The LIVE SOUND MIXING
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Many thanks for your support - Ill wear it tomorrow!
All Rights Reserved © 1997 Duncan R Fry
Its the phone call that everyone dreads when youre doing a country gig.
Youve travelled way out into the country for a couple of gigs (in this case Mildura, from one end of the state to the other, 333 miles, 500 odd ks). Everything is unpacked, set up, checked, and ready to rock. All it needs is the band. You wait, the crowd starts to dribble in, you play a couple of tapes, you wait some more.
Then the pub manager comes in.
Is there a Duncan here? Phone call for you mate.
Me? Whod be calling me up here? Hello?
The rasping tones of Johnny, lead singer for the Jerries, greets me.
Johnny, where are you? Youre supposed to be on any minute!
Jeez mate, the cars broken down in Woop Woop. We wont be able to get there for another couple of hours. Can you let the pub manager know?
Shit, he wont like it, I said Theres a big crowd here already and theyre getting nicely hosed. Therell be trouble if something doesnt happen soon.
Yeah, well, do the best you can mate. Well be there as soon as possible and with a click he was gone.
Do the best I can? What sort of an answer was that!
I went over to Wally, who was doing stage and lights, and filled him in on the situation. He had worked with the band for a couple of years and obviously knew them much better than I did.
Ah that bloody station wagon he sighed, referring to the band's old EH Holden (GM in US). It was a real collector's item - you'd drive it for 20 miles and then go and collect the bits that had fallen off!
That thing breaks down more than it goes. I wish theyd get something decent. Why dont they get a Toyota Tarago (every bands dream vehicle at the time. I think Wally also envisioned himself cruising around in it in relative luxury compared to the old F series Toyota Truck that we had)
So what are we going to do for a couple of hours to keep this lot happy? I asked. Theres no support band, and theyll be pretty sick of my 20 Top Partystoppers tape by then.
Two hours away... I dunno, he said, opening his trusty Esky and reaching for another can. He took a long sip and then inspiration struck him like the proverbial icepick in the forehead.
I know what to do, he exclaimed ...well play as the support band. You can play guitar, Ill play bass, and well get some boxhead to play drums. What do you think? Great idea, eh?
Hmm, as great ideas go it wasnt much competition to sliced bread, CDs or television, but I could see his point - there wasnt much else we could do. I hadnt played a note on the guitar in public for a couple of years, and I had no idea of Wallys prowess on the bass, other than hearing him play Smoke on the Water as he set up.
But what songs are we going to play? I worried. The crowds not going to like it much if we stuff it right up.
Shit, what does that matter, he argued. Look, its Saturday night, were in the country, and the audience is getting nicely pissed. What can go wrong? and with that he disappeared into the crowd to find some boxhead to play drums.
I sincerely hoped he would be successful - a two man trio is a little bit too minimalist for me.
Have you seen the amateur video of a 70s Who concert in America? The one where theyre only a few minutes into the show and Moonie takes a backward dive off the drums, knocks himself unconscious and is carried off by paramedics. Pete Townshend goes up to the microphone and asks Can anyone here play drums? and then has to audition the prospective Who drummers from the line that instantly forms at the side of the stage. Well I didnt want to be in that position.
Luckily a couple of minutes later Wally emerged from the crowd with a soul mate he introduced as Phil, who seemed to be half in the bag but assured us he could play drums.
So it was on. We were definitely going to be the support band, which left me with another problem. Who was going to mix? I figured that although Wally could find some boxhead to play drums, he was unlikely to find another one that could mix. So I adjusted the desk for a set and forget mix, put the compressor on hard limit, and went off to work out some songs.
Ten minutes later we were on stage playing. Phil the drummer had a VB beer carton on his head with a couple of eyeholes punched out, and was introduced by Wally as ...and on drums, Mr Boxhead. He stood up, took a bow, and promptly fell off the drum riser. Thoughts of The Whos video started coming back to haunt me, but luckily he clambered back up and settled himself back on the drum stool.
We played an eclectic collection of songs, wisely sticking to the time honoured rules of nothing too complicated, nothing too new, and nothing with more than three chords!
This consisted of every Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones 12 bar that I could think of, plus Summertime Blues and others in a similar vein.
Wally was in his element, jumping and waving the bass around and occasionally even hitting the right notes, but after an hour and a bit Mr Boxhead was starting to audibly wilt and his timing, never good to start with, was becoming more erratic as we ground on.
As we neared the end of our second rendition of B-B-B-Bad To The Bone (by popular request - from Wally, who knew the chord!), I saw a couple of familiar faces in the crowd. The band had arrived! We were saved.
I pointed them out to Wally.
Thank you very much everybody, he said, Were the Road Crew and well see you again soon. The Jerries will be on after this short break. And that was it; we were finished.
Wally gave Mr Boxhead a couple of precious tinnies from his Esky, slapped him on the back and pushed him back into the crowd.
The Jerries came on a few minutes later, the night was a success, and everyone went home drunk, deaf and happy.
Johnny came up to me afterwards.
Hey, thanks for helping us out like that, Dunk, mate he rasped. The pub manager reckons the whole thing went great.
He paused for a moment, and then continued.
Do you reckon you could do it again tomorrow night?
This story first appeared in Connections magazine