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A Tale Of Two Gigs: Embracing The Variety Inherent In The Audio Profession

There's really no such thing as a typical event when working with different artists, different styles of music, and different technical situations.

One of the things I love about working in professional audio is that there’s no such thing as “typical.” I’m always dealing with different artists, different styles of music, and different technical situations, all of which help keep me engaged as I look forward to new challenges. This past weekend serves as an excellent example.

It started on Friday afternoon at the theater on the campus of an area college. A bluegrass show was coming in that night, but the venue’s technical director had informed me of problems with the sound system. I showed up, measurement rig in hand, to see what I could do about it.

Figure 1

The house left array had inconsistent high-frequency coverage and the subwoofer wasn’t doing much of anything at all.

Per-box HF EQ was out of the question because the entire array was driven from a single processing channel, until I realized that the boxes in question have a rear-panel HF shelf option. A quick trip up behind the array in the lift brought the HF coverage back into line and significantly reduced front-back tonal variance for the folks in the house (Figure 1).

The sub was an even simpler fix – the problem wasn’t the sub at all, but the XLR cable driving it. Swapping it out brought the system back to firing on all cylinders.

Midway through running my audio drive lines for the event, a loud “Bang!” resounded from backstage, all of the stage lights flashed, and then the venue was plunged into darkness. I don’t mean “dimness,” I mean can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face darkness. In a theater, this is notable because emergency lighting is supposed to automatically activate in the event of a power failure.

Figure 2

Similarly, the “bang” turned out to be the theater’s fire curtain releasing its counterweight, which was equally curious because no fire alarm was triggered. (In our jurisdiction, fire curtains must hold for two hours before lowering due to a power failure.) Thus, the facilities manager was called in to investigate why the venue’s electrical backup and safety systems weren’t functioning. At least the fire curtain looked cool in the stage lighting (Figure 2).

While the facilities people worked with the venue’s tech director, I set the stage for the bluegrass event – three musicians on stage, carrying their own microphones, with a single monitor wedge per musician. Simple and elegant.

Figure 3

Typically, I’d only lightly reinforce this genre of music, especially given the acoustically live space, but I chatted with the musicians a bit beforehand and they wanted a bit more reinforcement.

We achieved a nice, full sound that was enjoyable but not too loud. The band played well and sounded great, and load-out was a piece of cake. Then the TD and I headed to catering, where a more literal piece of cake awaited (Figure 3).

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