- by Kevin M. Mitchell
in Production Profile
Keeping That Open Mic Night Vibe in Arena Shows
During the course of The Lumineers’ Cleopatra Tour, the box count has tripled. “This tour started on a smaller scale on purpose, because they weren’t sure how people would respond to the new album,” says FOH engineer and system designer Josh Osmond. So in the early Spring of 2016, they went off to play the club circuit and a few 3,000-plus venues before heading to Europe, just as the album exploded worldwide. Signs of what was to come could not be ignored as that month-long European tour sold out in a single day. Fortunately, Osmond was prepared, having already worked out on a spreadsheet exactly which system he’d need from supplier Sound Image at each step on the tour.
As for Osmond, he grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region that’s traditionally been a fertile ground for music of different genres. “I would go to concerts and found myself fascinated with what was happening behind the scenes.” He gravitated toward the mixing board, studied audio at a local trade school, and at 21 went out with Hot Buttered Rum, a progressive bluegrass act. The band was mostly playing bars in the beginning, working a Mackie 24 console with some JBL Eons, and he grew with the band over the next seven years.
Work with Ultra Sound led to touring with Tracy Chapman, first as monitor engineer and then at FOH, which he says was a “great experience, and really my first taste of being on a real tour bus and getting paid real money!” After that, interestingly, he worked as a system tech/crew chief on tours and shows with Bob Dylan and Grateful Dead-related projects. He hooked up with The Lumineers in 2013, and it’s been a ride for him as the band went from clubs to arenas — “pretty much overnight” — as the cliché goes.
Osmond credits his working as a systems tech as a way of boosting his engineering skills. “It’s really an advantage to have a system tech background, as it helps get you consistency from a large system on a tour like this,” he says. “I’m still very involved in tuning the system in every room, and I did all the system design working leading up to this tour, down to the exact box count to be deployed.”
The Cleopatra Tour
As this tour grew, there was one constant: Meyer Sound’s LEO family. Osmond started with Meyer’s older Milo system back on his first tour in 2013, and then went to LEO components on the second leg of the U.S., continuing to grow from the Lyon system and its 12-inch drivers to the LEO’s 15-inch drivers. “It’s by far my favorite system,” he says. “At this point, there are manufacturers making good systems, but the Meyer is the most transparent. In others, I can still hear the ‘box’ that it’s coming out of, but with Meyer there isn’t a ‘system’ in the way of the band getting the music to their audience. Especially with a band like The Lumineers, whose music is so organic, you want a natural sound and not something that is overproduced.”
Also employed is the LEOPARD line array system, the smallest member of the LEO Family. Sound Image audio crew chief Cameron Whaley says the LEOPARD has been helpful as the tour scaled to differently sized venues, being powerful enough to use as a main system when they’ve had extreme weight restrictions. Otherwise it’s used as a side or rear hang complement to LYON. The complete system includes 10 LEO over eight LYON per side for main hangs, 14 LYON per side for downstage side hangs, 14 LEOPARD per side for upstage side hangs, 32 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements (16 flown, 12 ground-stacked on the sides plus four center), six LEOPARD for front fills and a Galileo loudspeaker management system.
“I’ve been very impressed overall, both with the Meyer system that we have out, and with our audio team’s ability to deal with fun wrinkles like the B-Stage, the band’s extensive use of wireless, and other bits and pieces of the band setup,” adds production manager Sara Full. “As we all know, arenas are hardly the optimal audio experience, but the combination of the system we have out and Josh’s skill as a mixer has produced consistent and excellent results. The Meyer boxes definitely have a clean, pure sound that works well for this band.”
Osmond has moved from mixing on the Avid Profile to the Avid S6L. “It’s been fantastic, and they made big leaps forward with it,” he says. “And every two months they offer a new update, and the new features included are always amazing.” Mixing this folk rock/Americana mostly acoustic trio (a little electric guitar and a little Fender Rhodes ensues) for arenas is risky work. Osmond says he starts with focusing on the principles, with the understanding that their background is based on open mic nights in small clubs.
While for this tour, the band has three additional musicians filling out the arrangements, The Lumineers aren’t afraid to strip down their sound back to those open mic days. “And they do it really well,” Osmond says. The driving force is the drum sound. He’s got a Shure Beta 91A inside the kick and an Audix D6 on the outside. “Both are mounted internally with Kelly Shu shock mounts suspended with rubber bands, which eliminates rumble and helps clean up mechanical noise.” The snare top has a Neumann KMS 100 and the bottom has a Telefunken M80. Shure KSM 141 and Sennheiser 904 are the primaries that cover the rest of it. Overheads are Neumann KM184s. “Definitely quite a mix of mics,” he admits.
Instruments are all wireless systems using the Shure ULDX, and the majority of the mainstage vocal mics are wired KSM8s with the main vocal being an SM58. “At the B Stage, they have all wireless handheld mics to make that stage look cleaner, and we’re using the KSM8 on that.” The D.I. is Radial.
One thing that keeps it all interesting is, the band plays different instruments in different configurations and different places on the stage. “When I first got the job, I wasn’t sure of the best way to handle their stage presence,” he admits. “But I learned that it’s all calculated, and they aren’t just randomly moving around. It’s manageable, and in the show file, I have certain mics they aren’t using going off as needed, as there can be a lot of extra mics — and you don’t want to have that extra ambient noise if you can help it.” (He uses 64 to 72 inputs.)
Osmond carries an outboard rack of toys. “I have a TC Electronic M5000 Reverb unit, which I use on the snare and toms. And then I have two Bricasti Design M7’s, which are one of my favorite reverb units, for vocals and special effects,” he says. Also employed is an Alan Smart Research C-2 compressor for Left/Right bus compression, plus three Empirical Lab Distressors used on main vocal, bass, and then a spare. For that all-important drum sound, he is using Summit DCL-200 two channel tube compressors for parallel compression across the drum groups. “I assign all of the drums to two different subgroups, with one going through the first DCL compressor with a little gain, slow attack/release and almost no compression, and the second compressing it really hard, getting up to 10 to 12 decibels of gain reduction with a fast attack/release. I then blend the two subgroups together for a really nice, punchy drum sound. This allows the drums to be in-your-face without overpowering the mix.”
Monitor engineer Brad Galvin began as a humble punk rocker playing at the clubs around Connecticut and upstate New York. He graduated from Millikin University, then went to work for CV Lloyde Music Center, a small sound company in the Champaign/Urbana area in Illinois, where he started mixing. This led to a job at TC Furlong in Chicago where he learned about system design, large-scale consoles, and RF. Eventually he was asked to fill in mixing monitors for Weird Al Yankovic. Next, he jumped in as a P.A. tech on the Dave Matthews Band summer tour, “where I would fly the SR system, run the mic around during tuning and mix monitors for any opening acts.” In December of 2012, The Lumineers opened for DMB for nine shows, and he officially joined that camp in April 2013.
Galvin is mixing for the band on a DiGiCo SD5. “I loved the scalability of the system and how, if I ran out of inputs or outputs, I could just add another mix bus or input,” he says. “Using the SD Convert software allows me to move between consoles for smaller shows where our control package isn’t with us.” He notes that it’s his first time using a DiGiCo. “I love it. The macros allow me to do so much and make my job relatively easy with regards to workflow. The only piece of outboard gear I use is a Rupert Neve Portico 5045 [Primary Source Enhancer} on my main vocal group, which has cleaned up my mix incredibly. In these arenas, it has proven to be a lifesaver.” Galvin also records live to Waves Tracks directly off his stage racks nightly. “Often times, I’ll go back and check mixes and tweak things a bit before the band comes out for the shows, since we don’t really do many sound checks.”
It’s a wedge-free stage, with Shure PSM1000’s and Jerry Harvey Audio JH16’s used by the six musicians. And while the tour has grown in terms of where they play, it hasn’t affected Galvin’s work. “At this point, everything is dialed in, and the changes are mostly slight EQ changes per night, or minimal level adjustments. We don’t do a lot of sound checks anymore, so Josh and I work really hard to make sure the levels are right during changeover so when the band walks on stage, they are confident that everything will be like the night before. Once we get those set, most things fall into place with the snapshots.”
Hard Work, Great Show
Galvin says his biggest challenge is the obvious one: Making the artists happy. “Each band member has a specific sound they are going for and, truthfully, it requires a lot of moves outside the snapshots for me, but it keeps them happy and that’s why I am there.” Beyond that, the B stage segment is tricky. “Wes moves around to a couple of different mics but also then moves his main mic to different spots on the B stage.”
Sometimes he faces the P.A. — and other times he faces the opposite way. “When he is facing the opposite way, the P.A. fires directly into his mic, and they are roughly 80 feet in front of the P.A. I have taken to muting his mic between every line just to keep the delayed arrival out of the mixes. Luckily, I know almost every word to the songs, so I can competently hit the mute switch in time to open it up right before he sings. It keeps me on my toes at all times, though! I kind of have to change my mindset a little each time.
“The band is one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever worked with,” Osmond adds. “They are really great people who like to hang out with the crew — we’ll go bowling together and things like that, which really creates a great environment to work in.”
The Lumineers Cleopatra Tour
Sound Company: Sound Image
- Front of House Engineer/System Designer: Josh Osmond
- Monitor Engineer: Brad Galvin
- Audio Crew Chief: Cameron Whaley
- System Engineer: Dave Shatto
- Production Manager: Sara Full
- P.A. Techs: Matt Garrett, Marc Estrin
- Mains: (10) Meyer Sound LEO with (8) LYON per side
- Side Hang” (14) LYON
- Second Side Hang: (14) Leopard
- Flown Subs: (8) 1100LFC/side
- Ground Subs (6) 1100LFC/side in end-fire configuration
- Front Fill: (6) Leopard
- Drive Processing: Meyer Sound Galileo 616, (2) Calisto 616 AES, (6) Calisto 616
- FOH Console: Avid S6L
- Outboard: TC Electronic M5000, (2) Bricasti Design M7’s, Alan Smart Research C-2 compressor, (3) Empirical Lab Distressors compressors, (2) Summit DCL-200 tube compressors
- Monitor Console: DiGiCo SD5
- Outboard: Rupert Neve Designs 5045 Primary Source Enhancer
- Recording Software: Waves Tracks
- IEM Hardware: Shure PSM1000’s
- IEM’s: Jerry Harvey Audio JH16’s
- Instrument Wireless: Shure ULDX
- Wireless Mics: Shure ULDX with KSM8 capsules
- Mics: Shure Beta 91A, KSM 141’s, SM58s, KSM8’s; Audix D6; Neumann KMS100, KM184’s; Sennheiser 904s; Telefunken M80.
- Direct Box: Radial Engineering