Live Sound

Park City, Utah, November 11, 2021 — Mountain Town Music, a not-for-profit community organization that books and promotes free live musical performances at outdoor venues throughout Summit County in Utah during the summer months, recently completed its first full season of events since acquiring a pair of Solid State Logic Live L100 digital mixing consoles. The organization, which typically produces and promotes nearly 300 live events in the Park City area annually, also offers outreach and internships to K-12 students, providing them with hands-on training on equipment including the SSL Live desks.

Mountain Town Music acquired two SSL Live L100 consoles along with SB 32.24 and SB i16 Dante-enabled SuperAnalogueTM stageboxes, reports David Hallock, the organization’s senior engineer. Because the organization is not-for-profit, he says, “One of the ways that we try and keep our costs low is by owning our own equipment. By owning, we’re able to operate far more efficiently.”

The organization was established in 2002 as an offshoot of the Park City Arts Council. “We’re big in terms of the fact that we’re doing 8,000-person venues, but we’re very much a bootstrap organization. Everything we have we’ve built up over the years,” he says. “We operate a bunch of venues, from 50-person venues to Deer Valley’s Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater,” which accommodates thousands of people. Past headline acts during the concert season have included Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Los Lobos and Michael Franti.

The SSL Live equipment was delivered at the very end of 2019. But with last year’s season of events curtailed due to COVID-19, 2021 was the first full year of shows since the pandemic began. “This summer I mixed four shows a week,” says Hallock, who is also production manager at the 1,250-seat Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, which is part of the Park City High School District. “I worked with amazing artists in different genres in super-chill and relaxed environments. It’s just a great scene with a bunch of good people. From an engineering standpoint, this is a dream gig.”

The Mountain Town Music team works with a new artist every night. “So the flexibility and the fact that I can pre-configure and program the SSL Live desk quickly is super useful,” Hallock says. “I have no concerns walking into a show with an artist that I’ve never worked with before with no soundcheck, which happens a lot. We did Andy Frasco and the U.N. in front of 7,000 people and it was line-check and live.”

He adds, “The other thing that is really useful is that the L100 console just sounds good. I can walk up to it, throw things left and right and it’s going to sound really good right off the bat, just because the console and the preamps sound good, and the bus summation is excellent.”

Opting for the compact L100 was a smart move since some of the events are hosted in small venues or in unusual locations, such as on a ski run. “A lot of times our ins and outs are also really fast, so I don’t run any outboard; I do everything in the desk,” Hallock says. “I love the Bus Compressor. The dynamic EQ is great. The VHD saturation is awesome; I like tape emulation, especially if it’s a classic rock band, and that does exactly the same thing. Having tube emulation on the individual compressors is also really nice and warms things up.”

He also enjoys the utility of SSL’s Sourcerer, the plug-in equivalent of source enhancer hardware. “A lot of our stages are smaller and not acoustically friendly. Drums and guitar cabs getting into the vocal mic is a huge issue for us, especially because we don’t mix at a very high SPL—we are typically around 90 dB. So being able to get that bleed out of the vocal mic is so helpful.”

Hallock was initially concerned that the L100’s small form factor might be limiting, he says, but the 12 channel faders have proved to be more than enough. “I’ll control the bulk of my mix with VCAs. Then, if I need to grab a channel, I just ‘Q’ the VCA,” he says. Selecting the Q switch on any VCA fader enables access to the individual channels in that VCA group. Plus, SSL’s TaCo tablet control makes all Live console channel parameters available on a touch screen device. “So I really haven’t wanted for faders; it hasn’t been an issue,” he says.

Through a combination of stems, buses and VCAs, Hallock has very granular control of his mixes. “I run about 12 stems for submixing. I can run a kick stem, a snare stem, a tom stem and a cymbal stem, then feed all of that to a drum bus, then feed that to the main left-right. I’ve got control exactly where I want it, everywhere,” he says.

Choosing a Dante-enabled system allowed the SSL Live desks to integrate with Mountain Town Music’s other production equipment and mixing consoles. “We use a lot of Dante. Every amp rack that I have is built out with a couple of Cisco switches. Just to be able to stay on Dante was super-efficient.”

It has also allowed the school district’s students to work on the L100 desks in real-world situations, Hallock reports. “We have a very strong internship program. Because we are community-funded, one of the things we push is to get students into the industry in different ways. One of the big ones is live engineering, so we have a program where we do some specific hands-on training during the school year with high school students. Then, during the summer, they come out on concerts with us.”

This year, for the first time, Hallock and the team set up a Dante network at their shop using five or six mixing consoles, including the two SSL Live desks, with a laptop playing out a live concert recording. “The kids worked on all the desks, mixing down off of live multitracks,” he says. At concerts during the summer, he adds, he would have students next to him at front-of-house mixing the show live on headphones on another networked console to a USB drive. “I would occasionally reach over, grab the cans and listen and give them some tips,” he says. “Our goal is to get the interns onto consoles and mixing as fast as possible.”

Also during the summer, Hallock arranged a two-hour Zoom call for the interns with Fernando Guzman, Solid State Logic Product Specialist / Lead Training Engineer. “Then Fernando lined me up with a bunch of engineers who were happy to talk to the kids,” he says, including Orlando Calzada, Jim Ebdon, Tom Evans, Kenny Keiser, James McCullogh and Jim Yakabuski. “They were awesome, really great guys, and so good with the kids,” Hallock says.

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