Once the exception and now the rule on many tours, the practice of picking up whatever hand the house deals in terms of PA from venue to venue isn’t so much a gamble as it is a chance to exercise one’s ingenuity.
“VerTec, V-DOSC, Martin Audio, I never complain,” says Spencer Jones with an air of existential audio contentment. “I think it’s actually kind of fun to use a new rig every day, some you may not have even heard before. The show is never exactly the same, and with the technologies ever-improving, we get to stretch our wings creatively on a regular basis.”
As front-of-house engineer for Panic! at the Disco, Jones’ latest foray with the band and monitor engineer Jeremy “Spud” Groshong recently took him on a PA du jour odyssey spanning 25 dates in the U.S. and two in Canada.
Supporting the group’s fourth studio album, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, the tour carried consoles, cabling, subsnakes, microphone stands, and other ancillary gear provided by Camarillo, CA-based Rat Sound.
FOH engineer Spencer Jones, who’s been with the band since 2011, with his Avid Profile console and a rack of largely analog processors.
Playing venues ranging in size from Vancouver, British Columbia’s 990-capacity Commodore to the 2,425-seat House of Blues in Boston, the production traveled light with a single truck and one bus with all bunks filled.
More than half of the songs heard on the new album made their way onto the set list nightly, bringing a sound to the tour that asked less of bass and guitar, moving into the realm of electronica with rich, saturated vocals, delays, and synth sounds, all layered deeply with golden tones, and diverse, hard-hitting dynamics.
“As you’d rightly expect, the real challenge at front of house revolved around consistency,” Jones noted at the end of the run from his home in Arizona. “Given the room and system changes every day, getting things to sound like you wanted them to was always a calculated exercise in manipulation, all within the context of the time given to us.
Monitor engineer Jeremy “Spud” Groshong also uses an Avid console, with the band’s Sennheiser G2 IEM systems racked to his left.
“Acoustically, some rooms were great and others were horrible. I never had the opportunity to tune the PA for a couple hours. Sometimes I only had 15 minutes.”
While the environments and system elements they found themselves working with varied greatly, at least both Jones and Groshong had Avid VENUE Profile consoles as a constant. With 33 inputs arriving at his desk from the stage along with a few talkbacks, Jones was enveloped in a digital world, but he nonetheless took a somewhat analog approach to the tasks at hand.