke opening for Blue Rodeo in January 2010. Thankfully it was a little bit warmer than last time I was there.

We had an early soundcheck which allowed us all to round-up some locals and get a softball game going. It turns out that the Woman’s softball team in Kirkland Lake is the #2 team nationwide. Luckily for everyone though, we mixed the teams up with the locals that did come out, and it made for a good game. I had one error in the field, and I batted .667 with 3 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of 1.333. There were some players that had a multi-homerun game. I had one good hit that didn’t quite make the fence, I just got a little too under the ball. I think I’m destined to never hit a   in my life, although: I am a bit of a triples machine.

Team Photo

Group shot of the SRB/Bedouin/Kirkland Lake Softball team.

What’s Next:

Arkells, Arkells, Arkells.

For those of you googling trying to figure out what songs Sam played in Ottawa, it was three off his new record: Without a Map, Last Crusade, and Let It In. The other song was Brother Down.