LONDON, United Kingdom – Whether by accident or design, the partnership of sound engineer Bryony October and tour manager Tim Boardman has made a speciality of starting a number of emerging acts on the road to success—supporting them with their expertise if not the luxury of full production. Touring at this level, where for both economic reasons and venue size production real estate is reduced to the bare minimum, is anything but glamorous.
On many occasions in this past six months, HARMAN’s Soundcraft Si Performer 3 and Si Expression consoles have come to the pair’s rescue on low budget tours around Europe. And when Bryony suffered a freak accident in Dortmund recently, leaving her at the A&E department of the local hospital, Boardman found himself piloting the Performer 3 for the first time and to his immense relief found it an intuitive ‘walk-up’ experience like so many sound engineers before him. On many other occasions he has simply taken October’s show files and performed the mix for other artists on an Si Expression. “It’s amazing what can be achieved, mixing FOH and monitors together and delivering a big sounding show from a desk that sits in a 19in rack,” he said.
Since finishing her long stint with the Noisettes, Bryony has worked with artistes such as Billy Ocean, Laura Marling, Delilah, Marika Hackman, Bo Bruce and now Moya—a 4-piece band fronted by lead singer Emily Andrews, who have been supporting Rod Stewart on his current arena tour.
Earlier this year Moya played equally large venues in an acoustic setting supporting Mick Hucknall—but this time the band wanted to plug in. And it has been Soundcraft’s ViSi Remote app for iPad, enabling the band to control their monitor mixes from the FOH desk, that has shown the true value of touring economics.
With their stripped down, Splitter van-friendly production consisting of little other than a router, CAT5 multicore and the compact Performer 3 (a convenient one-man lift), they persuaded Stewart’s Major Tom production team that rather than perform again in an acoustic context, they could carry a line system for the 30-minute support stint without compromising the main event.
With 29 of the 32 recallable inputs working the board to near capacity (along with 13 outputs) October is blessed that she that she can see all activity on the top Layer of the Si Performer with no page changes necessary. At the same time the desk’s FaderGlow™ and colour backlit name displays on every channel provide her with a definitive colour reference of what monitor mixes are being sent. “It means I never make a mistake when moving from FOH to monitor mixes and I can clearly see the dynamics present,” October said.
She has been using the Si Performer’s output processing to send post-fade FX to the stage so the reference sound heard in the band’s in-ears match the audience experience. “I am using ambient mics, reverb and panning to give them a feel that they are right there in the mix—providing an open sound so that they feel what the audience feels. I really like the ease in which I can change the panning on each mix using the same encoder as panning for the main mix. It means I can space things out in each band member’s mix depending on their position on stage.”
As to how she builds the soundscape, Bryony uses vocal reverb, drum reverb, slapback delay and tap delay (on Moya’s voice). “Although she has an incredible voice I also want the dynamics to be present in everything else, producing a good full range sound.”
But the sound engineer admits to having had concerns about mixing five in-ears from FOH in arenas and even a stadium at Dublin’s RDS— until the iPad idea struck her. “I upgraded the desk at production rehearsals with the new firmware and latest version iPad operating system—and the band were all over it.”
Nevertheless, on the first tour date they were tight for time. “We didn’t know we had to provide our own complete line system until night day before the first show so I had to build my looms and wire up the patch during the first day’s soundcheck. Thankfully Rod Stewart’s team allowed us to set up on stage before Rod’s soundcheck, which gave us a lot more time. He was happy to work around our gear which is very unusual.”
The drummer and keyboard player used small mixers to facilitate hardwired in ears and a separate click channel which was split from the playback system.“If the drummer loses click, there’s no show,” October said, “so he has to have total control over that. We also gave him one of the two stage iPads as he is sat down and can access it most easily.”
This also provides reassurance for Moya herself (since she has no direct contact with her sound engineer) although she quipped, “The idea of trusting my life to my drummer was scary at first. But the setup has been quick and easy—and provides both confidence and consistency.”
After nearly two decades of honing her craft on the road, Bryony October has seen most things. But today, products like the Soundcraft Si Expression and Si Performer 3 are easing the burden. “The Si Performer has made this tour an absolute joy. It is the first time I have used Soundcraft’s iPad app—and having the band control their own levels has completely freed me up to concentrate on the FOH sound.”
Soundcraft and other HARMAN Professional products are distributed in the UK by Sound Technology Ltd.
HARMAN (www.HARMAN.com) designs, manufactures, and markets a wide range of audio, lighting and infotainment solutions for the automotive, consumer, and professional markets. It is a recognized world leader across its customer segments with premium brands including AKG®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon®, and Mark Levinson®, and leading-edge connectivity, safety and audio technologies. The company is admired by audiophiles across multiple generations and supports leading professional entertainers and the venues where they perform. More than 25 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with Harman audio and infotainment systems. Harman has a workforce of about 14,300 people across the Americas, Europe, and Asia and reported sales of $4.4 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012.