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An Immersive Meyer Experience at Massey Hall on Feist's Multitude Tour
“Some days you’re in a place like Massey Hall, but other days it’s a much smaller space, so you’ve got to rethink the design every time. That’s the challenge; we want everybody to experience the surround content so we had to put speakers in the audience. Meyer was perfect for this because their point source loudspeakers are incredibly intelligible.” - Mark Vreeken, FOH
30 April, 2024 by
An Immersive Meyer Experience at Massey Hall on Feist's Multitude Tour
When Mark Vreeken was asked to work on the first iteration of Feist’s immersive Multitudes show, it was a small-scale experience; a residency at Kampnagel Theatre in Hamburg, Germany, in 2021, with the audience, Feist, and her band, all on stage with a PA system surrounding them.

“Originally, I’d planned it to be Meyer. I love the ULTRA-X40, and it’s based around that loudspeaker,” says Vreeken. Since then, it’s evolved substantially. Most recently for a North American run that found Feist and company carrying their own Meyer 'B' stage PA that culminated in a two-night stint at Toronto’s Massey Hall with additional Meyer elements provided by Solotech.

"It’s a unique show," explains Solotech's Antoine Lebrun, System Tech for Multitudes, who came on board for the 2023 club/theatre tour.

 “For the first forty-five minutes, Feist plays solo acoustic on a circular B stage we call ‘the wedding cake’ (two stacked circular risers; an 8-foot riser on top of a 12-foot riser), in the middle of the audience.” Behind her, a projection screen obscures the main stage. Mid-show, she makes her way to that stage, and the kabuki screen drops, revealing Feist's band, and both the B stage rig and house PA come into play.

“The idea was to use Meyer ULTRA-X40, X20, and X23 point source speakers,” Vreeken says. “Some days you’re in a place like Massey Hall, but other days it’s a much smaller space, so you’ve got to rethink the design every time. That’s the challenge; we want everybody to experience the surround content so we had to put speakers in the audience. Meyer was perfect for this because their point source loudspeakers are incredibly intelligible.”

Lebrun cites the X23's footprint, format, and coverage as particularly helpful. “They’re a 110”x110” box so we didn’t have to put up a ton of speakers. It's the perfect product for this.”

“They were valuable as down-firing speakers for the wedding cake,” Vreeken adds. “They’re tiny and covered a lot of people. In surround locations where you’re trying to cover a lot of vertical space, you can get that out of the X23, whereas the X20 was useful as a more focused element." From venue to venue, the system changed according to available resources. "But, typically, we had a centre cluster of eight X-40s, six UPJs as front/lip fills on the wedding cake, with X20s and X23s flown around the perimeter on two sticks of truss, upstage, and downstage, and some side positions.”

“Meyer’s boxes sound super hi-fi,” Vreeken continues, "and these are powered, so when we had remote surround positions, we used a point-to-point wireless Shure PSM 1000 with a receiver rack and plugged them into the wall so we didn’t have to run cable. 

That was a big benefit and simpler approach because we didn’t need to think about where to put amp racks. And the X23s and X20s are very light and easy to hang safely” – particularly helpful in venues that would otherwise require lengthy overhead or floor cable runs. 

“The wedding cake system had eight ULTRA-X40s for the mains (for the far field),” Lebrun says. “Anything in the near field, from the B stage to about thirty feet away, it’s four X23s rigged above and aimed down around Feist, roughly about three feet from the cake.” Again, he says: “The X23s were great for that because they’re very wide so with just four we were able to hit everyone in the near field and had a seamless transition, no variation in sound, between those and the ULTRA-X40s.”

The purpose of the UPJs was to steer the image back to Feist and create an intimate feeling by floor-mounting them on the wedding cake. Surrounds were typically a mix of X20s and X23s. “Because they’re so wide, the X23s were great for surround, and the X20s were good whenever we had a low ceiling because you are trying to shoot a little further away, and they're narrower in the vertical field.”

Massey came with its own challenges, Vreeken adds, including low overhangs between each level that required additional surround elements. "We were still spreading out eight content channels but with thirty-six speakers. On the main floor, we used ten UPJs and (on the upper two balconies) a combination of ULTRA-X20s, X23s, and X40s; X40s for longer throw positions, and X20s for more focused vertical coverage. The X23s were the perfect short-throw solution because we could put a stick of truss up with two X23s so people were getting that surround content, but it wasn't screaming loud.”

While the Meyer rig wasn’t deployed for the Hamburg shows, the heart of the system – three Meyer GALAXY-816s for processing and routing content created on the fly by Feist (with her looping setup) and/or from playback operator Anna Morsett’s Ableton rig - remained constant - except on several European tour dates when they had to use alternate processing. “That was tricky,” Vreeken notes. “Once you’ve used the GALAXY and have that flexibility, nothing compares.  The GALAXY platform was the perfect tool for getting the most out of the B stage and house systems.”

One GALAXY was deployed at FOH and two at the stage to feed Lebrun twelve lines for distribution throughout the house; four at FOH (music) and eight at the stage (surrounds). “That allowed me to route signals between the Galaxies if I wanted to run surrounds from FOH because it was easier to cable from FOH to the surrounds and vice-versa, or route Mark’s main feeds back to the stage for front fills instead of doing some wacky patch job.” That also aided Lebrun in ‘re-optimizing’ house systems to make the transition between the wedding cake PA and mains seamless.

That certainly wasn’t an issue at the Fillmore in San Francisco. “It’s always been a Meyer house and it's had various Meyer PAs,” Vreeken notes. "But I was surprised to walk in and find a PANTHER rig with 2100-LFC subs and X20 front fills. The vocal tone was one of the best we had on the tour, and we’d used rigs from a lot of other loudspeaker manufacturers, which were all different flavours of awesome. But PANTHER, I was stunned at how good it sounded.”

The other two GALAXY-816s were on stage – one for the B rig and one for the surrounds. “When we switched to the main stage part of the show with the full band, with the GALAXY, I also had the option to use snapshots to repurpose speakers as necessary – as surrounds, for example – to add extra immersive quality, which brought the show to another level,” Lebrun says. “We’d use sides and rears whenever we had spots to put them; typically two or three on each side shooting in and a pair behind FOH shooting towards the stage.”

Vreeken drills down deeper into the use of the GALAXY-816s: “In an à la carte situation, a GALAXY is an 8 in/16 out processor. You can route, EQ, and apply all pass filters however you want - all that processing is available in each box. But when you have multiple Galaxies, you can network them together over AVB and pool those resources, almost like Dante Controller, where every input can go to any output you want it to go to. Every gig was different for surround placement and how we could get there with cable bundles and the point-to-point option. Every day, the routing was different. That gave Antoine the flexibility to route, in Meyer's Compass software, where he wanted my feeds to go. We’d look at the room, map out what content would go to each speaker, and Antoine would figure out the best strategy for cable runs.”

That was critical given the wide variety of venues in play. “In arenas, it’s typically the same shape you have to deal with. You may have to add splay or cabinets to cover more vertical,” says Adrian Sterling, Ontario Sales Manager for GerrAudio Distribution, “but with such different venues, they found it easier to send different busses to the GALAXY - which they’re able to do because the Galaxies link together over MILAN - using the GALAXY as a matrix to send audio to different areas of the room to make it feel like sounds are coming from different places.”

Other technologies GerrAudio represents were also deployed for Multitudes. Among them, SMAART Version 9 (Lebrun’s go-to audio measurement platform), a DiGiCO SD9 console for monitors (the choice of Feist’s long-time ME, Ed McGlogan), and one of Vreeken’s favourite instrument microphones, the DPA 4099, for overheads, snare top/bottom, and toms. “In my opinion, the 4099s are the best orchestra mic and great for any instrument. They’re super versatile for a symphony and, as it turns out, incredible for rock and roll drums.”

Vreeken also singles out Gerr for praise. “Our paths have crossed on the DiGiCo side, and their knowledge is incredible on that product. They know everything about it.” Gerr’s Adrian Sterling also took time to arrange a meeting with Meyer. “To look at different ways to approach this (including Spacemap Go). Adrian’s the best in the business. He knows everything about all Gerr's products, so he’s a great ‘Swiss Army knife’ guy. The first time I trained on a DiGiCo console was with him back in the day. They’re very helpful.”