Described by the San Francisco Chronicle as having the “heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, the raw energy of the Ramones,” The Avett Brothers combine bluegrass, country, punk, pop, folk, rock, indie, honkytonk and ragtime to produce a unique sound that can be a challenge to reinforce in a concert setting.
“There are a lot of acoustic instruments, and that is probably what most people think of when they hear The Avett Brothers’ name,” says SES director of Touring, Michael Brammer. “But they can really go from a whisper to a scream. One song might be kind of old-timey folk or Americana, and then they’re a full-on rock band for the next number.”
The broad spectrum of musical styles is not the only challenge in play on the current tour promoting the band’s latest release, True Sadness.
Instead of heading out for several months at a time with a couple of weeks off between tour legs, The Avett Brothers and SES generally hit the road for two weeks, then take a week or two off between each fortnight stretch. Plus, the capacity and geometry of the venues visited can vary dramatically, from Madison Square Garden—where the tour opened in March—to Austin’s Moody Theatre, a 2,750-seat venue that is home to PBS’ Austin City Limits.
Considering all of the disparities, SES system engineer Andrew Steelman leans heavily on L-Acoustics’ Soundvision software to design and deploy the right K1 and/or K2 system for each room on a daily basis.
“The K1/K2 combo was crucial in planning for a tour as varied as this one,” Brammer notes. “When we started out at Madison Square Garden, the size of the venue dictated that the system would be heavy on K1 with K2 being used in more of a fill capacity. In smaller venues, we use some system configurations that are all K2, while in some mid-sized rooms we deploy a system that is mostly K2 with some K1 added to the mix in order to round things out a little more. It’s a very modular and flexible system.”
The full-production “A” rig for the True Sadness tour includes 12 K1 plus six K2 per side with eight SB28 subs supporting the low end. An additional 14 K2 per side are available for outfill hangs with six smaller Kara modules being utilized for front fill. L-Acoustics LA8 amplified controllers power and process the entire loudspeaker complement.
On smaller gigs, the outfill K2s can be combined with the K2s that are part of the main arena hang to create an all-K2 system that can cover venues up to about 5,000 seats.
“L-Acoustics has done such a great job on K1 and K2, especially making K2 really sound like K1 in terms of a sonic fingerprint,” Brammer adds. “With that continuity of audio quality and characteristics between systems, L-Acoustics gives us the flexibility to create scaled-down systems that don’t sound any smaller or have any less impact than the full production arena rig. This allows us to deploy a system based 100 percent on coverage where the band sounds the same regardless of whether you are seeing them in a huge arena like Target Center or a much smaller theater.”