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Author Topic: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic  (Read 995 times)

John Fruits

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Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« on: July 09, 2018, 03:27:22 pm »

I frequently check into blue-room.org, the theatrical forum based in Great Britain.
Here is a recent post there:
http://www.blue-room.org.uk/index.php?showtopic=71559
The primary issue seems to be small festivals going with the low bidder. 
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Luke Geis

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2018, 10:13:02 pm »

This is true, but not true. It is the expectation vs. the budget. Many bands get booked and hired out to shows and venues with a very low working budget ( quite likely due to the cost of having said band / s ). The engineer is probably very much capable of their job, but has limitations beyond their control, or a bands expectations are more than what can be provided. Its the carriage before the horse conundrum. The band only cares about themselves, they don't care about who was before them or who is after them, it is simply them. They want what they feel gives the crowd the best of them ( which is not always inline with reality, budget, or sensibility ). This means that what they feel is important trumps what the reality is. Carriage before the horse.

BE's are not always practical from a schedule point of view. Ask 10 engineers what they want and you will get 10 different things that have to be provided exclusive to each band. Not only that, the BE's will want the time and tools needed to get what they want for their client. This is not practical for smaller budget stages where you have 15 min. turnarounds. It is quicker and less troublesome for a single engineer to give the same relative results to any given band. The Band at that point becomes the weak link actually. A shitty engineer can't make a great band sound any worse than a bad band can make a great engineer wish he was wearing a mask. It is a two way street. Great bands sound good naturally regardless of who is behind the mixer. An engineer who works with a great band a lot can eek out just that much more, but a shitty engineer isn't going to ruin the performance a great band. Good ones sound good, shitty ones sound shitty.

Next is who is paying for it. If the band isn't paying for the production in any way, they need to eat their tongue and STFU. It is not THEIR show, it is someone else's. He who pays, gets to have what they want. If the venue or purveyor wants to pay for the cheapest production money can buy, that is their choice. If the band wants to front some money to make it more of what they would like, then they should pony up. If they aren't paying money, no opinion is valid. If you agree to my terms and my terms are shit, you still agree'd to my terms. That sort of thing.

Small festivals depend on so much more than a band. 100,000 people do not come and spend money on vendors and drink to come to a show where they don't know who the band is. Small festivals are almost all free to the public, and even ones where you pay for entry the B and C stages are for bands that 90% of the attendee's have never heard of the band and are only there for passing time while waiting for the A stage band they are there for to come on. I.E. a B and C stage band is for all intents and purposes a side show. If they get to play and get paid, they should be pretty happy. They are not what the people came for after all.

Last thing, I promise. It is easy to blame a bands overall performance on an inexperienced or even mediocre engineer. Why wouldn't you. I have never ONCE heard a band come out and say, you know what, it was OUR fault, we didn't perform well, we didn't do what we could to make it as good as it could be. Never once have I heard a band say, hey this was our fault that we sounded like poop because of us and our attitude. If you sound great 100% of the time with your BE and the one time you sound like poop is with the house engineer, it may be the engineer is actually shitty, but that is just the odds. Just be honest when you come across a PEE-ON engineer who makes you sound great despite your attitude. There is always a bigger fish in the sea and not all engineers are created equal, but be fair to them all and you may find most that are in a position of employment are better at the task than any given member in the band. An employed engineer is very much likely better at the task than any band member. Opinions are like buttholes right........ Everyone has one. The person being paid to make the call is the ones who's butthole stinks the least. It may very well be the engineer is a 10X better guitarist than the dude in the band, but he doesn't go around telling everyone the bands guitarist blows donkey balls. Two way street.

In the end, this is for one thing. To perform and HAVE FUN. If you can't have fun at a no cost to you show, then why are you doing it? Make the best of everything, have fun and keep a positive attitude, then even the shittiest of days will just seem like a passing moment. If you think the shitty engineer wants to hear a shitty band that he can't help to save his life, you are dreaming. Everyone in the party wants to have fun. Bring the A game and bring a fun attitude, you might find that you have more fun than you should be. Food for thought.....
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Scott Holtzman

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2018, 12:42:26 am »

This is true, but not true. It is the expectation vs. the budget. Many bands get booked and hired out to shows and venues with a very low working budget ( quite likely due to the cost of having said band / s ). The engineer is probably very much capable of their job, but has limitations beyond their control, or a bands expectations are more than what can be provided. Its the carriage before the horse conundrum. The band only cares about themselves, they don't care about who was before them or who is after them, it is simply them. They want what they feel gives the crowd the best of them ( which is not always inline with reality, budget, or sensibility ). This means that what they feel is important trumps what the reality is. Carriage before the horse.

BE's are not always practical from a schedule point of view. Ask 10 engineers what they want and you will get 10 different things that have to be provided exclusive to each band. Not only that, the BE's will want the time and tools needed to get what they want for their client. This is not practical for smaller budget stages where you have 15 min. turnarounds. It is quicker and less troublesome for a single engineer to give the same relative results to any given band. The Band at that point becomes the weak link actually. A shitty engineer can't make a great band sound any worse than a bad band can make a great engineer wish he was wearing a mask. It is a two way street. Great bands sound good naturally regardless of who is behind the mixer. An engineer who works with a great band a lot can eek out just that much more, but a shitty engineer isn't going to ruin the performance a great band. Good ones sound good, shitty ones sound shitty.

Next is who is paying for it. If the band isn't paying for the production in any way, they need to eat their tongue and STFU. It is not THEIR show, it is someone else's. He who pays, gets to have what they want. If the venue or purveyor wants to pay for the cheapest production money can buy, that is their choice. If the band wants to front some money to make it more of what they would like, then they should pony up. If they aren't paying money, no opinion is valid. If you agree to my terms and my terms are shit, you still agree'd to my terms. That sort of thing.

Small festivals depend on so much more than a band. 100,000 people do not come and spend money on vendors and drink to come to a show where they don't know who the band is. Small festivals are almost all free to the public, and even ones where you pay for entry the B and C stages are for bands that 90% of the attendee's have never heard of the band and are only there for passing time while waiting for the A stage band they are there for to come on. I.E. a B and C stage band is for all intents and purposes a side show. If they get to play and get paid, they should be pretty happy. They are not what the people came for after all.

Last thing, I promise. It is easy to blame a bands overall performance on an inexperienced or even mediocre engineer. Why wouldn't you. I have never ONCE heard a band come out and say, you know what, it was OUR fault, we didn't perform well, we didn't do what we could to make it as good as it could be. Never once have I heard a band say, hey this was our fault that we sounded like poop because of us and our attitude. If you sound great 100% of the time with your BE and the one time you sound like poop is with the house engineer, it may be the engineer is actually shitty, but that is just the odds. Just be honest when you come across a PEE-ON engineer who makes you sound great despite your attitude. There is always a bigger fish in the sea and not all engineers are created equal, but be fair to them all and you may find most that are in a position of employment are better at the task than any given member in the band. An employed engineer is very much likely better at the task than any band member. Opinions are like buttholes right........ Everyone has one. The person being paid to make the call is the ones who's butthole stinks the least. It may very well be the engineer is a 10X better guitarist than the dude in the band, but he doesn't go around telling everyone the bands guitarist blows donkey balls. Two way street.

In the end, this is for one thing. To perform and HAVE FUN. If you can't have fun at a no cost to you show, then why are you doing it? Make the best of everything, have fun and keep a positive attitude, then even the shittiest of days will just seem like a passing moment. If you think the shitty engineer wants to hear a shitty band that he can't help to save his life, you are dreaming. Everyone in the party wants to have fun. Bring the A game and bring a fun attitude, you might find that you have more fun than you should be. Food for thought.....

As I continue to learn the live band side of this business I have to agree with most of what you say however want to share a few thoughts

1 - I have had bands not participate in sound check or group noodle through them, proceed to get drunk on stage then scream into the PA that their monitor sounds like shit and they never gotten fucked by the sound guy.  You ever had 300+ drunk, high, stoned metal heads being egged on by equally drunk, high bass player?  I was clearly looking for an exit strategy.  Oh they sounded like shit and nothing I could do about it.

2 - It's not my mix that gets the most out of the band.  However having the stage set, a good monitor mix waiting for them and treating the artist with respect creates an environment that brings out good performances. 

3 - Most people really don't care about the PA.  I have run good bands on woefully inadequate PA's and had folks totally into the show.

4 - Safety is non-negotiable.  Power, environment, structural problems are non-starters.  No matter if you are a hired gun or a BE job 1 is to protect your artist.

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Lyle Williams

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2018, 07:11:52 am »

The blue room op (who runs a production company) sounds like he was part of a band that didn't engage with sound guy and is whining about it afterwards.

Even if the sound guy was some pimply kid who said "the boss said don't let anyone touch the gear" then they just needed to engage more effectively.  If they didn't care enough to guide the artistic endeavour, they have learnt a lesson for next time.

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John Daniluk (JD)

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2018, 07:16:17 am »

Most of the bands I work are line check and go.   Band technical rider is great.   Band knowing what they need in monitors to play helps.  Band set list, solos, who is lead singer helps.  Know what is needed to be able play your show.

At the end of the first song, quickly communicate monitor changes. 

When working bands I try to see if they have videos on youtube. it helps....

Note to bands.  give me a rider of what you normally need to play and also the minimum requirement.  ie we usually have 4 different monitor mixes, can play on 2. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you get from the sound company.

jd

jd

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Steve Crump

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2018, 03:05:19 pm »

In the end, this is for one thing. To perform and HAVE FUN. If you can't have fun at a no cost to you show, then why are you doing it? Make the best of everything, have fun and keep a positive attitude, then even the shittiest of days will just seem like a passing moment. If you think the shitty engineer wants to hear a shitty band that he can't help to save his life, you are dreaming. Everyone in the party wants to have fun. Bring the A game and bring a fun attitude, you might find that you have more fun than you should be. Food for thought.....

+1

Most of the bands that I have worked with are "C" level touring or local bands. I have had a couple opportunities to work with a couple of "C" level guys who once were part of the "A" list group, one for a few years. But, what surprises me is how insecure a lot of musicians are. I have worked with guys who have fantastic bands and do a great show, but their insecurities make them a PITA to work with.
Then on the other hand I have worked with guys who drive in to town 300 miles from the last show, all in a 15 passenger Econoline, setup, go eat, come in literally with barely a line check, and jump on the stage and do a masterful show. Almost like their attitude is "we know we are going to do a good job and have fun".
I guess I am saying, the good bands who are confident really make my job easy.

I can also say I have heard a lot of very mediocre bands who think they are the next Clapton.
And then their are the mediocre bands who know that they are mediocre and just want to have fun..

« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 03:07:46 pm by Steve Crump »
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Dave Pluke

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2018, 03:12:32 pm »

Then on the other hand I have worked with guys who drive in to town 300 miles from the last show, all in a 15 passenger Econoline, setup, go eat, come in literally with barely a line check, and jump on the stage and do a masterful show.

I know those guys!  Wish there were more of them.

Dave
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2018, 03:15:00 pm »

I read and replied to the thread at Blue Room.

What I took away from that discussion had nothing to do with the bands, but the shit-stain level of profession care given to the event.  Why is not important.  Remember the thread about "when I can't work my charity gig they just want me to drop off a mic & speaker"?  The same righteously indignant folks in that thread are the ones blaming performers in this thread.

Bah fucking humbug.  Either take your A game and team or stay home.  And don't make excuses for the twits that give audio folks a bad name.
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Steve Crump

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2018, 03:33:06 pm »

We all come here to learn and share our experiences, it looks like we could find ways to communicate without lambasting. You can have differing opinions without making psychological judgements. Seems a lot of us react emotionally at times.   
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 04:17:48 pm by Steve Crump »
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Lyle Williams

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2018, 03:44:05 pm »

From what I can tell, it was an all volunteer fund raising gig, the "Bures Music Festival" and the band was "UK Beach Boys".

The main stage was a circus-style tent.  Crowd looked like about 500 from the photos online.  The second stage ("accoustic stage") looks like it was a 3x3m pop up tent on the grass.

Yes, the sound probably should have been better, but some perspective is needed from the band.  This was more like a town fete than a Glastonbury festival.
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Dave Garoutte

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2018, 04:03:45 pm »

I know those guys!  Wish there were more of them.

Dave

I think they can't fit more in the van. ;)

If you're going to show up and be the 'sound guy', at least pay attention to the show.
Have pride in what you do at all times.
I disagree that you can't screw up a great band.  If you can't hear the vocals or if the bass is overpowering everything else. . .
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Steve Crump

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2018, 04:21:43 pm »


If you're going to show up and be the 'sound guy', at least pay attention to the show.
Have pride in what you do at all times.
I disagree that you can't screw up a great band.  If you can't hear the vocals or if the bass is overpowering everything else. . .

I agree with this also. I set through a performance where the two acoustic guitars were turned so high that you couldn't hear the vocals.

Jonathan Johnson

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2018, 04:24:21 pm »

I think they can't fit more in the van. ;)

If you're going to show up and be the 'sound guy', at least pay attention to the show.
Have pride in what you do at all times.
I disagree that you can't screw up a great band.  If you can't hear the vocals or if the bass is overpowering everything else. . .

A sister church to mine used to rent a school auditorium annually for special services. The needs were minimal: one or two mics for speech only. No amplified music.

The school always provided a sound tech. Basically, that amounted to the drama coach showing a student, "here's the volume control, don't touch anything else." And, by policy, only the school's “tech” was allowed to touch their equipment.

Mostly, it worked OK, until one year the hired student was wholly incapable of even “mixing” a single microphone input — if you could get him to put down his trashy novel (this was before smartphones).

Because I half expected that to happen (due to continuously degrading service over the years), I had brought my own equipment.

With less than 30 minutes before the first service, I had my system up and running — and sounding better that the venue had in years. We told the "sound tech" to just run the lights. After that, I provided the sound for the services.
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brian maddox

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2018, 07:22:35 pm »

...

Then on the other hand I have worked with guys who drive in to town 300 miles from the last show, all in a 15 passenger Econoline, setup, go eat, come in literally with barely a line check, and jump on the stage and do a masterful show. Almost like their attitude is "we know we are going to do a good job and have fun".

....

One of my early educational days in this business was providing second desks for a good sized festival on "Earth Day".  This was quite a while ago, but there were a number of Bands You've Heard Of there.  The dock was full of fancy tour buses and the stage was awash with rock star attitude for most of the day.

Except for one act that arrived in a 15 passenger van driven by the guitar player with a little backline trailer behind.  In small letters on the side of the plain white van it said "theymightbegiants, Inc.".

Guess whose rider was clear, concise, and up to date?  Guess who needed No hand holding?  Guess whose set was Outstanding [And i wasn't even a fan]?  Guess who was still touring and making a good living Long after all those Bands You've Heard Of became Bands You Haven't Heard from in Years?

It was a great lesson for me in what matters in this business. And what doesn't.
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Stephen Kirby

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2018, 11:41:11 pm »

I was playing in a local dive blues bar as a sideman on the early show when this Airporter type van pulls up and these guys roll out.  Grab their stuff and set up quickly.  Turns out the main guy had been dropped off earlier and had been sitting at the bar.  75 year old Sleepy LaBeef.  I had no idea who he was but sure found out.  Sweetest, nicest cat you could imagine.  250+ nights a year at 75 years old.  They were playing the Filmore that Friday but added in an extra Thursday at this dive along the way.  Young back up band tighter than a skeeter's tweeter.  He invited me to sit in with him.  He jumped from song to song so fast none of them went more than a couple minutes.  They must have had a couple hundred on the tips of their fingers so when he jumped, they were with him in a quarter of a beat.
Another group that blew though the place with absolutely no attitude were the Boneshakers.  Cooler than most of the local Wednesday night acts and blew the roof off the place.  Then chatted with us locals like they were one of us.
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Kevin_Tisdall

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Re: Festival sound, a view from the other side of the mic
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2018, 04:07:43 pm »

Per Scott H:

"2 - It's not my mix that gets the most out of the band.  However having the stage set, a good monitor mix waiting for them and treating the artist with respect creates an environment that brings out good performances."


As a hobbyist with a former life as "pro" sound guy full-time, This is my mantra.  I rarely ever even see a B level act anymore but I treat everyone this way.  I feel it's why we're here.

--Kevin
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