Las Vegas, NV (September 9, 2021)—After three years of construction, Las Vegas’ new domed Allegiant Stadium was ready to open last August with a sold-out first concert by Garth Brooks—until COVID concerns forced the country star to reschedule for July 10, 2021. Then a funny thing happened: Nick Miller, better known to the EDM world as Illenium, held the venue’s first concert a week earlier on July 3, packing in 40,000 fans for a massive four-hour show.
The ambitious concert, with all production handled by Thornton, CO-based Brown Note Productions, was many things at once. It was not only the venue’s first concert, but also the first stadium show in the U.S. since the pandemic began; it was the largest show Brown Note had ever put on; and for the artist, it was the culmination of a five-year “trilogy” project.
“lllenium released his first album back in 2016; I came on the team for the second album in 2017, when he went from doing just a DJ set to live performances with a band,” explained FOH engineer Cameron Scurek. “Our last tour [behind 2019’s Ascend album], we did all the big arenas—Madison Square Garden, Staples Center, Chase Center—so we were starting to operate in that 20,000-capacity range. He’s also a big festival staple, so he’s played crowds up to 40,000 for a few years, but we knew that the Allegiant Stadium show would be a different beast, because everybody would be there to see him.”
While the artist had planned to spend 2020 touring a trilogy-themed show based around his three albums, COVID scuttled those plans, and by the time the possibility of an Allegiant Stadium show appeared, Illenium had moved on, having recorded his fourth album, Fallen Embers, during lockdown. Rather than stay stuck in the past for another tour cycle, the trilogy tour would be summarized as a one-night blowout, featuring all three albums to date and a smattering of unreleased material from the fourth (which debuted two weeks later).
There were other aspects in play, too. The biggest Illenium live shows had all been with a band, performing a traditional 90-minute set, said Scurek. “For this, it was ‘All right, we’re gonna do 40,000 people, he’s gonna play four hours, it’s gonna be just him—and we’ve got five weeks to put it together.’
“There was also a whole challenge of ‘We need to keep this engaging throughout the night so that it doesn’t start to feel stale.’ From the audio perspective, I had to present the beginning of the show with enough volume to feel like a headlining act, but also I had to make sure I left someplace to go in the next three hours.”
To provide that volume in the massive venue— which can seat about 70,000 in non-socially distanced times—Brown Note brought in an equally massive d&b audiotechnik GSL P.A. with main left-right hangs of 22 GSL8s and GSL12s per side, along with delay hangs of 14 GSL8s and 12s per side. Low end was provided by 36 SL-GSUBs and a dozen SL-SUBs as ground subs, all bolstered by 20 flown J-SUBs. A string of V10Ps and V7Ps were used for fills, another three-dozen KSL8s and KSL12s were used as off-hang speakers, and everything was powered by D80 amplifiers. “The whole Front of House drive system was the XTA MX36 console switcher run into Lake LM44s for fine tuning our timing, but Matt Brown from Brown Note is great with his predicted drawings and got us very close without much EQ correction.”
Working out those predictions was a challenge, said Ryan Knutson, Brown Note’s president: “The artist didn’t want delay towers on the floor; he wanted that space for people, not for gear. Once we started working in the ArrayCalc software, we realized that 22 boxes on the main hangs could actually throw straight to the back of the building.” Meanwhile, getting those hard-to-reach high corners at the top of the stands was handled by taking advantage of the fact that Allegiant Stadium is a dome—which meant GSL delays could be flown from the roof above sight lines, 100 feet up, aimed downwards into the corners.
For the show’s first set, Illenium performed the first album’s songs from atop a tower at FOH, far in front of the main arrays. “He rehearsed that set like crazy, mixing off the P.A., which threw him for a loop because there was 85 milliseconds of delay total through the whole system,” said Scurek. “When we have a band, everyone’s on Jerry Harvey Audio JH16V2 in-ear monitors, so he wore those for the first set, and then heard himself through L-Acoustics Kara on stage for the next two sets.”
Simplicity was crucial for the production, so while Illenium usually has a monitor engineer, Scurek provided the monitor mix from his DiGiCo SD12. “I’m a big fan of DiGiCo for the workflow—sounds great, super reliable,” said Scurek. “I was trying to keep it bare bones and just dig into the power of the SD12, because I wanted less components in the system to mitigate the chance of any failures. The guys at Brown Note will tell you—I have a knack for getting carried away with my bells and whistles. This was one of the simpler shows we’ve done; our previous tour was fully timecoded, we had MIDI networks over IP, Ableton was controlling the front of house console. I had a billion things going on—but a lot of this show was dictated by the fact that we had five weeks to make it happen.”
The end result was a one-off gig that made the artist—and the new venue—sound like stars. Las Vegas Weekly raved afterwards, “Don’t worry about Allegiant Stadium’s acoustics. Illenium’s sound was importantly crisp and clear….” For Scurek, however, the best takeaway was the chance to make his mark in a venue that still had that new stadium smell. “It’s a badass spot, to be quite frank,” he said. “When you do Madison Square Garden, you’re walking into history and making your little contribution to all the things that have happened there. Walking into Allegiant, we weren’t walking in someone else’s footsteps—we got to put our own stamp on something. And sneaking in there a week before Garth was pretty cool, too!”