Having released their fourth studio album, The Dream, in February of this year, Brit indie rock trio alt-J recently wrapped up a two-month tour of North America and are now back on their home soil for four weeks of UK tour dates throughout May. Worley Sound, a new sound reinforcement provider based in Nashville, serves as the band’s audio gear supplier for The Dream Tour and carries an L-Acoustics K Series loudspeaker package for alt-J’s full 2022 worldwide trek.
“I spent four years as a systems engineer, monitor tech, and crew chief in the UK, followed by another eight years as an account and operations manager in the US, but then Covid struck and, like many others in this industry, my job disappeared,” recalls Worley Sound Owner and Director Tom Worley. “After heading back home to New Zealand to rethink my career, I decided to establish a new touring sound company and have centralized headquarters in Nashville.”
Although alt-J is a new Worley Sound client, Worley himself previously served as the systems engineer for previous tours supporting the band’s second and third albums, 2014’s This Is All Yours and 2017’s Relaxer, both of which carried L-Acoustics loudspeaker packages. These days, the role of systems engineer is handled by Worley Sound’s Benny Masterton, who is responsible for measuring each room, then designing, flying, and tuning the PA for every show.
The largest and most common system deployment for the North American tour leg included a dozen L-Acoustics K1 enclosures flown over four K2 for both the left and right mains, each backed by a hang of eight KS28 subs. Out-fill coverage was provided by additional arrays of 12 K2 over three Kara per side, with eight Kara and four ARCS II down on stage level supplying front-fill. Low-frequency impact was bolstered by four additional ground-based KS28 spread out across the face of the stage. All enclosures were driven by LA12X amplified controllers, while two P1 processors located at the FOH mix position supplied main and redundant networking via Milan-AVB. Both the full FOH and monitor control packages, which included an Avid S6L-24D and DiGiCo Quantum225 respectively, were supplied by Worley Sound, while the K Series system was dry-hired from Solotech, an L-Acoustics Certified Provider for rental (CPr).
According to Masterton, the L-Acoustics rig has been a pleasure to deploy for numerous reasons: “We’re hitting quite the range of spaces on this tour, both in terms of venue size and layout, but I feel that L-Acoustics scalability is second to none,” he says. “With a fluid combination of K1 and K2, I find that I can really dial in the PA to achieve a consistent tonal balance and relative SPL with varied room sizes, maximum trim heights, and weight available in the roof.
“I’m also really enjoying having all but four of our KS28 subs flown, which lets us squeeze a lot of low end into theaters, amphitheaters, and other venues where ground-stacking 20 subs would simply be out of the question. This sub deployment gives significant and much-needed weight to the guests being covered by the top boxes of the K1/K2 arrays and is most noticeable in the coverage of the K2 side hangs, including all the way around to the 180 line—something impossible to achieve with subs only on the ground.”
To quickly and efficiently configure the system for each show, Masterton leans heavily on Soundvision’s Autosolver tools. “I use the Autosolvers religiously and find them very accurate,” he shares. “I wholeheartedly believe they allow me to produce a better end result, particularly in the FIR filters with Autofilter. Gone are the days of knocking back the HF amp channels on the bottom couple of circuits. Now it’s scientific, accurate, and magical in the far-field!
“Autosplay, specifically in 2D source mode, saves me a significant amount of time when scaling the PA and trying different options as it instantly gives me a representation of coverage and tonality. Seeing a real-time representation of SPL in the far-field and low/low-mid response is crucial to deciding hang length and angles—all of which previously took some serious button clicking.”
Chicago-based FOH Engineer Lance Reynolds has been running alt-J’s mix for the past decade, as has Monitor Engineer John Dodkin. Reynolds was primarily responsible for moving the band over to L-Acoustics in 2015, following a solid experience with the loudspeaker brand at Coachella, and there’s been no turning back since then. “There are a lot of quality speakers available, but in my opinion, L-Acoustics systems simply sound the best,” he says. “They always deliver a realism and depth of sound that is very hi-fidelity, with an almost 3D-like quality that you can’t really measure with a test mic or measurement system. It’s always very pleasing, and I rarely feel like I have to ‘muscle’ my way through a mix when using them.”
Performing in arenas for most shows on this tour, the combination of K1/K2 with flown KS28 subs was “just the right way to go,” he adds. “There are a few songs with enormous bass parts, and this PA delivers every time. We used existing house systems on a few of the dates instead of flying our own rig, but I always find that I’m working harder to create a decent mix on other systems. With K1, I don’t make nearly as many changes to my system EQ and other elements.”
Masterton points out that one of the secrets to the tour’s sonic success lies in the L-Acoustics P1 processor. “P1 is a crucial bit of kit as far as I’m concerned,” he says. “I use them for everything—console mixing, noise generation, tuning music playback, and, most importantly, running AVB and analog outputs to the PA. When I take them into venues with pre-existing house rigs, their bussing system seamlessly integrates with any format and combination of systems I’ve come across so far. I use the P1 to tune and time-align as a standalone system so Lance can have full control of his console and do as he likes while I’m tuning. It’s an absolute gig saver when the bus breaks down and we turn up late,” he laughs.
Another serious perk of P1 is the M1 measurement tool suite used in conjunction with Network Manager monitoring and control software. “As M1 works by using sweeps and multiple mic positions, it’s the ultimate tool for averaging my data collection. And the best part is that once I’ve done the sweeps, I can tune with the PA off—or even with background music on. This has been great for those days when we’re running behind and keeping us on the good side with other departments should they require a bit of quiet while I can still crack on!”
Reynolds has witnessed much during his tenure with alt-J, which stretches back to the band’s earliest international trek. “I’ve been with them since their first North American tour in 2012 and had the fortune of being in NYC when the announcement came that they had won the Mercury Prize,” he says. “Those were fun times and very exciting! Back then, it was a ‘bare bones’ trip across America with the band, a guitar tech, and me in a Sprinter van and cheap hotels. A lot has changed since then, especially having this dream PA that we now get to tour with. L-Acoustics has been fantastic to work with, and we’re looking forward to once again giving audiences exceptional concert experiences at every stop of this year’s campaign.”
Featuring opening act Portugal. The Man, plus special guests Sir Chloe and Cherry Glazerr, The Dream Tour’s US/Canada leg kicked off on February 25th in Pittsburgh and wrapped up its 36th show on Easter Sunday in Toronto. Following a May run in the UK and various festival dates throughout the summer, alt-J will head to Australia and New Zealand in September, then move on to Europe for a November leg.
For details on alt-J’s upcoming tour stops, visit www.altjband.com. Worley Sound can be found online at www.worleysound.com.