The Glitch Blog #1 – First two shows

Wow, so much to summarize in one post!  The days are already flying by, and I would like to keep this blog current, so for the sake of efficiency I will try to .zip these two days into one condensed archive.

Our first show was in Portland, Maine, with the band and crew flights touching down a little over 12 hours before load-in.  A brief round of drinks to reunite the team after our 4-day “vacation” between rehearsals and the actual tour, then the majority of us were lights-out before Midnight.

Our bodies are still reeling from the change in time zones, paired with Daylight Savings stealing an hour of our lives just days prior, but everyone manages to make it in time for our Bus call the next morning.  Our first time seeing the bus, and she is beautifully laid out with condo bunks (!) for the crew, a nice area to chill in front and back, and fully stocked with food and drink requests made days earlier.

Me in my natural element - tightly packed living quarters

Me in my natural element – tightly packed living quarters

After a short ride we arrive at the State Theater, reminiscent of The Warfield in San Francisco, and greeted by a pleasant house crew eager to help unload the semi truck with all our gear, packed from end to end with millions of dollars worth of crucial equipment.  The show went surprisingly well for the first day, with over 1600 fans filling the house with energy.  The stage setup, coined The Blade, has finally been unveiled!  I can’t post pictures yet but would imagine that you, the crafty GM fanbase, can find the show on Youtube – while it may not do full justice to the set, you will definitely feel the energy and warm reception the crowd shared through the night.

The following day at House of Blues in Boston proved to be even more successful, as the entire show went off flawlessly to a packed house.  The venue is beautiful with a seasoned and hard-working crew, a giant standing floor of General Admission tickets, and two levels of mezzanine above.  Once the doors open and the floodgates are released, its vibrancy and acoustics transform from cavernous to tight – all in a matter of minutes.

Boston House of Blues

Boston House of Blues

<Tech Talk>
Part of my job is tuning the sound system, and timing the delay between the subwoofers, sidefills, and mains.  Regardless of how you tune the system, the show will be irreparably imbalanced if it isn’t aligned down to the millisecond, due to the physics of different parts of the sound system combining.  I ensure we are perfectly aligned using phase tools found in SMAART, analyzers in Ableton, pink noise generators and oscillators, and most importantly my ears.

SMAART - not for dummies

SMAART – not for dummies

A quick and effective method is to measure the distance between the subs and mains and use that as a starting point for your delay between speakers.  Then play a sine wave with a frequency of the crossover point through the subs and one side of the PA.  Make sure it is the same relative level coming through both sets of speakers.  The sine wave should last about 100ms and loop every second, with a little “snap” on the front and back end (achieved with a -3 sustain envelope and zero release).

Then flip the subs out of phase and adjust the sub delay time until they are at their quietest.  After that point, when you flip the subs back into phase they will be at their most constructive and powerful; this is a good time to tweak the delay by samples (fractions of milliseconds) until they  match up seamlessly, if you used my recommended envelope they will “snap” simultaneously without sounding like the tone is “stretching”.  It’s vital this value is accurate to the millisecond, as one millisecond can make the difference between a terrible sounding show and a great one, the latter being what you are going for!

</Tech Talk>

Today/Yesterday’s Challenge:  The difference between mixing a band through a compact sound system vs. a line array is considerable, and takes some getting used to.  Fortunately by knowing their songs in and out, the band’s energetic performance, paired with analyzation tools such as RTA mics and SMAART, and my ears, the system was hitting in all the right places, pumping between 105dB and 110dB of A-weighted sound pressure levels (in other words, full-bodied and impactful sound without being uncomfortably loud).

Today/Yesterday’s Highlight:  Mixing the band on an Adamson and then Vertec line array with PK Subs were two of the most fun experiences I’ve had behind a console.  The energetic feedback of the audience as they sang along to songs from an album released just weeks ago, and witnessing the full-scale production The Glitch Mob conveyed a sight and sound brimming with good omens.

Looking forward to a relaxing day off tomorrow!

Sig5
Ian Hicks – FOH

The Glitch Blog – Prologue

The Glitch Mob’s  upcoming tour for their new album Love Death Immortality is set to start May 11 2014, bussing from Maine to Miami, performing at world-class venues and Buku Music + Art Project before completing the first leg of the run at Ultra Music Festival.  Soon after is a trip clear across the US, stopping along the way for Coachella in CA, Governer’s Ball in NYC and a highly anticipated string of dates in Europe.

We are in the middle of rehearsals, at the historic Red Studios in Hollywood, home to famous video shoots from Michael Jackson to Seinfeld.  Our practice space is a massive warehouse enclosure, padded walls stretching in every direction blanketed with acoustic dampening material, held up by green-screen printed concrete floors, and a lofty wooden catwalk towering in the rafters above.

Red Studios, Hollywod

Red Studios, Hollywood

I am Glitch Mob’s FOH engineer, tuning and mixing their performance through state-of-the-art sound systems – controlling and balancing the overall mix of the band – translating their music into the analog world, for thousands to feel as a wall of sound vibrates the air and energy around us.

Worth noting is that I have admired and aspired to their work for many, many years.

The band members themselves, edIT, Ooah, and Boreta, are each legends in their own regard, known for pioneering the Beat scene in LA during the early 2000’s, putting Glitch on the map and making it a household name.  Despite massive success they’re humbly down to earth, resonating with good vibes and a strong commitment to memorable performances, conveying all that positivity and more to their fans.

They are icons – possessing an inordinate knack for talent, persistance, and patience – touring with a professional and seasoned crew who bring the combined experience of Visuals, Lighting, Ableton programming, Sound, and Management for Skrillex, Sound Tribe, and Deadmau5 to name just a few.

Their stage/set design, coined “The Blade”, will be revealed in more detail on show night.  Wish I could say more but for now I can say it is a beautiful representative of the performance, supporting an engaging show on multiple levels, and makes my job easier: accenting their massive drums (hint) and lead lines to rumble and resonate an auditorium of fanatic fans.

<Tech Talk>
Their Ableton Live rig is a cause for salivation and salvation – this is the Holy Grail of Ableton setups, charting complex paths that would make a NASA-programmer turned Cartologist’s head spin.  Fronted by Ableton pioneers Matt Davis [namethemachine], Chris Legaspi and Fred Carlton, they are pushing live performances to the next level for Bassnectar, Drake, Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, and now The Glitch Mob.

Nope!  Not the workstation - just her nametag

Nope! Not the full command station – just her nametag

Partial view of the command station

Partial view of the command station

</Tech Talk>

Today’s challenge:  With rehearsals starting at 6pm, and the band running their set until 6am, our sleeping pattern is a tricky one to shift into; though it  does invoke interesting conversations at 4am, when guards are down and spirits are up.  Topics interpreted through a haze of sleep deprivation draw parallels between producing a song and cooking a feast – instruments treated as ingredients, garnishing and spicing the mix with EQ, blended and balanced to fully access the senses.  Comparing succulents to sound systems – crunchy highs, braised bass, limiting your lettuce – form amorphous definitions that vary between infinite meaning, and none at all.

Today’s highlight:  After listening intently to an advance copy of the album for nearly 2 months, ingraining rhythmic patterns, phrase changes and core elements of the song firmly into my psyche, finally being able to mix the band on a proper sound system.  A more compact representation of the line arrays we will soon be playing through, four PK Sound CX800 subs plus two CX215 tops make for a pretty badass rig, especially when all their drivers are emanating dynamic and well-produced music.

As the tour progresses, I will post updates and pictures here to log an incredible year that is sure to fly by, hopefully making history in the process!

Cast & Crew of The Glitch Mob:
edIT – Band Member
Ooah – Band Member
Boreta – Band Member
Ana Sia – Support Act
Penthouse Penthouse – Support Act
Justin – Tour Manager
Harry – Production Manager/Stage Manager
Martin – Show Designer
Brett – Lighting Director
Chris – Ableton Programmer/Tech
Fred – Ableton Programmer
Matt – Ableton Programmer
Drew – Lighting
Scott – Video
Mike – Audio
Judd – Merch
Randy – Master Semi Driver
Kevin – Management
Ian – FOH

Sig5
Ian Hicks