All Time Low & You Me At Six
February 2015 saw US punksters, All Time Low, and Brit Rockers, You Me At Six, join musical forces to successfully storm and conquer five UK arenas. For the screamingly loud, bra-lobbing fans it was a double whammy - two very different sets for the price of one - and for the creatives and crew that put it on the road, it was a diplomatic coop that delivered an international partnerships that royally paid off. Sarah Rushton-Read got into the mix.
You Me at Six - also known as YM@6 - and All Time Low - ATL - presented a formidable double act with bearded rockers, YM@6, providing a serious foil to the off the wall Baltimore four piece ATL. Between them they blasted into the mainstream, touring UK arenas and packing them to the rafters with a seething frenzy of extremely vocal teenage girls.
YM@6 Tour Manager Tom Begley has been friends with members of the band since they were 15, however he only started working with them last year: “I previously toured with YM@6, working for the band supporting them. Although I’ve tour managed support bands for arena tours before, this is my first headliner, so we’re all experiencing something new together. In the process I’ve discovered that when you’re the guy responsible for the band that closes the show there’s a whole heap of new things to deal with.
However, co-headlining doesn’t cut the work down as each band still has its own production crew: lighting, sound, production management etc. Thankfully we do share catering, buses, trucking and equipment suppliers.”
Of course, as anyone who has toured with co-headliners may know, this kind of ‘sharing’ can sometimes mean sharing the limelight and that is where things can get a bit tricky. “Most production managers have their own list of preferred vendors and most engineers and lighting designers have their preferred tools of delivery, they tend not to be too flexible on those!”
Begley’s counterpart for ATL, Tour Manager Brian Southall, knows this from personal experience: “I’ve been on co-headline tours where the atmosphere between the two band’s production teams has been far from harmonious, on occasion quite explosive! Thankfully it is not the case here. I’ve known this band for a few years now but like Tom it’s the first time we’ve worked together. This is ATL’s first arena tour and they’ve been fantastic. They’re certainly a fun band to hang out with."
The five date sell-out tour kicked off on the 9 February in Cardiff and continued on to Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and London’s O2. “So far the worst thing about this tour is the lack of sleep,” laughed Southall. “We load in at 7am and we’re not getting to bed until 2-3am. However I have to take my hat off to the YM@6 team and Dan Nickleski our Production Manager, because they’ve all worked really hard to make this work.”
Production Manager for YM@6 is Rob Highcoft: “As Brian (Southall) just said I’m one of two Production Managers on this tour, however we both have dual roles - Dan is also ATL’s Monitor Engineer, and I am YM@6s Stage Manager!”
With two creative forces, both wanting their own way in terms of suppliers and kit, Highcroft and Nickleski decided the only fair approach was to lay their cards on the table and play it out. “We each stated which suppliers we wanted and of course the result was two opposing lists! In the end we struck a happy compromise and everyone got something they wanted.”
The outcome was that SSE provided the audio and Leeds-based ZigZag provided the lighting. “SSE are fantastic, the company’s kit is always in tip top condition, plus we get great technical back up,” said Highcroft. “ZigZag was ATL’s choice and although a small company, had all the kit we wanted. Screens were provided by Chaos (now PRG) and Richard Shipman, Andy Tonks and the Chaos team did a phenomenal job. Pyrotechnics is supplied by Pyro Junkies. LS-Live built the set and the rigging came through SSE / WigWam. MM Band Services are doing the buses and trucking is TransAm. Catering is via touring specialists Sugar & Spice.”
Although Highcroft has been with You Me at Six for eight years he says he never gets bored. “I still find it really exciting to be able to watch a band on the rise and remember the long days and nights we spent in a clapped out Sprinter van driving from club to club. It amazes me that we’re now playing packed out arenas. I’m just grateful for the incredibly supportive vendor team and the hardworking crew, who believe that nothing is too much trouble and have co-operated so well to pull this tour together every day.”
In the ATL camp, Begley’s foil in production is Production Manager and Monitor Engineer Dan Nickleski: “I have been working with ATL for the past five years now. Typically they have been selling out two nights, back to back at Brixton Academy, so an arena tour was the obvious next step. This shift in scale is made much easier by co-headlining with You me at Six. The fan base is similar yet there’s enough differential between the demographic to make it work.”
Special effects experts Pyrojunkies developed a package for this co-headline tour worthy of an arena double bill. Said Pyrojunkies Project Manager, Dan Mott: “We supplied all of the pyrotechnics and special effects for both bands, which was a great experience. Our pyrotechnic effects included over 48 Waterfall Units, 120 eight-metre Stage Mines, 70 eight-metre Stage Comets, 24 4.5-metre Duration Gerbs and 50 1/4 by six-metre Jets.”
The result was a visual extravaganza which kept fans gasping during the bands’ much anticipated performances. Other effects included four of Pyrojunkies own XL Superblaster Confetti Blowers, six of its Stadium Shot Confetti Cannons and one Co2 T Shirt Guns which fired merchandise into the audience. Continued Mott: “I’d like to say thanks to Louis Oliver for YM@6 and Daniel Nickleski for ATL for their creative input. It was a brilliant tour to work on.”
First to hit the stage with its off the wall offering was the hilariously ironic and fast paced, pop punks ATL. The band’s Lighting Designer, Jeff Maker created a lively and colourful precision design that’s sharply on-beat, warm and delightfully punchy: “I try to throw the beams as far as I can to make the stage and the band look as big as possible.”
By contrast Louis Oliver of Okulus has delivered a design that is atmospherically moody and understated. Lots of low heavy back and cross light, precision cuing and constantly moving lighting angles keeps the momentum of the show shifting with the music. A mix of strong beams and sharply focused gobos blast into the haze filled room, complemented by some remarkably acid colours from the Philips Showline Nitro 510 Cs. For many of the songs Oliver chose to go with a relatively low trim but occasionally counters that with angular truss movements, which take the look from theatre-intimate to arena-epic in an instant.
“As mentioned before by my colleagues, co-headlining can be awkward; there can be forced compromises on both sides,” said Oliver. “That said I think we’ve been lucky,” continued Maker. “Louis and I have found a nice middle ground on most things. For me there were particular fixtures I wanted to use, primarily Robe BMFLs and Pointes, and I also have a preferred lighting vendor - ZigZag.”
Equally Oliver was keen to retain his own truss design and his own lighting fixtures: “I added a couple of elements,” said Maker, “but I loved Louis’s truss design anyway.”
Although both share elements of each other’s rig, visually the two shows are poles apart. “Basically if something’s rigged we share it!” Maker continued. “I have my own separate floor package and Louis has his. On ATL we have a lot of risers and ramps - it’s like a playground for the band! We both use pyro but Louis’s is downstage and ours is rigged overhead with more off-stage left and right.”
Maker keeps his trim height high and open: “This is for two reasons: firstly our risers are about 4ft high and the rear video screen hoverers above it. I don’t want to block the view by having the truss too low. Also it allows me to silhouette the guys with the video content when they’re running up on the catwalk - I really like how that looks.”
“The composition of the lighting rig is eclectic; Oliver admitted. “I was keen to use the Clay Paky Mythos on this tour. The overall design is based on the first tour we did for the ‘Cavalier Youth’ album campaign, but we’ve expanded it. Where we were using Pointes and Sharpy Washes, we’re now using BMFLs, Clay Paky’s Mythos and Philips Showline Nitro 510C strobes.”
Oliver has also expanded the onstage video wall: “When we made our fixture choice we wanted luminaires that would complement the content but at the same time cut through it. For me the Mythos exceeded all expectations; it’s multi-functionality and crisp clear gobos made it ideal for our relatively modest rig. At some points I use it as a beam unit and at other times a crisp clear spot. It has fantastic colour mixing and output and for its size it’s packed with some really helpful features.”
Maker chose the BMFLs and uses them to great effect, delivering a myriad of big, bold beamy looks that blast around the arena. “Yes I love the BMFLs!” said Jeff, “Great colour-mixing, great gobos … and great zoom!”
In addition Maker dotted 24 Pointes around the various multi-level risers and runways, while LEDBeam 100s were positioned underneath the stretched gauze-fronted band risers, to deliver multiple layers of light and colour. To top it off Maker used Robe CycFX 8s to outline the runways and riser podiums to give a sense of perspective and form.
For YM@6 video content is a lively mixture of live camera and pre-recorded commissioned by Oliver’s company Okulus and designed by Pablo Beckett of Bryte Design. The content is managed by a Green Hippo Hippotizer V3 HD, plus there’s also a camera feed for the IMAG side screens.
“I have to say a big thank-you to Pablo,” Oliver stressed. “The band wanted the visuals to govern the atmosphere and flow of the show. That was then translated into a mood board, which I sent off to Pablo and he came back with some stunning content. To create harmony across the video backdrop, we used the same style effects across the pre-recorded content and the camera feeds. It gives a more cohesive feel to the show.”
Each designer then had his own floor package. “I’ve kept mine pretty simple; I’ve got a bunch of Clay Paky Mythos, Showline Nitro 510Cs and Robe 600’s positioned upstage to back wash the screen during the show.”
Although deceptively modest in size the show is busy and varied. Oliver uses an MA Lighting grandMA2 console and says every cue is pre-programmed and then triggered by time code. “I can adjust the intensity of the main video screen and I tend to trigger the strobe hits live,” he concluded.
Maker’s console of choice is the Avolites Sapphire Touch - one for the show and one backup: “I’ve been using Avolites on every tour for the past eight years. With the new Titan 9 software it’s clear that Avo is making all the right adjustments to the system. Right now this one is working really smoothly.”
Maker pre-programs cue stacks for specific songs, but he also works the show live: “I like to feel connected, I’m out there to have fun. I treat the show like it’s a level on a video game. I feel that if I really nail it I will get to the next level! The show is constantly changing and thankfully the band really trusts me with what I think looks good.”
When it came to video content Maker approached the band with his initial ideas and between them they hired Videographer Brendan Walter. “Brendan did a great job with our content, it’s very different from YM@6, comprising a lot of vintage movies and the intro they put together is awesome. The band isn’t too keen on the live camera stuff so I use it sparingly on four songs. They do however love their logo so we animated them in a number of ways, particularly at the finale, where the band want to go out with a visual bang.”
Chaos Visual Productions (now part of PRG Nocturne) supplied the video package. In charge was Video Director Richie Shipman and Crew Chief Andy Tonks. “We supplied a 30 by eight Winvision 18mm video screen. Because this is a double headline we have two different lighting consoles interfacing with the Hippotizer. That did present its own challenges but it’s all working well now,” said Shipman.
“We have five cameras,” continued Tonks. “Two (what cameras) in the pit, one (what kind) FOH and two fixed Bradleys.”
The show is busy, lots of cutting between content and cameras. Shipman uses a Black Magic console. “The double headline means we’re doing two full shows a night so it can be a bit wearing,” he explained. “It’s a great bunch of people, enthusiastic, proper rock and roll.”
Back to FOH and Engineer Adam Boole who has been with YM@6 since 2007: “Back then we were touring pubs. Today my console of choice is the Soundcraft Vi6. I like to keep things simple; this is a straightforward rock and roll show for me. I’m not using any plug-ins or an external analogue kit. I’ve got a DS and compressor and that’s pretty much it. What you hear is basically just the band.”
Boole has chosen to carry an L Acoustics K1 and K2 system. “I have K1 for the main hangs and K2 for side hangs with 24 SB 28s to deliver the extreme level of bottom end we need. Mics are a mix of Shure and Audio Technica, which never fail. I’ve still got my original AT mics from when I first started touring. Beside the fact that they’re a bit scruffy they work a treat. For vocals I’m using Shure SM 58 and then Audio Technica AE2500s mics on guitar and AE3000s on overheads.
Ball works closely with System Tech Perttu Korteniemi from SSE. “He was with me on the last four UK tours and he’s great. He knows how I mix and he knows exactly how I want things to sound. I don’t touch my graphic at all - he’s one of the best system techs out there.”
At the stage end of the snake is Monitor Engineer Peter Fergie: “I started with the band last summer, filling in for their previous engineer on some of their festival season. That led to the US tour at the end of last year and then onto this tour.”
There’s quite a range of mix preferences from the five band members. “The band is easy to work with, they’re very clear when it comes to what they want. They play to a click track so that obviously features in most of the mixes. This is balanced out with their own preferences generally with themselves on top. Josh (lead singer) likes to hear of the crowd, he’s very interactive.”
This is the first arena tour for Fergie: “It’s been quite an experience. Its nice having a stage that’s big enough to handle what we want to do. It’s a quiet stage in the sense that they are all on in-ears, however the amps and the drums are still quite loud.”
Fergie’s control console of choice is Allen & Heath’s iLive series - a tiny rack mountable surface, which has been round the world with him: “It’s fantastic and really handy for some of the smaller shows. Allen & Heath has helpfully hooked us up with the T112 for this arena tour. It gives me a bigger surface but I can still use the same mix rack and gear. Basically it’s given me a few more faders to play with.”
For in ears (IEMs) the band and crew are using JH audio J16’s with Shure PSM 900’s. “I’m doing about ten mixes including techs. There’s a real range of dynamics in this set, it’s longer and there’s a few quieter songs so there’s quite a lot going on.”
Production Manager and Monitor Engineer for ATL Dan Nickleski takes care of four band members and one hired AUX guitar player and two crew guys - eight IEM mixes, plus he’s using the side fills. “Each person has very different requirements,” he explained. “Some people never ask for any changes, whereas others I’m literally riding the mix all night. Each person is heavy on what they’re doing but the guitar player loves to have the crowd at the top of his mix!”
Everyone in the band and backstage is on Sensaphonics 2MAX Earphones. “They’re highly sensitive, which gives me more output at lower volume settings. They’re also made by Chicago people, that’s where I’m from, so there’s another good reason to use them.
“I’m using a Midas PRO 2 C. I use every input and output and all the pop groups and VCAs. We’re feeding video cues, we also have a feed going to FOH to a talk speaker for Jeff (Maker), which gives him a countdown to the intro to ensure we’re all synced.”
Phil Gornell is in charge of FOH audio for ATL. “I first met the band in 2007, however for the past seven years I’d been working with other artists. It was time for something new so I gave the ATL guys a call and said: ‘Hi I’m available’ and they took me on.”
Also electing to use the Midas PRO2, Gornell said: “Dan loves the PRO 2 C but I need the extra faders the PRO2 offers. The Pro series, no matter how sonically impressive it is, does have its limitations. The limited DSP meant that had to use Waves Multirack via a Klark Technic network bridge. As a Waves Live artist, it’s great to have tools like the C6, and RVerb, which I’m used to using in the studio, accessible to me in a live environment. I’m also recording 44 channels a night: plus I have the Waves MaxxBCL on my left / right mix bus.
In terms of the sound, I strive to get a CD quality-mix, something the fans are used to and can relate to. A lot of clarity and balanced frequency response, which can sometimes affect the overall volume achievable. You can’t just go rock and roll on it and turn the subs and guitars up. That’s why I like the Waves MaxxBCL; with the L2 at the end I can limit my transient information, and this in-turn will lift the level of the guitars and other onstage instruments for a constant level and dynamic. It’s that “limited” effect which the public are used to hearing from modern records, so it’s a no brainer for me to strive to achieve it live.
So who chose the PA? “To be honest we get a bit spoilt at this point. It went a bit like this: ‘Which PA do you want?’ ‘I don’t know, lots of K1?’ ‘Yes!’ - job done!” he added.
Clearly then, where so many co headliners have tripped, the YM@6 / ATL partnership have marched to success on every level. Creatively and technically each show was unique; the audience screamed equally as loud for both bands and no one fell out - what more could a co-headlining tour ask for?
Photos: Sarah Rushton-Read