Phish Tour ProfileJAM BAND MAKES TRIUMPHANT RETURN 9/01/2009 8:00 AM Eastern
Almost five years after a tearful breakup in a muddy field in their home state of Vermont, definitive jam-band Phish reformed with its original members earlier this year. After a rousing three-night reunion run at the Hampton Coliseum (Hampton, Va.) in early March, the band kicked off a 27-date national summer tour at Boston's Fenway Park with stops headlining the Bonnaroo Music Festival and a four-night run at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver.
Warmly referred to by technology-savvy fans as Phish 3.0, the band (and early adopters of Internet communities and digital downloads) have upgraded their live sound system to match their digital roots.
“Everything has changed,” says front-of-house engineer Garry Brown, who is mixing the band for the first time, but has previously worked with guitarist/frontman Trey Anastasio. “We have a line array with a digital console. There is nothing newer that can be brought to the table. The band gave me 54 songs in advance, and now it's just a matter of going with the flow. I have no idea what songs they are going to play, so it's a general mix and any changes [are done] as we go.”
Brown is mixing on a Digidesign VENUE, a board that he has used for three-and-a-half years. “The multitracking is much easier. We're recording 82 channels and it makes it so much easier to plug in some cables and away you go. I've got [the Crane Song Phoenix] on every input and every output. Everything goes through it three times before the signal hits the Crane Song Head. It warms it up and puts a bit of grit and distortion into it.”
Brown is also bringing Waves Platinum Bundle plugs into his mix. “I use loads of C4s; it's a great compressor and a fundamental thing, especially on the bass guitar. It's just so flexible. I also use MaxxBass, Renaissance Bass and the L2.” Other pieces of gear at FOH include Crane Song HEDD, SPL Transient Designer 4 and Apogee Big Ben. [Eds. Note: Brown has switched to using a DiGiCo SD7; a follow-up story will appear in an upcoming issue of Mix.]
Monitor engineer Mark Bradley is also on the digital train, mixing on a Yamaha PM5D without any additional outboard processing. “It's all inside,” Bradley says. “There's no effects or reverbs, just a few gates and compressors and that's it. I'm doing the basic thing and they don't require much. This is the boring end of the snake.”
Bradley, who was with the band for years before their five-year hiatus, says that one major change for Phish is the move to Telefunken M80 mics on vocals. He is running about 45 channels into four stereo mixes and a drum submix. The band doesn't wear in-ear monitors; instead, monitoring is via 10 d&b M2s, four M4s, two Q Subs (all with amps) and six Clair Bros. 12AMs with six QSC amps.
“These guys are pretty basic — they're old school,” Bradley says. “Everybody's on two wedges, except Page [McConnell, keyboardist] has three. The key is the wedges sound good and the desk sounds good. They always were pretty level-headed guys. They're excited to be back, as am I.”
Along with his live sound duties, Brown also manages two recording suites during each performance: One is a Digidesign Pro Tools LE system for a live recording download series appropriately named Live Phish; the second is an HD system multitracking every input for the band's archives.
“What's online is the board mix with added audience mics and a delayed microphone at FOH all blended together to a 2-track mix,” Brown explains. Audience mics include Telefunken M216, Shure SM81 and AKG C414 models. “The LivePhish engineer, Micah Gordon, gets the two tracks, chops it up and labels it. The whole thing is up on a Website an hour or so after the show.” Beginning with the Red Rocks show, they are doing a separate mix directly from the stage inputs exclusively for online. This is a live mulitrack mix as opposed to a FOH soundboard/audience mic matrix. The files are uploaded nightly as both MP3 and FLAC formats for purchase.
Donny Emerick is a writer in Rhode Island. Joanne Zola is Mix's sales director of key accounts.
Sound All Around
Eighth Day Sound is supplying the tour with a d&b J Series line array comprising (per side for the mains) 14 J8s, a couple of J12s, six J Subs and three B2 subs. The sidefills ech take 10 J8s and two J12s; power is via 48 d&b D12 amps.
“We think that this system is the way of the future for us as a company and for live audio,” comments Jordan Zur, systems engineer who has been with the sound company as a project manager for 11 years. “It sounds good, it's ideal for mixing sound, and it's blown everybody away.” Other crew members from Eighth Day include techs Vince Beller and Kurt “Grumpy” Wolf.
At FOH, Brown relies on a Dolby Lake Processing system, which he calls one of his favorite tools: “That's my lifeline, but that's because I do a lot of EQ'ing. People accuse me of over-EQ'ing. I do a lot of little things as opposed to a lot of big things. Instead of an octave cut, I do 15 little cuts to make a collective. There have been times when I'm using three pages of filters at 26 filters per page. It's a powerful thing.”
Extended Mic List
Kick: Shure Beta 52, Beta 91, Yamaha subkick
Snare: Shure SM57, Neumann KM 184
Rack/Floor Toms: Neumann KM 184
Overheads: Royer SF2
Woodblocks: Sennheiser e 604
Mini-Congas: Shure SM57
Vocals: Shure Beta 56A
Electric Guitars and Amps: Shure SM57, Royer 121L
Acoustic Guitars: Radial J48
Piano: Earthworks PM40, Helpinstill pickup, Shure SM57
Hammond B4: DI
Clavinet: Sennheiser MD409
Moog: Radial J48
Key Tar: Radial JDI
Bass: Radial JDI, Yamaha Subkick
Vacuum Cleaner (Really!): Telefunken M80