October 2008 Issue
Production Profile

On-the-Road Perspectives from The Best Damn Tour

Avril Lavigne's The Best Damn Tour in concert
We get the inside scoop from crew on Avril Lavigne’s latest world tour.

Avril Lavigne’s The Best Damn Tour has been on the road since 2007, starting with promotional appearances and festivals throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The world tour launched in March of 2008 in Avril’s hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, and is currently finishing up within the next two months in Asia. Working with Nettwerk Management, supporting the tour on the audio side has been LMG, Inc., a full service provider of show technology with locations in Orlando, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Throughout the run of the tour has been Jim Yakabuski, FOH engineer and LMG tour technician, Monitor Engineer Matt Peskie, and throughout the U.S. and European leg, Evan Hall, systems engineer and LMG audio technician. They’ve contributed some “perspectives” from the road of their experiences, challenges and solutions supporting Lavigne.


The System Side with Evan Hall
“Hey, hey, you, you, I want to be your girlfriend?” How about your systems crew chief? This year, I filled the role of systems engineer for The Best Damn Tour. My past experience with Meyer SIM and V- DOSC proved to be a perfect match for the direction of the system design and implementation on the tour.

Avril Lavigne performing
With LMG looking to invest in a new state-of-the-art touring system, the design was centered around the L-ACOUSTICS product line. Jim Yakabuski (FOH engineer) selected V-DOSC for the left and right main hangs after successful tours with Matchbox 20, Van Halen and many others. We selected KUDOs, (a new product addition for LMG) for side clusters, mainly based on the flexibility of the horizontal horn. With the variety of venues, the side hangs were always the most evolving part of the system, mainly due to the seating configuration. The approach to the flown center sub was a repeat from the last tour, with the exception of the brand.

This year, we selected Meyer 700HPs. They sound great, are self-powered, and have quick and flexible rigging. The approach of a center sub cluster is a great concept — there is amazing consistency of level and tonality throughout the entire venue and almost no cancellation nulls, except directly below on stage where your lead vocal mic is located. From a system engineer’s point of view, it’s a great canvas to hand over to an FOH engineer. “Yes, the low-end sounds exactly the same here as it does over there. And over there. And yes, up there.”

System Engineer Evan Hall
On the few days we were unable to fly the subs, we were not really happy going back to the old left/right subs on the floor. We also found that after months of flown subs, Avril and the band had grown to favor the lack of low-end muddiness on the stage. So, with the help of Meyer MAPP online, and some help from Steve Bush at Meyer Sound, I came up with a few solutions to control coverage and nulls with the bonus of less low end on the stage. The answer was having two stacks left and right of three 700HPs (a meter apart from front to back), with added delay and reverse polarity. We were able to control our horizontal coverage and cut down the SPL on stage. It turned out to be a good solution for those days we were not able to fly subs, but never covered the way a single column does.

To make sure that not just the low-end sounded the same everywhere, I relied on L-ACOUSTICS Soundvision. I’m proud to say we used it every day. It would take me 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the venue, to plot the 3-D room and properly array all the clusters to ensure we were covering the necessary seating. It’s a great tool and it sure held up to its prediction.

Monitor Engineer Matt Peskie
I also relied heavily on a Meyer SIM 3 system. Jim and I felt that spending more time on the tuning of the system than on sound check would pave the path to more consistent sounding shows. It did! I worked very hard to achieve the most flat response from 12 K to 100 Hz, and then a very gentle slope up in the extended sub region around the arena. With this approach, Jim was able to do more mixing and much less input EQ to fix the system or room. If I looked over and saw Jim EQing inputs, I knew I overlooked something in the system.

With the SIM 3 system as the center of my measuring, the Meyer Galileo was the perfect addition with its slick user interface and route-able EQ inserts for SIM 3, which made my life very easy. Not to mention the true shaping filters, which were responsible for 80% of the EQ contour every day. If that wasn’t enough, the new L-ACOUSTICS LA-8 amplifiers added a whole new element of control. The new line of amplifiers gave me the ability to gain shade zones, if needed. Also, the added feature of output contouring was great to cut or boost the high end — to deal with loss due to distance in extreme humid environments or a glass sky box that couldn’t be missed with the array.

FOH Engineer Jim Yakabuski
Making this all work from FOH was not an easy venture. We really wanted to stay away from using additional snakes to FOH for PA Drive. With the Galileos residing backstage, the SIM needed to be connected directly within a few feet. Therefore, we were forced to look for a FOH control solution. I went with Avocent network KVM, which delivered my SIM control via a laptop at FOH through our already established Galileo and L-Net gigabit network. There was a lot of data on our network, and I have to say it never once let us down.

Monitoring with Matt Peskie
Currently, I am on the final leg, which will finish this 20-month long world tour. Yet, with 175 performances on the books, I still feel like every show holds its own variety of challenges. We spent all of 2007 doing mainly promotional appearances around the world, with a fair amount of full shows interspersed as well. Promo shows can become quite interesting in how they flow — you end up spending plenty of time waiting, but when it is time to go, you go. In those situations, I rely a lot on two things — knowledge of gear and the patience to work with people. Nothing is going to make that festival harder if you don’t know how to operate the digital console, and then monitor techs speak a different language. At least both of you speak audio.

Avril Lavigne's colorful stage show
Over the past year of the tour, I have been mixing on a Digidesign D-Show Profile. The D-Show Profile is a piece of gear that has allowed touring monitor worlds to shrink in size. With four virtual racks of plug-ins from the all access pack, I have no need for a single piece of outboard gear. Once we went to four active mics being used during the show, I decided to rely only on what the console could do, and I haven’t been let down. The common sense workflow and offline editor have also helped tremendously. These have allowed me to feel really confident about my console knowledge and allow me to take advantage of all of the consoles features, such as snapshots, which have become a must have for me in monitors.

I only automate send levels, on/off, muting, effects and some insert on/off, and I take advantage of recall safe on the main vocal channels and a handful of other channels. Even the band knows about the snapshot thing — they know when they ask for changes during sound check in the afternoon to let me know if it is just for that particular song, or for all. When listening to IEM, a 2-dB drop in a guitar can make all the difference for a particular song. In the end, the band will be happier and the show will run smoother.

V-DOSC Line Arrau
Aside from the D-Show Profile, most of my monitor world is pretty standard in ear world. We have been lucky enough to be working with Sennheiser, as they endorse Avril, and have provided great global support for us in our travels. I have the entire band and backline techs on G2 300 IEM transmitters and belt packs, and I also utilize AC 3000 and AC-2 combiners along with 5000-CP antennas. I use four EW550 stereo receivers to coincide with Avril’s four custom rhinestone 935 mics, as well as three other RF vocals. Avril uses Ultimate Ears UE-5 Pro earphones and the rest of the band uses UE-7 and UE-10. Interfacing all of the units with NET1 devices has allowed for easy monitoring and RF programming. As we all know with usable radio frequency bandwidth closing in on us, having gear with which you can work quickly and efficiently is critical.

Front-of-House with Jim Yakabuski

From the FOH point of view, the 2007-2008 Best Damn Tour has experienced many perspectives. As Matt previously mentioned, we started the tour doing international promotional events from TV appearances to European festival shows. During that entire year, we did not carry an FOH console or any FOH gear. LMG did provide a monitor package for this first phase of the tour and throughout much of this crazy run, which included a DiGiCo D5 monitor board, a microphone compliment from Sennheiser, an IEM system and all the power and interconnect needed to put it together. At times, we dropped down to just a microphone package and each musician’s personal monitors, but from an FOH perspective, I was using the “system du jour,” or I was seated comfortably in a broadcast studio helping the staff with the on-air mix. I must admit, I longed for the day when we would get the full system on the road and start our arena tour, but that wasn’t to come until March of 2008.

When we finally got going, we decided to change out the DiGiCo console at monitors with a Digidesign D-Show Profile and use the same at FOH as well. This ended up being a great choice for both Matt and I as we’ve both been extremely pleased with the Profiles. I didn’t have a single piece of external processing, aside from a TC Finalizer Express, that I put across the CD Record Feed. Everything that went on in the FX, Comp and Gate world came from the Digidesign Profile and its plug-ins.

Monitor world
Like most D-Show Profile users, I use a fair amount of plug-ins. I have the Smack! Compressor on vocals, a lot of the Bomb Factory compressor/limiters on acoustic guitars, Purple Comps on bass and Drawmer TourBuss Gates on drums. But the cream of the crop is the CraneSong Phoenix variety of tape-saturation emulators — these things are fantastic. As many of my mixer colleagues like to say: ‘It’s like getting free gain on your input!’ I love using CraneSong on guitars, Avril’s vocal and snare top — it just makes it sound fuller, louder and more analog, and the meter doesn’t move any higher on the meter bridge.

We are currently in Asia wrapping up the tour with a seven-week run. We will be carrying our own consoles on this phase of the tour, but speaker systems will be supplied locally in each country, so a new set of challenges await us over the Pacific Ocean. But after a year and a half on tour, we’re ready for almost anything!  

CREW

FOH Engineer:
Jim Yakabuski

Monitor Engineer:
Matthew Peskie

System Engineer:
Evan Hall
Matt Blakely

Monitor System Tech:
Shawn Shuell

PA Technicians:
Kevin Simmerman,
James “Marcel” Marcelek,
Marco Giappesi


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