We just returned from an incredible weekend of providing live sound and lighting services for AXPONA 2017 in Chicago and just had to share a few pictures and thoughts about the event. It was an absolute honor and privilege to be asked to provide live sound for two incredible nights of performances, but we couldn’t have done it without some help from our excellent partners.
The AXPONA 2017 live music nights were held at the Westin O’Hare in Chicago; our pals over at JTR Speakers sponsored the live music hall and provided a pair of their potent JTR Noesis 3TX mains and three of their newest bass monsters – the Captivator 212 Pro subwoofers.
After initial set-up, we quickly realized just how powerful and efficient those new subwoofers are; three simply overwhelmed the room. We removed one and still had more than enough bass to move our pants legs with bass frequencies. Perhaps equally impressive is how efficient the things are – we initially ran three of them, along with 16 LED PAR lights, 2 moving head lights, and an entire backline (for 8 musicians) on a single 20-amp circuit without any issues or trips. Pairing down to two Captivator 212 Pros gave us more than enough electrical headroom for the weekend.
We ran the Noesis 3TX mains from a single QSC PLC380 and then used a second PL380 to power some of JTR’s ridiculously clear 2AX monitors. If you or anyone you know is struggling to obtain clean, clear, powerful stage monitor output, look no further. These monitors weigh just 39 pounds but put out an insane amount of sound. With everything set-up, we were ready for the weekend.
The live music performances started on Friday night with Frank Catalano and his band. If you’re not familiar with Frank, he is beyond talented on the tenor saxophone. He’s partnered with David Sandborn and Jimmy Chamberlin (of Smashing Pumpkins) on his most recent album, and he played a number of those tunes for to a packed audience.
I wish we would’ve had better front-stage lighting, but the room and stage were such that we weren’t allowed to place anything in a position to better light the front of the stage. Despite these challenges, things went really well. Frank and his band were just amazing, and at the end of the show, Frank thanked us for the “unreal” sound quality (his words). Here’s a photo from Frank’s performance (we will post videos on our YouTube Channel as well):
Saturday night proved to be more challenging, but was so much fun and extremely rewarding. We worked closely with the Jazz Foundation to provide live sound and lighting for a true blues legend, Ronnie Baker Brooks and his band that included other legends such as Billy Branch and Mud Morganfield.
Our challenges were twofold – (1) we had very little turnaround time between the end of the AXPONA seminars that shared the same room as our performances, and (2) we had a total of 11 people on the small stage (and in a mid-sized auditorium). Making matters more complicated, we had to partner with a backline company who was providing all of the backline and instruments for the band. Thankfully the guys from SIR Chicago were true professionals, so everything went smoothly with set-up.
By the time the band had arrived and was set to go, we had less than 5 minutes for line checks and sound check. Because the JTR speakers are so good, and our Midas/Behringer FOH system is so flexible, 5-minutes were all we needed before getting started.
It took a few minutes to get things dialed-in and balanced, but once we did, we didn’t want the show to ever end.
The Ronnie Baker Brooks band were just unreal. There aren’t any words to describe how effortless and incredibly talented they are. The JTR Speakers live music hall was beyond capacity – we had people standing outside trying to listen through the doors. And once again, the JTR speakers performed flawlessly. We had a few comments about the volume; however, the stage volume alone was a bit ridiculous – Billy likes his harmonica *loud* and the bass player was using a monster Aguilar bass head with dual cabs. That said, we managed to keep things at or under 100dB all night, while maintaining clarity and accuracy.
Lighting was even more challenging, due to the number of people on stage, but we aimed for a “dim nightclub setting” so it all worked out.
After the encore finished, we struck our set-up, packed our truck, and enjoyed some legendary Chicago-style pizza from Giordanos. What a great weekend, and thanks again to everyone from AXPONA, The Jazz Foundation, JTR Speakers, Frank Catalano, and Ronnie Baker Brooks for the opportunity to provide live sound and lighting for your event. We had a blast!