After 29 years of touring, Widespread Panic of Athens, Ga., is as energized and busy as ever, embarking on a tour of theaters, auditoriums and festivals across the U.S. from March through May. For this tour, drummer Duane Trucks is joining band members John Bell, John Hermann, Jimmy Herring, Domingo Ortiz, and Dave Schools, filling in temporarily for founding drummer Todd Nance. In addition, the band’s audio crew—monitor engineer Brad Blettenberg, production manager Mike Smith, tour manager Steve Lopez, monitor tech Drew Marvar of Eighth Day Sound and FOH system tech Chris Berry of Eighth Day Sound—recently welcomed front-of-house engineer Brett Orrison.
“I started mixing the band in the middle of the fall tour 2014,” Orrison says. “I came on to fill in for Dros Liposcak. We worked at The Austin Recording Service together and have shared duties at FOH with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, The Greyboy Allstars, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Dros is a friend and mentor to me and to a lot of other engineers living in Austin, Texas. I jumped on the bus in Austin at Moody Theater in October 2014. I was hired on full-time in January 2015.
“Widespread and its crew are a well-oiled machine,” Orrison notes. “I came in knowing that every song had to be exceptional. The Panic fans know every lick, every word and every solo, so it’s a rush to be on point with so many different songs and an ever-expanding set list. The band’s work ethic is off the charts.”
Eighth Day Sound is providing equipment for the spring tour, including a d&b audiotechnik P.A. system comprising eight j8s and four j12s per side for main hang; three V8s for out fills; six Q10s for front fills; 12 B2 subs; D80 amps; M2 monitors; and Q7 monitors. Orrison is mixing on a DiGiCo SD5 at FOH, and Blettenberg is on a SD10 for monitors.
“I began on [Liposcak’s] file,” Orrison says. “Widespread streams and sells every show online. It was important to keep everything rolling with a smooth transition. Once they hired me full time I took the opportunity to make the mix my own. We are running 96k! The SD5’s routing capabilities simplified our 84 channels of multitracking [for] live stream and recording. The sound of the SD5 is incredible. I have been a Waves Live user for years so we added Waves SoundGrid and DiGiGrid servers. We built a new rack consisting of a Smart [Research] C2 compressor for a parallel drum bus, a UBK Fatso [compressor] for Schools’ bass, a Neve 33609 stereo comp/limiter for Mr. Herring’s guitar, an 1176 for JB’s vocal, a Rupert Neve master bus processor and a Crane Song HEDD for the stereo bus. We switched out some microphones, also. We replaced the [AKG] 414s on overheads with Coles 4038s. We put two Royer R-121 ribbons on the guitar FX’s amp. Dros found that the Telefunken M81 was a great mic for JB, and I couldn’t agree more. I took Jojo [Hermann] in keys world back to ye olde SM58.”
As fans of Widespread Panic would ascertain, Orrison is fully engaged in every show with an active mix: “If you take your hands off the board you’re going to miss something with these guys,” he says. “The more the mix moves the better it sounds. Capturing and presenting the vocal melodies and solos with fluid movement is everything with this band. They already have great tone.”