Every show requires a little bit of “old boy” and “new blood” networking. I start by asking my elder (and presumably, wiser) mentors what problems they recall with the room I’ll be working.
But it’s also advantageous to check in with the young guys and gals that have either mixed or recently attended a show at said establishment.
The two sets facts or fictions give me a better overall idea of what to expect.
If there’s at all a chance to visit the venue ahead of time (such as when it’s much closer to home than a six-hour drive to Iowa), I take in a show.
Combine the elements of my preliminary research and then just listen to the room, system and show.
I make it a point not to bother the house sound person, but do try to introduce myself and make acquaintances, and also get a first-hand look at the gear.
Serious notes are jotted down regarding the system’s problems, but I’m careful about sharing these observations with the house person.
They likely already know of the problems and may be bitter about not being able to fix them (budgets!). Why run the risk of unnecessarily offending the person? No need to make enemies before the gig has even started!
Sometimes prepping for a club gig inspires a big headache.
The tough part is hypothesizing the “problems” I believe are correctly analyzed and then approaching them from alternate viewpoints. Every console and piece of outboard gear, through wear and tear, has its own personality and quirks.
Also, every sound reinforcement system pieced together squawks a little differently from the others. And finally, we don’t mix in cushy rooms with lots of acoustic treatment. The room will almost always put up a fight.
WHAT ARE THE PARTS?
Returning to thoughts on the Iowa gig - a bit surprisingly, one of my friends at school had mixed there previously.
He relayed that it is mid-sized, about 500 capacity, with a small stage and perfectly parallel walls. Load-in happens up a flight of deadly metal stairs.
The venue also has a web site, and I printed out a copy of their technical specs and gear list.
An acceptable console with two sweeps, effects that cut the mustard but are a big harsh-sounding in my experience, unmentionable one-third-octave equalizers, four monitor mixes from my position, a mixed bag of non-pro amplifiers, and a monstrosity of small, slapped together main loudspeakers.
Needless to say, but I wasn’t very exited about this particular sum of ingredients.