The Jayhawks Perform At McNear’s Mystic Theatre

Been Crowded In The Wings, Mostly I Don’t Mind

The Jayhawks McNear's Mystic Petaluma CA

 By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

On Monday February 6, 2012, I took a walk down memory lane to McNear’s Mystic Theatre in Petaluma, CA to see The Jayhawks, a legendary alt-country-rock band from Minneapolis, MN. The opener, Abigail Washburn was accompanied by Kai Welch. The duo played a heartful set of her folk songs, mixing harmonic vocals with guitar and banjo. At one point in the set, Abigail and Kai sang a song completely a capella, without using any instruments or even microphones. Sounded great.

The Mystic is shaped like a classic movie theatre, with good acoustic treatments on the walls, providing a perfect canvas for the warm, analog PA. The house sound system includes a Soundcraft MH3 console, driving a well designed Apogee loudspeaker rig.  Analog audio geeks and sound engineers, you can see the full technical details of the Mystic Theatre’s FOH and monitor systems here.

The Jayhawks have taken on a few different forms since they started playing as a band in 1985.  After being on hiatus from 2005 to 2009, the band reunited to their Tomorrow The Green Grass lineup of Gary Louris, Mark Olson, Marc Perlman, Tim O’Reagan, and Karen Grotberg. Their latest album, Mockingbird Time, was released in 2011, twenty-five years after their first recording.  They opened their set at McNear’s with the classic Wichita from the Hollywood Town Hall album, followed by a song off Mockingbird Time called Cinnamon Love.  The new album songs went over well with the polite crowd, who seemed happy to support the band’s “new direction”.

I counted 17 songs before the encore break, about two-thirds would be what I would call “old stuff” (Two Angels, Pray For Me, Take Me With You When You Go) and about one-third “new stuff” (Black-Eyed Susan, Mockingbird Time).  It was nice to hear them play Clifton Bridge from Mark Olson’s solo album, The Salvation Blues, released in 2007.  They closed the set with A Break In The Clouds off of the album Smile, and the traditional gospel song Up Above My Head, inviting Abigail and Kai to join them back on the stage.

Gary Louris, Mark Olson, Marc Perlman, Tim O'Reagan, and Karen Grotberg of The Jayhawks

After much applause, The Jayhawks returned to the stage to play four more songs, including of my favorites from Rainy Day Music, Tampa To Tulsa.  The drummer, Tim O’Reagan, wrote the song and also sings lead on it.  His voice is so soothing, I  wish he sang lead on a few more Jayhawks tunes (and I know I’m not the only one!)  I guess in that way, Tampa to Tulsa is kind of like The Jayhawk’s version of Beth, the ballad sang by Kiss drummer, Peter Criss.  Hearing it performed live always sounds special and unique, leaving the crowd wanting more. Left to right above: Gary Louris, Mark Olson, Marc Perlman, Tim O’Reagan, and Karen Grotberg of The Jayhawks 2/6/2012.


Acoustical Consultants

Acoustics For Critical Listening Environments

Tavius Aiton, Architectural Acoustics

Guest blogger Tavius Aiton has worked in audio and acoustics for the past decade, from design and sales, to project management. Tavius is owner of Architectural Acoustics in San Jose, CA.

The solution always begins with understanding the problem. Acoustically, client expectations and needs are defined most by the purpose of their space. Obviously, budget and materials finishes factors into the equation as well; but in critical listening environments, acoustics should drive the design and budget.

Acoustics are best handled in the design phase of new construction.  Any critical listening space should first be optimized for shape and size, defined by its intended purpose, speaker orientation and patterns, as well as listening positions. Often, noise must be contained within a space, as well as isolated from outside. Wall, ceiling and floor construction design are important for sound and vibration isolation issues from adjacent spaces.

In rooms with shared walls needing isolation, choosing the proper stud type and configuration are important. Often, more floor space is required as there is greater airspace and less connection points between the walls. Double stud, or staggered stud layouts are often considered along with insulation. Isolation clips can be applied on rails across the studs to further isolation.

CIRCA Art Gallery, photo courtesy of Pinta Acoustics
CIRCA Art Gallery, photo courtesy of Pinta Acoustics

Early incident reflections may be desired in many critical listening spaces, but this needs to be carefully considered, because too much reverberation reduces speech intelligibility and musical clarity.  Ideal reverberation times should be called out by consultants.  Absorptive materials, or porous materials, allowing flow resistance of sound energy, can reduce reflections by frequencies depending upon type of material, thickness and airspace or backing material.

Reflection can be important, especially in larger spaces. Early incident sound reflections can be redirected to listeners prior to the room “coloring” them due to longer reverberation times.  Often, sound energy is redirected specifically based on size, shape, and type of materials placed throughout the room. Diffusion, or even-scattering of sound reflections, can be a necessary consideration in controlling the sound level equality throughout a space and maintain sound integrity.

Critical listening spaces require many considerations.  The earlier an acoustical consultant is brought in on the job, the better.  Often this can avoid acoustical issues that may be difficult, or more challenging, and costly to consider later.  Its also important to have a qualified contractor to implement the consultants design criteria, by properly installing the acoustic treatments, and remaining within budget.

Often budgets include high end equipment, and little to no acoustical treatments.  This is another reason to hire the appropriate consultant from the start: to have all the acoustical requirements laid out and included in your budget.  Ensure the most affective and affordable solutions for your acoustical or noise reduction needs. Make the most of your critical listening space and the investment in time, energy, and capital!

I would be happy to recommend a consultant specific to your needs.

For more information, please contact Tavius Aiton at

Business Office Acoustics

How Proper Acoustics Can Improve Productivity In Your Work Environment

Tavius Aiton, Owner of Architectural Acoustics

Guest blogger Tavius Aiton has worked in audio and acoustics for the past decade, from design and sales, to project management. Tavius is owner of Architectural Acoustics in Palo Alto, CA.

Typically, the main problem with business office space is nurturing an environment that minimizes unnecessary distractions, promotes privacy, and ensures the quality of video conferences and phone calls. Today, we will discuss some of the most common acoustic challenges in business office environments, and how those challenges can be overcome.

Sound Masking:  Many offices are open plan, or cubicle style layouts.  Noise, especially conversations, can be distracting in this environment, disturbing a coworker’s concentration, focus, and productivity. Sound masking is a technology designed for open/ cubical style office spaces having typical lay-in drop ceiling acoustical tiles.  Speakers are tuned with a “pink” noise. This is slightly more towards the lower end of the sound spectrum than “white” noise, which can be perceived as a harsher tone.

These sound masking speakers are usually mounted in cans that are suspended from the roof deck within the plenum space in an engineered pattern. These units are oriented upwards so that the sound “mushrooms” above the acoustical ceiling and disperses more evenly throughout the office space. This effect makes office noise less noticeable and more of a background that becomes unconscious over time.

The advantage to introducing noise subliminally into an environment is that it raises the overall noise floor making changes in sound levels less variant, thus less noticeable or distracted.  Sound masking also increases speech privacy.  As the masking sound level is increased, ambient office noise become less clear at closer distances. This is especially advantageous in open/cubicle style offices spaces where many people are working together and sound isolation may be poor or nonexistent.   It has been shown that speech privacy in working environments can increase productivity.

Conference Rooms: Many conference room walls are not finished to the roof deck, and instead go only up to the drop ceiling tile grid. This allows sound, including private conversations, to escape into the surrounding work environment.  Lay-in drop ceiling acoustical tiles tend to be absorptive in nature, which allows sound to pass through them. This is why they do not make a good barrier for sound isolation.  Once walls are finished to the roof deck, a second layer of gypsum board can be added to the existing wall with a visco-elastic damping compound between for constrained layer damping.  Finish with a non-hardening sealant around perimeter and butt joints to maintain isolation of gypsum board from hard edges where sound vibration can more easily trespass.

Office doors are not usually fully sealed and can also allow a fair amount of sound leakage, adding to the issue of inadequate privacy.  Windows can allow sound trespassing as well, but typically add to the reverberation in a room like other reflective surfaces causing difficulties in speech intelligibility and music clarity, especially where amplified audio exists like audiovisual conferencing.

Many conference rooms are implemented with desk-top conferencing phones or ceiling microphones.  End users typically shy away from desktop microphones for fear of picking up unwanted noise made by articles being moved around the microphones, or brushing over them.  Speaker to microphone distance is one of the most important factors in achieving speech intelligibility.  Often, ceiling microphones are preferred by the end users, but these distances are greater than desired, causing issues with detecting the speaker’s signal loud enough for its clear transmission to the far side by picking up more of the ambient noise within the room as well.

Additional absorption can be considered in these environments to help reduce reflections and noise build up due to reverberation.  The amount of absorption is dependent upon existing finishes in the room, volume of the space, or desired reverberation time.

In conclusion, conference room walls should be installed to the roof deck, a second layer of gypsum board with a visco-elastic damping compound like Pinta Decibel Drop to achieve constrained layer damping.  Also, sound masking should be implemented in open or cubicle office spaces, and added absorption with audio amplified spaces such as audio/video conferencing rooms may be needed to get intelligible signals.

For more information, please contact Tavius Aiton at Architectural Acoustics.