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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Should you Sing Sick? (When Sound Engineers Suck, Part 2)

Hi there,

I think I've got one of the best jobs in the world but I can't say the conditions and benefits are great. Basically, if I don't sing, I don't get paid. So if you're sick what do you do? Stay home sniffling and feeling sorry for yourself? I might as well be out sniffling and getting paid to feel sorry for myself! Of course it depends:

1. Will I embarrass myself? If I'm not going to sound any good then I don't want to let anyone hear me. But let's face it, singing is such an inconsistent art with hundreds of variables anyway, so as long as I can do about 75% of my best then I'll sing. Sometimes the extra work I have to put into my technique when I'm sick pays off with a better performance than a healthy but lazy one!

2. Will I piss off the band/agent if I don't sing? If advertising and promo has gone out with my name on it I'll try extra hard to drag myself from my sickbed. And if I know the gig will be difficult to cover by another singer - it's last minute, out of town or a specific part that requires rehearsal - than I'll be there.

3. Will I damage my voice in the long term? Nothing is worth that - I don't mind pushing the envelope a bit to get the job done but if it's going to hurt me down the line, I'll slip under the covers and stay there guilt free.

I was at a very big club recently to do a cabaret show with the house band. I was at the tail end of a dose of the flu but numbers 1 and 2 above were definite possibilities so there was no question of pulling out of this one. I was to sing in a huge auditorium on a massive stage where both the audience and the band were way out of spitting distance so there was no danger of infecting them. The only concern I had was the artist that followed me - they would be using the same microphone. I mentioned this to the very friendly lighting guy and he said he'd send the sound engineer backstage to have a chat to me before the show.

Those who have read my last blog may know what's coming next (see 'When Sound Engineers Suck'). Yes, who should walk into the green room but Mr Persnikety.  Now if you are a persnikety sound guy then you're having run-ins with singers on a regular basis. So you're not going to remember one little singer in particular, weeks after the fact, at a venue across town, are you? Damn my rather unusual blue hair. 

Mr Precious laid eyes on me and and smiled maniacally. I gulped and soldiered on. 

'Oh hi there...well I have the flu and I don't want the artist following me to catch it, so I was wondering if you'd be able to give us different microphones?' I said, heart beating, with a big false smile. 

His eyes widened as licks of flame started coming out of flared nostrils only inches away from my face...well Ok that didn't happen, but that's how it felt. He did however tell me there was only one microphone.(?!) He then paused for dramatic effect (the entire band and crew backstage were our audience) and said, with lashings of scorn, 
     'Well, ah, just putting it out there, but did ya ever perhaps think (another pause here to highlight by obvious inability to do just that) that perhaps you shouldn't be performing if you're sick?"  

Cruel stare, Blink, Cruel Stare, more flames out of nostrils. Hasn't he heard of 'The Show Must go On?' And excuse me, but I own a sound system worth less than $2000 and I own three microphones. I was about to sing to hundreds of people through a sound system worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - and there was only one microphone - really?

Don't piss off the sound guy...


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