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Wild Gravity, Shannon Noll, and the Big Drive

How far do you have to drive to get to work? Back in the rock and roll heyday, life was one long tour. Un-roadworthy vehicles plied primitive highways with the main priority to leave town before the damage bill, or equipment repossession industry, arrived. Those days might be in the hands of the industry legend factory now, but there are still a couple of production companies willing to burn lots of rubber and diesel to get the show where no man has gone before (for a while at least).

With the development of the nightclub and pokie industry over the last 20 years, the days of the big tour have been delegated to being merely a 70s and 80s phenomenon. In the last several years live music tours have become a bit of a “has been”. However the inexorable wheel of fashion turns ever onward and as teenagers are rediscovering that it's fun and sexy to be on a stage jumping around with a guitar, might we be seeing a revival of the live music culture, or is this new live vibe just a dead cat bounce?

The rock and roll tour is back. The Wild Gravity PA on the recent Shannon Noll Oz tour.
The rock and roll tour is back. The Wild Gravity PA on the recent Shannon Noll Oz tour.

Recently, Oz rocker Shannon Noll went on a big Aussie tour, proving to everyone that there is still life in live music. The Noll show booked a real road warrior for a big drive with a very non-80s production. Townsville's Wild Gravity owner, Noel Anthony, is no stranger to travel. When you live in that part of the world, 500 Km is just a short hop. But this tour was enough to test any soul. Try this on for size; Lismore to Bateman's Bay via Adelaide , Melbourne , Perth , Toowoomba and Lismore via the NSW Central coast. That's 42 shows in 50 days and that's some serious miles for one 48' Freightliner Argosy 500 HP and two drivers.

A classic-rock show, done with a new-rock attitude. A great outdoor show from the tour.
A classic-rock show, done with a new-rock attitude. A great outdoor show from the tour.

The whole show, lights, truss and stage packed into one truck, thanks to the compact Nexo Geo-S speaker system. Along with compact and lightweight Camco amp racks and two DiGiCo D1-Live mixing consoles. The crew was also compact. Apart from Noel and some local assistance, the crew was FOH mixing Dave Vinniecomb, Cam Elias monitors and Tom Allen rigging. The PA? The maximum configuration was 16 Geo-S supported by 6 – 16 subs (Noel's own brand). Monitors; 12 x PS-15 and six channels of PSM 700 in ears, all driven by a surprisingly small quantity of Camco Vortex 6 amplifiers.

Behind the scenes gear with the Wild Gravity rig on the Shannon Noll tour.
Behind the scenes gear with the Wild Gravity rig on the Shannon Noll tour.

So how did it go? According to Noel, “The biggest outdoor show was in WA at Dolakine with 1,800 people minimum. We rigged 13 Geo-S per side and it was a big fat hi-fi system, except a lot louder.” He added, “With a show like Shannon , people really want clear vocals and with the Geo-S, that's what they got–right to the very back corner of every venue”.

The Nexo Geo-S rig never looked so good.
The Nexo Geo-S rig never looked so good.
The FOH DiGiCo D1-Live digital mixing console proved its weight in gold with extensive onboard effects, gates and super-fast recall.
The FOH DiGiCo D1-Live digital mixing console proved its weight in gold with extensive onboard effects, gates and super-fast recall.

For the indoor shows he rigged 6-8 Geo-S and the average crowd would be 700 – 1,000 people. “For a compact pack and quick set up, the DiGiCo desks were a real help. All onboard effects, gates, comps etc., plus quick recall meant a set up and sound check could be all over in two hours on a good day,” said Noel. This reduction in truck space, loaders and set up times made the whole package very economical compared to the big black box scenario from days of old. One truck instead of two, plus two months of empty calendar, 9,000 litres of diesel and you're away.

The Wild Gravity Road Warrior at a show stop in Melbourne .
The Wild Gravity Road Warrior at a show stop in Melbourne .

The new technology Nexo Geo systems matched up with DiGiCo provide a vast array of space and cost saving features, allowing touring to come back into the black as far as economic viability goes. Wild Gravity would have to have one of the most modern high-tech PA systems in Australia and this is no accident. Labour rates, trucking and OH&S compliance costs of an older-style PA system is rather high these days, Wild Gravity saw the trend and made a conscious decision to reposition itself to catch this new wave. They may be in a regional centre of Queensland , but as far as seeing the future goes, Wild Gravity is way out front.

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