From the producers of last year’s highly acclaimed Primal Twang series of concerts comes another gathering of stellar musicians: a theatrical celebration of the music from 1967. The Love In concerts took place at Birch North Park Theatre in San Diego, Calif., from September 6 to 9. While the marquee featured such names as Peter & Gordon, Jesse Colin Young (of The Youngbloods), Buddy Miles, Strawberry Alarm Clock and many others, the gear inside the venue was all state-of-the-art, designed and mixed by the capable hands of Lloyd Kinkade.
President of Escondido, Calif.-based Professional Production Associates Henry Austin (audio producer for this show, as well as for Primal Twang) brought Kinkade onboard as front-of-house engineer and sound designer. “Henry pretty much left the design up to me,” Kinkade says. “It was nice to have control of both [sound designing and mixing FOH]. I knew exactly what I was getting into! I also did all of the optimizing on the system, so I was pretty much in it from top to bottom. The equipment choices that I came up with were basically dialed into the requirements of the show.” Kinkade’s design had to reflect the three-prong approach that producer Anthony Adams envisioned: musical theater, live performance with dialog and a DVD.
“When you’re doing theaters,” Kinkade describes, “it’s always a different thing from doing concerts. So we had to be able to switch back and forth quickly between doing a spoken-word narration that was dramatic into a small concert-type scenario within the same few minutes. I think a lot of people were surprised that we were able to make those transitions quickly while keeping it from getting louder and louder.
“The biggest problem we had is that one of Henry’s requirements was that everything needed to have multiple lines from the stage and all the instruments,” Kinkade continues. “On all of the guitars, we had a direct line and a mic on all the little guitar amps sponsored by Fender. With so many groups, the music was basically set up in two acts, and it ended up being over 100 channels that were going to be re-recorded. That’s not really a big problem, but the management of it turned into being quite a handful.”
Front-of-house engineer/sound designer Lloyd Kinkade at one of the Yamaha DM2000 boards.
And so Kinkade asked Austin if he could pare his input list down to 96, which involved submixing keyboards and such. “But the way we distributed everything, and this was the part that ended up working like a charm, is we had two 48-channel [Yamaha PM5D] monitor consoles onstage, and we word clocked them together so they were synchronized. We came out of each of the monitor boards with a 48-channel Ethersound network.” Eighteen Aviom AVY16-ES expansion cards were used for the 96-channel distribution; no conventional snakes were used. In addition, 47 shielded ¼-inch-to-¼-inch Mogami cables of various lengths were used on guitars, keyboards, direct boxes and additional equipment, as well as a dozen 25-foot Mogami XLR mic cables.
The feed from monitor world went to the Yamaha DM2000 at FOH, which was daisy-chained into another DM2000 to record monitoring. That second DM2000 was daisy-chained via Digigram 6464 Ethersound cards into an ADK LyveTracker, which handled the entire hard disk recording via Nuendo for the eventual DVD.
In monitor world, engineer Bob Meyers not only had 96 channels to mix, but he also managed a 16-channel Aviom Pro16 personal mixing system for the Future Sonics in-ears, and then six wireless in-ear mixes and two Nexo PS10 wedge mixes. The wireless aspect comprised Lectrosonics Venue modular receiver systems stocked with 12 (six per unit) receiver modules. Transmitters included Lectrosonics’ UH400A UHF plug-on units for use with the Audix handheld mics, plus LM Series beltpacks.
Whew! And did we mention that all of this gear was sponsored? “So it was ambitious,” Kinkade says a bit too mildly, “but to put the network together was actually pretty simple. We had the whole thing up and running in just a couple of hours. The amount of time we spent hunting down anything like [ground potentials, and hums and buzzes] was reduced to zero. [Laughs] We plugged things in, they appeared on all of the consoles and at the recorder, and the noise floor was extremely low.
“It was really quite amazing. You’re basically laying these things out at first on paper, and you’re thinking, ‘Well, this should work.’ And in practice, when we put it together it was pretty stunning to have the noise floor so low for me mixing front of house, because if I would roll up from scene to scene, you would have no aural cue that something was coming; it was really nice.”
THEN THEY ADDED SURROUND
While the show’s attendees were not aware of the intricate signal flow diagram Kinkade had created, they were, however, pleased to hear his mixing techniques — especially when Eric Johnson came onstage to wield his axe for Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton tunes and those stunning solos were heard in 5.1.
“The room was small enough that we could get a pretty good sweet spot; it wasn’t just a nice experience for someone sitting dead-center in the room,” Kinkade says. The engineer chose a Nexo GEO S 805 line array for the room (with S830s for mains and the surround setup), and while he wouldn’t normally use a line array for this shallow of a venue, the Nexo let him tightly control the vertical domain of the coverage. “The theater has a back wall that is treated for absorption, but only in the middle third of the room,” Kinkade adds. “So I had to really get the coverage patterns very precise so that we didn’t get too much on the outer thirds that were reflective to stop slapback from getting on the stage. We used directional subwoofers on the floor — the Nexo GD12s — that kept low end from getting back onto the stage, which is always a consideration when you’re recording.” Nexo GEO S 1210s and 1230s were used for the center cluster, as was a Yamaha T4n amp.
Kinkade also spent some time working on the mic selection. In addition to the standard guitar, bass, drums and horns onstage, Kinkade had to properly mike tablas, a tambora and sitar. “These are straight acoustic instruments, and it’s really hard to get these things up with any gain,” Kinkade says. “And on top of that, they were going to situate all of these people out on the orchestra pit, so they were literally right at the edge of where coverage began for the seating area. So it was really tricky, but the Audix mics really proved themselves.
“The performances were really good,” Kinkade says. “It was an eclectic mix of groups — you have Ravi Shankar’s protégé onstage within a few minutes of Peter and Gordon [laughs]. Peter and Gordon were great; they were charming, they had some nice stories to tell. Actually, everybody had some sort of interesting insight into what it was like for them to be performing and to be part of the world in the ’60s. The whole project was ambitious, but our 96-channel digital network worked great.”
Sarah Benzuly is group managing editor of Mix, Electronic Musician and Remix magazines.