The five musicians that make up the band Ricki and the Flash are all top shelf players. Their credits are the stuff of legends; you hear them on the radio every day. Of the five, only bass player Rick Rosas and drummer Joe Vitale had played together before, as the rhythm section of the reunion tour for the legendary Buffalo Springfield (no relation to Rick Springfield).
Bernie Worrell is a visionary funk keyboardist and a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. His credits include Parliament/Funkadelic and Talking Heads. Rick Springfield is a fantastic guitarist who also played Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital.
Meryl Streep, of course, is one of the most renowned actresses in the world.
To get them to be Ricki and the Flash, we set up in the World Famous Rodeo Bar in the Murray Hill district of Manhattan. The Rodeo Bar is a long, narrow room with a brick wall behind the band. We were in a small space, and they were very LOUD.
We set up the band in an authentic club configuration and laid out the monitors for them. We used three StudioLive™ 312AI cabinets for the vocalists and keyboard position and a StudioLive 315AI for the drum wedge.
When we first set up the wedges, we decided to just use them in the standard DSP configuration. The speakers use Dave Gunness’ TQ™ (Temporal Equalization) settings to correct for the acoustical issues that arise in a coaxial design. In addition, each box has DSP settings designed to assist the user in different acoustic situations. There are four settings on the back of the speaker, accessed by a small button. The settings are: Normal (full range for front-of-house), LBR Source (for low-bit-rate digital audio, such as MP3 playback), Floor Monitor (for stage wedge), and a custom User preset.
Neil Citron is a long-time studio engineer, guitarist, and all around great guy. He ran the Mothership for Steve Vai for 15 years and is a member of the Sapphire Group, a bunch of audiophiles in Los Angeles. Neil has incredible ears and was brought in to teach Meryl guitar, be the music director, and record the performances.
Neil and I set up the wedges, supervised by Mark Wolfson, and we ran some program material through them. We really liked the sound of the default Normal setting, so we left it. As soon as the band showed up, we quickly realized that the stage mix just wasn’t “there.” A quick button-push, and the boxes were in Stage Monitor mode; they sat perfectly in the mix, with no additional EQ required.
We used one StudioLive 312AI plus one StudioLive 18sAI subwoofer per side of the “house” PA. We put the top boxes on using the SP1BK subwoofer pole; this also allowed us to steer the top box to reduce reflections off of the brick walls.
Thanks to Brad Graham, Rapco generously provided us with microphone cable and snakes to wire the stage. We wired the guitars using Radial JDX DIs to get the sound of the amplifier, not the guitar. We used Radial JDIs on the bass and keys. Thanks to Roxanne Ricks of Audio-Technica, we had A-T mics on the Leslie and hi-hat. We also used the fantastic A-T ribbons for ambient room miking. We had triggers on the drum kit; more about that later.
Here were the basic challenges:
I’ll get into the recording aspect in the next part.
I need to give major props to Gary Goetzman, the producer, who took five musicians who had not played together before (with the exception of the rhythm section) and turned them into a real band in two weeks. Everyone was at the top of their game, and the professionalism of the band and producer really shone through.