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Monday, January 13, 2014

When Sound Engineers Suck

Hi there,

Now let me start by saying that I have a lot of admiration for a skillful sound engineer and I count plenty of them as friends.  I make this disclaimer lest last week's rant also featuring a (different) sound guy (For the Love of Mike) paints me with some kind of prejudice! In my mind, the audio engineer is a vital part of the team - and let's face it, they have your sound by the short and curlies, so it pays to be respectful.

However... recently I had the displeasure of working with a very uptight sound guy and I had to do a lot of tongue biting. It all seemed to start when I stepped up to the mike during soundcheck and saw it had a wind sock covering it. Those black foam mike condoms are usually used for outside gigs to limit the interference of wind or other background noise or even reduce breath noise in radio or recording studios. In my experience (I've never counted but I've done an average of 3 live gigs a week for about the last 15 years) a mike with a wind sock is almost never used in a live show that is staged inside a venue. That inch of foam breaks my communion with my beloved mike and I hate it! I had also noticed that only two of the four vocal mikes on stage had wind socks. They had to be there by mistake right? So I took mine off. Well a voice from the control room at the back of the auditorium boomed, 'put that back on!' I did so and was duly put in my place. 

I don't know if that exchange coloured the rest of the events at sound check but it seemed I, along with most of the (very experienced) performers on stage that night, couldn't put a foot right with Mr Persnikety on the faders back there. In this particular show - like many that I do - I perform as backing vocalist throughout the show but leave that side-of-stage position to perform lead at different times throughout the set. So of course it is important I check my sound from my backing vocalist position as well as from other spots across the front of the stage. I'd like to add here that the sound was average to poor through my own foldback wedge and no amount of knob twiddling or suggestions/requests from me (!) improved it. When I dared to move towards the middle of the stage, my foldback ranged from atrocious to non-existent. When I raised the issues (I was trying to be polite, really I was!) he gave me a very condescending explanation of how sound systems work and nothing improved. 

The moral of the story? Well if my blog today is anything more than just a rant, the lesson could be 'the show must go on' or perhaps, 'don't piss off the sound guy'. 

By the way, it doesn't end there. I did a gig in a venue at the end of town weeks later and who should walk backstage? I smiled sweetly at Mr Imperious thinking he wouldn't particularly remember me. I was wrong, ladies and gentlemen, very much mistaken. Stay tuned for our next encounter...


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