Jason Mraz and Raining Jane

by Kevin M. Mitchell
in Production Profile

The crew, from left: JD Brumback, Ettore “ET” Dedivitiis, Satoshi “Son” Nishimura, Adam O’Toole, Matt Kornick, Brendon McNichol. Photo by Steve JenningsSeemingly having far more fun than should be legally allowable, Jason Mraz spent March stopping at 1,500 to 3,000 seat rooms along the West Coast and performing with indie folk/rock quartet Raining Jane. Prior to this foray, the two musical parties have been collaborating here and there since 2007, and they are now about to push a full studio album out the door.

Jason Mraz and Raining Jane photo by Steve JenningsBut this is the first time they’ve done a tour together, and this short one foreshadows a longer one planned for the spring and summer.

While billed as an “acoustic” evening, don’t believe that the quintet doesn’t get rocking and even downright funky during this spunky, fun show. Making them sound great on the Sound Image-supported tour are Ettore “ET” Dedivitiis at FOH, with Sound Image’s Matt Kornick off in monitorland. Satoshi “Son” Nishimura is the system tech.

Jason Mraz photo by Steve JenningsFOH engineer Ettore Dedivitiis. Photo by Steve JenningsLive, but Studio

“Jason decided to do a full album with the Raining Jane, and was having so much fun in the studio with them, he wanted to do an acoustic tour,” Dedivitiis explains. “Since it’s a first time playing live [as a group], it’s about finding where they can take it, and we are feeling their way around.”

Dedivitiis grew up in the Niagara Falls area and started mixing for a local band when he was 15. The band went on to become a popular regional act, and he got some road experience with them. In 1999 he moved out to Southern California and connected with Sound Image’s Dave Shadoan, where he broadened his skills further. Today he’s an independent engineer and has been mixing for Mraz since 2006.

Monitor engineer Matt Kornick. Photo by Steve JenningsMonitor mixer Kornick played in bands in his hometown of Pittsburgh and studied audio engineering in Phoenix, getting a job with Sound Image in 2004. He started with Mraz as a tech and has been moving monitor faders since 2011.

The production is a variety show of sorts — some of Raining Jane’s music, then Mraz sitting on the edge of the stage doing some solo acoustic numbers, then the five artists together, then several combinations in between. Added to all that, there’s the instrumentation. The gals are all multi-instrumentalists: Mai Bloomfield (vocals/guitar/cello); Chaska Potter (vocals/guitar/Rhodes piano); Mona Tavakoli (vocals/percussion); and Becky Gebhardt (bass/guitar/sitar). Tavakoli’s percussion setup is based around her signature cajón, which she had designed with extra hole that acts as a subwoofer.

From left, system tech Satoshi “Son” Nishimura and FOH engineer Ettore “ET” Dedivitiis. Photo by Steve Jennings“The percussion is somewhat different than what is typical of a band,” Dedivitiis says. “There’s the cajón, a floor tom, a snare. And sometimes Becky plays stand-up bass.” There’s some electric guitar thrown in as well.

The first date of the tour was in Santa Cruz, CA, an old room with old hardware that made hanging anything challenging. “Getting the reflection right was a challenge, but the speakers were easy to work with,” Dedivitiis says.

Stage left P.A. hang with 12 QSC Wideline WL2102 elements and four ground stacked Wideline Sub WL218SWs. Photo by Steve JenningsThe system of choice is a QSC Wideline WL2102, which is working out well for them. “It’s a one-truck show, as we’re doing a lot of smaller theaters, and there’s not a lot of space or points to hang something big,” Dedivitiis says. “The dimensions of the system are perfect for us, and they will cover anything from the smaller places to the larger rooms.”

“The WL2102 is a three-way box with a switchable low-frequency speaker, which allows you to get either warmth and separation in smaller venues or more clarity in the larger outdoor venues,” adds Kornick. “There are so many things you can do with it.”

Also in the toolbox is a Meyer Sound Galileo loudspeaker management system, which Dedivitiis says is technically dependable and very versatile. “I can change how the boxes work, like move the vocals to the range where it carries nicely to the back balcony. It’s great to have a system that allows the person in the back up there to hear crisp, clear vocals, especially for a show like this.”

Getting Warm and Comfy

“The challenge has been that everyone was comfortable playing with each other in the studio, and then our job was to replicate that as much as possible,” Kornick says.

“Exactly,” Dedivitiis agrees. “In the studio, you have all that specialty miking, but now we’re taking it out and trying to match the warmth they had in the studio. So it’s been about getting from the studio to the stage and keeps the warm, acoustic sound. We’ve got three shows under our belt and it’s gotten better and better each time.”

“And it’s been a happy stage — I’ve had minimal requests,” Kornick says.

Kornick says that all five are using IEM’s through a Shure PSM 900 wireless system. “I’ve been using that system for a few years now, and it works great,” he says. “I have three different frequencies I use: G6, G7, and L6. In playing the smaller places, there are no frequency issues. Last month I was working on an active military base in Brazil and so none of them worked! I had to use what they had in the house, but that was the only time I ever had a problem with the system.”

It’s a show heavy with DI use, and a lot of Radial Engineering gear is along for this ride. “We have Shure Beta 98h on the glockenspiel and a Shure Beta 57 on the cajón,” says Kornick. They have the vocals on SM 86s, which “isn’t that common, but works great with Jason and the women’s voices.”

“Corey Philips of Radial has been just great taking care of all our needs,” Dedivitiis adds. Dedivitiis is also bullish on the Waves plug-ins he uses for the show, his favorites being the H-Comp and the H-Delay.

They give a shout out to Ryan Smith from Shure who they say has been “incredible to us being there when something needed to be fix or something else was needed. Jeanette Coffey from Ultimate Ears has been great, and we’re all happy with them,” says Dedivitiis. The team at Sound Image has been especially supportive as well, including owner Dave Shadoan.

The show so far has always been different set-wise, with a group of staples and then some tunes moving in and out as the group tries new things.

For Dedivitiis, a favorite moment is “Browntown,” which features Tavakoli on cajón and Gebhardt on sitar and segues into the band playing Mraz’s “93 Million Miles.” “It’s always beautiful.” Kornick says one of the most intimate moments is when Mraz is sitting on the stage (literally, btw), just playing his Taylor guitar. “It’s really nice, the way he has songs flowing while kind of telling a story about all of them.”

He adds: “It’s been a great camp all around — the crew feels like you’re home with family all the time.”