Jackie Greene,a true American troubadour whom Bob Weir once dubbed the “cowboy poet,” kicked off his monthlong Sweetwater Spring Tour with, appropriately,a six-night residency at the famed Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, Calif., just north of San Francisco. Each night, Greene played one of his albums as the first set, followed bya set of covers and rarely heard originals.Mixcaught the March 30 show, where Greene performedGiving Up the Ghost.
The Jackie Greene Band—Greene (vocals, acoustic/electric guitar, Hammond B3, piano,harmonica), Nathan Dale (guitars, vocals), Jason Crosby (keys, fiddle) Fitz Harris (drums, vocals) and Jon Cornell (bass)—finished the springtime tour sprint witha performance at the Sweetwater 420 Festival in Atlanta, Ga., on April 20; they are scheduled to head back out in June fora club-theater-festival tour, with audiences ranging from 500 to 15,000.
To keepa consistent sound, witha dynamic band onstage, Greene put together a working production package—mics, backline, wireless, consoles, stageboxes, interfacing—that packs intoa one-ramp-door, dual-axle trailer. For the past two-and-a-half years, tour manager/production manager/FOH engineer/monitor engineer Travis Hatem, out of Austin, Texas, has been relying on racks and stacks at the venue. He mixes from an iPad.
“We use two Behringer X32 rack systems, each paired with an S16 stagebox fora total of 32 inputs on each console to cover FOH and monitor mixes,” Hatem explains. “I use two WiFi routers for remote iPad control.A total of 32 outputs are available between the two systems, and we max them out.I fabricated the analog split, which gives me fully independent control over FOH and monitor mixes. There is no EQ, gain or compression sharing between the two systems.”
The X32 monitor setup includes three stereo and two mono IEM mixes, as well as four monitor wedge mixes for backup coverage. Outputs are also set for stereo side fills anda drum sub for the larger festival style stages or onfly-in dates. The band carries three channels of Sennheiser G3 IEM witha Sennheiser antenna combiner anda standard paddle antenna. FOH, monitors and IEMs all fit nicely intoa 24-space rolling rack.
“I’ma really big believer that less is more when it comes to live sound production,” Hatemsays, noting that he doesn’t use outboard effects or plug-ins, and only minimal reverb for drums anda tap delay on Green’s vocal. “Excellent ‘housekeeping’ isa must when setting up and organizing the console’s inputs and outputs.I use all eight DCAs available for my FOH mix. Grouping down large channel counts allows me to maintain mix factors like making sure the lead vocal to snare relationship stays correct. “Then by using the same mic, same preamp method,I can retain mix set- tings, then build on those settings from night to night,” Hatem continues. “I am able to pick up my FOH mix whereI finished the night before. But there is one issue to consider when mixing the same band digitally from night to night: If you become complacent and/or naive to the console settings, over time your mix could begin to sound dull and lifeless. Complacency behind the console can bea mix killer, especially at FOH.I typically try to revert back toa known, solid starting point every three or four shows.”
“The overall dynamic range of this band is very large,” he adds. “The most challenging factorI have is making sure that Jackie’s softer music is above the club’s noisefloor, which is difficult in most places. The best thing an engineer can do to improve on his or her mix is to simply mute all the stage monitors and the FOH system and go stand by each instrument as the band is playing onstage. Just listen to the instrument in its natural environment before applying any electronics.A general ruleI like to work towards is getting the musicians to sound good onstage by themselves. Havinga solid ‘stage sound is imperative to achievinga great FOH mix. Good stage, good mix!”