Going With the Flow

This spring I had the opportunity to step back into my roots and mix a loud rock band. The goal was simple: make sure it’s loud and doesn’t get in the way of their groove.

The opportunity came with a rocking stage (many guitar cabs, something the “luxury” of amp modelers softens us to) and PAs that ranged from questionable, to what is one of my favorite Cohesion systems that I’ve ever mixed on.

The tour brought me back to a sense of reality and perhaps grounded me in many ways. Sometimes the systems and consoles made me feel less than comfortable, either with their inability to work “flawlessly” or because of the fast-paced and unexpected nature of the show. I had to create a dialogue daily with house venue staff to learn about how they managed the system or room and try to employ their techniques when necessary.

The overarching observation is that this was such a valuable learning experience, providing opportunities to re-think the show and challenge myself with varying mixing platforms. I saw the gamut of nearly every mainstream console: PM5, X32, S6L, DLive, and even a Pro2. Sometimes these consoles worked flawlessly. Other times, they didn’t, forcing me to be creative with my layouts and workflow.

These shows solidified my technical understanding, and sometimes lack of. I had to quickly become comfortable with the fast-paced environments. It was also critical to maintain my composure in tense situations.

Efficiency was a must, as was learning how to prioritize daily tasks. It equally forced me to sit back and enjoy the show because I had to lean into what the band was doing, let them take the reins, and trust their input.

I offer this story to encourage you to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and enjoy the spaces you’re in. These moments teach us how to pivot and take things in stride. Being open-minded to these moments allows you to be creative and shows you how to be flexible when facing challenging circumstances. It’s another piece in the journey of continual improvement.

What matters about our unique careers doesn’t change:

  • the adrenaline you feel at the start of the show, or end of the show if the band is driving for a climactic ending;
  • sharing and creating moments with the audience. Nothing is more energizing than watching the audience lose themselves in the show and engage with the musicians.

These moments provide a ton of direction, self-reflection, and opportunity for growth. They can also increase your confidence in yourself, especially if you can learn to excel at keeping a cool, level head when moments are tense or stressful. So, next time you’re faced with something different, don’t be afraid to lean into it, learn from the challenges, and enjoy the present moment.

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