These last two shows mark the finale of our second US run, in the two cities The Glitch Mob attributes as their starting points: LA and my hometown of San Francisco. Needless to say, the anticipation around these two shows has been brewing for quite some time…and in retrospect, far exceeded everything we’d hoped!
The Warfield, a beautiful and eclectic venue with eccentric history dating back to the Roarin’ 20’s. It opened as the Loews Warfield in 1922, mainly for Vaudeville shows (they saw legends such as Charlie Chaplin and Louis Armstrong). Later renamed Fox Warfield, during prohibition an underground tunnel ran across Market St. to an underground Speakeasy (later discovered while building passageways for the BART train). Supposedly most of the alcohol distributed through the city during the dry spell passed through these walls and under these floors around that time.
Despite heavy restrictions on the sale of alcohol (if you weren’t a San Franciscan apparently), SF remained one of the wettest cities in the country. A network of tunnels are still accessible from the backstage area, though most of it has been walled-off, sealing off all underground access across Market street forever.
Today, it remains an icon of San Francisco, with incredible acoustics and a welcoming host to a constant cycle of legendary artists. Many of its production crew also work at The Fox Oakland, what you may consider a “sister club”, and The Regency nearby (all venues Skrillex played recently for the SF Takeover Tour, rocking massive subs provided by PK Sound, the same we’re touring with today!)
To me, The Warfield tops them all, winning with a great vibe and good sounding room. Some of my best friends, also music-collaboration buddies, and my girlfriend all made it out to the show, doubling the level of fun in contributing to The Glitch Mob rocking a sold-out show at one of my favorite venues in the middle of one of my favorite cities!
The following night’s show was equally inspiring, as LA is the current hometown of the Mob and the Mob brought a mob of great minds! Everyone from their management team at Deckstar, the lead designer of their custom Ableton software, their set/lighting/video designer, and even the ever-inspiring Steve Nalepa, who has touched this tour in more ways than he will probably ever know.
We played a sold-out show to Club Nokia, similar to The Warfield only in that it’s very unique, although in completely different ways. For one, it had a much newer and modern feel, though Nokia clearly has an extensive history of its own, with artist posters stretching wall-to-wall throughout the backstage area. One challenge I found interesting is the width of the room versus the depth – it’s really quite wide, as you can probably see:
Immediately upon starting sound check, and even earlier while tuning the system before the band even hit the stage (more on that some day), I was walking the room and felt a distinct lack of bass in certain areas of the room. You may recall on this tour we’re traveling with the CX800 subs, which are massively beefy and possess more than enough punch to hit the back of the room. Though to obtain an even spread of low end through a room, you will need to use a few tricks regardless of what subs you have, especially for challenging rooms.
Bass is omni-directional, meaning it propagates in all different directions regardless of where the “front” is aiming; whereas your tweeters or “high end” (or Treble as your granny maybe calls it) shoot in the specific direction of where they’re aiming. However, despite the tendency for bass to be omni, when you have enough of them clustered together they form what is known as a “power lane”, which is basically a massive wall of bass that shoots straight ahead, jello-izing organs of bass-hungry fans.
This is great when you have enough subs to form a literal wall from end-to-end, but what about when you only have enough subs to cover the area directly in front of the stage?
This is where having a digital console or nice processor comes in real handy. By splitting up your sub wall into multiple “zones”, and setting a small delay (very short and precise – think Milliseconds or fractions thereof) on the outer subs, your “wall” becomes an “arc” that will spread more to the outside edges of the room and break free from the confines of a straight line or lane.
Note that you will be sacrificing some of the power in your center lane, but making a system or room sound good is all about sacrficing tactfully, as according to the laws of physics you will never work under the conditions of a perfect sounding system and room – not on this planet and in our lifetime, in any case; best to embrace it and have a little fun!
Okay, so if you want to try it for yourself, let’s say that you have a wall of 16 subs, which will probably look something like this:
Whoops sorry, wrong pic! Let’s try again:
Great, so you have your sub wall. It’s 16 subs total (each loaded with two 18″ drivers), stacked double tall. Each sub is 4 feet long so your wall is about 32 feet wide. However, the venue you’re playing tonight is 50 feet wide. You’re tuning the system and everything sounds fine in the center of the room, but once you’re well outside the 32 foot radius, toward the outer edges of the room you’re missing a lot of low end.
The next step is to split your subs into 2 zones, from your processor or digital console. The center subs (8 total) will be one zone. The subs to the outside (4 per side) will be the second zone, connected to each other but independent of the center cluster.
It’s actually pretty easy from here. Start with about a half-millisecond of delay on the second zone. Typically between .5 and 1.5 milliseconds of delay will “arc” the throw of your subs and still maintain a cohesive sound before the center starts to collapse. For a greater degree of control, you can split your subs into more Zones, and gradually increase the delay times as you move farther from the center…try moving in .5 millisecond increments, the best bet is to walk the room a bunch or use a sub-calculator to really lock it in. You could also create the technique without a digital delay by physically staggering your sub placements, with the outside subs placed behind the inner subs in a “stepping” pattern.
Once the subs were filling the room nicely, the PA felt right throughout the room and we were show ready. I had a great dinner with Zach from SubPac (really kickass “Bass Vest” that is exactly what it sounds like, it’s responsive down to 5hz and great for producers!) and got back in time to see the Penthouse Penthouse guys have a great set, and the amazing Ana Sia who has another set coming up at Lightning in a Bottle!
The show was incredible. It’s hard for me to go into more detail as during shows all I’m basically focusing on is dialing in that extra couple percent to really set things over the top. As Zach put it that night I was pretty deep “in the Matrix” so hopefully some vibe of the excitement that night is translating! The Mob killed it in front of thousands of their fans and friends, I can’t think of a better way to end our second leg of an increasingly incredible tour.
The following day I had the honor of going to my friend Alluxe‘s birthday party on the beach near Malibu, a breathtaking lookout with a medley of Ableton-heads to match. I made some new friends including a talented DJ who goes by Codiac (check out his radio show called SUBduction, spinning vinyl every Monday night 6-9p on Sub.fm) and Jordan from DoLab (anyone going to Lightning in a Bottle this year?)!
Here’s a few shots of the view we shared while nerding out for hours on end:
Over the course of this weekend, and the past few shows in particular, I’ve had the opportunity of meeting with some great minds. They got me thinking…
I’ve been seeing a pattern unfold that I wanted to share with producers, in particular those who are in a period of growth. On your path to success, on a weekly or even daily basis, you will be meeting people who possess the knowledge and ability to further your career. They may be in management, promoting, booking, labels, or even producers themselves.
If I may offer a suggestion, before trying to push or “sell” your music to them/get booked/get signed etc., simply ask questions and listen closely to what they have to say. They are going to be much more forthcoming with advice and information to someone who is inquiring and honestly trying to grow and learn, than someone who is looking to get signed and blow up overnight.
It is infinitely more important to the longevity of your career to build genuine relationships with people in higher, equal or lower places than you, than it is to make something happen immediately.
Of course, don’t be afraid to let them know who you are, what you do, and where you’re trying to go. Convey all these things with confidence and a gleam in your eye and it will speak worlds about your goals and ambition, as well as an encouraging indicator that you are worthy of advice and help.
However, don’t ask for hand-outs. If you truly have something to offer, at that particular point in time, they will know intuitively. The urge to be on-par with those in high places is natural for those with any skillset, including music production. Sometimes when you meet those elevated individuals it’s tempting to “push” for help, and that will be the first thing to scare them off. If you really want to get ahead in your career, focus on being genuine and engaging, you will quickly start to see the world unfold!
That’s about it for this entry, I wanted to part with a picture I shot in my hotel room, that encapsulates pretty well what life on tour is all about…
If this were an “I Spy” game, I would probably try and get you to spot: A radio for communication during shows, an Audio interface, a bluetooth speaker, two Keith McMillan MIDI controllers, discarded wallet, discarded hat, cloth bag for a 2TB Hard Drive, razor, and package containing a CD with a show recording. Put them all together, and you get a busy yet happy Producer/Sound Engineer…
Our next leg takes us through Europe! I will be posting about our Euradventures very soon so keep an eye out, feel free to sign up for my email list at the bottom of the page (“Follow”) if you’d like to stay posted!