Working from home? Switch to the DIGITAL edition of FRONT of HOUSE. CLICK HERE to signup now!
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

Brad Paisley’s Bud Light Seltzer Sessions

Kevin M. Mitchell • June 2020Production Profile • June 8, 2020

Brad Paisley at MooTV’s Steel Mill. The full-on production included a massive video wall, elaborate lighting and a JBL VTX line array rig provided by Sound Image. Photo by Jeff Wedding

What Brad Paisley did at Nashville’s The Steel Mill in mid-May lies somewhere between artists sitting in their living rooms playing an acoustic guitar on Zoom and a kind of old-fashioned public gathering for concerts. The two-plus hour show was a full-on concert with Paisley’s entire band, complete with elaborate lighting, a huge video wall, multi-camera video shoot by Parnelli Award-winning MooTV (2020 Video Production Company of the year), a JBL VTX P.A. system provided by Sound Image (another 2020 Parnelli Award winner, for Sound company of the Year) and even confetti cannons punctuating the closing number — all streamed on the sponsor’s YouTube channel. Quite a show!

: Punctuating the closing number with confetti cannons, gave the streaming performance a live concert feel. Photo by Jeff Wedding

“It’s so great playing live music with my band,” Paisley said, as the second song started. “Welcome to the Bud Light Seltzer Sessions… I hope you’re safe. We’re going to have us a blast.” And a blast was had — particularly by the crew who was so glad to be part of it.

Interestingly, in addition to the lighting, video, and even confetti, Paisley went with a full P.A. for that concert sound (opening act Lady Antebellum went with a small sound system for a more intimate vibe). “Brad wanted to feel the full sound,” says The Steel Mill and MooTV’s co-founder Scott Scovill. “It will be a while before we can get back to business as usual, and a lot of the major players are taking a wait-and-see approach to performing. But in the meantime, we’re going to continue to be available for shows like this.”

Brad Paisley’s Bud Light Seltzer Sessions

MooTV’s The Steel Mill proved ideal for the project. Besides its convenient Nashville location, the private 200-by-80-foot “big room” at the facility (designed for rehearsals, filming and special events) offered plenty of parking, easy load-in/out, storage, kitchen, production offices, and ample power and rigging points.

Close to 53,000 fans saw the show when it first streamed on May 15, with many chiming in with comments including some who said it was done so well they felt they were in the first row. Since then, it’s been seen and heard 1.5 million times on that channel, and when you count Paisley’s social media sites where he shared it, the number is over three million (to watch, go to www.plsn.me/BP-2020).

Brad Paisley’s Bud Light Seltzer Sessions

Extreme safety precautions were taken, and now, more than two weeks after the event, the most important barometer making the concert a complete and stunning success? Everyone who was involved is well.

FOH engineer Kevin Freeman mixed on a Yamaha RIVAGE PM7 digital console

‡‡         The Audio Crew

Paisley’s longtime production manager/FOH engineer Kevin Freeman has finally gone digital after being a diehard analog guy. “I own that Midas Heritage 2000 I used all these years, and now it’s in my basement as part of my museum collection,” Freeman laughs. He just jumped into the digital age with the Yamaha Rivage PM7. “My biggest problem with the digital consoles had always been the thought process needed to work with them. I need to think about what is happening on the stage, not what I have to do with the board. But you can set this one up anyway you’d like,” including to feel and operate like an analog console. “It has more channels than I’ll ever use, but it sounds good.”

While Paisley was seeking an arena/shed feel for the production, there still wasn’t an audience, so the job was handled with four JBL VTX V25 line arrays hung on each side, plus VTX subs. The event was put together fairly quickly. “I got the call on the Thursday prior to the Wednesday taping and I was asked if we could do this,” Freeman says. “I said, ‘I’m sitting around doing nothing, so let’s do it!’” The experience was normal/not normal: “It was a full production, but interesting, because the band would finish a smokin’ hot number with a big ending, and then there was silence. That was weird,” he laughs.

Mark Gould at monitors

‡‡         In Monitorworld

“It was good to get out of the house and good to know we were doing something for the industry,” longtime monitor engineer Mark Gould says, of the event that supported the American Red Cross and those on the front lines fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Like Freeman, Gould recently switched to the PM7, although for this show, he dug up his Avid Profile because he had the files for it and it was handy, especially as the Yamaha board “is sitting on a floor at the shop that no one can into yet, which is nerve-racking.” (The longtime vendor is Sound Image, and during this week there were three workers in the building where there are normally 40.) Gould adds he’s anxious to get in and start programming and working with it.

The band has been all in-ears for years, and they went ahead and stuck with their Westone universal-fit UM20 IEMs for this show. “We’ve got custom molded ones, but actually everybody prefers the generics. Brad, especially, is not a fan of the custom molded ones as it’s not as comfortable. We still own the custom molds — we just don’t use ‘em,” he laughs.

‡‡         A Team Effort

Gould showed up two days before taping, and as it was a bare minimum crew, everybody pitched in on whatever needed to happen. “There were no stagehands, so we were all pushing boxes, helping with rigging, unloading the lights, sets, and video off trucks. It was nice to jump in and help.” As far as the actual work, the lack of the crowd, while missed, did make his job a little easier. The show was performed live for tape, and they ran straight through with one exception: Paisley new song, “No I in Beer” had never been rehearsed, so at that point they let the tape run while they did that a couple of times. Otherwise, Gould adds that Paisley normally really wants the band members close to him, but everyone was pushed more than six feet apart.

Freeman adds, “I had a blast. We were in Canada in March about to go onstage for the fourth show when everything was shut down and we all went home. So it was really cool to see everybody again.”

View from the back of the rehearsal space

Safety First!

Both audio engineers — Kevin Freeman at FOH and Mark Gould at monitors — credited The Steel Mill staff for putting safety first and keeping everyone properly distanced, with great caution and care in strict adherence to CDC guidelines. Every day at The Steel Mill, a medic would take everyone’s temperature and collect questionnaires about symptoms, etc. A different “approval” wristband was issued every day. There was plenty of hand sanitizer and everyone wore masks the entire time. Once inside, there were other precautions as well. Video production director, engineer and playback crew were typically six feet apart — but extra cables were brought in to maintain an eight-foot spacing. Also, The Steel Mill’s huge doors were kept open to keep air circulating, shutting only when closing up at night and for the performance. Finally, there was follow-up, so if anyone tested positive for the Coronavirus, contact tracing was in place.

“Honestly, I felt very responsible in every way,” Scovill says, “for the health of everyone who worked on the show and their mental health with the stress involved in leaving their house for this. I hope it doesn’t sound silly, but I also felt a responsibility to the industry. If anybody got sick from this first full production… well, that wouldn’t be the news the industry needs right now.” Scovill added that he’s grateful for everyone who worked on it, given the gravity and the stakes involved. (Paisley posted a video on his Facebook page on the show’s health precautions and at one point, references the strict mask policy, joking “everybody looks like bank robbers.” (To watch, go to www.plsn.me/BP-FB.)

Zoom session in progress

Brad Paisley’s “Bud Light Seltzer Sessions”

  • Venue: The Steel Mill, Nashville
  • Sound Company: Sound Image
  • FOH Engineer: Kevin Freeman
  • Monitor Engineer: Mark Gould

KEY AUDIO GEAR

  • Main P.A.: JBL VTX V25
  • Subwoofers: JBL VTX
  • FOH Console: Yamaha RIVAGE PM7
  • Monitor Console: Avid VENUE D-Show Profile
  • IEMs: Shure PSM1000 with Westone UM20 Earpieces
  • Vocal Mics: Shure wireless with Beta 58A capsules

 

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!