The Steve Miller Band has been a staple on rock playlists for almost five decades, and he still routinely fills smaller venues, like The Filene Center at Wolf Trap, the venerable Washington, D.C.-area summer tour staple that is owned by the National Park Service.
Miller and his sound engineer, Scott Boorey (who doubles as his manager), have stayed loyal to their analog roots, employing the Midas Heritage 3000. “I’ve been mixing on Midas boards since 1982, and they’re warm, punchy and have tons of headroom,” Boorey says. “It works with the two Stratocasters with Shure KM 32 mics, and makes them sound big, fat and warm. Strats tend to be bright, with single-coil pickups; I run my guitars flat, so less is more from the mic to the signal path. The nice thing about Wolf Trap is that the venue provides racks and stacks of fantastic L-Acoustics equipment, and you don’t have to do a lot of EQ’ing and tuning in the room. That saves us a big hassle.”
There’s a reason for that, says Dave Heffelfinger, Wolf Trap’s front-of-house engineer. Twenty (or so) years ago, acts where allowed to bring in their systems; however, the quality and coverage of the sound “would vary widely. Therefore, it was time for a new approach.” Since 1999, the venue has had 12 V-DOSC and four SB-218 subs per side with a center cluster that includes 12 L-Acoustics smaller dV-DOSC cabinets.
Before the change was made, Heffelfinger asked visiting engineers what speakers they liked, “and many of them spoke well of the new line array V-DOSC speakers that were in use at the Foxwoods Casino” in Mashantucket, Conn., Heffelfinger says. “So I went up there and checked them out, and I was very impressed.” He adds that Foxwoods was the “first North American install of V-DOSC and Wolf Trap was the second.”
What they’ve brought to Wolf Trap, he says, is “very even coverage of the pavilion, with a good frequency response, too. They keep working and everybody loves them.”
Apparently, the band’s rockin’ D.C.-area crowd approves, too. “We always sell it out,” Heffelfinger says of the venue, which is also loved for its aesthetics and its grounds that concertgoers might usually find in…well, a national park.
“Wolf Trap was designed with the symphony in mind, so everything is made of hard wood. That means you get very cool ambience, and the sound explodes off of the stage,” Boorey says. “A rock act like ours can overpower it, if we don’t watch out.”