The Glitch Blog #11 – Festival season!

Le Festival d’été de Québec mainstage – directly after our setup and soundcheck

edIT takes the Jumbotron by storm (to sound guys, every large LED wall is a Jumbotron)

The dust is rising; millions of dollars in sound, video and lighting are being freighted cross-country to the middle of the desert, a young generation is stocking up on tents and tank-tops, and local electronics stores are mysteriously completely sold out of Glow sticks – it can only mean one thing.  Music festival season is in the air!

These past few weeks, we’ve had the honor of leaving our mark on some of the best festivals this summer in the US and Canada:  EDC, Governor’s Ball, Electric Forest, Coachella, Bonnaroo, What the FestivalBadlands, and Le Festival d’été de Québec (FEQ).

Governor’s Ball opened its gates to tens of thousands of fans on Randall Island, New York City.  Here’s a shot from Front of House, sometimes known as “the best sounding seat in the house”, but only when conditions are ideal…as they were here!  Can you hear it?

The Glitch Mob at Governors Ball

The Glitch Mob at Governors Ball

The view from Manhattan Island

Directly backstage of our stage, the view from Randall Island

Tech tip – the more beat up, the better it sounds

Can you guess how many of these speakers are plugged in? (Hint – not all)

Bonnaroo Bonus – we got to set up The Blade backstage during Lauren Hill’s set, killin us softly with sweet melody:

Backstage with Ms Lauren Hill

In case you were wondering about Lauren Hill’s keyboard player…

Ok, take the capacity of Governor’s Ball, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest – add them together, and you’re still…not even close to the turnout at EDC this year.  EDC hosted the biggest stage ever built in North America, with 130,000 attendees…every night.  That’s right, almost 400,000 heads in one weekend at EDC.

Here’s what the biggest stage in North America looks like, and we played it – directly after sunset!

Mainstage EDC

Photo A – Mainstage EDC

Mainstage EDC

Photo B – Zoomed out

Mainstage EDC

Photo C – Ultra zoomed out – imagine this packed with people, 4 hours later

Backside of the Mainstage

Photo D – Backside of the Mainstage

How's it hangin?

Photo E – How’s it hangin?

<Tech Talk:  Delay Towers>

What you see in the picture directly above (Photo E) is known as a Delay Tower.  In photos B and C, you can see more of them – all the towers with speakers hanging away from the main stage.  These allow the sound field to be carried far beyond the reach of the Stage (the “Main System”) – allowing an indefinite, scaleable method of reaching as many ears as physically possible, as consistently as possible while still following the laws of physics.

For reference, our show at EDC had about 60,000 people watching our show.  It’s easy to lose the scope of that number, so if it helps, think of the city of San Francisco – now take 1/11th of its residents, and put them in front of a ginormous stage in the middle of the desert, surrounded by millions of dollars in production.  That was The Glitch Mob’s performance at EDC.

Now, how do you cover 1/11th of a metropolis with full, even sound?  Cramming them in together like it’s 6pm in a Silicon Valley office elevator is a good start, but we’re going to have to do better than that if we want the audience to have an enjoyable sonic experience.

We’ll do what you did for your college house party, times 1000; put most of the money into the main sound system, and distribute multiple smaller sound systems throughout the living room and kitchen – sorry, mainstage dance area – aimed at strategic locations using complex prediction software (ie not just “wingin it”).

Here’s the key part:  The farther “towers” from the stage need to be “delayed”, in order for the music to lock together cohesively and sound like it is from a single source, covering an absurdly long distance and multiple Delay Towers.

In other words, if everything isn’t delayed properly, it will sound like a bad slapback echo effect is playing continuously along with your favorite DJ or band, throughout the entire set, with utterly no regard to rhythmic delay or BPM.

This is because the tower needs to be delayed in milliseconds according to its distance from the main system.  The speed of electricity is slightly slower than the speed of light (983,571,056 feet per second), whereas the speed of sound (also known as Mach 1) is only 1,116 feet per second (varying with temperature and air density).

The electrical signal coming from the DJ’s mixer will potentially the Main system and Delay Towers at the same time, but by the time the sound from the Main System meets with the sound of the Delay Tower, they are out of sync and sound awful.  The solution?  Insert a delay on your Delay Tower signal, so the two match up.

Not only do Delay Towers need to be delayed – every single speaker and cluster with one source of sound needs to be delayed relative to the farthest driver from the crowd (that is still part of the main system – the one hanging directly in front of the stage).

If it seems like a lot of work…it is.  And worth it for good reason – if everything isn’t lined up perfectly, you will have a concert completely inconsistent from one standing point to the next, sounding anywhere from god awful, to merely terrible.  But get your delays locked in and as if by magic (though far from it), the music will sound locked in and consistent, hitting that much harder!

I have a basic tutorial on aligning and tuning sound systems in a previous entry here.

Anyways, if you take nothing else from this portion of Tech Talk, remember this – when done right, the delay tower can often be the best sounding (or at least realistically accessible) area of the show – and you’ll still have room to dance!

If you have the option of being in front of a delay tower, or smashed between a sweaty audience member and a sweatier audience member (and yet, still being too far away from the stage to enjoy the show) I would pick the delay tower – it will likely sound better too!

</Tech Talk>

A bit more EDC, since it’s so damned beautiful:

Calm before the Storm – Chris and Brett

Here's a shot from our stage's perspective, a few hours before our set

Here’s a shot from our stage’s perspective, a few hours before our set

I also found my true calling this year at EDC, with my new job title:  Canned Music Conductor

I also found my true calling this year at EDC, with my new job title: Canned Music Conductor

Our hotel rooms at The Cosmo - pretty nice!

Our hotel rooms at The Cosmo – pretty nice!

The PK Fam at Infocomm - where we unveiled our groundbreaking new line array, Trinity!

The PK Fam at Infocomm – where we unveiled our groundbreaking new line array, Trinity!

Ok, so enough EDC – what else?  

Answer:  Pants

Good God!  The Keebler elf is streaking through JFK Airport!

Good God!  The Keebler elf is streaking through JFK International!

Always need a nice random Airplane shot

The overhead map view of Final Fantasy 7

Dinner with ma and pa

Dinner with the fam bam

Guys look - is that Craig Robinson?

Guys wait – is that Craig Robinson?

Thanks to the staff at What the Festival for taking care of us, and throwing a kickass show!

Thanks to the staff at What the Festival for taking care of us, and throwing a kickass show!

Electric Forest this year could very well be an entry on its own.  Actually, it will be!  There’s no way I could sum up this experience in a few short sentences, especially since I stayed and camped the entire weekend, and had the time of my life!

Le Festival d’été de Québec will be a hard one to top, and for good reason – this monolithic gathering has been in the running for over 40 years, and just keeps getting bigger – last year saw Stevie Wonder, Guns n Roses, and Tiesto headlining – this year it was Lady Gaga, Journey, and Deadmau5 among others.

The Glitch Mob played directly before Deadmau5 – we all had a blast sticking around for his set after our show, the Mob included!  Here was our stage, at the beginning of the day:

Le Festival d’été de Québec mainstage – A clean slate before setup or soundcheck

Here's a shot of FOH from the stage - see me back there?  Of course not, I'm taking this picture.

Here’s a shot of FOH from the stage – see me back there? You would, if you had eyes like a hawk – and I wasn’t up here, taking this picture…

Robert Delong soundchecking - this guy puts on an incredible performance, super multi-instrumentalist!

Robert Delong soundchecking – this guy puts on an incredible performance, super multi-instrumentalist!  That Jumbotron tho

Mighty fine Jumbotron you got there

Mighty fine Jumbotron you got there

This is underneath the mainstage - you could fit a small country under here

Underneath the mainstage, you could fit a small country

Entrance to under the stage

Entrance to under the stage

Secret exit from the stage to the crowd

Secret exit from the stage to the crowd

Ooah takes the big screen

Ooah Jumbotron Takeover Tour

The Glitch Mob

The Glitch Mob gets vaporized

I supremely enjoyed Deadmau5‘s set, he recently dropped his new album While 1<2 which I’ve had on repeat.  The album title refers to programming language, where While 1<2 is a way of expressing “to continuously loop”.

I have limitless respect for artists who like to “do their own thing” rather than getting too caught up in what’s perceived as “hot” these days, and Deadmau5 paves the road with a double-album full of piano breaks and cerebral dance vibes.

I highly recommend checking it out; these days, you simply can’t beat 24 high-quality tracks for only $13 on Beatport.

Deadmau5 from the front

Deadmau5 from FOH

Deadmau5 from the stage

Deadmau5 setup from the stage, after the show

Stay tuned for a full Electric Forest recap – up next is more festival madness to Lollapalooza and Osheaga, followed by a full run of festivals across Europe!

Looking forward to our triumphant return across the pond – hope to see you there!

The Glitch Blog #10 – Prague, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Europe pt. 2!

An untouched blanket of snow shields the ground below, a layer of armor protecting the purity of what lies beneath...

An untouched blanket of snow shields the ground below, a layer of armor when purity sings…

...until the sky bursts loose, covalent barriers melt away, and scatter like ice from our unclipped wings

…until the sky bursts loose, covalent barriers break truce, and scatter like ice from unclipped wings

One thing they don’t teach you at Sound School (and yes there is such a thing, I graduated from Ex’pression College), is just how much flying and driving you will be doing on tour…and best practices to keep yourself entertained and out of trouble!  Here are a few things I keep busy with to make best use of the free time…

  • Write music on my laptop, using Ableton, my QuNeo and a plethora of plugins.  This is a great way to hammer out ideas without being too critical of your mix right off the bat, it’s always best to work in stages!
  • Reading a book, Non-Fiction during the day (Think and Grow Rich, The 4-hour Work Week, and Blink have changed me for the better)
  • Reading a book, Fiction before bed (Fiction helps to sleep, fuels creativity, and is generally better than a video game for releasing tension, as video games are inherently designed to push-pull tension) – (Game of Thrones, Sandman/anything by Neil Gaiman, Otherland and The Dark Tower are some favorites)
  • Writing this blog!  Keeping a blog is a good way of keeping your sanity, and having some way to remember the times that are flying by faster than the speed of sound…
  • Playing video games on my laptop (I’m a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls games, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy series, A Virus Named Tom which is a fun game I composed the music for)
  • Playing video games on my phone (Android phones, and crafty iPhone users, can download emulators for Genesis, Super NES, and Playstation, so you can replay your entire childhood library!  There are also tons of games on the market…)
  • Jam with other crew members, and exchange tracks to collaborate on
  • Discuss production techniques with crew/band members
  • Eat delicious food

If you have any to add, feel free to comment in the section below! We last left off somewhere near Vienna, Europe:

Loving the graffiti artwork of this city

Canals of Vienna – loving the graffiti murals in this city, politicians probably disagree

Our show in Hamburg was in a venue (Uebel & Gefärhlich), a converted military bunker:

the real deal

The leaning tower of concrete

lower half

Upon arriving and finding the main doors locked, we proceeded to find the nearest open door and climb a few flights of stairs (that became roughly 16 flights of stairs) to the back door:

"neuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu"

“neuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu”

Naturally, the doors at the top were locked also…once we’re finally in though, the view from up top is quite stunning:

Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg, Germany

Soon after, we played at Centralstation in Darmstadt:

The Glitch Mob in Darmstadt, Germany

The Glitch Mob in Darmstadt, Germany

IMG_20140521_145423768

The Central Station of Centralstation

I would especially like to thank one of my new favorite clubs, Roxy, for taking care of us and providing an amazing club atmosphere.  Although we did have to carry the love of our life Kim up and down multiple flights of stairs (see previous entry), it was all worth it to be part of the architecture that has been around longer than any of us have been hogging oxygen.

Roxy is in Prague, capital of Czech Republic and home to some of the best Drum & Bass I’ve experienced. One of my favorite record labels, Hospital Records, who represent favorites Netsky and High Contrast, have thrown many shows there in the past…and it’s in an absolutely gorgeous area of the city:

tiny wings

tiny wings

Can you see what this sculpture is from this angle?

Can you see what this sculpture is from this angle?

Indoors:

Roxy

Roxy – backstage

This building has existed nearly 300 years

This building has existed nearly 300 years

They found my kryptonite - green tea!

They found my kryptonite – green tea!

This was the backstage artist area, AKA the Greenroom

This was the backstage artist area, AKA the Greenroom

How many genres can you pick out?

How many genres can you pick out?

The calm

FOH mixing board is the big glowy one

Our hotel rooms were:

You fancy, huh?

O you fancy huh?

IMG_20140525_235917546

Moment of reflection

It was with some sadness I had to leave, as it was great to see a place still thriving with Drum & Bass.  I will be back soon, and vow to play Roxy personally! For any venues I forgot to mention – thank you!  Everyone took good care of us, and made us feel welcome in their home, I managed to forge a lasting connection with nearly every sound engineer who helped us out…

<Tech Talk>

One rather large thing to remember, for all touring engineers…remember that when you are working with an engineer at their home venue, you are working in their house…which is to say, be respectful and always remember they know the venue 100x better than you do. This is not an approximate number…they have probably mixed the venue at least 100 times, to your 1 time.  They know how the room resonates, where the system bites, and where it doesn’t…all things you will need to learn within the next 8 hours, if you want your mix to sound good!

Treat the house engineer with respect, and as your trusted ears, and they will generally be all the help you need.  Treat them otherwise, and, well…good luck.  I’m sure most of us touring engineers have been house engineers at some point or another.  We all remember what is was like.  Be cool, and the favor will be returned!

</Tech Talk>

On a lighter note, here’s some candy – specifically chocolate:

Chocofeast

Chocofeast

Cute local pug:

Definitely not a tourist

Definitely not a tourist

Of course, no trip would be complete without restocking the essentials:

Finally, a candy store everyone is on-board for!

The Glitch Snack

This is our collective luggage; far, far more than should ever need to be kept track of:

and that's not even all of it...

and that’s not even all of it…

Ever heard the term "living out of your suitcase"?

Ever heard the term “living out of your suitcase”?

THE trip

Another day, another destination

Another day, another destination

This is how you sleep on your side with no choice but to use floppy, 2-dimensional pillows

This is how you sleep on your side with no choice but to use floppy, 2-dimensional pillows

Featured at a local pub, the new Bose line array

Featured at a local pub, the new Bose line array

We played some fantastic festivals in France:

A shipyard - crazy location for a festival, but totally works!

A shipyard – crazy location for a festival, but totally works!

Deception

Mystique

Perception

Perception

Uh...innovative?

Uh…innovation?

And the crowd goes

And the crowd goes

This is how everyone looks...

This is how everyone looks…

Until you tell them you're snapping a photo

Until you tell them you’re snapping a photo

More graffiti featuring some of my favorite video game characters

Graffiti featuring some of my favorite video game characters

Thanks France - you know how we get down!

Thanks France – you know how we get down!

La Machine, where we played in Paris

La Machine, where we played in Paris

Paris -> London

Paris -> London

London at HMV Forum

London at HMV Forum

Rooftop view in London

Rooftop view in London

One of my favorite shows, played in London at HMV Forum

One of my favorite shows, played in London at HMV Forum

Our final show of the run, in France

Our final show of the run, in France

I believe this is French framework

I believe this to be French framework

We’ve reached our final destination, the train station we left from on our last day in Europe.  The trip has left us battered and bruised, yet happy and hopeful for future stops, sustained by the opportunity to share the music and positivity that drive The Glitch Mob’s Love Death Immortality tour, world-wide and to your doorstep!

For the closing sentence archiving our first trip as a team to Europe (and employing futuristic technology to stay frozen in time indefinitely), I leave you in a panorama of Somewhere Beautiful, France.

Somewhere, France

Somewhere Beautiful, France

Au revior! Sig5 Ian Hicks – FOH

The Glitch Blog #3 – Buku Festival

Ah, Buku – our first music festival as a team, and we are headlining our stage.  Buku takes place in beautiful New Orleans, home to a profusion of culture and Cajun food (coincidentally, two of my favorite things) – and of course the hometown of Ooah, where he first picked up the drum sticks that would roll him into the world of music and producing.

NOLA

Producer’s Corner:  Today I learned that, when producing music (and bass-driven music in particular) you need to be mindful of the sort of sound systems you plan on performing through.  For example, in the early years of your career, it’s a little tricky to successfully perform songs that focus on “deep bass”, such as 30-40hz.

When translated to the key of a song, this would be somewhere between a (very) low C and E.  Part of the reason is because smaller clubs with a capacity of, say, less than 800 people, typically don’t invest in Subwoofers that go much below 40 or 50hz, so they will be missing a large element of your song.  Until recently, it didn’t make much sense to do so, for a simple reason – typical instruments used by bands don’t go below 40 hz, which is an open low E string on a bass guitar.

It was long thought – and taught to me in school – that there isn’t musical information below 50hz, which is considered by some as merely “Sub-bass”.  This is indicative of the old-school mindset that dominated the industry before electronic dance music came to overshadow traditional bands, clearly illustrated by the many EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festivals that pull hundreds of thousands of fans in a single weekend, something the live industry (though I love it dearly) doesn’t succeed in outperforming.

What I’m getting at is there is musical information all the way down to the lowest note in the human hearing range – although it may be harder for our ears to discern slight frequency deviations at those low notes, and that it’s important to keep mind that every frequency in the entire sound spectrum relates to a musical key, and that if you’re writing a song in C – while you should try to have some presence at 30hz, the fundamental frequency C corresponds with – you will be best off focusing on its next octave, 60hz, when playing on sound systems in smaller rooms.  Just something to keep in mind (and I try to take my own advice) when writing your next banger!

PK CX800's we tour with - ultra-low frequency response!

PK CX800’s we tour with – ultra-low frequency response!

</Producer’s Corner>

Back to Buku, where we start our morning with the shuttle arriving nearly 30 minutes late to pick up the crew from the hotel.  By the time we arrive to the scene our Semi truck waits idly, still fat and loaded to the brim with an entire production’s worth of video, lighting, and sound, beckoning us to lighten its load.

It’s easy to imagine that headlining would permit an extended period of time for setup and soundcheck; to the contrary, this has to be our fastest setup yet with a total of 4 hours between load-in and cutoff.  With the entire set to bring in and ensure everything is checked and ready to roll, it’s worth noting there really is no “holding doors” for a music festival with thousands of fans foaming at the mouth to hit the multiple stages these grounds have to offer.

Fortunately the crew – seasoned professionals who are all too familiar with the importance of keeping a cool head under pressure – works together in getting the stage set with our entire production, cutting our setup time nearly in half.  It is, for me personally, an easier setup than usual – with no option of bringing my PK CX800 subs to the stage, I am mixing on a D&B rig today.  I perform a quick phase test to make sure the system is properly aligned, and to my relief I find the production company has done a good job of setting the table.

Though a “flat” sound system – one that produces an even and full frequency response across the entire human hearing range, flat with respect to the output signal matching the input signal – will sound good with virtually any type of well-produced music, tuning a system for The Glitch Mob calls for minor system adjustments that lend to their signature sound.

<Tech Talk>

Theoretically, a perfect sound system will accurately reproduce the material that is sent to it; every dB of every frequency being transmitted and evenly spread throughout the room.  However in “the real world”, where artists and techs are typically forced to operate, much like a penguin wanting to fly, we are striving to achieve a goal that is in a sense impossible to fully realize due to the laws of physics/acoustics…though that is actually part of the fun, like assembling a puzzle as close to completion as possible, while understanding that you are – and always will be – a few pieces short.  As time passes and techniques improve those pieces become less noticeable, like a blue tile missing from a puzzle of the Pacific Ocean.

Puzzle - Fingering Zen

Puzzle – Fingering Zen

Throughout the conversion process, from the sound the instrument produces acoustically, to the microphone that transmits its vibrations into electrical energy into the mixing console to be converted into a Digital signal, then out of the console and converted back into the Analog world, then sent to the sound system processors, which do yet another digital-to-analog conversion before sending the sound to the speakers, which finally convert the electrical energy back into acoustic energy into the real world (head spinning yet?) – there are bound to be minor variances that will “transform” the original signal, intentionally or otherwise, into sounding different than it did at the beginning of its journey.

Furthermore – and here’s the real caveat – any room or outdoor space that the sound system transmits acoustic energy into will “color” the overall sound, as walls and other surfaces (even trees) will reflect certain frequencies back at each other, causing dips and peaks depending on where in the room you are standing.

Try it yourself – next time you are at a concert, walk across the room and pay attention as the tonality of the music changes – even the same Lead instrument can sound completely different 5 feet to the right or left – with bass notes being especially notorious for having a mind of their own!  However in moving around, you can find your own “sweet spot” in the room, and enjoy the show like no other.  Try moving next time you are unhappy with the sound – while a good sound engineer will strive to achieve a mix that is balanced for the overall crowd, there will inevitably be better sounding areas than others.  Happy hunting!

</Tech Talk>

Buku was a massive success, and though the changeover was tight with technical issues rearing their ugly heads – we solved them before the downbeat and were able to kick the show off at the exact moment we were scheduled.  It was our biggest show yet, with multiple rows of video panels lining the hall as the sound of TGM filled the world around us.  For 90 minutes – 15 minutes longer than we were originally scheduled to play, before the festival decided they wanted the full Glitch Mob Experience – an entire hall of thousands were united as one.

Today’s Challenge:  The sound of an empty room, or hall – or whatever listening environment – versus that of a full one, is literally a world of difference.  Fledgling engineers, when put in a position of having to tune a system and make an empty room sound good, often overcompensate and feel the need to cut every offending frequency and boost the weak ones.  Usually, this has done more harm than good as when the room is full and the downbeat hits, the show takes flight in front of thousands, and an overzealous engineer is left with an unnatural and hollow sound.

I have found you are better off doing only minor adjustments to the system, taking mental (or written) note of frequencies that are seriously offensive, and save any major EQing for the show.  In other words, trust the engineers who built the system have done their job – once the room fills up with people (“water-bags”, as my Live Sound instructor fondly refers to them), the sound of the room will even out as the liquid of human insides absorbs most of the major reflections.  Yes, you too are contributing to the sound of the show, and sound engineers and artists alike thank you mightily for being there and contributing to the cause!

To summarize, a few well-placed minor tweaks – along with proper alignments techniques – are way more efficient than drastic EQ cuts and boosts!

Today’s Highlight:  I must say that mixing TGM in the heart of New Orleans, while experiencing the amazing food and culture the city has to offer, takes the award for Today’s Highlight.  I could not be happier or more appreciative to work with such an amazing crew and band, who have the most energetic and supportive fanbase I believe this world has ever seen.

TGM_BandshotBuku
Sig5
Ian Hicks – FOH