Fans making the trek to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival arrive with high expectations, not least of which is that they’ll be fully immersed in musical performances that inspire all their senses. That expectation levies tremendous pressure on the musicians and crew that put their reputations on the line as soon as the first note sounds.
The roster of talent at the 14th annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was dotted with seasoned acts such as New Order, Blur, Jurassic 5, and Violent Femmes, Band of Horses, and Franz Ferdinand. These bands delivered incredible performances that thrilled fans over the festival’s two-weekend run. Camarillo, CA-based Rat Sound Systems supplied audio systems and technicians for the 14th consecutive year. Coachella 2013 marked the third straight year that Rat Sound exclusively used Avid live systems, bringing in 10 Profile Systems for each of the festival’s five stages.
[Avid] consoles remain the most popular and familiar consoles on the market today, plus they are cost effective and reliable.
JON MONSON, RAT SOUND
“The consoles remain the most popular and familiar consoles on the market today, plus they are cost effective and reliable and that’s why we keep using them,” reports Jon Monson, Rat Sound’s touring systems coordinator. In addition to the Profiles, Hi-Tech Audio supplied a pair of Pro Tools systems for engineers to use on the Main and Outdoor stages as needed.
Walk up, load the show file, line check, and go
Of the 175 bands that played at this year’s festival, all but seven utilized the supplied Profile systems, and many engineers also moved a Profile to the monitor position. On three of the five stages, Monson explains, there was an A/B dual console setup. “All of the bands were patched as their input list was submitted,” Monson says. “So, an engineer can literally walk up, load their show file, line check, and go. There was no need for them to send in files in advance and as long as their file matches their paperwork—that greatly reduced the advance pre-production we had to do.” Monson says several stages were running “festival” style. “For those stages we have the artists submit files in advance and we soft-patched them to conform to our festival patch as needed,” Monson describes.
For many engineers, like Band of Horses’ front of house engineer Stephen Taylor, having a familiar console and system was a lifesaver. “The second weekend was only my second gig mixing them,” Taylor explains. “Having the Profile was the saving grace. If I had come in on a board that I wasn’t familiar with, it would have happened, but I wouldn’t have been as comfortable as I was, especially at that first song.”
Taylor has been an Avid believer since 2006, when he encountered a D-Show on while mixing Pete Yorn’s tour. “It sounds good, I can use all the Waves plug-ins on it and the tools that come with it are fairly endless in my mind,” says Taylor. “And, I can go almost anywhere in the world and get a Profile, so I can travel with a USB key, an iLok, my iPod and headphones, and go anywhere. That is huge. I work with bands that are not big enough to carry their own gear, but big enough to go crazy places.”
The flexibility and power of Profile enabled Taylor to mix with his own style, especially as he was learning the band. “I get up there, move the faders, and feel the heart of the song,” Taylor explains. “With the Profile, I will take snapshots for myself as notes. Then, I’m constantly going to different banks and changing parameters for this or that. It’s amazing that all that technology can bring it together and help it sound amazing.”
Everything at your fingertips
Lee Mayeux, the FOH engineer for The Neighbourhood during their 2013 world tour, was happy to see a Profile on the Outdoor stage FOH position. “I had been winging it from show to show,” Mayeux admits. “Whatever they had at the venue, I used this year. I prefer to work on an Avid board.”
As a veteran Pro Tools user, Mayeux finds mixing on Profile extremely intuitive. “So, the functionality of the Profile, the way the plug-ins are similar and having everything at your fingertips, right there in front of you feels comfortable to me. A lot of digital consoles are hidden with layers and layers and you don’t have the meters you need right in front of you at the time. The Profile and SC48 are really good at having what you need to see right in front of you.”
Mayeux had the opportunity to use VENUE Link for the first time at Coachella, working with backing tracks that he helped produce with the band. “It helps them achieve what they want live,” explains Mayeux. “A lot of times it’s fine by itself, but if you add a little sauce here or there it really draws the attention to the moment.”
He prefers to travel with a USB stick and use saved scenes rather than bringing plug-ins along with an iLok. Earlier in the year, he wrote show files on his Apple MacBook Pro, then transferred them to an SC48. “When I walk in and see a Profile, it takes a lot of my worries away since I know where I’m at on the console and that I have everything I need on every channel.”
His trust in Avid enables him to provide better mixes for band and audience alike. “I feel that I can get more comfortable and therefore more sophisticated with my mix,” Mayeux says. “Plus, with the Avid VENUE software, I can set an EQ and pop it on or off quickly and efficiently and I don’t have to sit there with a patch bay. At festivals, patches can sometimes be all over the place. But, in a pinch, it can be sorted out much quicker and more efficiently. Whether it’s an input not being correct or wanting to adjust the length of the 'verb, everything is at our fingertips.”