PANTHER is a very responsive system and reacts quickly to change. The vocals tend to lead nicely, staying up front in the mix better than with last year’s system. I’ve altered some vocal compression to take advantage of this.”
Derek FeatherstoneUltraSound CEO and Dead & Company Tour Director/FOH Engineer
Dead & Company is back on the road for their 2022 Summer Tour which kicked off in mid-June at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. As they carry on the Grateful Dead tradition of using the latest innovations in sound reinforcement, the tour is powered by a system featuring Meyer Sound’s new PANTHER large-format linear line array loudspeaker. The band further augmented its seemingly limitless repertoire of tunes while UltraSound — decades-long audio provider for the Grateful Dead and successor ensembles — assembled the largest system of PANTHER loudspeakers in North America, and the first to roll out on a USA tour.
To cover expansive audience areas in a mix of sports stadiums and larger sheds, UltraSound is carrying a PANTHER inventory that allows reconfiguration for venue size. For stadiums, a typical deployment is four identical arrays — two main front and two side — each comprising fourteen PANTHER loudspeakers, with four PANTHER-W wide coverage versions flown under 12 PANTHER-L long-throw versions.
Mixing the band for PANTHER’s North American touring debut is FOH Engineer Derek Featherstone, who also serves as tour director and UltraSound CEO.
“PANTHER is a very responsive system and reacts quickly to change,” remarks Featherstone. “The vocals tend to lead nicely, staying up front in the mix better than with last year’s system. I’ve altered some vocal compression to take advantage of this. Also, the general consensus so far is that PANTHER needs less EQ, so optimizing the system is quicker. We don’t need as much high frequency boost in stadiums, and the detail is more transparent.”
Weighing in at 150 lb (68 kg), the PANTHER loudspeaker nevertheless produces greater than 150 dB peak SPL. The compact size and reduced weight save on transportation costs while the new Class D amplifier dramatically reduces power consumption. PANTHER is the first line array system to offer AVB Milan™ protocol network connection directly to the loudspeaker cabinet.
As tour director, Featherstone appreciates the added flexibility afforded by PANTHER’s power-to-size/weight ratio.
“We’re using the same count of PANTHER as we had for LEO last year, but the reduced size and weight allowed us to carry more subs and deploy them more effectively. Recovered truck space allowed us to bring the VLFCs, while PANTHER’s reduced weight makes it easier to do more end-fire sub arrays in stadiums within the same total weight limits.”
For larger venue deployments, PANTHER arrays are bolstered in the bass registers by 18 flown 1100‑LFC low-frequency control elements plus 12 700-HP high-power subwoofers on the ground. Ten VLFC very low-frequency control elements extend response down to a subsonic 13 Hz. A dozen LEOPARD compact line array loudspeakers are deployed singly for front fill, and a total of eight GALAXY Network Platforms provide system drive and optimization. The stage foldback system comprises 10 MJF‑210 and two MJF-212A stage monitors along with two JM‑1P loudspeakers for side fill and two 1100-LFC elements as drum subs.
“We invested in PANTHER for three reasons,” says Featherstone. “We needed additional inventory, we were confident that the fidelity would be as expected from Meyer Sound, and we would benefit from the added versatility. We are already getting a good deal of interest from other tours and events after Dead & Company wrap up next month.”
In addition to Featherstone, the Dead & Company tour is supported by Michał Kacunel (system engineer), Ross Harris (recording engineer and ground PA tech), Lonnie Quinn and Ian Dubois (monitor engineers), along with crew members Sean McAdam, Aaron Lauzier, and Reilly Williamson.
The band’s 2022 tour proceeds eastward with 20 shows scheduled in 16 cities, wrapping up at Citi Field in New York on July 16. Of the tour venues, four are Major League Baseball stadiums, one an NFL stadium, and one college football stadium, with the balance at larger sheds.
Dead & Company was formed in 2015 when the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Bob Weir joined forces with artist and musician John Mayer, Allman Brothers’ bassist Oteil Burbridge, and Fare Thee Well and RatDog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, and has quickly become one of the most successful touring bands year over year. Since its formation, the band has completed seven tours playing to millions of fans and became a record-breaking stadium act when it broke Wrigley Field’s all-time concert attendance record, which still holds to this day. Having toured consistently since its 2015 debut, the band has grossed almost $340 million and has sold nearly three and a half million tickets.