My Morning Jacket Tour Profile

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Carolyn Maniaci

BIG SOUNDS, BIGGER VENUES

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From left: vocalist/guitarist Carl Broemel, bassist Two-Tone Tommy, lead singer/guitarist Jim James, drummer Patrick Hallahan and keyboardist Bo Koster

From left: vocalist/guitarist Carl Broemel, bassist Two-Tone Tommy, lead singer/guitarist Jim James, drummer Patrick Hallahan and keyboardist Bo Koster
Photos: Paul Natkin

My Morning Jacket can really fill a room with sound, and as they've graduated to larger venues, their sound has evolved. Touring the U.S., the crew brings the same audio equipment to every gig, whether they're rocking a 3,000-seat theater or an 8,000-seat shed, so adaptability is the name of the game.

The band ended their summer/fall 2008 U.S. tour a few days early: After lead singer/guitarist Jim James injured himself during an Iowa City gig, MMJ's two Chicago shows had to be canceled, as well as their October/November European leg. However, they came through for Chicago fans, and Mix caught up with them at the rescheduled shows at the Chicago Theater. The band is currently in Japan, finishing up its Asian schedule, which followed a busy January in Australia opening for Neil Young and playing the Big Day Out 2009 shows.

For their U.S. tours, the band carries almost everything, using local sources to rent just front-of-house racks and stacks. MMJ travels with a Clair Global package that includes an i3 line array, two pairs of R4s for sidefills and SRM wedges, all running with Crown power amps. Although the tour had already ended, tour/production manager Eric Mayers was able to get together the exact same package for this mini-tour, which combines the Chicago shows with a New Year's Eve blowout at Madison Square Garden in New York City. “With the holidays and the weather in the last few days,” Mayers says, “Clair's really put its logistical systems to the test and made this thing work for us.” At the Chicago Theater, local rentals supplied left and right hangs comprising 12 mains per side and six L-Acoustics dV-DOSC cabinets with dV-SUB subwoofers.

Front-of-house engineer Ryan Pickett is running 40 tracks through a Midas H3000 board with Summit DCL-200 compressor/limiter applied on the mix bus stereo out. For compression, he likes to keep things in the analog realm for the most natural sound. He uses a dual pair of Summit TLA50 compressors on the drum sub-groups and background vocals and the TL Audio 5021 on the bass DI and lead vocals. Pickett sub-groups each of the guitarists' (Jim James and Carl Broemel) double Mesa Boogie Tremoverb 2×12 rigs and applies a Volare tube compressor to both. A Dr. Z Amplification Z Air Brake onstage limits the signal to the guitar cabinets without altering their tone. James' acoustic guitar goes direct but also gets the Volare treatment, which sweetens up its tone nicely. On bass, Pickett uses Radial's Phazer instead of delay, fattening up the sound by tweaking phase alignment between the DI and the mic on the bass amp.

Pickett dials in a stereo-heavy house mix to re-create the studio sound. Heavy reverb is also a big part of the band's sound. The engineer likes the Eventide 2016 for reverb, applying it pre-fader on the aux send to supply more mix return.

Having worked with MMJ for six years, Pickett remembers the days before he had the luxury of picking and choosing his gear. “What has changed most has been them becoming a bigger band,” he recalls. “It's given me more freedom to think about things in more depth, whereas the first few years I was with them it was always an opening-slot situation, where you just do the best you can with what you have. Now it's nice to be able to stretch out.”

Added to the FOH system, the band's touring gear now includes a 48-channel recording rig. Pickett sets up a pair of Alesis HD24s tandem to the board, loading them up with about 40 GB of mix-ready music every night. This has proven to be a user-friendly way to archive all of the band's performances, and it's far better than a straight-up board mix. “It's similar to analog in that you hit Play and Record, and you don't have to nurse it all night,” he says. “On the same rack as the HD24s, we've got Klark Teknik splitters that have pre's built into them, so you can set the levels to the recorders, but it's the front end of the sound-out line. The splitter stage feeds out to me, I run it into the Klarks, they feed both recorders and the other loop comes back into the desk. So you get a separate set of gain structures.” Pickett backs up the show each night to clear the decks for the next performance, and they're good to go.

Besides just satisfying the archiving penchant, Mayers says the live recordings have proven useful for radio spots and other promotions. The band can appear “live” on the radio in any city on short notice.

The band has an endorsement from Shure, which provides almost all of their mics. James sings through an SM58, and for backing vocals, guitarist Carl Broemel and keyboardist Bo Koster are on Beta 58s. Pickett uses an AKG D-112 alongside a Shure Beta 91 to double-mike the kick drum. Whereas most engineers use one mic inside and one outside the kick, Pickett says, “I've gotten to the point where I do a double inside because they're so loud onstage. The bass guitar would end up feeding into the front-head mic, so it's best to just keep it all inside the drum.”






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