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Live Sound Showcase: Party Crashers

Luke Bryan is a classic Country Music story—the hometown guy who played in local bands, whose own family had to twist his arm to get him to go to Nashville.

Monitor engineer Ed Janiszewski mans a DiGiCo SD7 console every night on Luke Bryan’s tour, sending mixes to the band via Shure PSM 1000 IEM systems. Luke Bryan is a classic Country Music story—the hometown guy who played in local bands, whose own family had to twist his arm to get him to go to Nashville. After writing hits for Travis Tritt and Billy Currington, these days, he writes hits for himself, as evidenced by his scoring not one but two number one albums on the Billboard 200 this year—Spring Break… Here to Party in March, and Crash My Party in August, the latter of which immediately went Gold, selling 528,000 copies in its first week. If it doesn’t stray far from his tried-and-true mix of songs about drinking and/or trucks, it’s still a people pleaser, as evidenced by the sold-out crowds on his current Dirt Road Diaries tour, which has been on the road since mid- January and is set to call it a day at the end of October.

“Since we started the tour, we’ve added two songs from the new record and they’re a huge part of the show now—as soon as he starts ‘Crash My Party’ early in the set, the crowd goes crazy,” said production manager/FOH engineer Pete Healey, sitting backstage at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ.

OK—define Crazy: “Our audience is extremely loud,” he said, matter-of-factly. “When we’re indoors, from 140 feet back at FOH, we’ve metered the audience at 117 [dB SPL] A-weighted between songs. There’s points in the show that I know it’s coming and we all duck and cover! I’m never going to try to keep up with that with the PA—the system can do it, but I just think that’s irresponsible.”

That turbocharged PA in question is a rig provided by Clair; the artist has worked with the Lititz, PA-based audio vendor since 2006. “With this being his first big headlining tour, and given the temperature of our show, we needed to make sure we had enough horsepower,” said Healey. “We hang anywhere from 12 to 18 deep on the Clair i-5 line array boxes with the i-5B extension box. Then we have nine of the BT-218 subs a side and that’s all powered by the Clair StakRaks, which are loaded with Lab.gruppen PLMs. It’s as much PA as any of the big rock tours out there, and during the show, we idle at about 104 A-weighted. They’ll swing a little hotter sometimes; during some parts of the show, we drop into some hard rock, heavy metal songs and we give them the afterburner; the PA handles it not even breathing hard. That’s one of the things with using Clair—it works everyday. These guys have been doing it so long that they helped invent how it’s done, so they do a great job.”

Sending sound to that PA is a mix created out of 90 inputs on an Avid Venue Profile with two engines. “I’ve had an assortment of consoles over the years,” said Healey. “In ’07, I was doing monitors for Kelly Clarkson, I started using the fullsized Avid D-Show and I just felt it was really intuitive and file management was really easy. I tried a couple other consoles over the last few years and they were great-sounding desks, but they didn’t feel as intuitive, so with that plus us doing opening acts sometimes on the consoles, I really trusted the file management system on the Profile. That’s ultimately why I’m there now.”

While many tours use the same consoles at both FOH and monitorworld, the stageside post manned by engineer Ed Janiszewski is centered around an DiGiCo SD7 desk. “For the most part, I use onboard effects,” he said. “I’ve got the Waves [SoundGrid], but I’m not using any Waves effects. Outboard, I’ve got two Yamaha SPX 1000s for the drum reverb—one is actually a backup— and then I’ve got an Eventide Eclipse and a TC Electronic M3000 for reverb and a vocal shift thing that I do on Luke’s vocal to take it out of his head and put it into a space. Otherwise, it’s a full mix—which is great because it’s pleasant for me to listen to. I mean, there are some mixes that are so specific and so whacked out that I think listening to those over time it would change your perception of music, so I’m thankful that I’m able to do what it is that feels good and right to me.”

Most of the band, including Bryan, sports Sensaphonics ear buds, while the drummer prefers Westones and the steel and bass players wear Ultimate Ears, but all the musicians use Shure PSM 1000 IEM systems—part of a larger RF setup that includes wireless mics and guitar packs, all of which is Shurebased, as Bryan is an endorser for the company. “Tuning-wise, I use a WinRadio and Wireless Workbench,” said Janiszewski, “and we’ve got a couple of helical antennas. Our wireless stuff is distributed—we have input racks at stage left and right, and everything’s networked to Wireless Workbench. Once I’m set up, I scan with different devices—the Win- Radio, plus two PSM 1000 receivers— and then import all of that into Workbench and let it do its thing. For the most part, once I deploy frequencies, I’m good—it’s pretty robust.”

Bringing some music to the party every night on Luke Bryan’s tour are (l-r): Tyson Clark, PA tech; Kevin “Kap” Kapler, FOH systems engineer; Ed Janiszewski, monitor engineer; Pete Healey, production manager/FOH engineer; Gordon Droitcour, audio engineer, Clair; Rachel Aull, audio engineer, Clair Audio. The stage’s miking reflects the endorsement, and that’s fine with the audio team. “For DIs, just about everything is a Radial,” said Healey, “but otherwise, it’s Shure. Drums are a combination of the new 91, Beta 52, the new 98 on the first tom and then the rest of the toms are all SM27s. There’s the standard, good old 57 on the snare, condenser on the bottom snare; guitars are 57s and SM27s. We did use a Beta 98 on the bass cabinet—we felt ‘Why not?’ If you put it on the floor tom, it can handle the low end; it’s a small profile, you don’t have another mic stand to set up, it’s easily deployable on the cabinet and it sounds great.”

With all the horsepower on-hand, setting up takes about four hours, with load-out averaging two hours, with the tour’s record time a speedy 70 minutes. “That all comes down to packaging,” said Healey. “We approach the tour trying to be a little bit cost-conscious. We don’t want to have Luke be upside down just because we wanted to have more stuff; we’re double-stacked on some trussing to keep the cost down. Fuel costs a lot of money these days.”

Citing another example, Healey put on his production manager hat for a moment to explain the tour is carrying custom-made PixelFlex LED curtains for its video wall—a 60’ x 40’ 100mm curtain and another 40’ x 30’ 18mm curtain: “The PixelFlex solution is a great product for a number of reasons. It’s durable, flexible and lightweight, which makes it easy to set up, tear down and pack on the truck. At the end of the night, we bring the truss in and the Curtain folds right into a case, which then gets stacked three high in the truck.” The curtains are overseen by LED crew chief Nicholas Bush.

While the video and audio technologies on the tour are serious tools, they’re there for one, simple reason—to help Bryan and the crowd cut loose. Both of his number one albums this year feature the word “Party” in their titles, so that gives you an idea of what the vibe is like. “There’s times where we’ll come out of the chute pretty hot,” laughed Healey. “We roll songs before the show starts to get everyone going—and it looks like the show’s already started 15 minutes before it actually does start! Everyone’s on their feet, dancing and jumping up and down, then he comes out and all hell breaks loose.”

Sounds like a party you’d want to crash.



Luke Bryan

Clair(Lititz, PA)

FOH Engineer/Production Manager: Pete Healey

Monitor Engineer: Ed Janiszewski

FOH Systems Engineer: Kevin “Kap” Kapler

PA Tech: Tyson Clark

Audio Engineers: Gordon Droitcour, Rachel Aull

FOH Console: Avid Venue Profile

Monitor Console: DiGiCo SD7

House Speakers: Clair i-5, i-5B, BT-218

Personal Monitors: Shure PSM 1000 IEM; Sensaphonics, Westone, Ultimate Ears ear buds

House Amplifiers: Clair StakRak; Lab.gruppen PLM

Monitor Equipment/Plug- Ins: Yamaha SPX-1000; Eventide Eclipse; TC Electronic M3000

Microphones: Shure