By Amber Kasim
Atlantic City, NJ (December 29, 2005)--In Atlantic City, people get lucky. For some, it's a matter of winning the $1,000 jackpot at the nickel slot machines, and for others, it's snagging one of the 100 just-released-last-minute tickets to the sold out Pearl Jam concert. Compounding the good fortune, early-bird fans were treated to Eddie Vedder performing a solo set before the full band came out. Other treats included opening act, Sleater Kinney, joining the group for runs at Springsteen's "Promised Land" and Danzig's "Mother," and Ace Frehley turning up for a guest spot on "Rocking in the Free World."
Karrie Keyes, Pearl Jam's monitor engineer for 14 years, recently helped the band make the switch to Future Sonics in-ear monitors.Karrie Keyes, the band's monitor engineer, reflected afterwards, "Getting production into a 4,000-seat venue was rough, but we have an amazing sound and light crew. The audience response was amazing, and we all had a great time. After 14 years with the band, we cruise along and take each show in stride; there are not a lot of hitches. For their part, the band gives their all for each show."
This particular round had been on the road for five weeks, and a primary focus for the group was the transition from wedge speakers to personal monitors. Keyes noted that this affected the amount of rehearsal time needed before the tour kick-off. "Typically, we have one or two days of pre-production and we are off; that in itself makes it hard, just not having the time," she said. "This time, we had almost two weeks of pre-production, and that was mainly for the guys to get used to the in-ears." Future Sonics in-ear monitors were chosen, used with Sennheiser 300 series wireless transmitters and belt packs.
The band did not abandon wedges completely, however, as there was still a combination of sidefills and subs onstage. A total of five Radian/Rat Microwedges were used for Vedder's guitar and a pair of Rat S wedges handled his vocal. The mono sidefills created exclusively for Pearl Jam by Rat, were designed to be low-profile so as not block sight lines, and were duly hot-rodded with TAD 2-inch drivers to project the vocal at high volumes without losing sound quality. There were a set of stereo sidefills for instrument and background vocals, and three Rat Microsubs to round out the low end, with one for each side of the stage and one for drummer, Matt Cameron.
Keyes and the band were happy with the combo, finding that the in-ears had dropped the monitor volume and were allowing more mixing freedom. As the band continues using the in-ears, Keyes looks forward to starting the next major project, which will be the introduction of a digital console to monitorworld. Right now at stageside, Keyes is in command of a Midas Heritage 3000, using all but five of its 44 mono channels and four stereo channels. Relatively few effects are in play: a Lexicon PCM80 for Vedder's vocal and a Lexicon PCM60 for his ukulele and Martin acoustic guitar.
Brett Eliason creates instant downloadable bootlegs of Pearl Jam's concerts nightly in his mix room/sea container, using a DiGiCo D5 Live console.For those fans who were unable to score those hard-to-get tickets, they could still enjoy the show, which ran for about 21/2 hours, via the band's website where official bootlegs were uploaded just two hours after the last chord died away. "Capturing the audience's energy during the performance greatly enhances the listening experience," said Brett Eliason, the band's longtime FOH engineer, who now mixes the show recording live. "The whole idea for me is to capture the performance in such a way that the listener is sucked into and feels a part of the experience."
This marks the first tour that Eliason is working solely on the live recordings, whereas before he juggled both that and the house mix. While the last tour's live mixes were done on an analog console, this time a DiGiCo D5 digital console and fiber-optic snaking are being used. The resulting mixes are being released via the internet, while in the past, they were released on CD with a few days' delay.
Eliason's mixing studio is a sea container that was converted to suit his needs. "The reason I chose a sea container is because it can be shipped worldwide, so if we go to Europe, a crane can just pick it up and throw it on a boat."
Taking over the FOH reins last year from Eliason, Greg Nelson has mixed notable acts such as Incubus, Jane's Addiction and The Mars Volta.Back at the FOH position, Greg Nelson has been handling house mix duties as he has since last year's "Vote for Change" tour. Nelson brings 15 years of experience to his new role, most recently mixing Incubus, Jane's Addiction and The Mars Volta. "I got started mixing my friends' bands at clubs and working for small sound companies, which led to mixing bigger band and working for bigger sound companies," elaborated Nelson.
Lots of cable is being pulled on this tour, as Pearl Jam is carrying a load of PA gear. The band is touring with an L-Acoustics V-Dosc rig, with Rat subs. For arenas, the typical arena hang per side is 15 V-Dosc and three dV-Dosc for the main hang, a similar 12 and three arrangement for the side hand, eight Rat subs flown offstage of the main hang and a half-dozen Rat subs on the ground. "We are using 16 (eight a side) of the new L-Acoustics Kudo box for the 270-degree hang. It is a wonderful, warm box with a true 110-degree pattern," Nelson elaborated. "We also have a center cluster of four dV-Dosc for the first 10 rows or so, and nine dV-Dosc a side for the rear fill. We also have four Arcs and two MTD108s for front fill. The whole system is controlled with six XTA 226s, and a seventh used as a master EQ." Audiocore runs on Nelson's wireless PC tablet "so I can walk around during soundcheck and the opening act, and make changes to the PA from any seat in the venue."
The whole system, using a combination of L-Acoustics, Crown and Crest amps, takes three hours to set up and about 90 minutes to tear down. "I know it sounds like a lot of PA," Nelson explained, "but I like to make sure that every person in the venue is hearing what I am hearing at the mix position. This band puts on an amazing rock show, and it is my job to make sure that everyone enjoys it. I try not to mix too loud, maybe 104A with peaks at 106A, but with audience levels reaching 108 to 109A, it can be pretty challenging. The set list is always changing, they have a list of hundreds of songs and they try to keep it different to keep the shows fresh and exciting."
Judging from the audience at the Borgata, sounds like they're doing just fine.
By Amber Kasim