“We’re all from Nashville,” says Brad Baisley, who, with a name not far off from that of one of country music’s best-known superstars, seems well-suited for stating the obvious of what you’d expect of the sound crew traveling with Blake Shelton, another top artist from Music City. “Maybe we weren’t all born there, but it’s surely home, and the town’s vibe goes with us on the road.”
Imbued with laid-back poise, a down-to-earth demeanor, and a clearly no-attitudes posture, Blake Shelton is a modern poster boy for all that is Nashville past and present.
With his 11th No. 1 single “Drink on It” currently riding high on the airwaves, the three-time Grammy nominated artist migrated at equal altitude across the country on the first leg of his ongoing tour this year, rolling with added vigor and a legion of new fans brought into the fold based upon his appearance as a vocal coach on the NBC reality show “The Voice.”
“Audiences have been amazing,” Baisley, the tour’s monitor engineer relates, “both in terms of sheer number and response. I’ll be at my console with my cue wedge off between songs, and the crowd noise alone is posting 103 dB on my SPL meter.”
Out of necessity, the tour jumped in size exponentially along with the numbers on Baisley’s SPL meter, growing from two trucks to nine earlier this year, the added cartage required to meet the needs of larger venues booked to accommodate Shelton’s burgeoning fan base.
With Sound Image Nashville chosen to provide the audio inventory, beyond Baisley the crew included veteran Jeff “Pig” Parsons at front of house, system engineer Joe Calabrese, system tech Zach Mitchell, assistant rigger/stage tech Dave Shatto, and guitar tech Brett Hardin.
It may be a small crew, but one that adds value to every move it made as a team. “I have one fly guy,” Calabrese says, quickly correcting himself: “Well, make that one-and-a-half fly guys. Given the dual role Dave Shatto plays, I’ve had him half the morning and half the evening. So that’s technically one-and-a-half, then, right?”
Playing mostly arenas the first three months of the year, the tour deploys JBL VerTec VT4889 large-format line arrays hung 12 deep per side in the main hang, each with three QSC Audio WideLine-10 boxes underhung for down fill.
Crown Audio is the provenance of house power, with a contingent of IT12000HD amplifiers chosen for the task. Eight VerTec VT4880 dual-18 subwoofers receive flight orders as well, with further low-end thunder by eight more VT4880s on the ground.
“Most venues are sizable for this show,” Calabrese explains. “And very few seats are blocked out. We’ve been selling 8,000 tickets on average, and going way past 180 degrees, usually to about 240. I brought along VerTec aux hangs just in case when we started, and we wound up using them 90 percent of the time.”
VerTec V5 DSP presets have made a notable difference, serving as a type of “plug-in upgrade” for the arrays. For his part, Calabrese is of a mind that V5 has given new life to VerTec performance.