Playing with After Dark

This is an explanation of how After Dark sets up their sound and lighting for live shows. I’ll start from the performers perspective and work out to the audience.

I have an iPad running an app called Band Helper (https://www.bandhelper.com), every song After Dark plays is in this app, and every song has 4 or more MIDI presets associated with it. The MIDI presets are used to control:
1: Bass guitar processor (Rocktron Blue Thunder)
2: Vocal processor (TC Helicon Voicelive 3)
3: Guitar processor (Line6 HD500X)
4: The backing track/click/lighting PC

The upside to this is that when a song is selected on the iPad, all the audio equipment changes to the correct sound settings, any backing track or click starts playing, and the light show is automatically engaged with a beat synced light show. Initially I thought playing to a click for every song would be restrictive and not be “rock and roll”, but it turns out playing every song to a click is liberating because you -know- that you’re not speeding up or slowing down, and from what I can tell the audience appreciates it too.

The PC runs Cantabile (https://www.cantabilesoftware.com) and QLC+ (http://www.qlcplus.org). Cantabile plays the clicks and backing tracks, and is the brains behind live show. The PC connects to the X-Air 18 mixer via USB, and plays the backing tracks split into 4 channels (click, keys, guitar, vocals). This allows us to mix each backing track in a live situation, which is much better than having to try to set the levels on everything in software.

If Cantabile is the brains of the live show, the X-Air 18 mixer is the heart. Every audio device gets at least one dedicated channel for rehearsal and live (some get two channels). This is because we use In-Ear monitors and have a “silent stage”. This means no amps on stage (and electric drums, too). This accomplishes a few things:
1: Rehearsals are -quiet-, the neighbors have no idea a rock band is practicing right next door
2: No “stage wash”, meaning live shows are supported fully by the PA and there aren’t any volume wars
3: No stage wash also means a cleaner live sound for the audience
4: We’re not restricted to what venue’s we can play (as small as a restaurant, as large as a stadium)
Everyone gets their own personal mixer with all the channels from the X-Air 18. This means each musician gets their own in-ear mix. The benefits are you get to pick what YOU want to hear. There’s no bleed from your band mate’s monitor blaring in your ears all night. Tinnitus is a terrible thing, and we avoid it as much as possible. Also, we’re able to make multi-track recordings at practice direct to the PC from the X-Air 18, so we can listen back and see what’s good and what needs work. It’s a great way to figure out where your strengths and weaknesses are.

We have two Turbosound IQ10 main speakers (2500 watts) and two Turbosound IQ15B subs (3000 watts). We run the mains in stereo, with the “subs on aux”. This means a large soundstage (because it’s stereo) and no mud (“subs on aux” because sounds like someone adjusting their mic stand, or all the sub-harmonic sounds from a heavily distorted guitar, don’t go through the subs).

Lastly, the light show. We’ve got 12 LED par cans, 3 LED light bars, 2 derby lights, and 2 wide-wash lights. The lights are divided into 44 “zones”, each being able to work independently of the fixture as a whole. I don’t know how many lumens it is, but with every light at 100% its akin to looking at the sun. The front lights mount to the PA speakers, and the rear lights mount to a truss that breaks down into 6 pieces. Most of the lights and cables on the lights stay mounted to the truss for easy tear down/set up. Because all the lights are LED, there’s no heat baking you on stage. You might be blind, but you won’t be hot. QLC+ keeps the light moving and adds visual interest that is beyond just “blinking to the music”.

All of this is a work in progress, but it’s pretty close to where it needs to be. Once it’s all done, I may make some videos to go into further detail about the specifics of how things are set up.

Robb

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