“Those drums presented quite a challenge, actually,” Jones says. “As with all the holes drilled through them to facilitate the lights inside, they really weren’t true drums anymore. Getting that kit to sound like real drums was hard, but we made it work. The floor tom was the worst – really rough on the ear.”
From the riser, drummer Dan Pawlovich also had access to an 808-style sub-bass drop, as well as a number of other effects managed via a compact unit housing six separate electronic pads.
As with anything within reach of his drumsticks, every effect fit within a click track heard by the entire band. The main storehouse of these sounds was an Ableton music sequencer. Running with redundant backup through a MOTU interface, the Ableton tracks traveled through an 8-output, rack-mounted Radial ProD8 DI via an XLR connection to the local house subsnake.
As an aid to bringing consistency to the band’s sound at the tour’s diverse stops each night, Jones drew from an arsenal of old school tricks.
“I tuned the house PA to my own voice at every stop,” he notes, “until it sounded the same as at the stop before. I tuned to the same songs every day as well. I use the songs to tune the low-end I can’t replicate with my own voice through a 58, then I bring it all together with my compressors and everything else.
A selection of Shure mics capture most of drummer Dan Pawlovich’s kit.
“I learned this technique from an old school guy, who told me to always talk through a 58. You’re not using an iPod onstage, you’re using microphones and musicians. So if you get the 58 to sound good with the PA, you have a solid foundation, as we were using 58s onstage for backing vocals. With that foundation established, I fine-tuned from there and it worked every time.”
In addition to Urie and Pawlovich, Panic! includes Dallon Weekes on bass guitar, synth and backing vocals, and Kenneth Harris on guitar. Within the house mix, Urie was at the very front, where many fans generally sing along with him word-for-word. From there, the rest of the band falls in solidly behind him.
The Panic! crew, left to right: Guitar tech Kyle Henderson, bass tech Matty Ensley, FOH engineer Spencer Jones, monitor engineer Jeremy Groshong, and drummer Dan Pawlovich.
Jones began touring with Panic! in 2011, working the monitor console, and took on the responsibilities of FOH along with other production duties in September of last year. “The band has been exceptionally liberal when it comes to them letting me do my own thing,” Jones says of his working relationship with the group. “When I stepped in at FOH they really didn’t tell me anything. I’d been mixing monitors for years, so I knew all of the songs.
“And while at the monitor console I created my own house-style mix for my own listening use. I listened to the albums carefully and studied them; I’ve always known what they’re going for,” he concludes. “I may get a few pointers or questions now and again, but most of the time I’m left alone to exercise my own judgment. It’s a pleasure to work with these guys.”
Gregory A. DeTogne is a writer and editor who has served the pro audio industry for the past 30 years.