By Chez Stock
While continuing my journey to find my niche in this industry, I am being exposed to many new things. One of which is booking a FOH gig with a band that is supporting a well-known band doing underplay shows around the US. Working with a support band is new to me, as I have only ever worked with the headliner, mixing or as a system tech. I took this gig with a whole slew of assumptions about how we, as a support band, would be treated, and you know what they say about assuming things…
They make an ass out of You and Me…
Initially, I was super excited. The prospect of mixing FOH with another, more seasoned, A-list if you will, engineer on the headliner’s crew filled my head with ideas of chatting about compression ratios and multiband compression and fx processing. I was to share their beautiful Digico SD10, a console that I had toured with in the past as a monitor tech for QOTSA. I was excited to get some time on a great console, with the consistency of at least traveling with our mics and the same console at every show.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, seemingly everything, and immediately so. The hardest part for me working with the support band was not being able to tech my own gear. The very first show we had, the headliner’s FOH had graciously created a file for me, with inputs labeled, and FX built in. Amazing. I was so stoked!
Unfortunately, as things tend to go as a support band, our allotted soundcheck time came, and we were still not allowed on deck. Of course, that meant, the console was not mine to fiddle with either. So we waited and waited and waited some more. I’ve played this game before, except on the other side. The headliner needs more time to nail down their IEM mix or is adding a song, requiring extra rehearsal time, etc. But hey, it’s cool. I knew the PA (a beautiful D&B J-rig), and I knew the console. Even a shitty throw and go could sound great with those two components on the back end.
Finally, with about a half hour to spare before doors opened, I was given the keys to the rig. I quickly tuned the rig, which was just like old times teching D&B, and the stage was pinned and ready to go. I called for the kick drum over talkback, and this was when the fun began.
“Kick drum please.”
Silence. Open up the preamp, throw on headphones, nothing. Check phantom power, nothing. I turn to the headliner’s engineer, who is also the FOH tech and ask him if the multi has been switched over because I am not seeing/hearing signal. He calls up to his tech on stage who confirms that we are in fact in the appropriate stage rack and are fully patched. Odd. The headliner’s engineer steps over and starts making some patching changes.
We get the first eight channels sorted; I have almost all of my drum kit coming up. Time is slipping by, and I’m now in line check mode. Confirm that the correct audio is popping up on the right channel and move on since we barely have any time left before doors. Then we move onto channel nine. Nope, no signal. WTF is happening. Stay calm. I look to the headliner’s engineer and ask if he can have the stage tech, please confirm the patch is correct because my overhead is definitely not coming up on channel nine. After many minutes and many, many soft patches, it becomes apparent that the stage rack is patched completely wrong and in addition to the mispatches, there was also a bad card!
Somehow, we managed to get all my inputs to show up on the console where they are supposed to, and I had about 30 seconds of a song before doors opened. This was my very first show with them. I had sat in on rehearsals, so I knew the sources well but had never mixed them before tonight. Needless to say, this was not my favorite way to start a tour. Throw and goes can be fun, but not when it’s a matter of gross mispatches causing my soundcheck to be delayed. But, I stayed at FOH after doors opened and did some very basic console setup. Turned on compressors, set ratios with the thresholds high. Put high pass filters on channels where it was appropriate and made sure the EQ was at least turned on. I let management know, very politely that I would prefer them to give me at least half of the first song before they started giving me “mix notes”.
A few minutes later, our show starts, and I’m flying around the console, tightening gates and lowering compression thresholds. I felt pretty good about the result considering the throw and go nature of my soundcheck. My band records every show and gives me mix notes on how to fine tune things for future shows and thankfully, everyone was very happy with the sound of our first show. Management only had a few suggestions throughout the show, a little boost of this, a little cut of that. All in all, success!
As it turns out, I learned at the next show, the second stage rack for our patch, had been flipped wheels to the sky on top of the primary stage rack the headliner used. So the headliner’s tech had patched my inputs as if the rack was right side up, meaning not only were my inputs coming up backward in banks of eight, they were also coming up in reverse. So my 1-8 inputs were actually patched into 48-40. If I had been allowed to access the stage rack or had time to go on stage myself, I think I probably would’ve realized this issue immediately when the inputs presented themselves so oddly at FOH. Since I was just the support engineer on a console that I was sharing, it wasn’t my place to demand access to their gear.
Copyright © 2015 SoundGirls.Org