It seems that these days I have been blessed to work with some of the best band members around. This one particular band that I got hooked up with is no exception. I was greeted with respect and kindness, almost like I was a long time member of the band. Here was yet another band willing to help me load my gear in and out of the club.
This past weekend I met with the guys for a gig at, “The Mason Jar” in Greer. A tiny grill and bar with street side load in that totally stinks. It would have been nice for the owner to have a couple of parking spaces reserved for loading in, but then again maybe the city wouldn’t allow this. Either way load in was tricky for such a small place.
Once the gear was inside, I started to set up the rig in this crowded place. I have drop snakes and small mic stands that make setup neat and clean, not to mention pretty easy to setup. I set up two front wedge monitors with separate mixes for the lead and backup singers. The drummer was sent his own dedicated line for his drum monitor which usually isn’t a problem, but in this case became the Achilles heel for the first few songs.
We did the sound check with hardly any problems at all. Got the wedges cranked and entire main mix was pretty much nailed within half of a song. Then I started to pipe the aux channels to the effects where I found no signal to the rack. I only had 2 of my 4 aux channels working which meant that I had no effects for this gig. The lead singer praised me for the effects that I used at the last gig and doing this show with a total dry signal was totally not an option for me.
After the realization that the aux channels on my used Mackie console decided to stop working, I remembered that I had sent a signal to the drum monitor which was not going to work. I usually carry a spare tiny amp for the drummer wedge just in case I have an amp failure, but on this day I had not covered myself on the issue of losing my aux sends. Looks like I will be operating on this board with a can of pot cleaner to try and restore the missing signal, not to mention fix those scratchy pots.
So, how do I obtain the signal that I need for effects and drum monitor? Well my first thought was to connect the drum monitor line to the mono output of the mixing console and this actually worked but eventually this became the Achilles heel that I talked about. During sound check we had almost no feedback issues at all but when starting the set we had some major feedback issues. So bad that the band actually had to stop the song they were playing. For a sound man, this is a nightmare because everyone in the room starts looking at you. At first I thought we were dealing with wedge feedback but until the bass player and drummer located a ringing in the snare during a rim shot. Before then, we didn’t know that the feedback was coming from the drum wedge feeding into the snare microphone.
As the song started and I started tweaking the house sound, this was compounded from the drum wedge playing into the drum mics. As you know this is a recipe for uncontrollable feedback. The only thing I did to stop the feedback was to back down the main fader but at this time I still had no idea where the problem was. Due to the band being level headed and working together to help solve a problem, it was actually the band members that located and fixed the problem. Turning off the drum monitor was the only thing that actually worked because it was sending just too much of the mix into the mics. If the stage was larger, I possibly could have fired the wedge from the side and feedback probably wouldn’t have been am issue, but we were so cramped in this space that there wasn’t hardly an inch to spare on available room.
So now we have the feedback problem corrected, how am I going to get effects on the vocals? Well this console has sub groups which I normally do not even use for small live gigs. For small setups I just don’t see the need for them. This just happened to be the extra aux send that I needed to save the day. I assigned the vocals to sub groups 1-2 and left the pan in the middle. This actually gave me an extra post fade aux channel that I used to send to the effects processor. I returned the signal into channel 15 for my effects and all went well from there. Once this was working I thought about putting the drum monitor on the 3-4 sub group for a controllable signal send, but I had already had enough of stealing the spotlight for the night. I figured I would just leave well enough alone and finish the show with what I had left of a mixing console.
In the midst of all the confusion and problems getting going, the lead singer actually noted on mic to give the sound man a hand for keeping my cool in the middle of a major problem. Usually the sound man is the last person that needs to be noticed during a show, but it was nice to know that they weren’t too upset for me ruining the first 3 songs of the night. At the end of the night I apologized for the problems but was constantly assured that it was simply things that happen. For a band to be so understanding when problems arise is so nice. Ultimately the sound man wants to never be called out for anything. What I mean is, if he is never spoken to or called out, then he is doing his job and being totally transparent in the live set. Any time that the crowds attention is focused on anything except for the band, this is considered non entertainment.
To wrap up this blog I would like to say thanks to the band, “Hammerdown” for being an awesome bunch of guys that love to rock out. They are an Outlaw Country band that puts on a great show. Their music is tight and the show is very enjoyable as the lead singer works the crowd very well. A big thanks to the band for trusting me with their house sound. It’s very important for sound men to always have an open mind when trouble happens. Sometimes it’s not always our fault but you never want to distract the musician by trying to prove who’s right or wrong.