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LAB Best Threads: Audio Veterans Share Their “First Gig” Stories

"I just started learning how to run sound from a tech I originally met through a local band called Sweaty Bob..."
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Editor’s Note: Here’s a fun and interesting thread from the PSW Live Audio Board (LAB) forums. Enjoy.

Posted by Mike
Just wondered if anyone wanted to divulge their first sound gig stories? How it went, how they got the gig,where it was, etc. Everyone started somewhere!

Cheers
Mike

Reply by Tim
My first gig (without being paid) was for a track and field event. Because I played in a band and was a member of the organizing team, they asked me to find a band to play, hire a PA, and work with it. They gave me a budget of 750 dollars for everything (band, PA, organizing,…). At that moment I knew almost nothing about PAs as I just came out of recording school (what a different world that is). I had to bargain over the the band and the rented PA and reduced the renting price by half (there still are understanding sound companies out there!).

Than came the date of the gig. The band had to perform at 6 pm but couldn’t make it before 5 pm. I was at the gig at 8 am to unload the PA and to erect the stage (actually, they only got me some army tents, but what the …, the band was covered from the elements). At 2 pm I was still trying to put the tents with only the help of a friend. Finally at 4 pm everything was set up and ready to go, except that they didn’t have any decent power circuits.

Every time I switched everything on, the main fuses refused to let me do my thing. Five minutes before showtime, I finally get some decent juice delivered and the band starts to sound check (done in 15 min.) They sped through their songs (hey, they got another gig at 10 pm that evening) but in the end both the public, the band and the organizing committee was happy! I on the other hand lost five years of my life just running on the edge of my nerves but I was hooked.

I’m now doing front of house for a cover band and I’m still encountering lousy gigs more often than I would like to. But if you can earn some pocket money by doing something you really like, then it doesn’t matter what problems you have to overcome. I still enjoy every minute.

Reply by Rob

Well, I had been into recording through most of high school, and gradually ended up with a pretty decent gear collection. My brother’s band had been borrowing PAs from other bands just to use something for vocals other than a guitar amp. They ended up getting a gig to play a party with a few other bands for New Years Eve. The party was being held at a dog training facility, which was essentially a warehouse that was run by the mother of a friend of theirs.

About a couple hours before the show I get a call from the band. They decided that since the room is too live, and the gig is too big, they wanted to mic everything, which is where I came in, since they were used to powered mixers with only a few channels. After some convincing, I finally accepted the gig and packed up all my gear.

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The band still borrowed a PA (a Mackie powered mixer and a couple of Peavey cabs, 12-in plus horn I believe) for this show, since I didn’t have anything of the sort. Because I didn’t have a snake, the mix position was just off stage (if you could call it a stage) right behind the PA speaker. I mixed their band for sound check, and walked around the room to make sure it sounded good.

Come showtime, I get bands I’ve never heard before, and the finely tuned mix I had was being changed on the fly. Of course, my only reference was the echo that shot off the back wall, and headphones. People constantly came over to tell me to turn up the vocals, but I was pretty limited since they set up the speakers too close to the vocal mics.

Aside from my Mackie SR24, my gear was pretty cheap. I had mics that were on sale for $10, and cables of equal cheapness. I didn’t even have enough, so the rest of the bands chipped in with more gear. I taped a mic to a stool in front of the base drum, since there were no stands left. All in all I think the gig went pretty well, all things considered. People tell me the mix was fine, as long as you stood close enough to the speakers.

Eventually I got picked up as the permanent sound person for my brother’s band. I wired up a pair of Fender cabs with two 12-inch guitar speakers in them to a receiver for a home stereo application I was using as a power amp (a long standing tradition of mine). The band was playing another party, and the room was so small they only needed vocals. The speakers weren’t nearly powerful enough, and I soon realized I had the amp putting out 2 ohms, which explains why it shut down every time the singer would hit a peak.

And once again, I mixed from behind the speakers. Eventually I got a snake and a pair of Mackie 1530 power speakers, and I’m still waiting for a chance to show off my new gear, since the last two shows got canceled (and I had to work anyway).

Reply by Emily
I just started learning how to run sound from a tech I originally met through a local band called Sweaty Bob. I’ve been working with him for about three months and was given the opportunity to mix a show by myself a couple weekends ago. I spent the first set shaking so badly I could hardly twist any knobs or turn the band up at all. I wanted to throw up — I was so nervous I was going to mess something up.

Here’s me, all by myself, behind this mixing board trying to talk myself into giving the vocals a little gain without passing out from being so darn nervous. Not only that but I’ve got about 10 people sneering at me because they had never seen a chick run sound before. It was like they were waiting for me to screw up so they could point and laugh and come and tell me what I was doing wrong.

All in all the show turned out really well and I got a lot of compliments on how good the band sounded (besides the fact that the band rocks anyway). And I calmed down after the first set and really had a blast doing what I love — running sound. I’ve got a lot to learn yet but I’m thankful for having been given the chance to prove that women can run sound too!!

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