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Climbing The Sound Mountain, Part 6: The Big Time
Our fictionalized - but instructional - series on making it in the sound reinforcement business continues
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Just then, Steve came up with his plate piled high with salad and sat down with them. “So, what do you think of the new lad?” nodding Ben’s way and eying the singer. “Not too shabby, right?” the singer replied with a wry grin, then continued to fork in his dinner.

Ben, who hadn’t eaten anything yet, realized that this was some sort of test that hopefully he was passing. He began eating as the mood lightened, with Steve and the singer swapping war stories from the road and laughing every so often. Ben didn’t have many stories of his own yet, at least not the kind that could “hang” with what he was hearing.

After catering, he walked back out to monitorland and sat down, warmly remembering some of the advice Jack had given him years ago: “If you’re really good at what you do, there’s no need to be nervous. But if you’re in the big time, you’d damn well better be good at what you do. They’re like wolves - they can smell fear.” He smiled as he thought of Jack and how he’d gotten his humble start making cables and fixing things around the shop.

Just then, Charlie, one of the newer crew members, came running up with a panicked look on his face. “Steve says you’re doing monitors tonight,” he said with a bit of annoyance. “Yeah, that’s right,” Ben replied.

“But they said I’d have a shot a monitors once I got my sea legs or some bullshit like that,” came Charlie’s retort. Ben started to understand what was happening as Charlie continued, for the worse: “You know who my cousin is, right? He helped me get this job and he told them I was good enough to do monitors.”

Ben remembered something about someone on the crew with a famous cousin but hadn’t put the two together until just now. “So what’s up with this? I don’t get a shot, or what?” Charlie droned on. “I mean, is this permanent or something? This is just not cool.”

Before responding, Ben tried to work out the most diplomatic approach he could muster. Finally, after an awkward silence, he responded: “Well, listen. I didn’t know about your connections, and I don’t know what promises were made. That said, Steve is the one that put me here on the desk, and as far as I know, he’s in charge of monitors since he was hired directly by the band. The only thing I can suggest is that you take this up with Steve or the tour manager.”

“Listen, it’s really not up to me,” he continued, “but if and when it is up to me, on this tour or the next one, come and see me. I can’t promise anything, but we can at least talk through some stuff and see where it goes from there.”

Charlie seemed to accept this, and when Ben reached out to shake his hand, Charlie took it before turning around and heading off.  Ben was a bit shaken but felt pretty good about how he’d responded. And he vowed that while he’d certainly give this kid a chance, assuming it was his chance to give, then the kid would need to shape up his attitude.

Ben also decided he’d better find out Charlie’s background. No one out here owed anyone anything, and the exact wrong approach to advancement is to assume otherwise.

The show went well—the monitor mix, everything. No complaints, and even a thumbs up from the bass player every now and again.

After the show, Ben looked around for Steve but couldn’t find him. Eventually, he ran into the tour manager during load out and asked about Steve. “Oh, he didn’t tell you?” replied the tour manager. “That’s just like him, the bastard. His wife is having a baby and he’s off to the airport for a flight home. You’re on monitors for the last six shows of the tour. And Charlie is on systems.”

Taylor Jensen is a freelance pro audio writer.

Go here to read the entire Sound Mountain Series. New chapters are coming soon…

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