Over the last seven days, I've worked with three different bands in two different locations. Both locations required all audio gear be loaded into the rooms; sub's, amp's, mains, everything! I learned a few things and I was reminded a few things. All are worth noting…
What I Learned;
1. Anything is possible. At the first gig, I was an assistant to the FOH guy. Therefore, my work was focused on equipment setup and teardown. But here is where "anything" comes into play. Shortly before the show, we found out the lighting guy wasn't going to make the gig and thus that job fell on me. The last time I worked lights was a spot light at my high school two decades ago. In this case, I had a small mixing board for the lights. Now, whenever I happen on an article related to stage lighting, I'm going to read it. I figure "this might happen again, anything is possible."
2. If I'm called to do it once, I'll probably do it again. The second gig put me at FOH running the audio AND A LIGHTING BOARD. I didn't find out about the lighting board until I showed up to the second gig. Gotta love that! But the truth is, I do love that type of last-minute challenge.
3. The phrase "many hands make light work" is not one I care to use around audio equipment. At the second gig, we had a problem caused by volunteers from the previous gig who thought everything gets unplugged – even in the back of racks and audio as well as electrical. As a result, at the end of this gig, we told the free help "come back in twenty minutes to help us load stuff." This gave us the time to properly pack up rack systems and the mixer.
4. Expectations rule new relationships. The second gig was a three-day event. I felt the musicians had negative expectations of me. Maybe they have bad sound guy relationships or maybe they just didn't trust the new guy. I had to gain their trust even though I'm a perfectionist when it comes to sound and had their best interests in mind. At the end, we had a great working relationship. I'm not saying this was some epiphany about expectations and relationships. It was really a reminder that everyone has a different history and sometimes I have to work harder at "proving myself" so they see me, not a stereotype of their last sound guy.
5. A loud bass monitor volume isn't an "end-of-the-world" issue as long as other instruments can still be layered on top of it without it negatively affecting the house volume.
What I'm Glad I Knew;
1. Without a plan, I'm in a heap of trouble. Live audio work is like chess. Each move involves taking care of the current situation while planning ahead. At both gigs, I found out the mixer being used and read through the online manuals. At the second gig, I developed schematics for both bands regarding instruments / vocals and snake numbers and channel assignments. Had I not done the schematic, I would have been in a word of hurt. Just trust me.
2. Challenges exist. Whether it's dealing with an echo'y room, or an iphone that suddenly doesn't play over the system, or a dead group of monitors, success is driven in part by keeping my cool. I was reminded of this when a lead singer told me "I really appreciated your demeanor."
Running sound in the same church year after year, there is a lot I take for granted. Existing relationships…room dynamics…a system that's already in place…even a predictable time clock for practices and such. The beauty of working new environments is dealing with new challenges…working with new people…new sounds…and in a way, a new world.
[note: photo is from the first gig.]
Question: What Have You Learned From Working Other Venues?