Blue Man Group Tour Profile

Aug 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Sarah Benzuly

ROCK CONCERT IN A THEATER SETTING

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THE MAIN EVENT
The sound design also calls for a more tribal-sounding drums for which Fleet uses the Avid Profile’s onboard effects, including reverbs for the drum and percussion kits, as well as an additional reverb for the talking drum and for times when he needs a longer, extra-thick reverb. “I also use an auto-pan plug-in for a few scenes on the zither and drums,” Fleet says. “As for outboard effects, I use an old-school MXR flanger/doubler and a Lexicon PCM91 reverb unit. These are primarily for the Blue Men instruments.”

Those drums are part and parcel of any Blue Man Group show, and Fleet had to enter “Blue Man Boot Camp” to understand the hows and whys. “The best way to describe the way they do things is ‘outside the box,’” Fleet says. “At first, one might think that something is being done so differently that it would almost be wrong, but after seeing how things work for the show, you understand why it is done that way. The most helpful part of this training period was just learning the instruments—getting to know what sounds are coming from where—because they are some unusual instruments.”

Fleet says that much of the attack in reinforcing the instruments comes from the tour’s past runs, learning what works and what doesn’t. For example, miking the Blue Men’s percussive instruments focuses more on putting the mics in the instruments as opposed to on them, using the mics more like a pick-up. “The only mics that are not actually in the instruments are six groups of X/Y formation pairings,” says Fleet. “We then made oversized pop filters for them using plastic bulb cages covered in three layers of pantyhose. This is to minimize the slap of this instrument. For the drums, we don’t like to have a lot of ring to them; we like them more on the dead side, but without removing all of the drum’s tone. Each drum has a note and must be heard to mesh with the other drums. They also should not have too much attack and should sound a little dark.”

A LITTLE HELP FROM THE BAND
The Blue Men are accompanied in their sonic quests by a four-piece band—situated upstage in lofts—comprising drums, percussion, zither/guitar and a stick player who also doubles on bass guitar. Fleet gives the band 16 sends from the Profile to their Aviom Personal Mixing Systems, which they can then mix however they choose. The Blue Men’s mixes are primarily audience mics with not too much direct signal sent to them. All string instruments have amps and speaker cabinets upstage that are stereo-miked as well as DI’d. The drums are individually close-miked with a pair of overheads on each kit. The entire band and the Blue Men are on custom dual-driver Westone molds; all receiver packs are Sennheiser EK300s.

With the band, Blue Men instruments rolling on and offstage, playback, effects and more happening within the hour-and-half set, Fleet has his hands full keeping the mix clear, clean and at a club-like level without being too brash, as the audience makeup often has small children and seniors. However, Fleet mixes more in a rock vein rather than the line mixing seen in most theater shows. “Although this show is louder than average, we strive to give every seat a comfortable level in which to enjoy the show,” says Fleet. “We also supply ear plugs for the audience. I try to make sure that everyone who comes to see the Blue Man Group leaves with a smile from ear to ear.”






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