Fifty years after forming their band at a Palo Alto music store, the surviving founders of the Grateful Dead concluded their end-of-an-era “Fare Thee Well” mini-tour at Soldiers Field in Chicago, Ill. over 4th of July weekend with a Meyer Sound LEO® linear large-scale sound reinforcement system driving a quadraphonic surround setup.
Following two warm-up shows in Santa Clara, Calif., the three Chicago shows were a landmark occasion—with well over 70,000 devoted Deadheads in attendance each evening, the shows broke Soldier Field’s post-renovation attendance record of 67,936 set by U2 in 2009. It was also a milestone in the band’s decades-long association with Meyer Sound CEO John Meyer, a relationship spawned from a shared passion for audio experimentation and audience experience. The Grateful Dead’s original sound engineer, Owsley "Bear" Stanley, first tapped Meyer to create acoustic solutions for the legendary “Wall of Sound” system in the 1970s.
The Meyer Sound LEO system with its accompanying 1100-LFC low-frequency control element delivered an immersive fan experience in the large football stadiums and supported an experimental segment devised by drummer/percussionist Mickey Hart. Using the Meyer Sound system to transmit ultra-low frequencies in surround sound, Hart probed how the brain perceived audible and below-audible rhythms.
“John Meyer’s 1100-LFC loudspeakers empower the rhythmic voice and enable percussionists to manifest new ideas,” says Mickey Hart. “They are sonic tools for reliably transmitting vibrations that affect neurologic function in a special way we are only beginning to understand, enabling us to explore healing properties embedded in low-frequency sound—a dream come true for us all.”
The Meyer Sound system comprised four front arrays of 17 LEO-M and three MICA® line array loudspeakers each, with dual side columns of 14-each 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements and a center column of 22 700-HP subwoofers in an end-fire pattern. Side and offstage coverage was supplied by 32 LYON™ and 32 MILO® line array loudspeakers, respectively, with an additional 30 MICA loudspeakers providing behind-stage coverage.
Filling in the far ends of the stadiums were four delay towers with a total of 56 MILO loudspeakers and eight 700-HP subwoofers. Two additional towers of eight LYON loudspeakers each faced the stage for quad surround effects, with six CQ-1 and four LYON loudspeakers providing front fill. A Galileo® Callisto™ loudspeaker management system handled drive and optimization, and 16 MJF-212A stage monitors provided onstage foldback.
Audio requirements for all five shows were handled by Martinez, Calif.-based Pro Media / UltraSound, with system design accomplished by the company’s Derek Featherstone, vice president of touring and rental and the band’s FOH engineer since 2005.
Additional equipment support for the five shows came from Blackhawk Audio, Rainbow Production Services, Show Systems, and Solotech.
“The LEO and 1100-LFC system can handle everything we put into it,” says Featherstone. “We are also very impressed with the quality control of the Meyer Sound self-powered equipment. Being able to acquire 650 loudspeakers from several different vendors located in multiple states, assemble the large system on site, and have it work seamlessly is no small feat.”
Matt Haasch, audio crew chief for Pro Media / Ultrasound adds: “I was impressed with how well the LEO system handled the physical acoustics of a big stadium. Coverage was smooth and practically seamless, with precise imaging for all seating areas.”
Selected Gear List:
68 Meyer Sound LEO-M line array loudspeakers
52 Meyer Sound LYON linear line array loudspeakers
88 Meyer Sound MILO line array loudspeakers
42 Meyer Sound MICA linear line array loudspeakers
6 Meyer Sound CQ-1 loudspeakers
28 Meyer Sound 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements
30 Meyer Sound 700-HP subwoofers
16 Meyer Sound MJF-212A stage monitors
Meyer Sound Galileo Callisto loudspeaker management system
Show Production: Peter Shapiro and Madison House
Audio system supplier: Pro Media / UltraSound
Equipment Support: Blackhawk Audio, Rainbow Production Services, Show Systems, Solotech
System Design/Sound Engineer: Derek Featherstone
Audio Crew Chief: Matt Haasch
Lighting Director: Candace Brightman