Photos: Dave Vann
If you’re going to change things up, you might as well go all out. For legendary jam-band Phish’s summer tour, not only is front-of-house engineer Garry Brown manning a new console, but his mixes are heard through a new P.A. provided by a change in sound company providers—Clair Global. Mix caught up with the tour-de-force at their three-day SuperBall IX festival in Watkins Glen, N.Y., over the Fourth of July weekend.
Brown is on his third tour with Phish: Trey Anastasio (guitars/lead vocals), Jon Fishman (drums/percussion/vocals), Mike Gordon (bass/vocals) and Page McConnell (keyboards/vocals). Brown’s new FOH board is the Midas XL-8 interfaced into a Midas 9696 recorder. A peek inside his outboard racks reveals Crane Song HEDD 192s, Waves Maxx BCL, GML 8200s and Manley Vox Boxes. “Everybody needs to hear what everybody is doing,” he says of his mix. “The placement in the mix is going to come down to personal taste. Some fans are going to want to have Page [McConnell]’s piano louder than other parts, so my goal is that you can hear everybody or whomever you want to focus on; you can focus on them and hear what they are doing.”
The band handles all of their own effects, leaving Brown to focus on reverbs, drums, vocal and piano. “Anything outside of reverb is them,” he adds.
Front-of-house engineer Garry Brown
Front-of-house engineer Garry Brown and P.A. system tech Wade "Wookie" Crawford
Phish's new Clair i5 line array
Monitor engineer Mark “Bruno” Bradley works on a Yamaha PM5D (using onboard effects). Onstage are Clair 12AM wedges—nary an in-ear to be found, a practice the band has used since their 2009 tour. On the P.A. side, the Clair i5 line array features BT-218 subwoofers and P-2 front-fills. The system also comprises 18 i5s and 18 i5Bs per side. Says FOH engineer Brown: “Stage-left was eight deep and stage-right was six deep—16 subs for both sides in total. We had 12 and six cabinets on the first leg of the tour, upping it to 14 and eight for the last leg of the tour for larger venues to add a bit more throw. Three delay towers with Clair R4s past the mix tower assisted in covering the vast raceway-infield-turned-concert site. All main stage system elements were powered by Clair StakRaks with Lab.Gruppen PLM amps.
“This year,” he continues, “changing to a new P.A., the response from the fans has been huge. It’s been the biggest response in the changes we’ve made since the band’s return.”
Fans hard at work inside the House of Live Phish, which is manned by engineer Ben Collette (top).
THE HOUSE OF LIVE PHISH
Starting in 2003 as a promotional tool for LivePhish.com (where fans can download a show 48 hours post-lights up) and an opportunity to give away free music, the House of Live Phish has become a sensational hit among the band’s fans.
“At Festival 8 at the Indio [Calif.] Polo Fields, I had the idea that it would be great to share a multitrack setup for fans to mess around with, because Phish music is so deep and complex that being able to dissect it on that level is really cool,” says engineer Ben Collette. “A lot of Phish fans are technically inclined, and most of them are musicians, so it’s super-interesting for them to be able to pick apart a mix.” For that first outing, a call to the folks at Pro Media Training got Collette up-and-running with Avid MBox 8 setups and instructors to flesh out the eight stations.
Inside this year’s House of Live Phish tent are Collette and Rob Oday, co-studio owner of The Tank. Avid and Dale Pro Audio provided laptops loaded with Pro Tools 9, Apogee Duet headphone amp, and Avid Artist Mix and Artist Control. “The controllers really help because most of the people who come in just want the experience of being able to solo the guitar, drums or bass,” Collette says. “The songs are broken down into basic stems, stereo tracks. It’s one thing to release multitracks to the public and have people do remixes at home, but to be able to provide the fans the opportunity to pick apart their favorite songs with the gear and with someone who really knows the software is great.
“We had a guy in here yesterday that was doing a real-deal mix, and he’s coming back today to finish it up,” he continues. “We had a guy come in the other day who was a drummer and he panned all the drums to the left and everything else to the right so he could hear everything ‘Fish’ [drummer Jon Fishman] is doing so he could learn it. And then we have people come in and mute the bass so they can play along. Parents and kids come in; the reaction has been amazing. Dancing in the corner, ride the faders—it’s such a rewarding thing to see people so blissed out on this.”