Mary Chapin Carpenter introduced the concept of a “guitar pull,” a song-sharing tradition in acoustic country and folk circles, to an appreciative audience when she kicked off an intimate evening with cohorts Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin and Dar Williams at San Francisco's sold-out Warfield Auditorium. (These photos were taken the previous night at the Luther Burbank Center, Santa Rosa, Calif.)
In-between stories about shoes (they all stare at them when they're not playing) and memories of their first Bay Area performances, the four artists “pulled” from their respective catalogs and added covers such as Johnny Cash's “I Still Miss Someone,” sung by Carpenter, and Tom Waits' “Heart of Saturday Night,” sung by Colvin.
Front-of-house engineer Jon “Rasta” Schimke, an 11-year veteran of San Diego's Sound Image, mixed on a Midas XL4 console for the Warfield date, supplied by Bay Area-based Sound on Stage. Schimke uses only nine inputs for the “unplugged” performance: four for vocals and five for guitars.
Sound on Stage also provided the P.A., which includes 20 L-Acoustics V-DOSC cabinets (10 flown and 10 on the deck), 11 L-Acoustics SB218 subs and four of Sound on Stage's proprietary Power Physics 222 speakers. “I don't even use the subs,” Schimke admits. “This show is so low volume that we can hit the balconies with just a deck stack and boxes.” Crown Macro 5000 IS-8 amps, three XTA DP226 loudspeaker-management systems and three XTA GQ600 dual/stereo gates completed the system.
Sound Image provided the monitor rig, which included a Midas Venice 32 console, QSC Powerlight amps, BSS digital crossovers, and processing from Klark Teknik DN360 EQs, Yamaha PRO R3 and SPX990 reverbs, and dbx 160 compressors. All four women used Sound Image G2 wedges. “I haven't worked on a wedge I like better,” says monitor engineer Gregory Hancock, also with Sound Image.
Carpenter, Colvin, Griffin and Williams each sang through Shure SM58s. Carpenter, a Shure endorsee, uses a Shure UA Series wireless mic for her guitar, while the remaining six-strings ran through Fishman and Countryman DIs. Despite the sparse setup, Schimke has to stay on his toes when mixing four artists who speak and harmonize spontaneously. “Sometimes it seemed like they're having a contest as to who can talk the quietest,” he says. “It's hard to get the vocals real loud when they're talking between songs. I can't turn all of them up wide open all the time, so I have to chase them as they're talking. And a couple of them will talk way off the mic and not even make an attempt to get near it. But once they start playing, it's a piece of cake.”