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So, there's already been discussion about how some bands (Devin Townsend, Meshuggah, Periphery, etc) run everything direct nowadays, and there's always debate about stage volume and sound in the first few rows, as well as whether this is a good idea for smaller bands playing smaller venues.
I've seen Devin Townsend Band both with amps and all direct, and while his tone was better with the Mesa gear, the mix was cleaner, clearer, and more dynamic with his current setup of no speakers on stage and all in-ear monitoring. Honestly, I loved both equally and in completely different ways. Ditto for Periphery wih their amps vs. current Axe/Mackie setup.
Last weekend I saw I Fight Dragons (not metal, 90% of you will hate, won't bother linking ) and they had a cheaper version of the same setup, in a tiny bar.
The two guitarists were running POD HDs (500 for lead guitarist, 300 for the singer) and the bassist was using a Zoom pedal that sounded surprisingly decent direct to the PA. They also have an elaborate keyboard/sampling setup with some creative triggers arranged throughout the stage, as well as lights and a video screen, all connected to a laptop. Being a fan, but not previously seeing them live, just videos, I figured their set up and tear down must take forever, and they were the openers on this tour.
Rolling with their own rack with mixer and in-ears meant they simply pulled out the snake and plugged everything in. The venue was too small to need drum mics, so they just set up a cheap kick and overhead mic for their in-ears. Soundcheck was minimal. All told, I think changeover between bands was maybe 10-15 minutes (headliners had an elaborate setup with lots of keyboards and vocal mics, too).
As for sound? They pointed the floor monitors at the audience and after a half song to get the mix right for FOH, I didn't notice anything was different the rest of their set.
Conclusion: I still don't think it's for everybody or the only or best way to do things, but it's the best way to do things for certain bands and certain sounds, and totally works regardless of size of venue or band.
I dig these guys
[VIDEO]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FKoplr-c1k]I Fight Dragons - Money - YouTube[/VIDEO]
And if I played in a consistent venue all the time I would totally be 100% direct.