Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men visited the country for Splendour in the Grass, stopping off in Melbourne and Sydney for a couple of side shows.
The band is busy touring the festival circuit with a show designed by Cory FitzGerald and Tobias G. Rylander of Seven Design Works. As is often the case, the sideshows didn’t quite have the full design but were nevertheless quite spectacular.
Lighting director Stephen Rose was on the road with the band, operating from a grandMA2 console, and he describes the design as truly unique.
“There are quite a few custom fixtures and that can be a double-edged sword,” he remarked. “It’s really nice to have something different but when you’re touring the world there has to be a lot of making up and recreating. It’s a constantly evolving show.
“I’m really happy with what we’ve got in Australia and it actually caught me off guard how well it transferred. The first show in Melbourne blew my doors off! I couldn’t believe how well it all came together.”
Upstage on the floor were a dozen Clay Paky Mythos and mounted above them would usually be twelve of Upstaging’s custom Martin MAC700’s with heads removed and replaced with a dual sided mirror, flat on one side and convex on the other. These were seen on the last Beyoncé tour.
“I love the concept of being able to bend a beam of light which, in essence, is what we do,” said Stephen. “Then to be able to turn that head and get the convex mirrorball effect is just beautiful. Unfortunately we couldn’t ship them to Australia so we decided to mount a bunch of mirror balls instead and they look beautiful too. It’s a really good looking show.”
Up in the rig were Martin MAC Viper AirFX along with MAC Auras for the main wash and Clay Paky Stormys. The show is designed with MAC Vipers in mind but Steven says he got a bonus when given the Viper AirFx instead!
“I’ve become a big fan of the Stormy,” commented Stephen. “Their output is amazing and the colour on them is beautiful. We have six in the air and then eight on the floor beneath the risers from where they can push light out.”
In the US and in Europe the stage design includes eight triangular frames with Upstaging’s Saber 10mm LED strips mounted upon them. The Sabers deliver not only light but video via an ArKaos media server.
“It’s a challenging show to operate,” Stephen admitted. “Having a multi-parted fixture with mirrors and lights has definitely been a head- scratching type of moment. ‘How do I focus these again?
Oh yeah, I’m not focusing from the light source, I’m focusing from a reflective surface’. The first few shows were a steep learning curve but I love a great challenge and the fact that it’s such a good looking show makes it all worth it.”
Behind the helm of a Midas PRO9 was FOH engineer Richie Dempsey who admits that the console has had a few gremlins however he does like its small footprint and full set of features plus he says it is fairly intuitive to use.
“Really, it’s all down to what you think sounds good to your ear,” he said. “At the moment I only use inboard effects and have nothing outboard. I am waiting to see what we have on the US tour as I’m thinking of going all analogue. We’d have to use something pretty big as we have so many inputs. I’m thinking a Heritage plus a smaller console and a whole load of Dbx, compressors and maybe Avalons. I like the idea of using gear that is at hand like the way it used to be. Also, if something goes wrong with an analogue console, you can see where it’s gone wrong straightaway – you don’t have to flip through pages. I think they sound better too.”
With nine people on stage, often swapping instruments and all singing, Richie is kept very busy particularly with reverbs.
“As we’re playing larger and larger venues I find a few of the rooms do some of the work for me,” he commented. “For example the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York had a nice big L’Acoustics K2 system and it’s a large stone room so reverb wasn’t a problem as there was plenty of it already.
“I don’t like to mix too loud as too many things can get lost particularly with the amount of activity on the stage. If it’s too loud it just sounds like a plane taking off.”
When it comes to the PA system Richie remarked that he could be fussy but in reality whatever he is given, he’ll make it work.
“My background was learning to do sound with four crap microphones, some passive DI boxes which rattled when you picked them up, and some cables that sort of worked. You just had to make it work. However, I would favour a d&b or L-Acoustics PA.”
All nine people onstage wore in ear monitors and there were L-Acoustics SB28 subs either side of the stage plus another under the back riser for the drummer.
“The drummer is really loud; he hits the drums like they owe him money,” stated Richie. “With a good drummer and a well-tuned drum kit my job is half done.”
Recently the band switched from using Sennheiser microphones to Audix OM7 and OM6 dynamic vocal microphones, models which Richie is very keen on.
“The OM7 are really good and the band like them,” he added. “There’s not a lot of EQing involved, Ragnar Þórhallsson and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s vocals are very different but put them together and they sound amazing. It’s not a loud stage but there is still spill but the Audix OM7 is very resistant to feedback”.
Finnur Matteo Bettaglio was on monitors again with a Midas PRO9.
First published in CX Magazine (September, 2015)