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DiGiCo SD9 Rack Pack Shakes the Cage at All-Star Opening of Mick Fleetwood’s Hawaiian Venue

fleetwoods-on-front-street-maui.jpgDiGiCo rocked the house at the grand opening celebration of Mick Fleetwood’s new restaurant and club, Fleetwood’s on Front Street, in the heart of downtown Lahaina, Maui. The four-night musical celebration boasted a star-studded roster of performers. Night one kicked off with the Grammy-nominated Mick Fleetwood Blues Band, featuring guitarist/singer Rick Vito, bassist Lenny Castellanos, and keyboardist/harmonica player Mark Johnstone, with blues phenom Jonny Lang sitting in. The second night featured the Island Rumors Band (IRB) with Fleetwood, Vito, Castellanos, Johnstone, singer/guitarist Eric Gilliom and vocalist Gretchen Rhodes, with special guests Steven Tyler, Jonny Lang, Joe Caro, and Maui’s own Willie K. Night three also featured the IRB, and included Hawaiian singer-songwriter-guitarists, Henry Kapono and Willie K… with Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom singing a tune as well. On the final night, everything moved upstairs for the restaurant’s first rooftop show, with King Paris and his Hip-notic Guitar featuring Rick Vito and his band, the Hypnotics.

Studio and live sound engineer Lynn Peterson, owner of Maui Recording, has worked with Fleetwood over the years, and helmed the club’s newly purchased SD9 Rack Pack console for the 4 shows. He had an additional SD10 brought in by Pat Ku, of Rhema Services for the second and third nights to handle the on stage monitor needs. Additionally, the club’s PA was comprised of L-Acoustics ARCS and SB28 subs, with EAW monitors and Crown amps.

fleetwoods_kevinjolson2.jpg“The concerts went off without a hitch, and the walls are still shakin’!” laughs Peterson. “It’s always a blast to mix any version of the Fleetwood bands. It was my debut outing on a DiGiCo of any sort, and it all worked great. As we are in a restaurant and extremely tight on space, the SD9 served as both our FOH and monitor console. On the night of the Blues Band, I set up eight monitor mixes from the SD9 and Pat Ku from Rhema did monitors onstage using the laptop remote. It was a challenge to say the least as our monitor mixes changed a lot throughout the night. Handling monitors without a dedicated monitor console is certainly not for the faint of heart when you are working with this scale of artist, on what is technically a one-off.

“I also sent a Matrix feed to the video, so I could beef up the guitar levels for them. I started out with a second matrix for the speakers on the rooftop, where we had several video screens, more SB28 subs and some JBL VRXs. I decided to change and use an aux send instead, starting out with all the levels at unity, in post-fader. That way, I could raise the aux send levels of guitars, and things that were really loud off the stage on the main floor, (and not balanced in the mix going upstairs), while still having everything follow my fader moves. With a little compression on the whole mix to the roof, it worked pretty well. There were a couple hundred more people up there, and I heard there were about 2,000 down in the street! So we wanted to make it nice for all of them as well.”

fleetwoods_kevinjolson3.jpgFor the second and third shows, Peterson brought in the SD10 and a splitter for monitors. “We had decided during soundcheck for the first show, that our needs for the lineup on the next two nights, were going to be a little too demanding to use just the remote laptop. However, by the end of the Blues Band’s show that night, we had gotten by amazingly well. The console was flown in from Oahu the next morning and was set up in a VIP booth, and Pat Ku did a wonderful job of getting it in sync with the SD9, and ready to rock just in time for soundcheck.”

The shows were recorded to multitrack using Nuendo on a MacBook Pro with an RME MADIface. “We were able to simply copy the MADI feeds from the racks to the RME MADIface for a seamless recording,” Peterson says. “I’m putting them into Pro Tools over at my studio, where I will mix the stuff and sync it to the four-camera HD shoot we did. As for what they’ll be used for, ya just never know. Stay tuned!”

fleetwoods_kevinjolson1.jpgManagement and audience members alike, commented on how good the shows sounded. “Great tools certainly help me get there faster,” Peterson says. “As I mentioned, on the first night I used three matrixes, eight monitor mixes, (for the butt thumper, video feeds, and rooftop speakers), four effects, and 56 channels of multitrack recording all happening simultaneously from one SD9, and it all worked great! While I have to admit, I had very little time to drive the console around in preparation for the show, I plugged it in the day it arrived, hooked up a mic and some headphones, listened to my voice a little bit, and immediately thought the EQs and compressors sounded very nice. Now, I have years of experience both live and in the studio with all kinds of gear—even mixers with pots instead of faders—so I know when a manufacturer nails it. I found everything to be extremely user-friendly with the touch screen, and I really liked the split groups of fader selections with the flexibility to have all my vocal and solo instrument Channel Strips always available. So I turned it off and put it away until the day of the show. On that day, the console was the least of my concerns, as I’m certain you’ll understand the pressures of a new venue having its opening night, so I just trusted that I’d figure it out. Pat showed me the routing, the session setup, channel assignment, etc., and I found it to be very intuitive. I’ve used a few different digital consoles on live shows, and thought I usually prefer a big analog desk and racks of gear, but I think these DiGiCo consoles are the most user-friendly digital mixers I’ve ever used. Slick! Without a side-by-side comparison, I’d have to say the SD9 is perhaps the best-sounding digital board in this price range, and maybe beyond. With a couple of online videos, and just a few minutes with a guy who’s used it, you’re going to be up and running pretty fast, and you’ll be right at home with these consoles. I’m very glad we bought this one, and I look forward to using it again soon. In fact, we’re doing a show at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in just a few days, and I will definitely be taking this to use. A special thanks to my longtime friend Matt Larson from DiGiCo/Group One Limited for turning me on to this!”

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