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Live Sound

Live Sound Showcase: The Tedeschi Trucks Band

By Clive Young. The Tedeschi Trucks Band typically plays 200 gigs a year, which keeps its audio team busy taming the stage volume of 12 people musically flooring it without an IEM in sight.

New York, NY (May 24, 2018)—Since its founding, the Tedeschi Trucks Band has released three studio albums and two live ones, but where the group really shines is on stage—and given that the TTB usually plays more than 200 shows a year, well, that’s a lot of shining. Since merging their respective groups in 2010, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks have led their 12-piece band to increasingly larger stages; helping fill those venues with the sound of the band’s warm blues rock are longtime production manager/FOH engineer Brian Speiser, monitor engineer/stage manager/guitar tech Bobby Tis and system tech Chris Bedry.

“We tour perpetually, so we’ll go out for a month, take a week off and go back out again, and we do that throughout the year,” said Speiser. “It’s an amazing team, and Derek and Susan treat everyone here like a family.”

Speiser and Tis are particularly connected, having started their careers at the same regional sound company, SK Systems (Bohemia, NY). As it happened, Speiser was just ending a seven-year run with Indigo Girls, who were going on hiatus, when he got a call from his old friend—the TTB’s production manager was retiring and though they were trying out people for the spot, could he fill in for a few dates in Texas? That was six years ago.

Everywhere it roams, the TTB carries full sound production supplied by two companies. VER Tour Sound provides d&b audiotechnik boxes for both the PA and monitors, with a house system based around J8 and J12 array boxes, along with JSubs, Q10 frontfills and Q1 outfills. Meanwhile, much as blues rock is old-school, so is the band’s monitor rig: 16 d&b M4 wedges across the stage and no in-ears in sight. Dishing out mixes for all those loudspeakers are a pair of DiGiCo desks—a SD10 at FOH and a SD8 for monitors—and both are provided by Tom Heinisch, owner of SK Systems. “He brought me and Bob-by up in the business,” said Speiser. “He’s always been there for us, so he’s one of those people you make sure to do right by.”

As might be expected for a 12-member band with a stage full of wedges, things can get loud up there—and that provides another case where Speiser and Tis’ shared background comes in handy. “We have a similar ear,” said Speiser, “so if I notice something is going on, I’ll call him and say, ‘Are you hearing that?’ and he’ll say, ‘Yeah, I just pulled 300.’ We’re always making moves the same and that’s just because we learned a lot from the same person, but it means the whole thing is organically moving together.” That shared instinct often pays off: “If say, Bobby brings his 16 speakers down 1 dB for each person, I find that I now have more headroom when Derek is taking a solo—I don’t have to go crazy boosting it to get over that phase-y mess of all the arrival times of different monitors bleeding into all the mics. You feel ‘I made very minimal moves but I’m hearing a clarity difference because of it.’”

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Nonetheless, the band and audio team have done their best to address the inevitable stage volume that can come from a dozen people musically flooring it. There’s Plexiglas in spots around the stage, and custom baffles are built into the set, too. The short walls, made by Trucks’ family from reclaimed barn wood and sound-absorptive material, sit behind and between the guitar amps.

The drive to lessen stage spill has led to those guitar amps being miked with sE Electronics GuitaRF (Reflexion Filter) isolators surrounding vintage 1960s Sennheiser MDS-1s. (“We used to troll eBay and get them out of the Netherlands or Germany; it’s basically a 409 before the 409 happened.”) Three further MDS-1s are permanently inside the Leslie cabinet, too.

Elsewhere on stage, horns are miked with vintage Sennheiser 441s, but everything else is heard via Shure mics, with which the band has an endorsement deal. “Susan only sings into a Beta 58A,” said Speiser. “Everything is Beta 58s and Beta 57s, and there’s other Shure mics on the drums.” Further, a Radial stereo DI is used on the keyboard, a Palmer speaker DI is on the clavinet amp, a Fishman Aura DI nabs the acoustic guitar, and the bass is grabbed by a Noble preamp DI, with a Radial passive DI as a backup, and a Beyerdynamic M88 inside another sE Electronics GuitaRF isolator.

While the band’s sound may be traditional, Speiser still takes advantage of the abilities of modern gear. The SD10 at FOH is joined by a Waves SoundGrid system and DiGiGrid MGB MADI interface. Most of the plug-ins put to use are reverbs or slapback delays to augment vocals, but he generally keeps the mix clean, focusing instead on his faders. “I went to a show recently where there was so much production going on; there were two FOH consoles, two lighting consoles and the engineers were staring at timecode,” he laughed. “No one was actually doing anything; they were just making sure that all the gear was still working. Nobody had hands on faders on any desks. You can’t do that here.”

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June will see the Tedeschi Trucks Band kick off its annual summer package, The Wheels of Soul Tour, this time with Drive-By Truckers and The Marcus King Band along for the ride as they knock down 21 shows in 31 days before, rarity of rarities, taking nearly all of August off. Nonetheless, a packed fall season awaits, including the band’s annual six-night stand at New York City’s Beacon Theatre in October. That incessant road work and dedication has served the TTB and its touring family well.

“It keeps getting bigger and bigger every year,” marveled Speiser. “It’s been a constant snowball. Every band that I’ve worked with had already made their way up and were doing their thing, and this is the first time I’ve been working with a band that’s building something—and it’s super exciting to be a part of that and help it grow.”

VER Tour Sound •

SK Systems •