All Access: The Decemberists

Jul 1, 2007 12:00 PM, Photos and Text by Steve Jennings

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Indie faves The Decemberists have culled a loyal following, adding more radio play and sold-out concerts with the release of their third album, The Crane Wife. The five-piece — Colin Meloy, vocals/guitar; Chris Funk, electric/acoustic/pedal-steel guitars; Jenny Conlee, keyboards; Nate Query, bass; and John Moen, drums — recently held court at San Francisco's Warfield Theater for two nights.

Front-of-house engineer Rich Hipp mans a Midas H3000, preferring to use an analog board. “The digital consoles have their place and do a fine job — they just take a little more getting used to,” he says. “It's hard to just jump behind one and feel like you're getting the most out of it.” Hipp runs 38 inputs from the stage, four stereo effect returns and two playback inputs. “Typically, we send seven outputs from the console, depending on how the P.A. is zoned and managed, a main L/R, fill L/R or two mono fills, a sub aux and L/R record.”

Hipp is carrying a few choice pieces of outboard, including two Yamaha SPX-2000s, and a TC Electronic D-Two and M3000 for effects; handling dynamics are BSS Audio 402/504/404, dbx 160As, Empirical Labs EL8 Distressors, Aphex 651 Expressor, a Manley Stereo Variable Mu and an XTA GQ600.

The tour's control system is provided by Eighth Day Sound (Highland Heights, Ohio), relying on the venue's racks and stacks for P.A. At the Warfield show, Ultrasound provided a JBL VerTec system with Meyer fills; Lab.Gruppen powered the system with XTA DP226 crossover/drive alignment and BSS SoundWeb.

“I have been with the band for about three years,” Hipp says. “It's a very complex and dynamic mix. There are some unusual acoustic instruments, like the hurdy-gurdy, pump organ and bouzouki, along with the cello, violin, banjo, six- and 12-string acoustic guitars, accordion, standup bass and glockenspiels, with your usual electric guitars, B3, electric keyboard, synths, drums, plus six vocal mics thrown in on top.”

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