For a brief moment in time, I, the lowly sound guy, had enormous power!
Our story begins late one Friday afternoon when I received a call from Andy, the technical director at the Breslin Student Events Center on the campus of Michigan State University in Lansing, Mi.
He wanted to know if I could be front-of house mix engineer for an upcoming event the following week.
Sure, I said, searching my calendar, half-listening as he described the event. Then, whoa, back up. You want me to mix for who, doing what?
Patient, Andy repeated the details of his request.
The farewell tour of President William Jefferson Clinton, better known to many of us as simply “Bill”, was making a stop at the Breslin Center, and could I handle FOH because Andy needed to provide event production?
Uh, sure, was my reply. Or at least something like that.
Why do they call it “red” tape?
First, the background check. Nothing to worry about, right? Perfectly understandable, in fact.
We certainly don’t want a raving lunatic with clear line of sight to the stage being given an all-access pass to a date with the leader of the free world.
Still, the background check was unsettling, kind of in the way that a cop following you on the highway is unsettling. You haven’t done anything wrong, aren’t planning on doing anything wrong, no outstanding warrants, but…
Fortunately, the great forces surrounding “Bill” deemed me worthy of presidential access. Or at least I hadn’t done anything horrible enough to find objectionable. And thankfully, they didn’t ask my voting record!
System set-up and testing, the day prior to the event, was laid back. Secret Service personnel were cordial, even friendly and downright chatty at points.
Not quite what we’ve heard about these folks. I was tempted to ask one for his cool sunglasses… but why push it?
Our set-up was almost ridiculously simple. We’d be using the house system that I had been involved with the design and installation of, and I’d be manning the house console.
Two Shure SM-57’s were attached to the Presidential podium and plugged in to an adjacent I/O panel feeding the system. Two more Shure mics (BG3.0’s) would be employed for off-stage announce.
In addition to the house mix, I was to supply two stage mixes (one for Bill, the other for dignitaries); a mix to four stage lip speakers for the front seating rows, two press feeds (one redundant).
A CD player supplied pre- and post-event music. (This is also called “rope” music, I found out, because it’s played when the president moves along the ropes, shaking hands with the crowd.)
So in comparison to live, festival-style events, this would be a piece of cake. Or so I thought…