Oh, how I miss mixing live shows! I miss the hours we spend every day getting the system dialed in, line checked, sound checked and show ready. I even miss the preshow jitters. I know that nervous energy is always rewarded with the thrill of an audience roaring when the house lights go out! It’s been way too long.
I know I’m preaching to the choir. We’re all a little lost without live shows, and I’m sure we’ll get back to it soon, but wow, I really miss the feeling of pulling a mix together in the first couple songs and the second it all locks in.
There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration felt in the heat of the moment.
The adrenaline that pumps when we hit the unmute button, open up all the channels and hear our creation through an awesome sound system, and the sense of ownership we feel as we remind ourselves that we’re flying the plane and there are thousands of passengers on the flight. It’s one of the main reasons we all got into this crazy business.
During this time away from mixing live shows, I’ve had lots of time to reminisce and have often longed to get back in the cockpit, but I’ve also come to find that peace and quiet coupled with a slower pace devoid of showtime pressure hasn’t been such a bad thing.
The Thrill Is Gone… For Now
Like all good things in life, there’s often a duplicate set of emotions that counter the “warm fuzzies” we feel at the start of a concert. The butterflies, excitement and thrills can quickly be replaced with the grip of sheer terror when things suddenly go wrong during a performance? Oh, it’s a cold lonely place when everything goes black and silent. Can I get an amen?
For example, I remember that time the mixing console just shut off. A Midas Heritage 3000. No warning – it just went dark (and quiet!). Not one, but two power supplies failed at the same time. What happens to your mind and body at that moment is a bit like the thrill you feel at the start of the show. It’s an equal amount of blood pumping from your heart, but it’s for all the wrong reasons. Same heat, but in this moment, it isn’t warm and pleasant. It burns and leaves a scar.
As much as I’ve missed mixing live sound, I haven’t missed (even once) the mind-numbing pressure that hits like a punch to the gut when something big and bad happens. I recall another show in Barcelona. I wasn’t mixing, but I was part of the audio team.
Someone with a very strong arm hurled a fully loaded cup of beer in a perfect arc from the audience area towards front of house. It landed smack-dab on the VCA section of the board. The beer flew up in the air and splashed down across the surface of the console. The PA started to sputter, then it all just stopped working.
We’ve all dealt with show-stopping failures and technical disasters I’m sure. There’s a mad dash from everyone to find a solution and get things back on track. There’s almost always an answer, but the pressure and panic are hard to ignore as you search for it.