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 #6 – Coachella week 2.0

BREAKING:  THE GLITCH MOB TOUR MANAGER JUSTIN, MERE SECONDS BEFORE A POTENTIALLY FATAL JUMBONAUT BODYSLAM.  FOH SOUND ENGINEER SAVES LIFE BY YELLING “NOOOOO” AT THE LAST SECOND:

Our tour manager Justin, milliseconds before a near-fatal Jumbonaut Bodyslam

*No Jumbonauts were harmed in the taking of this photo

Coachella week 2.0 started off with a bang!  The Glitch Mob crushed the weekend with another brilliant set, pulling out all the tricks and turnarounds their fans (including myself) will hopefully retain for a lifetime.  Here’s a few choice pics of their set, taken by my good friend/super-producer/system-smashing Professor Bang!

Sunset - minutes before our set starts

Sunset – minutes before our set starts

Concentrate

Drive [the spaceship] like you stole it

14z4r5

14z4r5

DSCN2156

The Blade

The Mob

DSCN2172

Hands up!

Hands up!

The spaceship has landed

The spaceship has landed

Massive

Massive

Bright

bright

BRIGHTER

BRIGHTER

THE WILD ONES

THE WILD ONES

 

While an HD video of the live stream was broadcast through Coachella, I’ve only been able to find a few clips of their set online.  I did find this official Thank You video the festival produced to recap both weekends, can anyone count how many hidden cameos they make over its 2.5 minute duration?  (Easter egg:  the background song Coachella chose for this video was written by VirtualBoy, a member of our opening act on the tour Penthouse Penthouse!)

The beautiful thing about running a show in the same location twice in a row, is the second time around is the equipment is already dialed in from the previous show, happily waiting for you.  The kinks have been sorted and it’s all about fine-tuning, really locking in the details and helping to facilitate the best possible performance for the audience to enjoy.  The band feels comfortable and confident after a solid run-through and for the most part, everything flows effortlessly.

Tech Tip:  Next time you have the opportunity of catching a show on the first or second night, go for round two!  Nothing puts a performance over the top like a little Practice & Polish.

Part of Coachella’s legacy is their reputation for taking care of their artists and crew.  Here’s a few pics of good times I took on the grounds this year, backstage and behind-the-scenes:

Connect 4 - big time!

Behind Mainstage in the Artist Area = life-size Connect 4

Palm Trees - indigenous to Palm Springs (?)

Palm Trees – indigenous to Palm Springs (?)

VIP and Coachella's iconic ferris wheel

VIP and Coachella’s iconic ferris wheel

Our Ableton tech and Lighting tech contemplate buying a bigger computer monitor

Chris (Glitch Mob Ableton Tech) and Brett (TGM Lighting Director) contemplate buying a bigger computer monitor

Before

Before (spot the crane)

After!

After!

Backstage artist trailers...er...what's a fancy word for trailers?

Backstage artist camp

Coachella catering - they take care of the crew!

Coachella catering – they take care of the crew!

Stage perspective - and our Monitor/Carpenter/Wireless master Mike!

Stage perspective –  our Monitor Engineer/Carpenter/Wireless master Mike aka GooseDyrg

IMG_20140411_081018974

Of course, no trip would be complete without a little Hotel studio session:

Hotel studio session!  Q:  When's the best time to work on music?  A:  Do you have 5 minutes?

Q: When’s the best time to work on music? A: Do you have 5 minutes?

Sometimes the only time you get to work on music or a hobby is when you’re forced into isolation.  Some of my best material has been written on plane trips across the country, trapped in a hotel room, or sitting in airports!  I always bring a cube tap with me to airports so there’s always an outlet available, eliminating the need to confront that MMA fighter hogging all the juice with his iPad.

Remember, when checking luggage at an airport, don’t cause yourself a headache by overpacking!  Our Production Manager Harrybarry has it down to a science with a 49 lb. pack!  This time I managed to squeak by without cross-loading into my carry-on:

Here's how a suitcase full of tools, clothes, and music equipment checks in - barely!

How does a suitcase full of tools, clothes, and music equipment check in?  (hint – think mouse)

Thanks to everyone for an amazing two weekends!  I will leave you with an overhead view of our tent, taken by a helicopter shortly before the festival started.  It perfectly encapsulates the magic these grounds convey over hundreds of hours of continuous music across 6 stages, for music lovers, by music lovers.

Bird's eye view of the Sahara Tent

Bird’s eye view of the Sahara Tent

Bye Coachella, see you next year!

Sig5
Ian Hicks – FOH

The Glitch Blog #5 – Coachella

Coachella lived up to every expectation I hoped it would – great performance, huge energy, massive sound, fanatic crowd!  Coachella is one of the world’s biggest music festivals, located near Palm Springs in LA, hosting 200,000 fans and over 180 bands/DJ’s over two weekends.  This year we’re enjoying the sounds of Skrillex, Outkast, Pharrell, Arcade Fire, Netsky (one of my favorite producers), and of course your friends The Glitch Mob!  Those of you who caught their set at the Sahara tent witnessed a piece of history in the making – their full stage setup, The Blade, just after sunset, unsheathed and cutting straight to the heart of why we are all there – to dance with friends and be moved by the energy emanating in waves from the stage.

FOH Perspective

Feel the energy yet?  No?  You will soon!  This pic is from setup, 10 hours before our show

The Sahara Tent holds, aside from about 30,000 people (12,000 if the Fire Marshal asks), special meaning; last year’s Coachella showed my girlfriend and me an amazing time as we camped with good friends and spent the next 3 days dancing in Sahara, where Leannah taught me to shuffle to the beats of Wolfgang Gartner, Benny Benassi, Hardwell and countless others.  I was blown away by the sound and hoped I’d be able to one day drive the system, and perform onstage as Anoctave.  This weekend makes 1 for 2, next year’s goal is to invert my perspective from FOH!

Pictured left:  A farmer's tan, further contrasted by Leannah's non-farmer's tan

Pictured left: The elusive Farmer’s Tan, contrasting brilliantly with Leannah’s non-Farmer’s Tan

I’m finding the best thing that can be done for your career and life is to focus on a goal, allowing it to shape and guide every action of your day, and seek a path in every opportunity that presents itself – techniques I learned from one of my favorite books, Think and Grow Rich, as recommended to me by Steve Nalepa who has helped to shape this tour in many indirect (?) ways.  I owe much to him, The Glitch Mob, and especially PK Sound (thanks Ari!) in helping me to where I am today. In reality, I would be lost in life without the light of so many great inspirations, shedding a path before me.

<Tech Talk>

This first weekend of Coachella was especially momentous for The Glitch Mob and Crew, as it was proof-of-concept that The Blade could be used effectively for large festivals, meaning they are able to put on a full-scale production and performance, as opposed to being limited to a DJ set (which is generally a necessity due to time constraints of moving a large set).

Artists typically have 15-20 minutes after the performer before them finishes their set, to move the entire setup onto the stage simultaneously with the previous set being removed.  During this period of time the sound engineer plays house music (though not always House music) providing an opportunity for artists to setup, while keeping the energy up for the crowd as dance-music shows tend to be lost in silence.

They look like earmuffs, but - alas - they are headphones

Is that an earmuff?  Nope – just the only working side of some recently-busted headphones

While 20 minutes may seem a long time to transition – and in the case of DJ’s who are sharing a similar setup it generally doesn’t take that long – moving an entire set as complex as The Blade, followed by re-checking all the lines, lights, and gizmos that make it tick so that the audience and band have a seamless experience, is a complicated undertaking that can take on many forms.  It isn’t the process of a single person or even a small team, but a series of teams working together in harmony.  Rat Sound provided the sound system for our tent (and indeed, all of Coachella), and did a great job contributing their speed and professionalism to our combined efforts.  I had the opportunity of chatting with Dave Rat, owner of Rat Sound and FOH for one of my favorite bands Red Hot Chili Peppers, and expressed my appreciation for providing a solid system and team (as well as inspiring me to start this Log of Rhythm after reading his blog Roadies in the Midst, legendary to roadies of all shapes and sizes).

</Tech Talk>

This is great news for all you Glitch Mob fans, as it means we will be able to bring the full TGM Experience to festivals around the world!  We are playing many of the major festivals coming up this year, including Lollapalooza, Governor’s Ball, Bonnaroo, Osheaga, and Electric Forest –  and though it has yet to be determined how many will accommodate our full setup, the speed and accuracy this weekend was executed with adds even more of a driving force behind our tour.  And of course, you can catch The Blade at any of our headlining shows this year, we will be playing all across the US and you can see the full tour schedule on The Glitch Mob’s website…if we’re not playing in your town, don’t despair!  We have more shows in the works, details of which will be soon revealed.

I think that’s it for this entry, I will leave you with a Family Photo of the Mob taken with their fans at the end of their set in the Sahara Tent – see me at FOH, way back there in the distance?  No?  Take a closer look, you may have to zoom in about 400%, I am the tiny pixel in the middle of the tech tent with a huge grin on my face, wearing a black Cabbie cap and half a set of headphones.

The Glitch Mob at Coachella Week 1

The Glitch Mob at Coachella Week 1

Next up, Coachella weekend 2.0!

Sig5
Ian Hicks – FOH