Posted by: performanceproduction | July 20, 2011

Retrospective

I’ve been thinking a lot about my career recently, mostly brought on by a discussion I had with a young lad who is working for us this summer. He’s in college, in a recording program (actually a pretty decent one – I don’t know what kinda job placement they have, but I know the dude who runs it, and he’s damn near a legend in the industry – especially in the circles I used to run in back when I was doing that shit). He nonchalantly asked me if I went to school for this.

Well….yes and no.

I owe this whole goddamn mess to my high school Physics teacher in a way, Sandy Mac (not her real name, but that’s really what we called her). She’s the one that got me obsessed with physics. I applied to three colleges with the intention of starting my way onto a career in astrophysics. I was going to be the next Stephen Hawking – only I can walk! One of those schools, a tiny private college which actually HAD an Astrophysics major sent me a letter that flat out said I would need too much financial aid, so they were going to wait list me. Another I applied to, a state school but one with a highly regarded engineering and science reputation offered me too little financial aid for what I was going to need. So I picked my third option, which I applied to only as a fallback. Good thing I did, because I was going to need it.

By the way, the financial aid dude at the good engineering state school told me if I had applied to certain other ones, with my grades and SAT’s I would have probably recieved a free ride. Fuckers.

Anyway, once I got there, I still loved Physics but realised that I fucking LOATHE Chemistry. So I switched my major to History (after a LOT of cajoling by one of my History professors who was totally in love with me), and added a Music minor. Now, this school didn’t HAVE a Music major, and really only had a few music classes – all of which I took in my two years there. That’s when it hit me. I was going to become an ethnomusicologist (specifically the music of the Central Americas. I used to be able to tell the difference just by hearing them between a marimba made in Mexico vs one made in Nicaragua). So, I transferred to a different state school, one with a very well known music program.

It was here that I discovered the existence of recording programs. I thought that was really cool sounded, so I checked it out. Officially unrelated, but mostly made up of the recording students, was a “live sound club” on campus. I jumped into that immediately. I didn’t know shit, but it seemed fun.

It was my second gig that sealed my fate. It was a comedian and a band outdoors in a big tent. We loaded in, did the band, and then the comedian started. The weather started getting shitty. Suddenly, we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. No big deal, we’re under a tent, right? Then the power goes out. We start loading out in the dark. Then the tent starts collapsing. Mad rush ensues. I’m barking orders left and right because noone else would step up and take charge. We get loaded out and I head home to bed. Yeah right. I was running so high on the adrenaline rush and the realisation that I was made to do this.

I jumped wholehog into that live sound club, while assisting senior recording students in the studios. I skipped classes, skipped sleep…I mixed, edited, cut tape, fixed things, learned as much as I could. My grades suffered. I was given notice that I was to be booted out after that year. So I wrote a letter pleading my case, and was given a conditional semester in return. I came back even more gung-ho about live sound than recording, and started focussing more and more on that, when I wasn’t going on several day long benders. I was never drunk for a gig, but when I wasn’t gigging, I was drunk or on my way there. I eventually stopped doing that (and didn’t touch a drink for a few years), but got the official kick out. I never told any of the people in the live sound club that I had been booted, so I stayed on there for a whole ‘nother year running that.

That summer, I got a job with a local production company. I was 22. I had first mixed a live event a year and half before that (2 AG, 2 Vox, and shitting my pants in terror), and now I was getting paid to do it. There was a LOT to learn about reality, it turns out. I had a ridiculous summer, and the bossman of that company was shocked to find out that the next spring that I wanted to come back. And I did come back, totally in charge and running hard (or so I thought at the time – in retrospect I probably still sucked).

I never worked a job in another industry again, and I don’t imagine I ever will.

This is my home now:

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Posted by: performanceproduction | July 13, 2011

Ouch

So remember when I was complaining about my aching left shoulder?

In retrospect, I self-diagnosed it as a rotator cuff issue. It hurt like balls for months, then after a few months of not beating the ever loving shit out of it everyday, it got better. Since we got busy this year (ie, since April), it’s been totally fine. I’ve been throwing around stage, truss, speakers, cable boxes…not a problem.

Yesterday I lifted up a cup of coffee to my mouth and felt it burn. It’s hurt like a motherfucker ever since…just like it did in November.

Fuck.

Posted by: performanceproduction | June 12, 2011

Bananas and Beer

This is actually from Holland, not England. It appears someone put it on the wrong shelf.

In short: it’s the perfect breakfast beer. It advertises itself as a “beer with fruit – not a syrupy fruit beer” and that description is DEAD ON. If you like orange juice with breakfast, it’s the perfect substitute. A sweeter odor than taste, but a very light sweetness, and a very light, almost citrusy tang. On first pour, it has a Boddington-like head, but that eventually dissipates. The banana is….there. It’s like eating dried, unsweetened banana chips. They kinda sorta have a banana flavour, but not the overpowering sweet artificial taste.

I followed this up with a Wells Banana Bread Beer, which I’ve had before. This has a more caramely colour, and much more of an artificial banana sweetness to it. This doesn’t bother me too much though, since there’s a nice nuttiness to it that offsets the sweet – just like banana bread has.

Neither beer is particularly hoppy, which is cool because hops are fucking gross. I’m a malt guy (hence my love of porters), and appreciate those who don’t overkill everyfuckingbeertheymakewithhops (Oh HAI Sam Adams).

Posted by: performanceproduction | June 12, 2011

Well fuck me running**

**: I’m not going to be running. That shit’s for suckers like you

So yeah, ’tis the season. After my 10 day festival that saw me mixing a lot of really really good acts (the last day of which may have been a personal best), I end up putzing around New England mixing a bunch of hip-hop again. More of a buzzkill than you know who.

That was followed up by a relatively easy week before everything turns to shit again. On the docket for next week, I lose one of my summer guys as he goes and plays with blinky flashy things for a dance show. He’s a soundguy, and not happy about it, but I’ll be damned if I’m doing that shit. There’s also the start of our weekly thursday city concert dealios, with one hell of a bore of an act. Then friday there’s this charity hotel ballroom dealio that will most assuredly be painful. So, not a TERRIBLE week, but after that it all turns to hell, I assure you.

On a brighter note, I finally cashed in a birthday present – a gift certificate to a massive beer store. I walked away with some much sought-after Saranac Caramel Porter (seasonal, so it’s tough to find), and a few different British Banana beers – one of which I’ve had before and love, the other an experiment. On the label it says that it was designed to be “a beer with fruit, not a syrupy fruit beer.” This gets me excited. I may have it with breakfast/brunch today.

Posted by: performanceproduction | June 6, 2011

Too hard to write.

Posted by: performanceproduction | May 17, 2011

Standby to Stand By

So yeah, I’m in the middle of this 10 day festival dealio. We loaded in production on thursday, tested the rig, all that good shit, and were ready for the first day on friday. Beautiful (hot) day. Then comes saturday…a little rain, but cleared up and we had a great day all around.

Sunday: show cancels due to weather. There is an alternate venue, a local club, that obviously has their own system and engineers. Unfortunately, sunday was one of the few days this year that we’re providing backline, so I have to head over to da cluuuuub myself to deal with that. Still, an easy show.

Monday: Cancelled before I even get out the door. No backline – I stay home.

Today: I get to the jobsite early and am putzing around when I get word that we’re cancelled. No backline today either so I can pack up and go home. I’m in the middle of closing up the last tent side when I get a call that backline will be loading into da cluuuuub at 2. I call the promoter

“Uh, we’re not scheduled to do backline today”
“Really? Fuck. Because I need it. Can you bring some anyway?”
“Uhh…you’re going to have to call the BossMan about that.”
“I’ll call him right now”

An hour goes by. No word. So I call promoter back:

“Hey, have you learned anything new?”
“Oh, sorry. I got busy and haven’t called BossMan yet. I’ll call him as soon as I get off the phone with you.”

An hour goes by. No word.

I’m getting fucking pissed now, because it’s been 2 1/2 hours since I got word that the day was cancelled and I’M STILL FUCKING THERE. In the cold and rain, sitting with my dick in one hand and my other thumb up my ass. So finally I give BossMan a call.

“Hey, has PromoterDude called you?”
“No, why?”

ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME??

I explain the situation to BossMan who says “Well, I’ll give him a call and tell him he can find backline somewhere else. He’s not actually our client, the festival is, so its his problem, not ours. You go home.”

I thank him and hang up. I get a call back from BossMan a few minutes later. PromoterDude had already arranged for backline from elsewhere and never called me or BossMan to let us know.

Thanks a lot, fucktard.

Posted by: performanceproduction | May 15, 2011

Facts

The worst things for your hearing are:

1)Being around loud noises.

2)Caffeine

3)Smoking

4)Lifting heavy objects.

Prognosis: fucked.

Posted by: performanceproduction | May 8, 2011

Many thousands of words

Here’s what I was up to on thursday and friday:

Posted by: performanceproduction | April 26, 2011

So much to talk about, so little motivation

Blah.

That’s about how I’ve felt. I won’t lie, that last week whooped the ever-loving shit out of me. At some point during the course of the year, I get used to 90 hour weeks, but I’m just…not there yet. It doesn’t help that we kinda skipped our usual ramp-up process. We’ve been giggin’ more, but taking enough compensatory days off during those weeks where there had been one 65 hour week prior to this, and everything else came in around 40 still. This one came in at 92 (billable hours only counted). For more of a full story, lemme backtrack a bit.

After this show we had a day off then a nice early loadin at another college for a Big Pop Star. This particular college had given up on concerts the last few years for budget reasons, but they threw down some big money for this one (which they probably lost, because they just don’t have a whole lotta capacity to sell a bunch of tickets). This show was a light rig (which the tour supplemented with a buncha other shit), stacks and racks for headliner, full production including backline for opener. Opener was an act we’ve worked with twice before. First time, I was there, and they were just two dudes plus a DJ. Last time, which I wasn’t there for, they were suddenly 40something inputs, full band and a buncha tracks. That was the same this time (though a lot of the stereo tracks got cut down to mono at FOH’s insistence [for which I love him]). Those guys were fucking GOOD, and FOH dude had a killer mix. Headliner wasn’t awful to work with, though FOH dude (who is certainly a nice guy) has an interesting set of ears on him. I was scoffing a bit as he asked me to turn down the LM’s and HM’s as much as possible, and then he complained that it sounded “hollow.” Well no shit it sounds hollow, you just took all the balls away, brother! I chalked it up to a case of shitty square room meets a serious case of Arena Ears (dude was LOVING everything from 2k up), and went on my merry way. Loadout took forever because headliner’s set is huge and the student crew wasn’t all that good (though the two kids I had with me in the truck kicked ass!).

Next week was pretty low key. No shows at all, in fact. The week after that (the 90+hour one) started with a high school combined choruses dealio thingfishy. Sound, lights, video…I ended up on camera (for IMAG and recording). I like being a camera guy occasionally – it’s something different and I get to feel super artistic when I do very basic simple shit. We follow that up by going to yet another college, a bit further away for the same Big Pop Star all over again! Trucks are packed pretty fucking stupid due to the fact that the stage had to load in the night before, and we pre-loaded a whole assload of one of the weekend’s other gigs in front on one of the trucks. We overdid it a little, actually, and it made life tougher than it had to be. On the other hand, noone had decided whether or not we were even going to HAVE a third truck for that other show until after I had already done the pre-loading, so yeehaw for that.

Anyway. Big Pop Star’s FOH guy had the same reaction as the previous time, which I discussed a little more with him and gleaned some things. First, it WAS still a case of Arena Ears, but he could also have been hearing something that I just couldn’t, because when he was pointing out frequencies, they were landing almost spot on the crossover points. We got him rockin’ regardless, and continued with the show. Most of the crew was pretty lacklustre (again, despite the two kids I picked to join me in the trucks – I’ve been on a roll with that!), and loadout took even longer than the previous one had.

We hop into our truck bunks and sleep on the way home, because we have to reconvene 2 hours after we get back to move some trucks around and go load in an outdoor full production show at a local college.

Here’s where it starts to suck. It was cold, raining like a bastard, and the winds were a constant 35ish mph. Gusts were 50+. So, as discussions rage on about what to do, we start cutting down on things that can become sails. The 6 post roof gets cut down to 4. Twelve Vertec a side in that soundbay gets cut to 8, hanging off an external corner block. We didn’t even put the skin on the roof, because the 50mph gusts were supposed to be 60mph over the rest of the day, overnight, and into the next day. So, we built a grid and a stage, and kinda left it at that. The college didn’t have an indoor location that could hold as many people as tickets they sold, so it was going to end up being a simple yes or no. If it ended up being yes, it was going to suck really really hard the next day.

I wouldn’t be there however, as I had yet another gig at yet another college the next day. So after we got rained on and muddied up and blown around, we headed back to the shop for some further truck repacking. While this was all going on, by the way, we had some other guys setting up yet another stage at yet another college (it was a stage+barricade only), and we had a casino renting some consoles, that would have to end up being picked up to go to sunday’s gig that I was going to.

Ya know, in the quest for anonymity, this must be hard as fuck to keep track of, since I can’t name names of people or places. Especially places.

Next day, we leave at a brisk 5am to get to our college gig. We aren’t even there yet when we get the phone call that the other one was cancelled. Our guys considered the conditions unsafe enough to throw the skin on the roof, and the band wasn’t going to play without one, so that pretty much decided it. (On a side note, the students were cool enough to realise the safety implications involved, as not a single one of them seemed to begrudge us this decision).

Back to our show. I played the “I’m exhausted” card and went inside to point and direct things as they came off the truck. Normally, I’m the guy in the truck unloading it, but we had part-time guys with us who wouldn’t necessarily know, and also I was just plain whooped. I did feel like a lazy piece o’shit though. Oh well. I earned it. We had our head lighting guy with us, a part-time guy who was to be FOH, another part-time guy who was going to do monitors, another part-time guy who would start off helping our LD and then switch over to backline (which we were providing for both acts), and I would oversee both audio guys and backline. I would normally use first letters of names for anonymity’s sake, but that particularly day only our FOH tech’s name didn’t start with a J, so I’ll have to include last initials too. Anyway, my particular saving grace of the day was JP, our lighting/backline dude. Once lighting was set, he jumped right in on backline, which I had already started, but I quickly found myself having to answer audio questions and babysit those two guys, and JP ended up doing almost all the backline with just some student help. Throughout the day, all through the show, and afterward, JP was the only one I didn’t have to clean up after or straight up do the job of (other than JH, on lights). I would have killed myself and/or several other people had he not been there (and he was a last minute addition!). We got through it though, and I did end up back in the trucks for loadout, as I completely repacked them into something that made a little more sense for the next day, rental returns, and just less stupidness.

We arrive home about 5am, and have to be back in a few hours to go to the cancelled show and loadout the roof and stage. The wind has calmed down a bit by now, but the rain has turned to snow, and the mud has by no means dried up. Ugh. Loadout goes fairly smoothly though, and we head back to the shop for another hour of moving trucks around and finally get a day off the next day.

Holy christ this is long. I’m just as tired recapping as I was doing all this shit. I don’t really have any pictures. The second time we did Big Pop Star I snapped a few of the rigging, since it was our first time in that venue, but I can’t imagine anyone gives a fuck about that. If you do, lemme know and I’ll oblige, though.

Posted by: performanceproduction | April 13, 2011

Life Lessons

So today we had a pair of local stagehands in the shop helping me load 6 million trucks, and they were one two of the duller, younger guys. At one point they were talking about how they were much faster than some of the older guys (not true at all, these guys were total milkers), and it reminded me of the story of the Old Bull and the Young Bull. For those of you who don’t know it:

An old bull and a young bull are standing at the top of a tall hill, chewing grass. Young Bull turns to Old Bull and says “Hey, I see a herd of cows at the bottom of the hill. I’m going to run down there and fuck one of them.”

Old Bull looks at Young Bull and says “You do that. I’m going to walk down and fuck them all.”

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