Posts Tagged ‘music’

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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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.

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