Los Angeles, CA—Over the past two years, genre-defying duo Twenty One Pilots has become the biggest band in the world by many metrics, winning a Grammy Award, storming the charts, racking up Gold and Platinum records and breaking sales records long held by Green Day, The Beatles and Elvis. After a yearlong touring hiatus spent writing and recording a new album, Trench, lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun are bringing their trademark energy and athleticism back to the stage with the Bandito Tour, which kicked off on October 16 and currently extends through June 30, 2019.
Harnessing the duo’s eclectic sound and delivering it to their adoring fans on the initial North American leg of the tour was a 138-loudspeaker Meyer Sound LEO Family system supplied by VER Tour Sound in partnership with Concert Investor. The setup, designed by system tech Kenny Sellars, included 44 LEO and 56 LYON W and M modules in front, side and rear arrays covering 270 degrees, with six 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements flown per side in cardioid arrays. Seven pairs of ground-stacked 1100-LFC subs supplemented the flown rig, while additional MINA, UPM-1P and UPJ-1P boxes provided front, stage thrust and out-fill.
For Sellars, this was just another day at the office, made easier, it appears, by the Meyer Galaxy processing system. “The PC—Phase Correct—settings make blending the different types of speakers effortless,” says Sellars, who drives nine of the DSP units from a Galaxy AES, with a second AES version available for festivals, assisted listening and backup feeds.
“We had VER make custom boxes to lift the MINA fills to head height,” Sellars reports. “This way they can still roll in and be ready without stacking them every day. The subs stay on their wheels as well, so it’s truly plug-and-play.”
It’s all about the load-out, he says: “We average an hour for all audio gear to hit the truck on a normal day.”
The Bandito show is complex, involving an A and a B stage, carefully choreographed stunts and a lift for Dun and his drums, so automation keeps things running smoothly. There may be just two band members, but the crew is wrangling 78 inputs from stage.
“The whole show is run off SMPTE timecode, which is triggered by playback. However, I do everything manually at the desk,” says Shane Bardiau, who signed on as FOH engineer in 2015, after the release of the breakthrough album Blurryface, and mixes on a DiGiCo SD5.
“I like to choose when I go to my next snapshot. I’m more of a hands-on mixer, constantly moving faders and changing dynamics per room.”
The SD5 offers Bardiau features he can’t live without, he says. “The open architecture is a game-changer. The fact that I can put whatever channel strip/fader wherever I want is nice.
“And I’ve got a macro for everything—one button to switch between live input or virtual playback; one button to switch from my Waves world to bypassing my inserts and using only the console features as a backup, and to compare plug-ins versus desk channel strip; one button to switch between the various vocal mics that we use on stage.”
There’s even a failsafe macro: “I’ve got alternate inputs set up in case my main inputs die—one button saves my snapshot and show file.”
Bardiau has a Waves SoundGrid Extreme Server, two DiGiGrid MGBs and a network switch integrated with the SD5. Long drives between shows and time constraints due to the production’s complexity leave no time for the band to soundcheck. “When we did soundcheck, it wasn’t beneficial to me anyway because the room changes so much when filled with people,” Bardiau says. Should he need to hear anything during setup, “The DiGiGrid MGBs allow me to track all my inputs at 96k, which enables me to use virtual soundcheck with a MacBook running Waves Tracks Live.”
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Bardiau leans heavily on Waves plug-ins, especially the C3 multiband compressor. “I use it on a lot of different inputs, but having it on my master bus has been a huge advantage. I’ve got my vocal group side-chained to the middle band around 1 kHz. When my artist sings, he punches a little hole out of the mix for his vocals to sit right on top, no matter how loud the mix is.”
Bardiau has other favorite plug-ins: “I’ve got the SSL Master Bus Compressor on all my buses. Having it crush with quick responses on my parallel drum bus makes my drums have a huge sucking sound, giving them massive life. I’ve listened to a lot of different plug-ins and onboard ’verbs, and nothing compares to H-Reverb when it comes to in-the-box ’verbs. And MaxxVolume has done wonders in getting my vocal to pop. The gate is so good for a vocal—sensitive and accurate.”
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Lawrence “Filet” Mignogna at monitors generates 12 mixes from his DiGiCo SD10. “I do run snapshots, but it’s only for a few specific level changes,” he says. “Most of the board is ‘safed’ and I run most of the cues manually, as there are several mutes and unmutes within songs. For bigger cues, I have several macros built, which is a great, versatile feature of DiGiCo consoles.” He relies largely on the desk’s internal effects, with an outboard Bricasti M7 for Tyler Joseph’s vocal reverb.
Mignogna runs 12 channels of Shure PSM 1000 IEMs: “Two guys in the band and a spare for each, mixes for backline techs and crew, plus mixes for the opening acts” who join Twenty One Pilots for a couple of songs each night.
Five Meyer Leopard cabinets are deployed across the stage as monitors. “Tyler uses one in-ear for half the show because he really likes hearing the room and feeding off the audience, so the fills aren’t loud but give a bit more presence on deck,” says Mignogna.
A 12-mic talkback setup in tandem with the show comms enables everyone to speak with each other; it’s managed through Mignogna’s console. “With several moving parts—lifts, stunts, automation—there are several spoken cues that are needed and called out at specific times to specific people,” he reports.
The tour is traveling with a Shure microphone package. “The Shure Axient wireless system sounds the best. The quality of audio that comes out of the pack is incredible,” says Bardiau.
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On the vocal, ukulele and bass guitar, he says, “I’m taking an AES line out of the Axient unit and going directly into my [DiGiCo] SD-Rack. The clarity is unmatched.”
He adds, “Tyler’s vocal works so well with the KSM9HS capsule. He’s all over the room with the mic and this capsule can handle it. The high output before feedback is a huge plus and helps me, especially when he’s out on the B stage.”
The drums are all miked with Shure models: “There’s a 91A/Beta 52 on kick, Beta 57s on all snare tops and SM57s on the bottoms, 98As on toms, KSM137s for hats and ride, and KSM32s for overheads,” he says.
Tickets were in such demand that a second North American leg has been added to the tour beginning May 1. But first, following December shows in Australia and New Zealand, the Bandito Tour heads to Ukraine and Russia before visiting 18 countries across Europe.
Meyer Sound, https://meyersound.com
Waves Audio, www.waves.com