All Access: Feist

Aug 1, 2007 12:00 PM, Photos and text by Steve Jennings


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Making strong impressions in mid-sized venues across the U.S., vocalist/songwriter Leslie Feist is out in support of her latest, The Reminder. Feist and her stellar band (Bryden Baird, keyboards/percussion/trumpet; Jesse Baird, drums/trumpet; Jason Baird, bass/flute; and Afie Jurvanen, piano/guitars/banjo) deftly move between indie and electronic stylings, accentuated by Feist's pure vocals. Mix was part of the sold-out crowd at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium, where we caught up with the tour in late June.

Front-of-house engineer Brenndan McGuire is relying on venue-provided gear, including boards, but finds that he is quite comfortable with whatever desk is put in front of him. “We're using 36 inputs from the stage to FOH,” he says. “I usually take a left and right for the outputs, with a 31-band EQ at the master insert point so that if there are any zones that are running off the matrix, the mix should be balanced throughout the room.

“I haven't made any specific requests for outboard gear other than an additional analog 31-band EQ that I insert on a couple of subgroups,” he continues. These include one channel for lead vocal and another for the acoustic piano. “I like to see a good delay with a tap-tempo switch and a high-quality reverb. Leslie [Feist] sings extremely quiet, so to get as much gain before feedback and to filter out background artifacts like cymbal and guitar bleed, the analog 31-band EQ on the lead vocal has proven quite essential. As for vocal mics, I've tried a lot but like the Shure Beta 58A or 57A, which deliver a lot of gain and articulation without coloring the vocal sound too much.

“Having six quiet vocals and several low-level acoustic instruments means that there are a lot of hot mics onstage. I have to follow the dynamic of the band to make sure that only the necessary mics are on when they should be; otherwise, the cymbals can become excruciating when they kick in.”

Afie Jurvanen (piano/guitars) uses two Sennheiser e 609s (taped to his amp); the amp is usually a Fender Bronco and a Fender Blues Junior, but he's been playing through a loaner vintage Teisco, according to monitor engineer Tyler Scollon. The switches above the keys on his piano are for tone control for the Helpinstill piano pickup and the preamp for the c-tape, as well as his guitar tuner; he injured his knee, so he is currently playing guitar and piano from the same position.

Bryden Baird's (keyboards, trumpet, flugelhorn, Omnichord) mic setup comprises Sennheiser e 609 on Glock and other percussion toys; Omnichord and Autoharp take Radial J48 Dis.

Miking Jesse Baird's drum kit are a complement of Shure models, except for Sennheiser e 609s on snare bottom, which were used instead of Beta 98s to decrease cymbal bleed.

Monitor engineer Tyler Scollon is manning a Yamaha M7CL 48-channel board, running 37 inputs off the desk, plus an ambient. He has Feist's vocal assigned to multiple channels for different songs and positions. The board is also handling six wedge mixes and one ear mix.

“The band plays off of each other and reference to the room and the natural sound of the stage,” Scollon says. “The monitor mix needs to work with their sound onstage and blend tonally with the sound of the room and whatever is coming off the P.A. Feist's vocal is extremely quiet, and she uses a single ear with just her vocal and an ambient to reference. Even though the mixes can change quite a bit from venue to venue — depending on the nature of the room, the stage and how much of the P.A. they hear on deck — carrying a small console and mic package ensured that everything was covered and gave them a new level of consistency.”

Bassist Jason Baird's metalophone is miked with a Sennheiser e 609, and the sax and melodica are both played through the same 421. His bass has JBL (miked with a Sennheiser 421 or Shure Beta 52) and Traynor Bass Mate amps.

Go backstage on Feist's tour

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