Singer Halsey’s Hopeless Fountain Kingdom Tour (Installment One), the live iteration of her ambitious, eponymously named, dystopian themed LP, recently kicked off in Boston on September 29. It’s a complex production, one that compels the front of house mix position to take cover under a tarp for two songs.
“It’s a pretty intense moment,” says front of house engineer Vincent Casamatta of the point in the show where Halsey and her dancers perform on a B stage filled with about 20 gallons of sprayed water. “There’s no way I could stay at the console and not get me and the console soaked.” Instead, Casamatta and front of house systems tech Dan Bluhm turn to the DiGiCo SD SC2 app, which allows remote, wireless control of any DiGiCo SD mixing console from an Apple iPad.
For those two songs, they discreetly pull a tarp over the desk and move to another part of the venue to continue the show mix. “The only other way to do that would have been to mix from under the tarp, and you wouldn’t want to have to do that,” he says. “I have full access to the console through the app and we never miss a beat.”
Monitor engineer Scott Wasilk also used the SD SC2 app, bridging the gap between monitor world and the stage, which is substantial due to the complex nature of the production. “I’m onstage quite a bit, checking how they hear it there,” he says. “It’s so much easier than relaying information from the stage back to the console.”
The band is on IEMs, as is Halsey—sort of. “She likes to keep one ear open, so we basically have set up a mini PA on stage for her, with a small cluster of flown d&b J8 speakers aimed at her,” he says. “It’s unconventional, but the SD10 handles it great.”
Something else the SD10 handles well are Halsey’s assertive vocals. Casamatta says there’s not as much in the way of effects processing on the vocals or the band as might be expected—“There’s some sampled sounds and some sweetener on tracks, but mostly it’s the band and the vocals carrying the weight live every night,” he says—but he pushes the compression hard through the SD10, putting a unique edge on Halsey’s vocals.
“I look at compression as a vocal effect, particularly in modern pop music, and I’m using super-aggressive compression with a quick release, using the Waves CLA-76 ‘Blue Stripe’ 1176 emulator through the console and it just sounds great,” he explains. “It’s tactile, really sticky-sounding effect that’s great on punchy vocals.”
Casamatta, who’s been a fan of the SD series for a decade now, is also adding some Waves reverb to the mix, the same effect that Wasilk is adding through the monitors. “It’s a really pleasant sounding reverb, even through the flown speaker cluster we use onstage for Halsey,” he says.
Both Wasilk and Casamatta are big fans of the SD10’s feature sets, including snapshot automation—Wasilk will sometimes set up multiple snapshots within a song, something the SD10 handles with ease—and rack sharing between the consoles and the two SD-Racks and one SD Mini-Rack.
“We have a total of 75 channels that we can send from anywhere to anywhere over fiber, and that’s a level of flexibility that it would be hard to suddenly not have,” says Casamatta. “Once you’ve experienced that, you can’t work without it.”
And then there’s CON send/receive links and text communications between consoles. “It’s so much easier sometimes to be able to communicate via text while a show is on,” says Wasilk. “It seems so simple, but it can make a huge difference.” In fact, when you add up all the features, the SD10 is way more than the sum of its parts in such a compact form factor. “We get a lot out of them, that’s for sure,” says Casamatta. “But we use all of it.”