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Band + Venue = Quality of Show

September 18, 2011 1 comment

I went to a show a few weeks ago that I intended to review. I was looking forward to it. The bill had a good local band, and a national headliner that was rumored to have a strong live performance.

Unfortunately, the performance was marred by such terrible sound, that I couldn’t bring you an objective review. Because I work with local venues, I can’t get away with calling them out. I have, however, come up with a different topic to talk about.
Let me start by analyzing this specific example. The opening acts were mixed by the house sound tech. The digital console in front of him is more expensive than your car. The PA system is an industry standard, and is correctly configured for that room. The room is a challenge – aren’t they all – but all of the tools needed to overcome them are readily available. The house sound guy was relatively new to the venue, so I’ll cut him some slack. Really, the only issue I took with him was his inability to locate the guitar faders. There were no guitars, except for what was coming off the stage. This guitarist is one of the best local players, and you could tell by his gear and performance that he has a lot invested in his sound. Oh well…
So then the national act takes the stage, with their own sound guy. One would assume that he had advanced the venue and knew what kind of gear was being used. More than likely, he’d been able to specify what console he used. The first thing he did was to pull up a vocal preset that he probably uses in every room. It was a Phil Collins slap, but with a long, warm reverb, The type that makes it sound like you’re in a wooden baseball stadium. He was able to find the guitar fader, and he dialed in a pretty good tone. Then he took the master fader and goosed it 20%.
The act I was so anticipated took the stage. They dropped the opening note, and turned into a hyper mess of white noise and wailing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I left after they played their single, which thankfully was 5 songs into their set. The bartender even said, “I sent someone to tell them to turn it down, but… ”

So what do you do? Here’s my suggestion:
– If you’re at the mercy of the house sound guy, you’ve gotta have an in-tune friend or roadie who can get word to you on stage. This person is not there to suggest an EQ boost to the lead guitar, but is empowered to let the band know about any serious issues. If the guitar player says, on an open mic, “Yo dude… no one can hear the guitars,” the advice comes with more authority than the amateur mixers in the audience.
– If you’re touring with a sound guy, you’ve got to make sure they’re flexible. Today’s digital consoles make it all too tempting to go with what worked last night. Get a sound check, use it, and dial it in. In my case, the band’s talent and effort were incinerated by a db hungry engineer.
I mix live sound. I mix bands with substandard gear who want to be as loud as possible. In my primary venue, I deliver 120db @ 1m. It’s a deep, wooden structure that can take it. If the back, brick wall is 50ft from the array, pay attention! I like it loud, but I don’t want to feel microwaved.

No artist wants to leave the stage to learn that the reason the crowd didn’t connect is because they weren’t given the opportunity to appreciate the full presentation. Keep this in mind – the FOH engineer is, for about an hour, a fully pledged member of the band. Make sure they’re on board.

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Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

Florida Music Festival : Great Line Up – Horrible Promotion

April 6, 2011 1 comment

ATTN Central Florida Bands: You’re Slackin’.

There are so many great bands on the bill this year. It’s pretty awesome. FMF has been improving every year, and again manages to bring you the best bands you’ve never heard of… unless you’ve really been trying.

For the bands involved in this three-day blowout, this is a great opportunity to a) Introduce yourself to the 4,000 or so Central Floridians who actually care about what you’re doing and 2) network with some moderately important industry types.

Here’s my concern: I’m not sure you’re taking this seriously.

I monitor all the major social networking sites pretty heavily. I’m one of the few who still believes MySpace is worth looking at occasionally. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress… I’m up to date on all of these. I’m hooked on the constant stream. And what I’ve noticed is, I’ve seen way more posts from people who are excited about FMF, than I’ve seen from the bands who are playing.

Two years ago, when all of you were still tied heavily into your MySpace pages, the feed was NON-STOP… Come see us HERE at THIS TIME or don’t bother to call yourself a fan. This year, everyone’s moved to Facebook because it’s so much easier to maintain. So, you set up an Event, “Monkey Brains w/Sweat Lodge, Camel Toe, and Mojo Filter @ 57West Thursday, April 7th 10:30 SHARP!!!” and wait for the invite RSVPs to roll in.

You make plans to load up 4 hours before load in, roll downtown, get set up, and play a show. You’ll load up as soon as the line at the merch booth disappears, walk down to the Social to see half a set from your friend’s band, and head home.

“Awesome! There were 200 people there! Plus, we sold like 3 shirts and 10 CDs! We can pay our rehearsal space rent with that!”

Cool… and you got like 15 new Facebook Likes. Awesome. You unmotivated, clueless sack of ramen noodles…

I could rant about how your brain is too full of tubes and Pantera riffs to understand the big picture, but instead, I’ll offer some positivity, in the form of suggestions on how to maximize your gains from this annual opportunity.

 

  1. Plan to be all over the place, all day, every day.  Make up some super cheap, business card sized fliers, with your band’s name and the time and place where you’re playing.  Split the band up, and have different members covering different venues.  Remember, one ticket gets you into all venues all weekend.  Go to every show you can, who cares what genre.  Someone into Tom Petty might also like Tool, and therefore your band.  Talk to everyone who seems interested, tell them honestly that you’d appreciate them checking you out.  A 2 minute personal connection with someone who’s randomly show hopping could win you a hardcore fan.
  2. Break into the groups hanging out at the back of the venue.  I don’t want to pretend like all of the most important people in music converge on Orlando during this magical weekend, but there are plenty of moderately important contacts that your band can get in good with.  The thing is, these people are surrounded with leaches who know how important they are and want to entertain them with their wits and humor.  Back off, sucker fish, I have a band to promote.  Scope it out, figure out who The Dude is, and introduce yourself.  The Dude, while buried under a pile of Jager shots, will be impressed at your motivation and might find a way to stumble to your venue, check you out, and supply you with free guitar picks for life.  That doesn’t suck.
  3. The Dude may also be The Chick.  There are a ton of connected and influential people in the Orlando music scene who rock the XX.  Club owners, photogs, promoters, managers, label reps, Radio DJs, and so on.  Most of them are pretty cute.  Suck it up, boys… I know chicks who AREN”T hot for your stage persona are harder to talk to, but you can do it.
  4. Befriend the other bands.  ALL of the other bands.  There was a band last year who had a really cool promotional idea.  I’ll skip the specifics, but they covered the downtown area with a mysterious logo with only a time and a venue.  It was a great idea!  They then proceeded to pull all sorts of prima donna crap with the other bands on their lineup.  1 hour before their set, the Orlando Police showed up and ordered them to remove all of their ingenious promotional devices or they would prevent them from taking the stage.  I have to believe that this was Band Karma.  Look, we’re all in this together.  If you want to be by yourself, feel free to starve out there alone.
  5. Promote online.  Incessantly.  Obnoxiously.  Personally.  Regularly.  Shamelessly.  If Facebook hasn’t given you a yellow card for spamming, you’re not doing it right.  It’s free, it’s easy, and it reaches more of your fans than anything else.  But setting up an event and sending out invites isn’t gonna cut it.  I need a reminder from you EVERY FOUR HOURS for the ENTIRE WEEK leading up to your show.  If you want to learn how to set this up quickly and easily, please contact me personally.  Otherwise, assign different band members to log into your account in regular intervals and send out SOMETHING that reminds me that I MUST see your show.
  6. Take this seriously.  “The only people that come to this show are frat losers / hipsters / jocks / etc.”  Who cares?  Do you want to play a frat party?  Sure you do.  Or you should want to.  “There’s no one important here.”  Wrong.  You aren’t looking hard enough.  Go big, or go home.

Get on it.  Take this seriously.  If you’re on the bill, you’re obviously trying to maximize your fan base.  Take some of my suggestions and promote.  I’ve only got 4 bands on my agenda, and I need more.

 

Here’s who you need to see @ FMF:

Traverser

The Well Reds

Easy Star All Stars

Gasoline Heart

Empyrean

Maybe If You Hit It

Star City Meltdown

John Frank

Crisis In Hollywood

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

10 Things I Love About (Through) You

March 2, 2011 4 comments

My buddies in Traverser just got back into town after 2 1/2 months touring the east coast.  This was their first tour, but it was an overall success and the guys are in very high spirits.  They’re back in town, but that doesn’t mean they get to relax too much… we booked a few local shows in the few weeks until they take off again for another few months.

One of the shows was in Sanford, FL, at the Route 46 “Entertainment Complex.” Very cool venue… kind of an indoor / outdoor multi-building party spot, but done very professionally.  John McCutchan booked the show, with his longtime cohorts Through You as the headliners.

I’ve been working with Through You since 2004.  The band had just formed, but was blowing up in a big way.  Most of the guys were very young… the guitarist and drummer – brothers – were still in high school.  As the years went on, they landed a spot on Warped Tour (thanks for letting me guitar tech for a day) and toured the US and Japan.

As the music industry changed, they, like many bands, struggled to adjust.  One brother decided it was time to leave, and their lead guitarist went back up north.  I figured they were done.  Had a great run, but things change… good luck in the future.

Two years later, I heard the name Through You again.  Really?  You’re gonna try to get the old band back together?  That never works.  But it did.  For real.

I saw Through You last night in Sanford, and I also saw their “Welcome Back” show several months ago.  Frankly, their welcome back show was… like the last time I skied.  I forgot to weave back and forth, and just rocketed down the slope at full speed.  When I crashed, I’m pretty sure I did permanent damage to my spine.  In the same way, the guys were so excited to be in front of 1200 people at House of Blues that everything seemed over the top.

Last night reminded me why I love Through You.  I don’t mean “love” like some ponytailed LA talent scout saying, “Love ya, babe.  Let’s do lunch!”  I mean LOVE: to truely and emotionally care about something on a deep level.  I will now tell you why, in an inordinately cheesy format.

Bring it...

1) Every song is better than the last.  I mean that chronologically.  Whenever Through You says, “Here’s a new song!”  I don’t cringe.  That’s a good sign.  The guys manage to walk the fine line between “innovative” and “nothing like the old songs I like.”  That’s really hard.

2) There’s a guy on stage for every girl in the crowd.  It’s a fact:  the girls in the audience are all hoping there’s at least one really hot guy on stage.  Each member of TY is in great shape, and they’re dressed in a manner that expresses their personality, makes them feel comfortable, and makes them look good.  Whether you want a trim farm boy, a muscular, tatted New Yorker, an extra from Twilight, or a shy, softspoken barely-legal basketball player, someone on stage is going to perk your, ahem… interest.  Oh, and then there’s Jeremy, the bass player.  Yes, he looks great in his flannel and beard, but he’s now Married with Piglet, so don’t get too hung up.  And no, I’m not calling his baby ugly… he keeps food as a pet.  Like the Hindus… but I digress…

3) They’re good dudes.  I got the chance the other night to chat up Sam, their newest guitarist.  Dude’s from Iowa, by way of New York, Miami, and other cities I’ve forgotten.  He joined up with the band 3 years ago, right after relocating to Orlando.  He had so many positive things to say about Orlando’s music scene… it made me feel like a jaded jackass.  Sam, and the rest of the guys, will talk to anyone without a hint of ego and are genuinely friendly.

4) Billy doesn’t still hate me.  If you know me, you’ll know that I do really care about people.  I’m not out to start problems or spread gossip.  That said, sometimes I’m an idiot.  At some point during the hiatus, I caught wind of a rumor and was dumb enough to carry it on.  It made its way back to Billy, who was good enough to call me up and tell me I was an idiot.  And I was… and I told him so.  I apologized for being a mindless sheep, and asked for his forgiveness.  He told me we were all good.  We are.  A lot of people like to hold onto grudges and enjoy rehashing them.  Being able to see this guy around without fearing a beatdown means a lot to me.

5) They connect with their audience.  Last night, they announced that they were ending the set with a new song.  Again, I always have a skeptical reaction to that phrase… Play the song, don’t tell me it’s new.  Otherwise, I’m bracing for the inevitable suck.  And DON’T…EVER.. lead or close with a new song.  The first song is when the crowd decides whether they’re into you, or going to go outside and smoke and talk to some chick for an hour.  The last song is the one that most of the audience will remember.  This last song was not only new, it was a ballad!  What are you… the Scorpions?  I was really enjoying the set, but when this song started, I wandered off.  A ballad?  I thought they were smarter than this…but… the crowd is singing the hook.  Now they’re clapping along… and the guys are harmonizing… and this is actually a pretty good song…and the last 30 seconds is only the band and audience singing together and clapping.  THERE’S the last song connection – and if that’s all anyone remembers, they’ll think they saw U2 last night.  Incredibly powerful.

6) They’re humble.  Like I said, they’ll talk to anyone after the show, and genuinely appreciate the fact that people dig what they’re doing.  With the experience that these guys have under their belt, you’d think that Sanford, FL would be underwhelming.  But they still brought a 100% show.

7) They appreciate their fans. They’re genuinely interested in hearing what they have to say, and spent a lot of time chatting them up last night.

8) They have true, practiced, and developed talent.  These aren’t just guys who can play well enough to jam out some Green Day in the garage.  They all continue to get better at playing their instruments and widening their musical vocabulary.  King, their drummer, has had an amazing progression over the years.  TY opened for a band I was in a few years ago, and even at 16, his drum solo shamed me off the stage.  He’s studied under some of the best in Florida, and is even more ridiculous.  Billy posts “How To Play Our Riffs” videos on YouTube, which is a great way to connect with the musicians in your fan base.  SO many bands ignore the need to constantly improve…

9) They always look like they’re on a HUGE stage.  As far as local bands go, Megaphone is the only other band I’ve seen that consistently performs like the audience is massive.  They reigned it in a few notches from the aforementioned HOB comeback show, and really have their stage show well tuned.  For whatever reason, the Sanford crowd took a few songs to wake up.  It didn’t matter to the band, though… if you’d only seen the stage, you would have sworn there were over 1,000 kids standing right in front of them.

10) They’re comfortable in their own shoes.  They know they won’t be “metal” enough for some, while others who haven’t seen a guitar solo in a few years might think they’re a little too “metal.”  Sam put it perfectly, “We’re a rock band.  If you listen to us, you’ll pick up on metal, country, alt rock, but we call ourselves a ‘Rock Band’ and let the audience figure it out.”  Instead of trying to match a genre, Through You plays what they want.  Thank God it’s all good… very good.

Check out the band, leave comments, and tell your friends…

-=T=-

Categories: Uncategorized

Check out “Pretty Please”

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment
Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Maybe If You Hit It – A new band with a big image

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

I woke up yesterday and popped open Facebook.

LT from local rock station WJRR had posted an interview she’d done with a new local band.

Now check out their website:  www.MaybeIfYouHitIt.com

What do you think?  Post your comments below.

Here’s what I think:

Drip – Rock in Progress

February 16, 2011 1 comment

February 9th was a Wednesday.  I’ve got one of those screwed up work schedules that has me off on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I try to get as much as I can out of those precious midweek days.  By Wednesday night, I was still feeling a little low on ROCK, so I put out a call on Facebook…

Nice… N8 comes through with a winner.  Drip is a new project by David Traver of Blue Man Group.  I’ve heard about it, but never had a chance to check it out.

The Cameo has plenty of open space, and that’s good.  The stage was in the corner, and a 30′ x 5′ section in the center of the room was blocked off by a clear plastic curtain hanging from the ceiling, along with what looked like blood-bags full of colored sand.  Okaaaaay… See, Drip is intended to be a combination of performance art and music, like Blue Man or Cirque.

The 4 piece band, featuring former members of Orlando locals Social Ghost and Cori Yarckin, takes the stage wearing black swashbuckler outfits.  The first track starts, and the screen to the side of the stage explains the purpose of the track, and hints at what might be going on on stage.  The song (His/Her Story – I think) is VERY simple, alternating between two riffs while building intensity and playing with the time signatures.  The next track, Flash, gives each member of the band some room to show off, but it felt a little awkward.  They finally landed on a solid groove that builds in intensity until the last note.  Again, the audience is trying to visualize the stage show based on basic concepts suggested by the screen.  With little context or lyrics, the music is very simple.  However, all the involuntary head bobbing highlights the simple power of the RIFF.  Eric Lugo’s bass starts off “LMetronome” with thundering darkness that leads to some tasty Foo-type chunky rhythms.  It feels like more of a transitional track that never quite peaks.

Jessica Mariko, the CEO and Creative Director, takes the stage to thank everyone for coming out.  They’ve raised about half of their start-up funds, and need about $25,000 more to get things moving.  At this point I’m looking around to try and spot the VIPs she must have invited, so I can mug them in the parking lot.  She explains that the pod in the center of the room is intended to be twice as long, but should still allow us to realize the full scope of Drip’s intentions.

“Sighting” begins, and dancers fill the pod wearing black tank-tops and jean shorts.  The band is cranking out a Perfect Circle type soundtrack while the dancers grab handfuls of colored sand and start tossing it around.  And it WORKS!  Now that we’re firing on all cylinders, the whole machine is actually pretty impressive.  The lighting and fans inside the booth are making the sandstorm really impressive, and the interaction between the dancers was sensual and exciting.  The sandbag pinatas are ripped open and pour down over the sweaty bodies in the tank, and the audience loves it.  The track winds down to silence, as blue sand is raining on the last dancer.  There’s more sand in the bag than music, but the audience stands silently until it finally runs out… the final stillness is deafening, and is only eventually followed by enthusiastic applause.

There’s something here.  It’s not ALL here yet, but Mr. Traver’s concept is a cool one, and looks like it could work.

Now this is Orlando.  We do entertainment… BIG entertainment.  Competing with all the massive Fun, Inc. venues is not easy.  Drip’s been smoldering for quite some time, flirting with an I-Drive venue and struggling to keep everyone on board.  I don’t know that any of the 15 or so people involved are making any money, so this is still a labor-of-love kind of thing.  Can they compete with the massive Blue Man Group / Cirque de Soleil franchises?

I, personally, hope they get to try.  Someone write Mariko a check.

Learn more about DRIP at www.ILoveDrip.com