Live Sound

The Dead Return

In October 2008, Grateful Dead founding members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann joined by Warren Haynes and Jeff Chimenti played 9/01/2009 8:00 AM Eastern

The Dead performing onstage, from left: Jeff Chimenti, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Warren Haynes, Mickey Hart

In October 2008, Grateful Dead founding members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann — joined by Warren Haynes and Jeff Chimenti — played a second show for the Obama campaign, called “Change Rocks” at Penn State University. (The first one was in February 2008 at a San Francisco concert called “Deadheads for Obama.”) On January 1, 2009, the Dead announced a 22-show, 17-city tour. Pro Media/UltraSound provided a Meyer Sound MILO system, handled by front-of-house engineer Derek Featherstone.

The system, designed to provide up to 360-degree coverage for the tour's multiple arena dates, included main left and right arrays of 16 MILO and two MILO 120 line array loudspeakers each. Left and right side arrays of 10 MILO and two MILO 120 loudspeakers each were augmented by identical arrays covering far-left and far-right areas.

The rear areas were served by left and right arrays of 12 MICA line array loudspeakers each. Sixteen 700-HP subwoofers handled low frequencies, with eight each flown below the main MILO arrays. An additional nine M3D-Sub directional subwoofers were groundstacked at the stage. Left and right frontfills of three CQ-1 loudspeakers each and a pair of UPJ-1P VariO loudspeakers at centerfill complete the setup.

“The Meyer Sound system provided us with a consistent, clean and powerful image across a wide range of venues,” says Featherstone, who used a pair of HD-1 audio monitors at the mix position. “Even with more than 90 open microphones on the stage, we had very little leakage back onto the P.A. system.

“Over the course of time, The Dead have tried just about every brand and make of vocal microphones,” Featherstone continues. “When it came time to do [this tour], I was trying out different simple dynamic mics with the intention of keeping the stage wash down and the tone of all vocal mics the same. My goal was to use the same microphone model on all of the six vocal positions, so when the band was not singing the front-line wash would at least sound consistent.

“Finding a microphone that could handle and reproduce all voices well was not a simple task. Bob Weir had previously used the Telefunken M 80 and suggested I check it out. The M 80 microphone has an incredible balance of fidelity and rejection. These microphones worked flawlessly in the Dead's somewhat hazardous live sound environment.”