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Thread: Fake stage amps or the "grand illusion".

  1. #1

    Fake stage amps or the "grand illusion".

    fake-amp-stacks.jpg
    I'm guessing I'm way late on catching this train but I assume many of you were already aware of this 'trickery'. I only just got wind of it. Apparently, this is nothing new & pretty much every major hard rock/ metal band has done it. (As soon as I saw it, I immediately started wondering about certain bands. I figured right away that KISS is probably the biggest offender. I checked Rush photos & all I saw was Alex with 8 of them.)

    One guy who responded to the photo wrote:

    33yrs I've built rock shows...
    The most I've seen is two real cabinets behind a wall of fake or empty shells.
    And most of the time, only one was miked through the 'P.A.' & one was a spare... Including the Scorps, who used empty cabinets. And went as far as running fake power indicator lights on the fake cabs
    Just say'n ...At a 10,000+ show, you can mic an acoustic guitar through a P.A. as big as you want... using a 10watt practice amp for your guitar...&fyi, Motley is notorious for this crap. Power indicator lights &all! Now a days Crue can't even play live w/out using a computer program called PRO TOOLS. Look it up. Anybody can be Motley Crue, even you...
    Back before computer programs they hired a 2nd guitar player, & kept him hidden under the stage, along side a guy playing keys, to get that full Motley Crue sound.
    Impossible to do that music w/3pc&1vox,only.
    But, most fans don't believe it...
    I KNOW! I'VE BUILT IT!
    33yrs &many 80s metal hair bands...& of all the bands, they are the most likely.
    They're more worried about their hair, make up & chicks,man


    Eye-opening for me. Anyone know who proven culprits are?
    Last edited by Rickenbacker; 07-25-2013 at 01:18 PM.

  2. #2
    Studmuffin Scott Bails's Avatar
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    I've always kind of assumed that not every speaker in those "Walls of Marshalls" was plugged in, but to see that it's just a facade was rather eye-opening.


    Personally, I like Geddy Lee's approach the last 10 years or so.
    Music isn't about chops, or even about talent - it's about sound and the way that sound communicates to people. Mike Keneally

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    Oh No! Bass Solo! klothos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rickenbacker View Post

    Eye-opening for me. Anyone know who proven culprits are?
    Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Judas Priest for starters......Maybe The Who, but Im not sure if those were dummies..... Spinal Tap for having the LARGEST Marshall dummy cab ( I saw it at a studio when I was hired to do a recording session in Crystal River, Florida)

  4. #4
    Member Yanks2014's Avatar
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    Hey, I love good visuals at concerts, the whole stacked amps thing has always been a big part of it. I don't care if any sound is coming from them.

  5. #5
    Oh No! Bass Solo! klothos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yanks2009 View Post
    Hey, I love good visuals at concerts, the whole stacked amps thing has always been a big part of it. I don't care if any sound is coming from them.
    Me too

  6. #6
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    I refuse to believe that they're fake.

  7. #7
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    I refuse to believe that they're fake.
    I'm the same way with Dolly Parton.

  8. #8
    Studmuffin Scott Bails's Avatar
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    Music isn't about chops, or even about talent - it's about sound and the way that sound communicates to people. Mike Keneally

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    Member Jerjo's Avatar
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    led-zep-live-l.jpg

    Um, Zep never had that many amps onstage. They had a huge PA system overhead when I saw them but the stage amps were pretty minimal. Page had three or four, JPJ had one.
    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Bails View Post


    Personally, I like Geddy Lee's approach the last 10 years or so.
    If I remember correctly, that started because Geddy went to a Sansamp system, which is basically just a small amp emulator device that plugs directly into the PA with no speakers or whatever. I think he said he felt his side of the stage "felt empty" so he and the crew came up with the idea of putting washing machines back where his amps used to be.

    As for the fake amps thing, there's Eddie Van Halen's setup in the early 80's. If you check out the Fair Warning era videos (eg Here About It Later, So This Is Love, etc), he's got this massive speaker array.

    Lots of metal and hard rock bands have had the "big walls of amps". I remember Paul Stanley saying once that in the early days of Kiss, they'd have to tell the lighting guys to be careful with how they lit the stage, because apparently they couldn't afford to have actual speakers in their dummy speaker cabinets, and a misplaced light could make this very obvious to the audience.

    Tony Banks said one time that when Genesis would support other bands in the early days, he was always impressed that they had this big amp arrays, until he realized at some point that most of them didn't have speakers in it. I think that's what led to Genesis going the opposite direction, with there being no speakers visible to the audience (as per the cover of Genesis Live). I kinda like that look.

    Oh, and another one I heard about was that apparently on their recent tours, Tangerine Dream have had these giant flat screen projection deals, showing a "virtual" modular synthesizer. And I've also heard accusations that at least in the early 80's, the modular synths you saw onstage weren't even hooked up (there's stage photos from that era where you can see there are no patch cords hooked up to large sections of their modular synth gear).

    And Neil Young's giant amps have already been mentioned. I read where Neil said he started using that setup on the Rust Never Sleeps tour, because the concept of that show was that the show represents a kid dreaming about being a "star". Hence the boy imagines everything as being larger than life, hence the giant amps and mic stand (and also the presence of the Road-eyes, which were modeled on the Jawas from Star Wars, because daydreaming kids will populate their "rock n roll fantasies" with other things from the current pop culture things).

  11. #11
    Van Halen were the winners of fake cabinets circa the Fair Warning tour... need to find some pics!! They kind of disappeared into a backdrop with more amps...

    oops, GG beat me

  12. #12
    Oh No! Bass Solo! klothos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerjo View Post
    led-zep-live-l.jpg

    Um, Zep never had that many amps onstage. They had a huge PA system overhead when I saw them but the stage amps were pretty minimal. Page had three or four, JPJ had one.
    I mention them because, the way I understood it, they would setup two- to four- Marshall fullstacks. Sometimes, only one or two were used while the others were for looks...not exactly a "wall", per se

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by klothos View Post
    I mention them because, the way I understood it, they would setup two- to four- Marshall fullstacks. Sometimes, only one or two were used while the others were for looks...not exactly a "wall", per se
    Or maybe the extra one or two amps were backups, in case one of the main amps went down.

  14. #14
    Oh No! Bass Solo! klothos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    Or maybe the extra one or two amps were backups, in case one of the main amps went down.
    <forehead smack>

    yeah, probably

    sometimes, the angle of a photo of Page onstage would be just right and it looks like hes standing in front of a Marshall wall

  15. #15
    Studmuffin Scott Bails's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    Or maybe the extra one or two amps were backups, in case one of the main amps went down.
    This is what I always assumed was going on - some of the extras were backups.
    Music isn't about chops, or even about talent - it's about sound and the way that sound communicates to people. Mike Keneally

  16. #16
    Member wideopenears's Avatar
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    Soundguys hate loud amps on stage, and with good reason. Trying to mix front-of-house sound when a guitarist goes to crank up his Marhsall stacks is a real pain in the ass. And stage volume is another issue-the bigger the stage gets, the farther apart musicians are, the harder it is to hear each other, and in fact you start noticing delays and can be subject to timing issues, etc. Hard to believe, I know, but it happens. Too much volume from a line of amps can play havoc with a monitor mix, as well.

    These are good reasons why most of that stuff is cosmetic. I love Geddy's approach, personally...appliances, and from I hear, recently he's had some vending machines in the back line....that's awesome!

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Bails View Post
    This is what I always assumed was going on - some of the extras were backups.
    Well, having one or two extra stacks might be for backup purposes. But when you see bands that have the equivalent of 10 or 12 stacks on either side of the stage, that's just for show.

    Dr. Brian May was another one who had a huge amp array onstage, but there again, there was a purpose. He'd have, I think it was something like 12 Vox AC-30 amps. He had his echo thing that he'd do on the Brighton Rock cadenza (which wasn't always done during Brighton Rock) plus one or two other songs (such as Keep Yourself Alive). He'd have his main signal going through amp A, the first repeat (which was coming from one delay unit) coming through amp B, and then the second repeat (coming from a second delay unit that was connected to the "wet" output of the first delay unit) came from amp C. And then each signal would be linked to 3 or 4 amps, but the extra 2 or 3 amps per signal were mainly just used as backup.

    Oh and another one that stuck out in my mind when I was a kid, was Pete Townshend's Hi-Watt rig, where had a rack with three 100 watt heads, with either four or six (depending on which tour you're talking about) 4x12 cabinets. Kinda small compared to the Kiss and Van Halen setups, but still cool looking in the mind of a 10 year old.

  18. #18
    Oh No! Bass Solo! klothos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    Oh and another one that stuck out in my mind when I was a kid, was Pete Townshend's Hi-Watt rig, where had a rack with three 100 watt heads, with either four or six (depending on which tour you're talking about) 4x12 cabinets. Kinda small compared to the Kiss and Van Halen setups, but still cool looking in the mind of a 10 year old.

    I mentioned The Who as a "probably" earlier but I thought this was because Townshend was half deaf from Keith Moon's exploding bass drum on The Smothers Brothers ..............
    Last edited by klothos; 07-25-2013 at 03:38 PM.

  19. #19
    On the other hand, Sunn O))) uses an insane amount of amps on stage. And judging from the sound that I heard and FELT when I finally got to check them out live last year, they're definitely using most, if not all of it!

    sunn_.jpg

  20. #20
    What about my member? rottersclub's Avatar
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    I saw the Who in 1969 and I still remember the wall of Hi-Watts on both sides of the stage. Do you figure they were faking it back then?

  21. #21
    Oh No! Bass Solo! klothos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rottersclub View Post
    I saw the Who in 1969 and I still remember the wall of Hi-Watts on both sides of the stage. Do you figure they were faking it back then?
    who knows? (no pun intended)

    the Who is one of those bands where it wouldn't surprise me if they set up walls of amps and really used them (of course, we are talking a LOT of 20A or 30A legs powering the stage)

    from what I understand, both MC5 and Blue Cheer had walls of amps and really used them, but Im not sure of the validity of that

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by wideopenears View Post
    Soundguys hate loud amps on stage, and with good reason. Trying to mix front-of-house sound when a guitarist goes to crank up his Marhsall stacks is a real pain in the ass.
    Yeah, that's why sometimes when you hear tapes derived from the front-of-house mix, where one of the guitarists is barely audible, because he was cranked onstage. Apparently, that was an issue with the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir liked having his amp up loud, and apparently, for awhile was even using PA speaker hidden under the drum riser. One of the Dead's sound guys, I can't remember if it was Dan Healy or one of the guys who worked with Healy who said that when Weir would play slide guitar, it was unbearable. But then you listen to the tapes from the era in question, and Weir is considerably easier to take.

    Conversely, there's instances where certain instruments are too loud in a mix. Again, with the Grateful Dead, on some of the Dick's Picks releases from the 90's, the keyboards are a tad too loud, but apparently that's what Healy had to do make the keyboards audible to the audience at all, and the tape was derived from that mix (versus the 70's era Dick's Picks and Road Trips releases, which are apparently derived from separate mixes done specifically for the tape, rather than for the PA).

    I also remember a little back and forth between the sound guy and, I think it was the guitarist with Disrhythmia (who had a full stack, with a head and 2 4x12 cabs), at one of the NEARfest pre-shows in Trenton. The sound guy is like "Can you turn the amp down just a bit", and the guitarist is like "Oh, I like having it loud onstage" or whatever.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by klothos View Post
    I mentioned The Who as a "probably" earlier but I thought this was because Townshend was half deaf from Keith Moon's exploding bass drum on The Smothers Brothers ..............
    So Pete has claimed for decades (though I know of at least one interview where he suggested that it wasn't the exploding bass drum gag that caused his hearing problems). (sarcasm mode) I imagine deafening loud guitar amps and incorporating feedback into your playing had absolutely nothing to do with it, huh? (sarcasm mode off)

    Actually, I think I've heard it explained that Entwistle went to using louder and more powerful amplification so he could hear himself over Moon's drumming, and Townshend in turn had to up his wattage and volume to hear himself over Thunderfingers (this of course being back in the days before monitors).

    Another time, Pete said The Who were loud as they were because, when they were still playing pubs, they wanted the audience to be unable to ignore them. I think he said "There'll be no having a drink with the lads, or pulling birds or anything else tonight!", by way of explaining at least some of what the audience is doing when you're busting your balls to get noticed onstage. And that would probably also explain Townshend's more extroverted onstage mannerisms (ie the "windmill" thing, smashing the instrument, etc).

    And of course, back in those days, if you wanted that Link Wray roar (and Pete has acknowledged Link as an important early influence), the only way you could get it was to dime the volume.

  24. #24
    I think most bands with walls of amps in pre '71 or so were legit because PA and monitor systems weren't very advanced yet- you kind of had to blast it from the stage to fill the hall. The PA was mostly for the singer...

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by rottersclub View Post
    I saw the Who in 1969 and I still remember the wall of Hi-Watts on both sides of the stage. Do you figure they were faking it back then?
    Possibly. My understanding is that one H-Watt 100 watter at full volume is deafening enough as it is, three or four of them would be just overkill. I don't know what The Who used in 69, but I know in the 70's and early 80's, Pete had three Hi-Watts head onstage, as well 2 or 3 speaker stacks (each stack having two 4x12 cabinets). If I remember correctly, during that era he typically used just two of the heads, with the third as a backup.

    According to this site:
    http://www.thewho.net/whotabs/gear/guitar/cp103.html

    "Pete plugged these amps into one or two Hiwatt SE4123 4x12 cabinets each (bottoms are occasionally dummy cabinets), loaded with four 50-watt Fane 12″ speakers, specially voiced for increased bass response, or, beginning in 1976, four 50-watt JBL K120 12″ speakers (for extra punch and a cleaner sound).

    In his standard setup, three amplifiers total are used onstage, two shelved in a custom rack unit (beginning 1972), with one on top of the rack unit. One amplifier is backup. The two amplifiers employed each drive one or both (when not dummies) of the SE1123 4x12s. In this setup, the guitar signal runs from the guitar, to the effect pedal sitting in front of the amplifiers (next to the drumkit), out to a junction box mounted to the side or back of the rack unit, which splits the signal out to the two active amplifiers. Usually, the top left input is used (#1) on both amplifiers."

    Not sure how many he used onstage before 72, though.

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