Released in 2019, but with its supporting touring cycle interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, Irish singer-songwriter and Brit-nominee Dermot Kennedy Without Fear album is finally back on the road with two DiGiCo SD5 consoles supplied by SSE Audio and operated by FOH engineer Will Donbavand and monitor engineer Simon Peter Lawson.

FOH engineer Will DonbavandDonbavand and Lawson have been working with Kennedy since 2017, with Donbavand doing his first ever London show at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen and Lawson moving to monitors from FOH tour around Europe later that year. Things escalated in early 2018 with both engineers taking up their current positions. ‘As soon as we could spec desks for Dermot, we took out a pair of SD11is and gain shared an SD Rack,’ Lawson says.

As the channel count grew, both engineers worked their way up the SD Range, opting for the SD12-96 for the most recent tours prior to this one. ‘For me it is a great console; lovely layout, compact, twin touchscreens. It’s very versatile, perfect for a mid-size channel count show,’ Lawson says.

The decision to move to DiGiCo’s SD5 came after the addition of backing vocalists for the new show design upped the number of input channels, onboard FX and faders required.

‘I finished the recent UK shows with 82 input channels, 14 auxs, two mono and 11 stereo groups, and 12 control groups,’ Donbavand explains. His LR matrix feeds a loudspeaker management processor, with an additional matrix providing an IEM mix for the lighting director and video operator. FOH and monitors have been sharing an SD rack alongside an SD Mini Rack for extra inputs. An additional DiGiCo Mini Rack at FOH handles sends and returns to outboard signal processing, audio interfaces for show recording and clocking for other outboard signal processing and recording devices.

‘Our optical loop consists of the SD Rack fully loaded with 56 32-bit Stadius input cards, 48 analogue outputs and eight AES outputs,’ Lawson says of the current SD Rack stage set-up. ‘Four analogue output cards were assigned to the monitor desk, with two, plus the AES card, were assigned to the FOH console.’

Monitor engineer Simon Peter LawsonTo accommodate extra inputs for this show, the team also had a Mini Rack at the monitor position loaded with three analogue input cards and an AES I/O card. ‘I used the AES I/O card to patch in a Cedar DNS8 noise suppressor, which I used on the background vocal mics,’ Lawson explains.

In addition, Donbavand and Lawson use the DiGiCo Con Send and Receive ports to convey the eight analogue inputs on the back of the board to each other, enabling both engineers to access any input within the system. ‘This is great for something like a last-minute talk back mic that gets patched into the monitor board, or to allow me to pick up Will’s walk-in music without any extra patching,’ Lawson says. ‘I had never had an SD5 on monitors before – I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed using it, the ease of access to the large bank of Macros proved extremely useful.’

‘I have also utilised a Streamdeck connected to a Raspberry Pi 4b running Frostbox Labs’ Macro Stream SD,’ Donbavand adds. ‘This allows me to access more Macros than I could do just with the mix surface, and control my record rig by firing OSC commands to Reaper.’

Macros play a big role in the FOH workflow for Donbavand, especially with Kennedy’s recent addition of several radio systems which require muting at certain points in the show: Hhaving macros set up for these really has made the task easy, I also use Macros to trim acoustic guitar gain for particular song sections.’

Lawson also cites being able to patch aux sends or groups back into the top of an input channel is ‘killer stuff for monitors.’ He finds the matrix handy for patching the cue and group buses used for talkback mics to run in parallel, to avoid missing talkback messages. ‘I also use the matrix to send a guitar tuning DI to our guitar tech Joe Grouse, which ducks his main mix, allowing him to tune accurately while not missing a beat of the show .’ he notes.

‘The SD5 is great. I’m very much a fan of having a screen per bank of faders for easy visual referencing, which is why I wanted to go for the SD5 rather than the SD10,’ Donbavand says. ‘Our tour director, musical director, and artist management have all commented on how happy they are with how the show is sounding. We finished up at Alexandra Palace, which has some notoriety for being a particularly difficult room to mix in, and I had some great feedback from some important people in the extended Kennedy live team.’

After working on a new album over the winter period, Kennedy will be back on the road in 2022, supporting Shawn Mendes on a North America stadium tour over the summer.


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