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Ample Dynamics: Sound Reinforcement For Ray LaMontagne’s Supernova

Catching up with the sound team on their approach with one of the summer's top concert tours...

By PSW Staff August 12, 2014

Ray LaMontagne (right) performing on the current tour. (Photos by Vic Wagner)

Recently we had the pleasure of connecting with Jon Lemon, a noted, seasoned mix engineer who has handled front-of-house mix duties for numerous top artists, among them Beck, Janet Jackson, The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, as well as his current client, American singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne and the Supernova tour.

Lemon’s working with system tech Kyle Walsh and monitor engineer Ed Ehrbar, who share their thoughts here on the systems they’re utilizing, supplied by Eighth Day Sound (Cleveland and the UK) to reinforce the live performances on the current shed tour by the Grammy-winning LaMontagne and his talented band.

PSW/LSI: How did you connect with this artist and tour?

Jon Lemon: This is our first tour together, and it came about in kind of a funny “it’s a small industry” way. I was meeting James Gordon (managing director of DiGiCo), who happened to be with my friend Kevin Madigan, who was front of house for Ray on his last tour. Because he is with CSN, Kevin suggested to Ray’s tour manager (Daniel Herbst) that I’d be a good replacement. It ended up that I knew Ray’s manager, Michael McDonald, too, so it all just kind of worked out.

At the time, Ray wasn’t tied to any specific sound company. Since I had a good working relationship with Eighth Day Sound (Cleveland and the UK), and the production manager Mark Jones had also worked with Eighth Day extensively, we were in complete agreement that they would be a good fit for the tour, and it has been.

The sound team in “deep thought mode” at one of the tour’s DiGiCo SD10 consoles. Clockwise from top left: Monitor tech Mike Veres, front of house engineer Jon Lemon, system tech Kyle Walsh, and monitor engineer Ed Ehrbar.

You’re using Adamson Systems Energia for your main arrays. Is that another situation where you have a long history with the company?

Lemon: I’ve always respected Adamson’s philosophy as a company and have enjoyed using the Y18s over the years. However, I was completely prepared to go out with another well-known rig that I’d used before and was happy with.

But when I met with the folks at Eighth Day, we started talking about the Energia system – I had expressed interest in using it last year but it wasn’t fully complete. They’d just added some of the newer boxes (E12 12-inch full-range modules and E218 18-inch subwoofers) and felt it was a really powerful system that would provide the flexibility this tour needs (currently out in sheds, LaMontagne will be playing in theater venues this fall).

Adamson Energia arrays and subwoofers in place prior to a show on the tour.

Since I’d used the E15 system with The Smashing Pumpkins last year on several occasions in France and had a good experience, I thought it was worth checking out the finished item. So Eighth Day flew a system for evaluation and I played with it in the shop for a few days. As it turns out, it’s probably one of the best PAs I’ve ever heard.

What were you looking for from the rig?

Lemon: I knew the E15s were fine – as I said, I’d used them before – but I was curious about the E12s and the E218 subs. So I put them through their paces, first playing some program material that I know well. What I really wanted was to check out how even the E12 was through the full bandwidth. It was great and it also couples seamlessly with the E15 as an underhung for close into the stage. What a great product.

LaMontagne and band mates in concert.

As far as the E218s are concerned, I knew Ray would never need super heavy bass, so I was confident these would more than do the job. For my first listen we ground stacked them and they sounded great, more than enough low end for our purposes.

From there I pulled up some live programming through the console to see how much headroom was left. Ray is very dynamic on stage – his performance ranges from whispering and light strumming to a heavy rock sound. Headroom is essential. Driven with the Lab.gruppen amplifiers (16 PLM 20000Qs stacked eight per side) – which I’m a huge fan of – it was no problem.

It was obvious that the system was going to be terrific and a great PA for our needs. We went to rehearse in Portland, Maine, and had Ben Cabot from Adamson on hand. Colin Studybaker from Lab.gruppen was also on site making sure the amps and the Lake LM 44s were running currently with the new presets. Both Adamson and Lab.gruppen were very supportive of our efforts so I felt comfortable from the get-go.

Main system power and processing by Lab.gruppen and Lake.

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