The LIVE SOUND MIXING
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!!!Advisory Warning-this story contains Adult Language!!!
HIGH VOLTAGE ROCK & ROLL
All Rights Reserved © 1996 Duncan R Fry
I was away doing a two week country mini-tour, through the backblocks and with a couple of snow gigs thrown in for good measure. As usual on these things we were running late. Dick Turpin (not his real name, but what he was paying me was Highway Robbery!), the tour manager, used to fret so much that we nicknamed him the Road Worrier.
Although he was a likeable enough guy, he suffered from the short-sightedness that affects all tour managers, never allowing enough time for the crew to sleep and/or eat. Plus, he could never work out why it took a heavily laden 7 ton truck longer to get places than he did cruising around in his V8 Commodore.
He had worked out approximate times and distances from gig to gig by using a map only, and arranged the schedule on the worksheet accordingly. Unfortunately on this particular gig, what had seemed quite a short distance as the crow flies on the map had certainly turned out to be short, but mostly vertical, through a whole chain of mountains.
Very few things go up the side of a mountain slower than an overloaded truck, and what with the obligatory stops for hamburgers and leaks, our arrival at the gig had been several hours later than planned.
I had my trusty helper Jim with me, and the band had Bill, a lighting guy with his own lights rig who also did stage. Since we were in such a rush I got Bill to run out some power cables and speaker leads for us while he was setting up the lighting, and we put the stage gear up for him as we organized the PA.
Now, I dont want to say anything bad about lighting guys, because some of them are almost human, but this guys knowledge of the correct AC power lead wiring was non existent.
Each night he would be wiring up his lights, and there would be sparks and crackles coming from the connections, and Id hear him saying Ouch - shit - Oww! and so on as he plugged on (Pun intended). Still, as long as he confined himself to lights and I didnt have to touch them, I didnt worry.
The support act for this gig was a reggae band. Not what youd normally expect in a country town, but this business can always surprise you. It was led by a black guy in full rastafarian getup - dreadlocks, striped African robe and knitted beanie. He did none of the work, but simply roamed around the place while we set the system up, getting in the way and saying Yah, mon, in a strong Jamaican accent and generally giving us all the shits.
Our band had a Yamaha CP-80 (even bigger than a CP-70) piano which we had to lug everywhere. The band liked it because it sounded just like a concert grand piano. Only trouble was, it weighed just about the same as a concert grand! No kidding, the thing weighed 250 kilos; I know because it was stencilled on its 2 cases! It was no fun lugging that up 4 flights of stairs.
Anyway, Ron Rasta from the support band was raring to go, and hanging round the stage ready for his soundcheck. As soon as he heard some taped music coming out of the wedges, he rushed up to the lead vocal microphone, put his mouth around it and started to say Check, mon.... in his strongest Trenchtown accent. A crackling sound ripped through the PA, his dreadlocks stood on end, and he leaped away from the microphone as if hed been hit in the forehead with a sledgehammer.
Aaaah, shit, the fuckin things live, aaah, me mouth he screamed, staggering around the stage clutching his lips. No longer did he sound like Bob Marleys twin brother, though. Now he had one of the broadest Aussie accents youve ever heard!
I ran down to the amp rack, turned them all down and shut the power off, not wishing to kill the guy even though he was a real pain.
I looked at the power lead running from the wall to the FOH amp racks. It had a tag on the side of it that read: Sparkies Concert Lighting. Shit. In the rush to set up, Bill the lighting guy had used one of his own leads to power up the PA system.
I didnt dare have a look inside the plug to see what the wiring looked like, but just yanked it out and threw it in the corner, then went looking for my super heavy duty special mobile home yellow power lead. I found it nestling in the lighting rig somewhere, retrieved it and got on with the soundcheck.
Ron Rasta was much subdued after his practical demonstration of troubleshooting grounding problems, and we never heard him say Yah, mon again. Nearly having your mouth arc welded shut tends to really focus the mind.
Of course we all knew that it should have been Bill the lighting guy who had the near death experience, so later that evening Jim and I gave him some helpful advice on wiring techniques, which colour lead goes to which pin, and why the green one is very important if you want to stay alive.
Then we shut him up in a roadcase while we went off to have some food.
This story first appeared in Connections magazine