TobyMac tour carries DiGiCo on US arena runs
Friday, 23 April 2021
digicotobymac1DiGiCo desks mixed 18 arena shows in 13 cities during February and March
USA - Although TobyMac’s Hits Deep Tour has been an annual late-winter tradition for a number of years now, this year’s trek was particularly joyous as it represented one of North America’s first proper arena tours following the pandemic blackout year.
True to form, Nashville-based Blackhawk Audio, the long-time touring sound provider for the seven-time Grammy Award-winning Christian hip-hop/pop artist, carried DiGiCo consoles - SD10s at both FOH and monitors, plus a smaller-format SD9 support desk at FOH - which were used to mix 18 arena shows in 13 cities during February and March.
In addition to TobyMac, the 2021 Hits Deep Tour featured a full lineup of special guests, including Tauren Wells, We Are Messengers, Unspoken, Cochren & Co., and Terrian. All of the supports acts performed each night in a seamless awards-show format, bouncing between the main stage and a B stage located at FOH, with Toby McKeehan and his DiverseCity Band wrapping up as the headliner.
Although venue seating capacities varied a bit, FOH Engineer Pat Haapanen notes that nearly all of the shows “sold out” at approximately a third of each arena’s original capacity, and every section was open for sale, including behind the stage in some venues. “Although it was kind of different seeing so many empty seats in the stands and spacing on the floor, the crowd energy was very much ‘business as usual,’ which was really exciting to experience again,” he says.
First working with TobyMac in 2015 as a Blackhawk Audio system engineer, Haapanen has been manning the artist’s FOH mix since 2018. “I started on DiGiCo pretty early when I joined the Blackhawk team, and my first touring experience with Toby was on the SD10,” he recalls. “Although I had previously mixed on other console brands, DiGiCo is definitely my favourite now, not only for its fantastic sound quality, but also its adaptability and configurability.
“I’ve been able to get behind most of the SD line - the 5, 7, 9, 10 and 12 - and have used them on many different types of gigs, from corporate meetings and conferences to award shows, all of which have performed great.”
For the 2021 Hits Deep Tour, Haapanen and monitor engineer Heath Mahon each worked on an SD10 desk deployed at their respective mix positions, while an SD9 production console located at FOH additionally accommodated the two smaller B-stage acts’ FOH and monitor mixes.
“The SD9 handles all of the pre-show videos/music, emcee, and transition videos. We have almost always had something in that role, except in 2017, when we did it all on the two SD10s. Having the extra desk really helps alleviate the workload for the SD10 and allows guest engineers to have their own files and be able to hit a quick line check before they play.”
On the other end of the Optocore loop, monitor engineer Heath Mahon runs 12 sets of stereo IEMs, a stereo side-fill mix, and two separate wedge mixes. “Including Toby, I have nine performers on stage, six instrumentalists, two background singers, and one guest vocalist,” describes Mahon. “The opening acts playing the main stage average about five musicians, and they all love the mixes that monitor engineer Wil Thornton is giving them.”
Haapanen notes that they multitrack record most nights for virtual playback, or if someone needs stems for something. “That’s actually handled in monitor world,” he says. “Heath and I are set up on a standalone network just for playback via Waves Tracks Live and two DiGiGrid MGB coaxial MADI interfaces. The tracking computer plays back to both monitors and front of house simultaneously, which is very handy and works really well.”
TobyMac is now out on a new leg of outdoor Drive-In Theatre Tour shows running through mid-May. In June and August, the artist will be playing both one-off shows and festival dates, before heading back out for another arena and theatre run in October and November.

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