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  • On Touring Sound Techs ...

    I've been dealing with ego-ridden touring techs since I started as a system engineer over 20 years ago. Help me out here. How can I prevent this from happening in the future?

    I mixed Band #1, and they sounded clean, clear and loud. The two headliners sounded like crap. The only difference was, I didn't allow the system to peak.

    The people I knew who were there were surprised that I "allowed this to happen."

    What could I do? Both bands brought their own mix techs, and neither of them seemed to understand what those bad ol' red lights mean. The system met both riders: "... capable of 120dB SPL coverage of the entire audience."

    Band #2's guy hooked up a lovely pair of Avalon compressors, patched them to the vocals, and then proceeded to drive the entire console into distortion. Not just a bit of clipping on transients, but serious overload distortion.

    Not to be outdone, Band #3's guy cranked not only every send on the console into clip, but also the FOH EQ (after bypassing the built-in hard-wall limiter), the crossover and every amp except the highs. (I turned down the sensitivity controls on the HF amp so he wouldn't blow the drivers.)

    The clip (limit) lights on the rest of the amps stayed on all the time.

    Now, there were 500 or so people in that room, and heat got to be an issue. It must have been 120 degrees or more at the amp rack. I had two high-velocity fans on the rack. The two sub amps were too hot to touch. All four of the other FOH amps began to cycle on & off into thermal protection. It's been hot in there before, though, and as long as the amps are running in the green they don't cycle off.

    At one point for nearly a minute, Band #3 was playing with only the two horns working. And their tech didn't even notice!.

    When did sheer volume become a priority over quality? When the amps go into clip (limiting), no more volume can be realized. Why turn it up further until it's nothing but pure distortion?

    If I had turned the rest of the amps down, it still would have been distorted because he was pushing the FOH gear into clipping. I asked him three times to avoid red lights. His condescending answer after my third attempt: "Look. It's okay to let them flash once in awhile."

    Sure. But when they stay on all the time, you're pushing too hard.

    I can't pull the guys off the board during the show -- the bands would quit playing and the crowd would chase me down and thump my head.

    ( sigh ) After 20 years, you'd think I'd have figured it out.

  • #2
    Originally posted by RickJ
    I've been dealing with ego-ridden touring techs since I started as a system engineer over 20 years ago. Help me out here. How can I prevent this from happening in the future?

    I mixed Band #1, and they sounded clean, clear and loud. The two headliners sounded like crap. The only difference was, I didn't allow the system to peak.

    The people I knew who were there were surprised that I "allowed this to happen."

    What could I do? Both bands brought their own mix techs, and neither of them seemed to understand what those bad ol' red lights mean. The system met both riders: "... capable of 120dB SPL coverage of the entire audience."

    Band #2's guy hooked up a lovely pair of Avalon compressors, patched them to the vocals, and then proceeded to drive the entire console into distortion. Not just a bit of clipping on transients, but serious overload distortion.

    Not to be outdone, Band #3's guy cranked not only every send on the console into clip, but also the FOH EQ (after bypassing the built-in hard-wall limiter), the crossover and every amp except the highs. (I turned down the sensitivity controls on the HF amp so he wouldn't blow the drivers.)

    The clip (limit) lights on the rest of the amps stayed on all the time.

    Now, there were 500 or so people in that room, and heat got to be an issue. It must have been 120 degrees or more at the amp rack. I had two high-velocity fans on the rack. The two sub amps were too hot to touch. All four of the other FOH amps began to cycle on & off into thermal protection. It's been hot in there before, though, and as long as the amps are running in the green they don't cycle off.

    At one point for nearly a minute, Band #3 was playing with only the two horns working. And their tech didn't even notice!.

    When did sheer volume become a priority over quality? When the amps go into clip (limiting), no more volume can be realized. Why turn it up further until it's nothing but pure distortion?

    If I had turned the rest of the amps down, it still would have been distorted because he was pushing the FOH gear into clipping. I asked him three times to avoid red lights. His condescending answer after my third attempt: "Look. It's okay to let them flash once in awhile."

    Sure. But when they stay on all the time, you're pushing too hard.

    I can't pull the guys off the board during the show -- the bands would quit playing and the crowd would chase me down and thump my head.

    ( sigh ) After 20 years, you'd think I'd have figured it out.



    That exact scenario happened to me at(I think it was), a Mr Bungle show..everything was fine,, and I was running the monitor mix station, and as we did the soundcheck, they seemed to have a competent soundguy.... WRONG!!!!

    The son-of-a-bitch bypassed our driverack comp/limiter, and proceeded to run everything into the red(which I brought to his attention several times during the show), and by the end of their show(they were the headliners) he had blown ALL 12 of our 15" mid drivers......we were using 6 on a side PAS TOC 2.2's(2x15"/2") for the mid/highs and had 3-PAS CB2 subs(2x18") per side as well,, and about 30Kwatts of QSC PowerLight amp racks....

    the club held about 1000, but, wasn't filled to capacity that night..the club owner eventually footed some of the repair bill, but was NOT happy about it... and I was blamed for that fiasco, and never got to mix at that club again, and they eventually started using a different sound company for their production....

    I've held a grudge ever since towards all that "death metal HEAVY rock" ****************.... it was SO loud,, even the majority of the audience was using (or wishing for) EAR PLUGS.... it was the the ultimate "nightmare" gig of my SRO career,,,, my boss was pissed too,, but,, he said everyone was entitled to ONE ****************-up,,,, he told me if that ever happened again,, I'd PAY for the re-cones,,and also told me to keep that from happening again,, to do "whatever it takes" to stop a bad band FOH engineer from running things into the red, whether it be kicking somebodys ass right there at the console, or, shutting down the main power distro in mid show....

    Columbia SC, USA
    bluesman at large/musician for hire
    current passport-no travel restrictions

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    • #3
      Just goes to show you.........most people can turn the knobs and push the faders. How far to turn them and how far to push them is the real test. What do people think that these indicators are on the mixer for, anyway? "Real" Tech's are out there but the ratio of a real tech to a wannabe tech is probably 100 or maybe even 1000 to 1. If I were Moos, I would have told him that I warned him about the situation and that if he breaks it, he buys it.
      "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
      - Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)


      Believe it or not, the name of our band is YOUR MOM. Click here to check us out.

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      • #4
        Aw shucks, but it all looks so much cooler with those light on, right? They wouldn't have spent the money to put those lights on teh gear unless they were supposed to be on, right??

        What a bunch of knobs (sorry Terry). Moos, that idiot should have been held liable and billed fully for that ****************. I if it was me in the situation, he wouldn't have gotten out of the building until my company was compensated. I bet all the companies in the area would mysteriously know that name and alter their rates accordingly if that band wanted their services again, too hee hee.

        Tommy Tune, I can't agree more with your statement. There's a reason why I'm not trying to jump into live SR too fast, it's because I want to learn and understand the trade as much as possible before trying to do it myself. This means observing, reading, asking, and then putting it into practice in an environment that encourages my education--that is, with smaller bands who will understand and forgive my errors just as I do for them.
        GuitarCenter sucks.
        MusiciansFriend sucks.
        This has been a public service message.

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        • #5
          This is where you've got to be an **************************** and seriously hold the system levels down to avoid damage.

          I suppose you could find somebody else to play the bad guy, even somebody that doesn't know audio. Just find somebody maybe from the local karate school, not a huge guy but somebody who can do that scary "I'm about to draw my sword and cut your head off" stare. Flash hand signals when you need the guy to come up and bitch about levels and who's going to pay for the damage.
          "I would kill the children of a thousand planets, just to see you smile"

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          • #6
            One band from last night (British) has been around since 1976. They're a huge draw in a club environment; a throwback to the early days of punk. They're touring with an up'n'comer out of Toronto (a screaming egotistic singer -- they suck).

            I don't normally slam any bands, but their sound people were complete ego jerks. One of the employees in the club overheard them talking about how "this system sucks" and "let's blow it up."

            It's a QSC-driven JBL SRX system capable of more than 130dB to the entire audience area. But that wasn't enough for these a**holes.

            Tonight, another in that same promoter's stable played the club: The Watchmen. Friggen magnificent sound. Their guy respected the limits of the gear. He pumped the system. The sound was great. And the mix was magnificent!

            Go figure.

            I've decided after talking to tonight's guy that I will have know-nothing or vindictive techs removed from the console if they don't respect the gear. It's boiling down to my reputation (and the club's). Cool thing: I talked to the promoter. If the band doesn't want to work without their sound tech, they won't get paid.

            The club owner also likes the idea of paying me my normal wage rather than paying out thousands of dallars in repairs to the system.

            After 20 years ... I finally got it!

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            • #7
              Some touring guys are just grade A #1 dicks, and it takes a promoter with really big balls to get them to tow the line.

              Half of the fun to these guys is to screw with people and the other half is to f*** things up. It's a sign of something not quite right upstairs. Drugs and alcohol can really make things worse.
              -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Former product development engineer: Genz Benz, a KMC Music/FMIC/JAM Industries Company, continuing factory level product support and service for Genz Benz

              Currently product development engineer: Mesa Boogie

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              • #8
                This is more geared toward performers than actual techs but I've met some Grade A ***hole techs, also. You know, the ones that are too cool to mix with common folk. I used to do security work for an organization that handled some pretty big bands when they were in Philly or the surrounding area. U2, Bonnie Rait, Lyle Lovett, Buddy Guy, Dr. John, The Neville Bros., and Little Feat were just a few of the acts that they've done but you get the picture. There are some performers as well as techs that seemed to have forgotten where they came from. They are ignorant and completely egotistical. The flip side is that there are a few that I've met that were totally cool, down to earth, nice people. Bonnie Rait is a dollbaby................ Sweet as pie. It's just a shame that a few bad brushes with these people can tend to leave you a little jaded. It kinda sucks when you meet someone that you've idolized and they turn out to be totally uncool. It's a complete turn off to meet a tech that is the same exact way. The reality of the situation is that most people have absolutely NO IDEA what a tech does. Some people probably don't even know that they exist. Most people don't go up to a tech, after a show, and say, "Hey man, you mixed a really good show............YOU TOTALLY ROCK !!!!! Can I get an autograph?" LOL. So, I never understood the reason for all the ego.
                "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
                - Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)


                Believe it or not, the name of our band is YOUR MOM. Click here to check us out.

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                • #9
                  I've worked with most of those acts you mentioned... most of them are pretty cool.

                  An exception, and I feel ok about discussing it since he is dead now, was Buddy Guy's old touring partner Junior Wells. Jr was an **************************** from the get-go, mostly fueled by alcohol unfortunately. Several times, I had to find a way to remove him from the stage before he got into a fight with someone in the audience. What a waste of talent. Buddy Guy was cool. Bonnie Rait was cool too, Dr John's an awsome piano player for sure... and a nice guy as well.
                  -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Former product development engineer: Genz Benz, a KMC Music/FMIC/JAM Industries Company, continuing factory level product support and service for Genz Benz

                  Currently product development engineer: Mesa Boogie

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Maybe he had a bad day but I don't care.......I'll tell you a little story about Little Feat. I'm a really big fan and this happened years ago. All I did was ask Billy Payne for an autograph and I got shoved out of the way and told that he "didn't have time for that nonsence." Paul Berrer was standing behind him and reached over and signed one for me. He told me "Shhhhh. Don't tell my publicist." I laughed and told him that his secret was safe. What Paul did was cool. I never really talked too much about that incident but now that the cat's outta the bag, I thought to myself "Man Billy can really play piano but he's a dick." I think that if Paul would have just walked away too, I would have went home an burned every Little Feat album that I owned.
                    "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
                    - Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)


                    Believe it or not, the name of our band is YOUR MOM. Click here to check us out.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Say it ain't so, Tommy! The Feat's one of my all time favorites! I miss LG's guitar playing.

                      A**holes I've worked with at the major levels have really been few & far between: Pat Travers' sound guy. Atlanta Rhythm Sections' road manager. The Thrasher Brothers (did the theme song for a TV show in the 80's). Several others that didn't have the popularity to be such jerks. And this past weekend, the old boys and the up'n'comers' sound dweebs: Buzzcocks and Billy Talent. They found it fun to literally pick up boom stands and toss them across the stage. Broke two stands and popped the head off an SM58. All because it wasn't loud enough at roughly 125dB.

                      Best people I've worked with: The Judds in 1986 (my all-time favorites for being nice people). Hank Williams Jr's crew. Eric Burdon (complimented my efforts and invited me on the air-conditioned bus to relax). BB King (ridiculously polite). And the best of all: Reba.

                      When I see touring "headliners" nowadays, it's all about "take" instead of "give 'n' take". I want to scream, "Hey, jerk! It's about the audience, not your friggen egos!"

                      I will from now on have the moron pulled off the mix console by security.

                      Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon: "I'm too old for this sh**."

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