OLD IS NEW
And in this process, I’ve become the musician we all dread: the guy in the band who thinks he knows about sound.
I’m the grouchy old dude who has seen it all and tells the local sound company what I want, the way I want it, and I’ve got the road bacon to prove that I’m right.
The reason I’m laying this out is that I’m going to tread ever so heavily on a scared stretch of ground that has been detoured around for the past few decades.
I’ll probably make some of you mad, but for the greater good. The primary focus is being in the band and dealing with newer (less experienced) and/or “attitudinal” sound people.
When I started mixing in the early 1970s, there were already plenty of “seasoned pros” in this industry. These were cats that had been doing it for as long as five years and thought they knew a lot. My neck hairs used to stand up when these folks would come at me with their crazy ideas.
I was the “new kind of tech” who knew about bi-amping, hypercardioid mics, graphic equalizers and a whole slew of (then) new technology – very much like the young people of today, who have digital everything, are ISP and MIDI savvy, and can text with one hand while drinking coffee (or Red Bull) with the other.
So with all of this technology, knowledge, and super-duper gear, why do I run into the same old basic issues that have been around since the first sound tech unrolled the first snake? Because just like the common cold, the same gremlins haunt our industry to this day.
HERE WE GO
Recently I walked onstage at a Chicago summer outdoor fest. You know the setup: five stages, lots of food vendors, drink tickets, wrist bands, too many bands with too little changeover time, and multiple sound companies all subbing gear from each other to cover the event. All varieties of loudspeaker boxes, amps and consoles, all of the name brands you read about in this magazine. (As I always say, “There is no bad gear any more.” Even the worst stuff today was somebody’s A-plus rig 10 years ago.)
Suddenly comes the dreaded POP-BOOM-THUD. The iPod stops and a hush falls over the PA. We all know that feeling of time standing still when the PA goes completely dark. Now, I don’t panic because it’s not my problem, I’m just in the band. I go about getting my band mates onstage and set up (in other words, herding cats), then hand off our stage plot to the monitor engineer, asking him to take a look after they get the rig running again. No pressure. A few minutes later THUD-BOOM-POP as the PA springs back to life.
It’s easy to say “those guys are idiots.” But that’s neither the real issue nor the solution. Turns out the digital console was sitting on some road cases, and when the house tech returned from a BBQ break, he tripped over the power supply’s AC cable. Console off. Any of you who work with digital consoles know they take a while to boot up again.