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On The Road with Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam has been on the road since May with the help of Rat Sound Systems and Britannia Row.

New York, NY (July 29, 2022)—Pearl Jam just wrapped up the long-awaited European leg of its current tour—one that like so many other major arena tours was scuttled by the pandemic in 2020. The band has been back on the road since May, first with a U.S. leg supported by longtime audio provider Rat Sound Systems, and then spending much of June and July on the move in Europe for 15 dates with the help of Britannia Row. Starting in early September, Pearl Jam will make its second North American sweep, with 11 more shows spanning the eastern half of the continent.

The overseas leg took the tour’s RAT-supplied DiGiCo Quantum338 FOH and dual-SD5 monitor control packages over the water, and for both tour legs, a L-Acoustics K1 loudspeaker system was used, provided by the respective sound companies.

“L-Acoustics has long been my favorite PA,” said Greg Nelson, who has been manning Pearl Jam’s front-of-house mix since 2004, when the band toured with its first V-DOSC system before transitioning to K Series six years later. “There is something about how smooth the low-mids are and the basic warmth of the PA. I can get Ed’s voice to sound a very specific way with K1 that I just can’t ever seem to achieve with other PA systems.”

Getting the Show on the Road: Tour Sound in 2022

The typical loudspeaker deployment for most shows on the Gigaton Tour features left and right main arrays of 16 K1 over six K2 downfills, with outfill hangs of 12 K1 over six K2 per side. Arrays of 14 K2 each extend reinforcement for 270-degree coverage, with an additional 18 Kara used either as delay or rear-fill, depending on the venue geometry.

For low-end, left and right hangs of eight KS28 subs are flown in cardioid configuration, bolstered by four more groundstacked KS28 per side below. Front-fill is achieved by a combination of four Kara spread across the stage lip, and four horizontally arrayed A15 per side on the deck under each K1/K2 array, with monitor side-fills comprised of left/right hangs of four K2. Two L-Acoustics P1 Milan-AVB processors located at Nelson’s FOH house mix position drive the system, which is powered by a grand total of 74 LA12X amplified controllers.

Andrew Gilchrest, the band’s system engineer since 2014, noted, “I have drawings of most of the venues we’ve been playing, so it’s nice to have a good idea before arriving onsite each day,” he says. “My typical process includes verifying a few measurements to confirm the accuracy of my drawing, then placing the stage correctly in the room file. I have our full system saved as a speaker file that I import into the drawing. From there, I rely heavily on Soundvision’s Autosplay and Autofilter functions to find the most even venue coverage for each array. On this run, I’ve been employing the LF Autofilter on all arrays, which has given us a very noticeable improvement.

“Before arrays are taken to trim, we use load-checker to verify that each zone has the correct number of boxes. For tuning, I’ve learned to spend more time verifying that things are plugged in correctly than actual tuning. For the venues we’ve been playing, the system is extremely predictable and needs very minor tweaks on a day-to-day basis.”

Gilchrest adds that the P1 processors have come in handy for several situations with in-house delays. “I’m able to have the entire system in Network Manager, turning on and off zones and setting delays and EQ, which is way easier than having a separate drive system,” he describes. “In fact, we ran into a situation where I ended up with 10 minutes to set the delay times and levels for three zones of house delay, and I finished with time to spare thanks to having the zones in Network Manager.”