Calle 13, a Puerto Rican alternative/urban hip-hop duo and Shure endorser, dominated the 10th Annual Latin Grammy Awards by winning all five categories in which they were nominated. The awards show, televised to more than 12 million viewers on Univision, took place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
The show featured a total of 15 live performances by some of the biggest stars in Latin music, the vast majority of whom used Shure microphones for their vocals and backline.
Performance highlights included legendary Mexican singer Juan Gabriel, who was honored as the Latin Recording Academy’s 2009 Person of the Year.
Armed with a black Shure UR2/KSM9 and a glass of red wine, Gabriel took the stage by force, expanding a planned ten-minute medley into a full concert set that had the audience dancing in the aisles.
The broadcast music mixer was Eric Schilling, famed for his studio engineering for artists like Gloria Estefan and Shakira.
“I’ve worked on nine of the ten Latin Grammy broadcasts,” Schilling related, “and I’ve never seen anything like the Juan Gabriel performance. He’s sort of famous for vamping, so I don’t think it was a complete surprise.
“But it was nearly a 40-minute performance, which is certainly unprecedented in an awards show. He was doing things like taking his vocal mic and having a horn player play through it, so mixing it was a challenge…definitely the highlight of the evening.”
As the night’s biggest winners, Calle 13 took home awards for Record of the Year (the single “No Hay Nadie Como Tú” featuring Mexican band Café Tacvba) and Album of the Year (Los De Atrás Vienen Conmigo). The duo, consisting of singer/songwriter René Pérez (a.k.a. Residente) and multi-instrumentalist Eduardo José Cabra (a.k.a. Visitante), also won the categories of Best Urban Music Album, Best Alternative Song, and Best Short Form Music Video.
Another highlight of the evening was Calle 13’s collaboration with Rubén Blades for an elaborate staging of the group’s hit “La Perla,” which received the award for Best Short Form Music Video. The number began with a huge set of Japanese taiko drums played by performers from Cirque du Soleil’s “Mystère” troupe. “That performance spanned two full stages,” noted Schilling. “It started with the taiko drums, which are physically huge, on one stage. Then the band started playing on top of that from the other stage, then finally Residente and Rubén Blades came in with their Shure wireless Beta 58s. It looked great and sounded fantastic.”
With his long track record of mixing award telecasts, Schilling knows that reliability and quality are the two areas where there can be no compromises. “It’s my job to send a great mix to the network, and that starts with the microphones,” he stated. “I have certain mics that I prefer for certain tasks, so I asked Shure to be involved. We used their products pretty extensively.”
While Schilling has his preferences, the choice of lead vocal mics is left up to the performers as a matter of policy. “We want them to be in their comfort zone as much as possible,” said Schilling. “But if there’s no strong preference, I will usually suggest either a KSM9 or a Beta 58, depending on the artist.
“This year, I think all but a couple of the live performers went with Shure, and the results were outstanding.”
Schilling also used a lot of Shure mics on the backline. “Typically in our shows, we use Shure mics for 60 or 70 percent of our backline. On drum kit, I like to use KSM32s for overheads. That’s a great mic.
“Of course, I use the SM57 on snare, and I like the KSM137 for hi-hat. The kick gets a Beta 91 boundary mic and a Beta 52 dynamic, which lets the house PA mixer, Ron Reeves, and I to get the right sound for our different needs.”
Of course, Latin music uses a lot of percussion – another application where Shure excels. “With a couple little exceptions, all the percussion is miked with Shure. I love SM57s on congas and bongos,” said Schilling. “On the rest of the backline, I use either KSM137s or KSM32s for all the guitar amps. I use the same mics for saxophones, too.”
To prepare for the live broadcast, three days before the show are dedicated to rehearsals. “We get about an hour with each live act, and I tape everything so I can work on each mix before the show,” related Schilling. “It’s all recallable on the console, but that just gets me into the ballpark.
“After a band is playing live, they’re never quite the same as in rehearsal. So there’s constant fine-tuning. Plus, there’s always something unexpected. Having mics I can count on is a key element.”
This year’s Latin Grammy Awards telecast on Univision drew a record audience of 12.8 million viewers in the U.S., an amazing feat for a Spanish-speaking network, showing that great music transcends language. “It’s why I do what I do,” said Schilling. “It’s all about the music.”