For a UK tour by British alternative band Happy Mondays celebrating the 25th anniversary of its second album entitled Bummed, the band and crew returned home when possible.
As a result, the tour made extensive use of splitter buses—van-based transports that double-up as both gear and personnel carriers. Although space on the splitters was limited, front of house engineer Gerry Parchment and monitor engineer Jasen Hattams pushed to carry their own consoles to ensure the most consistent sound possible throughout the tour.
For this they engaged Miles Hillyard at SSE Audio Group to supply two Avid S3L mixing systems.
Comprised of a compact control surface, HDX-powered processing engine running on-board AAX plug-ins, and networked remote stage boxes for up to 64 inputs, S3L’s modularity and easy Ethernet AVB connectivity over lightweight Cat-5e cables allowed Parchment and Hattams to carry this highly portable package in the back of the lighting crew’s van throughout the tour.
“Initially there was to be no control package at either end of the multicore, as we were in splitters and space was tight” says Parchment. “This left both Jay and myself with a myriad of in-house analogue and digital desks at the venues. [With Avid S3L] we could achieve a consistent sound and be ready to soundcheck the band in 30 minutes from the time the equipment got onto the stage,” Parchment continues. “We would not have been able to achieve this with any other system.”
“My Production Manager loves the footprint,” states Hattams. “It’s compact, and the less space we take up, the more seats are sold out front—that makes the band and promoter very happy. And I love a lampie carrying my desk.”
Both Parchment and Hattams are experienced engineers who have mixed on Avid live systems over the years. They both felt at home with S3L, as it runs on the common VENUE software platform and offers the same functionality as Avid’s larger consoles, including on-board plug-in processing, integration with Pro Tools for show archiving and Virtual Soundchecking, and complete show file compatibility across all systems.
“[Avid] Profile has become the staple choice for many engineers,” Parchment notes. “[For the ‘Mondays tour] I initially took an old show file from a Profile system and modified it [on the S3L] as the tour went on.”
“We had a great show that [first] night,” adds Hattams. “The band was happy with the sound, so job done.
“On monitors I had 28 inputs, with 24 outputs doing a mixture of wedges and IEMs,” he continues. “There were 10 wedge mixes and four stereo IEMS. I have found the system easy to use, and most of all, it’s stable.”
A key feature of the is Virtual Soundcheck, which allows engineers to fine-tune mixes based on previous live recordings. With the combination of Pro Tools and Virtual Soundcheck, it’s possible to EQ the room, set up snapshots, and more—all without requiring the presence of the band.
“The single most impressive aspect of Virtual Soundcheck is its ease of use,” says Parchment. “That and the fact that a single channel may be switched between a return or live input. The ‘Mondays were present at sound check every day, but I used [Virtual Soundcheck] for setting individual items such as dynamics and effects.
“I recorded most of the Bummed album tour for archive and the intention is to mix certain shows for future use,” he concludes. “Recording [to Pro Tools] via a single Ethernet cable is heaven-sent.”