As many readers already know, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the rig at soundcheck on 10/20/18 and chat a bit with Trey and his guitar tech, Michael Kaye, about how it all works.  One big takeaway from my tour is that the most important thing Trey thinks about in its construction and maintenance is his ability to express himself musically and focus on what the audience and his bandmates need, not the technology.  That means that, as complex as the rig can appear, they’re making efforts all the time to keep it as simple as possible and facilitate communication with Page, Jon, and Mike, and with all of us in the crowd.  For example, one reason they moved the gear rack behind Trey is that it was impeding communication between Trey and Page when it was between them.  Another example: they have an outboard foot controller that toggles through specific “favorite” presets on the Whammy II (Trey only uses a handful of the 12 settings), but as convenient as that sounds they find the additional pedal distracting from the fundamental task of making music.

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The second big takeaway was that the rig is really dynamic from night to night.  I’d heard this before, but didn’t appreciate the full extent of it until I saw it in person.  In early Fall, the “voicing” pedals (all the EHX pedals and the OC-2) and the compression were particularly in flux.  The pedal drawers and rack-top are designed to allow for pedal rotation, with velcro fasteners, interchangeable power cables, and spare parts available in abundance when changes are necessary.  When I arrived on stage, Trey had just asked that the Ross Compressor be returned to the rig in place of the Klon.  Earlier that day, they had installed a second Tru-Tron so that Trey would have access to two settings without toggling manually.  During soundcheck, Trey requested the addition of a second POG2 for the same reason.  On 10/23/18 in Nashville, they’d added the EHX Key9 and Boss OC-2.  It’s constantly changing – so much so that they keep a label-maker on hand to replace the labels on the RST-24 on the fly.  Given that, the rig explainers we do here at TGR really are snapshots of a moment in time, which is why I generally have dates attached to photos.

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Below you’ll find the usual rig rundown format that has appeared in previous tour notes over the years, but I’ve interspersed information gleaned from my conversations with Trey and Michael.  I’ll update this over the course of the tour.

Heartfelt thanks to Michael, the Phish organization, and especially to Trey Anastasio, who has been an enormous influence on my musical and creative pursuits over these many years, and who was more kind, gracious, and generous with his time than I could have imagined.

Amplification: 2 x Komet Trainwreck 60.  One has 6L6 tubes and the other has EL-34, with the 6L6 being used most often.   6L6 is a blackface-to-tweedy Fender sound with a strong mid-focus, while the EL-34 is a Marshall sound, with an even more aggressive, muscular low end.

Cabinets:

Ambikabs:  2 Komet Ambikabs.  Each Ambikab has its own effects loop with a Source Audio Ventris Reverb and an Eventide TimeFactor.  The 12″ speakers are Celestion Heritage 65’s.  The cabs are cross-mic’d for a wider soundstage; see below for more details.

Leslies:  2 x Leslie G-37.  One of the Leslies is dedicated to guitar, while the other is used for the samples coming from the McMillen 12-step.  There is a Leslie speed selector switch and a volume expression pedal that controls the Guitar Leslie volume.

Guitars:

Electric:  Koa 1. Koa 2 is backup and Mar-Mar is in the hotel and dressing room.

Mics: Trey’s rig is mic’d by a Shure SM-57 and a Royer SF-12.  Trey also uses SE GuitarF Reflexion Filters to isolate these mics.  Trey also told me that he added extra filters to the non-mic’d speakers just to tame some of the stage volume.

Effects (see below for order):

Gain/Overdrive
•  2 x Tube Screamer (vintage TS-808)
•  Klon
•  Ross Compressor (this was out other than 10/21)

Voicing
•  Digitech Whammy II
•  2 x Electro Harmonix (“EHX”) POG2 (second added 10/21)
•  EHX B9 (the EHX Mel 9 has been in this slot also)
•  EHX Key9 (definitely IN for Nashville)
•  Boss OC-2 Octave Pedal (definitely IN for Nashville)
•  2 x Beigel Tru-Tron 3x Envelope Filter (second added 10/20)
•  CAE Wah

Time-Based (reverb and delay)
•  Boomerang
•  Eventide Space Reverb
•  Source Audio Ventris (Ambikab Loops)
•  2 x Eventide TimeFactor (Ambikab Loops, set to DIGI)
•  Moog MF-104M analog delay
•  2 x Way Huge Supa Puss atop rack (both have the R79 removed from the printed circuit board, allowing for a smoother curve or more linear slope on the mix control.  One is set to quarter note, the other to dotted eighth.)
•  Ibanez DM-2000 digital delay

Modulation
•  Victoria Reverberato (used only for Trem on Phish tour, but Reverb is used on Acoustic Tour and in the studio. Trey called the Reverberato loop his “warm switch,” since the extra tube stage warms up the signal noticeably)
•  Bradshaw Custom Super Tremolo (for CHOP)
•  Shin -Ei UniVibe
•  McMillen 12-step midi keyboard foot controller (see the bottom of the 2018 Spring TAB Tour entry for a full explainer)

•  Snark SN-10S Tuner (replaces the Korg rack tuner. It’s fed from the tuner output of the Leslie volume pedal)

RST-24
Here’s the CAE RST-24 switcher with all the loops labeled. While I was there for soundcheck on 10/20, they removed the Klon and replaced it with the Ross (bottom left). A new sticker was printed with a label-maker and affixed right on the spot. The Ross came out again shortly thereafter.  After New Year’s 2017-18, the Bradshaw system went back for some tweaks. Bradshaw puts makeup gain stages between the loops in his rack systems in the form of small amps.  Each loop bumps the signal a bit, and it resulted in a 2.4dB overall bump from the input of the Bradshaw rig to the output.  Trey didn’t like this bump so they had the amps pulled out of the circuit.

expander
After soundcheck and before the show, they added a 4-button expander above the CAE, shown here. This was to give Trey access to the second Tru-Tron. By 10/21, the left two expander buttons were Tru-Tron #1 and #2, and the right two buttons were for POG2 #1 and #2.  There’s a full backup for this board off stage in case this one has an issue, and all changes made to the main board are made to the backup, so it’s ready at a moment’s notice.

rack top - 10-20.png
Here are the rack top pedals on 10/20 at Hampton.  “Supa T” is set to the dotted eighth setting, while “PUSS 4” is set to the quarter note setting.   A second Tru-Tron was added that morning so that Trey would have access to multiple settings.  The B9 is a dedicated organ simulator, so the POG can focus on Octave up/down settings.  The Moog is used exclusively for a very specific sound; the LFO is maxed and the mix is at 100% – it sounds like a laser-beam and Trey engages it very sparingly for a quick disorienting transitional sound.

rack top
The next night (10/21), the Moog had been placed on one of the rack shelves, out of view, and a second POG2 was added so that Trey would have access to two POG2 settings without having to turn around and mess with presets. The rig is very dynamic night-to-night, with Trey requesting changes right up through soundcheck.  The additional POG and Tru-Tron were triggered using the CAE Expander shown above.

TS - Ross
A nice look at the settings on the TS-808s and the Ross Compressor (which was in for 10/20/18 at Hampton).  Trey added it earlier that day, but removed it again before the next show.  Trey seems pretty confident that the Ross isn’t necessary with the Komet amps, since the naturally overdriven tubes are creating their own compression as they saturate and distort.  Outboard compression was more important, he suggested, during the Mesa/Boogie era.  The Ross can add an inharmonic tone below the fundamental as well as some noise, so it’s not worth using if you don’t need the gain stage/compression.

Wham-Rang-Loops- Wah
Here’s the CAE Wah, a Digitech Whammy II, the Boomerang, and the Keith McMillen 12-step. The 12-step triggers the loops stored on 2 laptops off-stage. It’s labeled with the names of the loop banks, and each bank can be triggered in any key.  You tap to select a bank, then the dual function buttons act like piano keys to select the pitch/key.  The banks are labeled (from top): LOOPS, DMT, CORRAL, GLADE, FX, A6, REGRESS, HAL. The Whammy was new-in-the-box last year, hence is in mint condition despite its 22 years.  It came from Dimebag Darrell via Marty Friedman. Though he has the POG2, which tracks more accurately, Trey said he still uses the Whammy II for octave effects occasionally, in addition to sweeps (very frequently).  I said I hadn’t heard the 4th/5th harmonizer setting in awhile so Trey played with it a bit through soundcheck.  They added gaffer tape under the Whammy bypass switch to avoid accidental bypassing.  They added a light to the Boomerang for THRU/MUTE (top of unit) to avoid accidental muting.

Komets
There are two Komet Trainwreck 60 amps. On the right in this shot is the 6L6 and EL-34 on the left.  They’re never used simultaneously.  With the guitar on full volume, both of these amps are very gritty. Trey rolls off the guitar volume for a cleaner sound. A lighter pick attack will also clean up the sound a bit. The 6L6 is used most often, with the EL-34 engaged for particular sounds, like on Walk Away (10/19/18), which was played without outboard overdrive.  Trey played the opening licks for me at soundcheck and it was scorching even without pedals.  He also showed me a pretty sweet clean tone using a soft attack and a slightly rolled off volume on the 6L6 (playing Roggae).  The preamp tubes in the 6L6 are NOS Amperex Bugle Boy tubes, which have different gain characteristics than a Mullard, and a good, crystalline clear, high end.  NOS Mullards are in the EL-34.

Ambikabs
Here’s one Ambikab of two. The reflection filters help more cleanly mic the amp, but Trey wanted them on the unmic’d speakers as well in order to tame the stage volume a bit (it can be loud). The cabs are cross-mic’d, so that the 12″ speakers from the 6L6 cabinet are used with the 10″ speakers from the EL-34 cabinet, and vice versa. The result is a very wide soundstage behind Trey. He hits a note and the dry tone comes from one cabinet while the delayed/reverbed tone from the Ambikab loops comes from the other cabinet.  Trey wanted me to hear the EL-34 amp with the TS-808 (MORE) on, but was hesitant play it in an empty room for fear of blowing my hair back.  Eventually he played Divided Sky with those settings, as he’d done at the show the night before.

bass-leslie-chop-once
The “ONCE” switch on the top right is used in conjunction with the Boomerang to create the high G-note “chirp” in Heavy Things. Trey pulls it closer to his feet when they do that song. At left is Trey’s controller for his bass monitor volume.  The tuner out of that pedal sends a bass signal to the SWR bass amp for Page’s bass monitor. In the center you can see a Leslie volume control, a Leslie speed control switch (FAST/SLOW), and the CHOP speed control for the square-wave speed on the CAE Trem.

Koa1
The one and only Koa 1. I had the opportunity to play a few notes on this guitar after the soundcheck in Hampton on 10/20 and a few things really stuck out. First, it’s smaller than it looks on stage, which makes it even harder to believe that Trey is able to control the feedback at high volumes.  Second, the action is quite high — higher than I was comfortable playing. Presumably Trey is happy to make that compromise for the trade-off in superior tone. It’s been well-love and heavily played — there’s a deep wear-mark in the Koa where Trey’s pinky rolls down the volume knob. The neck is quite slim and very comfy.  The strings on this guitar are D’Addario EXP 110 coated 10-46, and they’re not necessarily changed every night. Trey doesn’t sweat significantly on the guitar, which prevents corrosion.  They like the fact that these strings are not quite as bright out of the box as uncoated strings.  Also Paul builds the guitars to intonate with these particular strings, which means they don’t have to tweak the guitar’s bridge on the road.  Koa 2 is backup and Mar-Mar is in the dressing room and hotel.

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Me with Koa 1.

Effect Order (as of Hampton 10/20/18):

Whammy–>
Wah–>
Klon–>
POG2–>
Mutron1–>
Mutron2–>
EHX B9–>
Puss Quarter Note–>
TS-808 Less–>
TS- 808 More–>
Supa Dotted Eighth–>
Victoria Reverberato–>
Shin Ei Univibe–>
CAE Tremolo Chop–>
Moog MF-104M–>
Boomerang–>
Ibanez DM – 2000–>
Eventide Space–>
(then Ventris and Eventide Time Factor)

Here’s a Twitter thread on the Kasvot Växt rig for Halloween (click for more):