Umphrey's McGee at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif.
Photo by Dave Vann
Six-piece progressive/improvisational rock band Umphrey’s McGee is in the middle of a nationwide tour supported by ECTO Productions of Elmhurst, Ill. Mix caught up with front-of-house mixer Chris Mitchell and Kevin Browning, who is in charge of the band’s Creative & Business Development, at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif., where Umphrey’s played to a packed house on March 16.
At FOH, Mitchell mixes on a Midas PRO9 digital console, while monitor engineer Bob Ston works with an Avid Venue Profile. “I mix on the PRO9 as if it’s an analog console,” Mitchell notes. “With a 400-song catalog and improv every night, scenes just aren’t possible. I use the PRO9’s internal effects rack for a pair of ’verbs, a pair of multiband compressors and the dynamic EQ, which acts as a de-esser. My outboard rack includes a vintage Lexicon 480L, and a TC Electronic D2 and Fireworx for effects. I try to create a mix that allows the P.A. to disappear. Perfectly tuned drums and great-sounding guitar and keyboard rigs require only accurate translation, not tonal repair.”
At selected venues, the band introduced “Headphones & Snowcones,” coordinated by Browning and Micah Gordon, whereby—for a fee of $40 plus a deposit—16 to 18 fans could listen to Mitchell’s FOH mix in an area near the console, as well as receive a download of the performance in MP3 or FLAC format. Browning explains: “Essentially we’re providing an in-ear monitor mix for fans wearing Audio-Technica AT-50 headphones instead of custom molds, broadcasting the live 2-track recording via a Sennheiser 2000 Series transmitter and beltpacks. We are looking to make this a regular feature at all UM shows and spread it to venues and artists around the globe.”