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Mix Live Blog: Get Back Inside!

FOH engineer and Mix blogger Steve La Cerra heads to New Hampshire and discovers the Tupelo Music Hall is a sweet-sounding space.

Showtime view from the front-of-house mix position.
Showtime view from the front-of-house mix position.

Derry, N.H. (October 21, 2021)—The Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, N.H., made quite a bit of news last year. During the height of the pandemic, the venue hosted more than 120 drive-in concerts over the course of six months, which not only helped to keep New Englanders entertained, but helped keep the venue’s house crew employed through the otherwise bleak work period suffered by venue staffs nationwide last year.

As Fall 2021 approached and some of the pandemic restrictions were relaxed, the venue returned to hosting national acts for indoor shows. Starting in August, Tupelo instituted a COVID policy designed to protect patrons, employees, and visiting bands and crew. The venue’s COVID protocol includes:

  • All Tupelo employees working indoors are masked and vaccinated.
  • Bands and vendors are required to follow special guidelines to ensure the safety of, and limit interaction with, guests and employees.
  • Beginning August 20, the venue began requiring either proof of vaccine, a negative COVID-19 PCR test (administered 72 hours or less), or a negative COVID rapid test (administered 48 hours or less) prior to entry to all shows until further notice.
    • The venue has requested (but not mandated) patrons to wear a mask, whether they are vaccinated or not.

I’ve worked the venue several times but somehow forgot what a great room this is, for patrons and for bands. The audio system, installed and designed by Scott Tkachuk (formerly of Rainbow Production Services and currently at UltraSound), was tuned by Tupelo production manager Paul Higgins.

The Meyer P.A. hang. Note the red tape on the side of the bottom cabinet, which prevented me from whacking my head on the cab’!
The Meyer P.A. hang. Note the red tape on the side of the bottom cabinet, which prevented me from whacking my head on the cab’!

The system features a Midas Pro2 at FOH and an Avid SC48 for monitor duties. The front-of-house P.A. consists of 10 Meyer Sound MINA line array speakers (five per side), two Meyer 700-HP UltraHigh-Power subwoofers; two Meyer UPJ Compact Loudspeakers flown center; six Meyer M’elodie line array speakers configured for delay (left, center and right, two per hang); and one Meyer 600-HP High-Power Subwoofer configured for delay and flown center.

According to Higgins, “I have been through hundreds of venues in my touring years. When I first walked into Tupelo, I immediately noticed it was a different type of venue. It was built primarily as a listening environment. The walls and ceiling are properly treated, and the P.A. was designed and installed properly, not thrown in as an afterthought like many other places. It really is like mixing a live concert in the control room of a recording studio.”

Higgins likens mixing in the venue to wearing a big pair of headphones, and that’s not an exaggeration. Vocals are intelligible throughout the room but never sound harsh. To increase intelligibility in the front rows, I used the center fill for vocals only. The system has plenty of headroom, and I barely tickled the amps in the bottom end. The install was done right so there’s no need to EQ the daylights out of either the L/R bus or the input channels. If you move a fader, you hear the result. When I added my delay splashes created for certain songs, I could clearly hear each repeat. It was a pleasure to mix there.

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The Tupelo Music Hall originally opened in September 2004 in Londonderry, N.H., with a capacity of 240, the building being a repurposed farmhouse. By 2007, the venue was presenting more than 200 national acts per year, and in Spring 2017, it moved to its current location in Derry. The move enabled the venue to expand capacity to 700, providing a high-quality, intimate listening experience for patrons.