MONEY IS SERIOUS, AND SINCE MONEY IS SERIOUS SINCE A GREAT DEAL OF MONEY BEGETS A GREAT DEAL OF GREED, BUT THERE IS NO REASON WHY ALL OF IT HAS TO BE SO STULTIFYINGLY SOLEMN. OUT OF TOWN TOURS, THE DEAD’S BOOKING FIRM. FLY BY NIGHT, A DEAD-INSPIRED TRAVEL AGENCY WHICH ALSO HANDLES ‘STRAIGHT’ ACCOUNTS. DEAD HEADS, THE FAN CLUB. GARCIA’S COUNTRY GROUP, OLD AND IN THE WAY. SPARKY AND THE ASS BITES FROM HELL, A LEGENDARY MUSICAL GROUP MADE UP OF DEAD ROADIES. “IT IS SERIOUS, WE ARE BUSINESSMEN, AFTER ALL. BUT DON’T TAKE IT SO GODDAMN SERIOUSLY”
What is the Dead’s PA system like?
It varies from month to month, but basically it looks like this: Each of the four singers has a pair of Sennheiser microphones, mounted one above the other about three inches apart. They’re hooked up out of phase, and this has the effect of cancelling out the background noise. Any sound that goes equally into both mikes disappears when the two signals are added together; so that all you have left is the sound of the voice, since the singer is only singing into one of them. This eliminates most of the feedback problem, and it also cleans up the sound a great deal. In addition, there are four or five Electra-Voice RE-IS ‘s on the drums. Each of the mike signals, and the output from Keith Godchaux’s piano, is then split, with half the signal going to the monitor system and half to the PA. Why use so much gear? It’s not just for volume. Most groups could get three times the volume out of this equipment that the Dead does, but that would be a distorted sound. Not that the Dead are quiet; the sound pressure on stage has been measured at 127 db, and that’s loud. But it’s all clean sound, not noise. Most independent sound contractors, whose equipment you ‘ll see at a typical rock concert, are much more concerned with economics than with high fidelity. They charge so much to fill a given sized room with music, and the cheaper they can do it, the more profit they make. The philosophy of the Dead’s system, on the other hand, is that since we have the technology to produce a very high quality of sound, we ought to use it. If you care about music, you’ve got to care about what the audience hears. -Healy
WIRED FOR SOUND
Photo: Richard Pechner