Any FOH engineer at the top of his game will tell you that he is always busy. But few are as busy as Robert Scovill has been this summer. Back in March, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers decided that it would be fun to take a quick tour around the U.S. before settling into the studio to record the follow-up to 1999's Echo. Scovill has been working with Petty for years, so it was natural for the band to call him first. Great news for Scovill? Not exactly — he was already booked on the Matchbox Twenty tour (see “All Access” in June Mix).
Disappointed that he would be missing out on the Petty tour, Scovill created an equipment list and P.A. spec for his replacement. Working up the proposal, Scovill noticed that the system spec matched that of the rig he was already using with Matchbox Twenty — 48 V-DOSC enclosures, 16 DV-DOSC enclosures, 10 Aura subwoofer enclosures, 10 ARCS enclosures and all Crown 5000 power amplification. Also, the FOH position called for a Midas XL4 with 16 stereo modules and 20 channels of Midas XL42 external preamps.
“It was uncanny,” says Scovill. “The set-ups were virtually identical. I went ahead and completed the list and contacted Tom's manager, and, as luck would have it, the last Matchbox Twenty date for the current leg was on May 8th and the first Petty date was May 9th — a mere 600 miles away. At that point, the gears really started turning. If I was going to do the Petty tour, it seemed exorbitant to have ProMix build a rig that was identical to the Matchbox Twenty rig.” In the end, the tours ended up sharing one rig.
Mix caught the band playing a two-night stint at The Joint in Las Vegas. Unlike the rest of the venues on this tour — amphitheaters seating 20,000 or more — The Joint is a small club located within the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Nearly 1,500 fans crammed into these general admission shows to witness a little bit of rock 'n' roll history. Though the crowd enjoyed every minute, Scovill expressed relief that the remainder of the tour was scheduled for larger venues. “I do have to change my mindset slightly when working in such a small venue,” he admits. “Honestly, I think it's easier to put on a good-sounding show in the bigger venues — I'll take a 20,000 seat arena with the right P.A. system any day.”
Whatever the venue size, Scovill is particular when it comes to processing gear. Held over from the Matchbox Twenty rig are Manley ELOP and Summit DCL-200 stereo compressors and two Manley Vox Boxes. Further dynamic control is achieved via six Drawmer DL241 stereo compressors, six DS201 stereo noise gates and three Behringer multiband de-noisers, while effects devices include three TC Electronic M3000s and one TC 2290, three Lexicon 990s and a BSS Time Corrector. Also earning space in Scovill's FOH racks are an HHB Classic 70 stereo tube equalizer, six BSS Omni Drive Compact Plus crossovers and six FCS 926 VariCurves.
Besides the complement of processing gear, another common thread to the Tom Petty and Matchbox Twenty tours is Scovill's Pro Tools multitrack recording rig. “I have a pretty extensive rig — substitute the ‘t’ in extensive with a ‘p’ if you like,” he says. Scovill's setup consists of a Mix Plus 24 system with 56 channels of 888/24 I/O that interface directly to the FOH mixer. “I can record about four hours of 56-track, 24-bit/48kHz audio in one pass for a given show with my current hard drive configuration, a 4× 36GB Glyph Trip rack,” says Scovill. “During the show, I also record 2-track mixes directly to C-DR and DAT, and have been getting some really great results. Having my Pro Tools rig on the road also affords me the opportunity to work on record projects while on the tour.”
Whew, does this pace ever get to be too much? “No, not really,” admits Scovill, who feels blessed to be working with so many wonderful musicians. “It has been great working with Tom and The Heartbreakers over the years. It's been very inspiring and influential, as well as a great learning experience. I wouldn't trade this summer for anything.”
Andrea Rotondo Hospidor is an engineer and freelance writer.