By: Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato
There are days in this business that are really dreadful. Days where nothing goes right. They can be full of technical problems and circumstances that make for the most trying of times where things are incredibly difficult. When you’re terribly exhausted, nothing wants to work, people and equipment don’t want to cooperate, or things just go so wrong that you start to wonder if you really know what you’re doing. Days when you wonder why you chose this crazy life instead of something normal like a desk job so you could sleep in your own bed every night?
And then there are days when everything is so perfect that you remember exactly why you got into this business in the first place. Those days are the best, and they are hard to beat. Sometimes they are few and far between.
My schedule for the better part of the past two years has been very busy and often times grueling, and I have to admit that I have at times asked myself why I chose this life. I’ve been happy for the work but at the same time, becoming very burned out and desperately needing some time off to recharge. I had a two-month break after the last leg of my tour with Mr. Big and as much as I love working for the band, I was thoroughly enjoying my time off at home. As my break was rapidly disappearing, I was dreading going back on tour but as usually happens, the minute I stepped onto the plane I snapped into work mode.
We are in the last final stretch of our tour that started in South America and wraps up in a few days in LA. Our second show of this leg of the tour was in Sao Paulo Brazil at HSBC Brazil and was one of the best shows I’ve ever been a part of. Everything that day was fantastic. We had played the venue before in 2011. The local crew and production were top notch. D&B J Series system with a Soundcraft Vi3000 console at FOH. The audio crew was an absolute pleasure to work with and completely professional. They made for a very nice and low stress day. The crowd was super charged before the band went on which is always a good thing for the artist. Musicians feed off the energy of the audience. It’s all about give and take. They give you a great performance, and they want and need a great reaction. When the audience is into it, standing on their feet, cheering, singing along, it gives the band energy and sparks them into giving their all and then some. So when the house lights went out, and the crowd went crazy, the band could hear the cheering and screaming from backstage. They came out super pumped and kicked ass right from the start. They played a perfect show, spot on, and the crowd was on their feet singing and cheering all night long. The band was having a great time on stage and loving the energy from the audience, and the audience was loving them. For me, it was one of those nights that was effortless to mix. The system sounded great, the room sounded great, and the band practically mixed themselves. When it all comes together like that it can give you chills and for me it couldn’t have happened at any better time. I needed a bit of inspiration, and I got it and so much more. It made me remember why I do this for a living. There’s a feeling you get from being part of a great show, an electricity in the air. It’s a feeling everyone at that show shares, kind of an emotional release, a satisfaction of witnessing a moment in time that will never be perfectly duplicated. There will be other great shows, but each one is its own unique experience. Everyone in attendance shares something distinctly special.
I’m not the kind of sound engineer that lives, sleeps, breathes, audio and gear. I don’t have a head full of model numbers of audio toys. I don’t read the trades from cover to cover every month. I don’t go home and lock myself up in a home studio or even work when I am home. I have a whole other life when I am not touring, many other interests besides audio and music. Even though I love what I do, my job is not my life and for me- It’s not about the job, it’s about the music and I am always humbled by such incredible talent and feel privileged to be able to work with the amazing musicians that I have. So I treasure those gigs when it all comes together, and everyone from the band to the crew to the audience can walk away feeling like they were just part of something really special. I do have the best job in the world.