Mumford & Sons performing at Edmonton’s Rexall Place
UK-based quartet Mumford & Sons brought their 2015 tour to North America this summer, playing a string of arena, amphitheater and outdoor shows in support of their third album, Wilder Mind, which was released earlier in the year. Canadian production provider Solotech, headquartered in Montréal, supported the tour with an L-Acoustics concert sound system selected by the band’s audio team for its flexibility and scalability.
“A Mumford & Sons tour plays very diverse venues; that’s the fun of it,” says Jamie Howieson, the band’s audio system engineer and sound designer. The band, supplemented by four additional musicians on this tour, is very dynamic and really do go from the proverbial whisper to a scream, he says. “They go from all standing around one microphone in front of a crowd of 40,000 people to full-on rock. So we wanted a system that would produce the best possible full-range sound and frequency response, and be very musical. The L-Acoustics K1/K2 rig allows you to be flexible and get a lot done.”
“Personally, I like a P.A. vocal to sound as natural as possible,” says Chris Pollard, who has been at FOH for the band since 2008. “I like a band to sound raw, with plenty of room for dynamics. For me, the K1/K2 system does that job. It just sounds awesome.”
Howieson designed a K series system that could be scaled up or down in size in order to handle the diversity of venues on the tour. The core setup was optimized for arena-sized halls and comprised a total of 28 K1 and 12 K2 mains, respectively flown 14 over six per side. Each hang was accompanied by a separate hang of eight K1-SB subwoofers, and the engineer deployed anywhere from nine to a dozen Kara boxes for front fill.
For sub bass, Howieson generally ground-stacked 21 SB-28 cabinets in front of the stage. “I do three stacks of three in cardioid configuration on each side of the stage, and then a cardioid stack of three in the center. Sometimes I put them on their ends, sometimes I leave them in stacks of three; it depends on the venue,” he says.
The entire system was powered by LA8 processing amplifiers. “I like to do things by the book, with what the R&D team have developed,” he says. “If you stick to the math that L-Acoustics have come up with, you’re in a really good starting place every time.”
In addition to large indoor venues and appearances at outdoor festivals, the Wilder Mind 2015 Tour also included several Gentlemen of the Road (GotR) Stopover Festival dates. Established by the band a few years ago, the two-day, multi-act shows, with overnight camping, are organized worldwide in locations that are not included on the usual touring circuit. Headlined by Mumford & Sons, who also provided production, this tour’s Stopovers also featured Foo Fighters, The Flaming Lips, Alabama Shakes and a host of others.
At the outdoor Stopover dates—Seaside Heights, New Jersey; Waverly, Iowa; Walla Walla, Washington; and Salida, Colorado—Howieson had various options available for delays, depending on the location. “The GotR shows were at some really cool venues, but every venue was different. Although sometimes we could fly large arrays, other times we only had two stacks of six K2s. The diversity of venues that they play in is what’s great about working for them. And the L-Acoustics system is so flexible that you can switch from day to day.”
An L-Acoustics array comprised of 14 K1 over four K2 flown at a GotR Stopover Festival date
According to Howieson, the performance of the L-Acoustics rig dovetails nicely with Pollard’s expectations. “Chris is a great mixing engineer. He’s always looking for an organic, musical sound, and the K1/K2 system is magic for that. That’s one of the main reasons Chris is attracted to it.”
“We all like consistency from venue to venue, and typically Mumford & Sons have very little of that on the tour schedule, mixing up venue types along the way—sheds, arenas, sports fields, stadiums,” says Pollard. “Capacity shoots up and down from day to day and we need to be able to adjust for that with as little fuss as possible. It needs to be adaptable, and consistent. The K1/K2 combination works a treat, and Jamie’s understanding of what I like to hear when voicing the system provides the consistency from which to mix the show.”
With no two shows alike, “I do a lot of my legwork before we get to the venues. That’s the beauty of L-Acoustics’ Soundvision software,” notes Howieson, who taps into a comprehensive library of worldwide venues mapped by himself, as well as L-Acoustics and other engineers. “It’s a very, very powerful tool. You just make a proper model of the whole set design and run Soundvision. That way, I know what we’re getting into when we get to the venue. The music is always the same, it’s just the coverage that changes from show to show.
“The support from L-Acoustics is excellent,” Howieson adds. “Those guys are amazing; they’re always there for me.”