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Rat Sound flies L-Acoustics for five-hour Chris Cornell tribute concert

15 Rat Sound crew members worked on implementing the sound system for three days, and the show required more than 100 wireless channels for microphones, backline and IEMs

California-based Rat Sound Systems selected L-Acoustics for the audio sound system of star-studded fundraising concert event, ‘I am the Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell’, held at the Forum in LA earlier this month. 

The five-hour show presented extended sets from members of three of the bands that Cornell fronted – Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Audioslave – as well as performances by Metallica, Foo Fighters, The Melvins, and others.

The show was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, and saw the likes of Jack Black, Brad Pitt, Brandi Carlile, Fiona Apple, Josh Homme, Miley Cyrus, Adam Levine, Chris Stapleton, and Ziggy Marley grace the audience, paying tribute to Chris Cornell, who sadly passed away in 2017 after a battle with depression.

Tom Worley, account manager of Rat Sound Systems, commented: “The event presented some unique and complex challenges which we enjoyed overcoming.”

The sound system the team implemented included an L-Acoustics K1/K2 line array system with KS28 subs, together with five DiGiCo and two Avid mixing consoles, plus an Avid multi-track recording rig. Rat Sound spent three days at the venue and fielded 15 crew members to handle setup, onsite rehearsals, and the show. “It was a special event for a good cause,” added Worley, “and we were thrilled to be a part of it”.

The L-Acoustics PA comprised, per side, 12 K1 arrays over six K2 for the main hangs and eight K1 over four K2 for the side hangs. 13 additional K2s per side provided coverage out to 270 degrees in the 18,000 capacity arena. Rat Sound also flew nine KS28 subwoofers in a cardioid configuration per side, supplemented by another 20 KS28 subs on the floor. Eight ARCS II and eight Kara II cabinets provided the front fill. Sidefill on either side of the main stage comprised two ARCS II and a pair of KS28 subs. “It’s a nice configuration with a low profile, so the promoters liked it,” Worley continued.

A stage thrust offered space for acoustic ensembles and soloists to perform while the backline was being changed over for the main bands on the turntable stage behind them. “We had some L-Acoustics X15 HiQ wedges across the front of that thrust that handled all of the acoustic acts,” Worley explained.

Greg Nelson, longtime FOH mixer for Pearl Jam, who also mixed the 2016 Temple of the Dog reunion tour, manned a DiGiCo SD5 for the full-length performances by Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog, with a second SD5 handling monitors for both bands. Worley elaborated: “We took a MADI split off the SD-Rack into an SD9 for guest artists. All the guest vocalists, and anyone that came up as a guest guitarist or instrumentalist, had a set of in-ears and wedges running off the SD9.”

DiGiCo SD12 consoles at FOH and the stage were used to mix the acoustic acts, as well as the production elements, such as the host mic and video segments played between performances. One of the night’s highlights was Ryan Adams performing Cornell’s ‘Dead Wishes’ and Soundgarden’s ‘Fell on Black Days’ on acoustic guitar and with several string players, including Don Was on acoustic bass.

The Melvins kicked off the night with a short set, ending with Soundgarden’s ‘Spoonman.’ In terms of gear, Audioslave, with guests such as Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath, and Chris Chaney and Perry Ferrell of Jane’s Addiction, played through an Avid Profile at FOH, with a second Profile for monitors.

Worley managed signal routing across the complex system using Outline’s Newton multi-source, multi-format audio processor and matrix mixer, which Rat Sound has recently adopted for festivals and similar large events. “We were looking for something that was bullet-proof that sounds good and is very simple and easy to use,” he said.

It was a huge production, calling for more than 100 wireless channels for microphones, backline and IEMs, some of them on shared frequencies, and including spare, tech, and production shout channels. Rat Sound also archived audio for the entire concert, which encompassed a total of 42 songs, using Avid VENUE S6L desks for multi-track recording. Worley said: “We had four Avid Stage 64 I/O racks, which we landed beside each monitor position, and came out of everyone’s splits, analogue. We picked up the stage racks as we needed them and had a main and redundant AVB stream off each desk in a production room backstage.”

Soundgarden brought the night to a close with an eight-song set that saw the likes of Peter Frampton, Taylor Momsen, Marcus Durant, Tom Morello, Wayne Kramer, Taylor Hawkins, and Buzz Osbourne, among others, rotate in and out of the lineup. The concert marked the first time that Soundgarden’s surviving members – guitarist Kim Thayil, bass player Ben Shepherd, and drummer Matt Cameron – had performed together publicly since Cornell died while on tour with the band. Thayil and Shepherd gave Cornell an emotional final send-off with an intense, extended blast of feedback at the end of ‘Black Hole Sun’.

Proceeds from the concert were split between the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation, which was established by the singer and his wife to protect and provide for vulnerable children worldwide, and the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation.