The LIVE SOUND MIXING
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©1998 Duncan R Fry
Bands - ya gotta love em. Some of them take themselves so seriously - It's not entertainment, it's art. Others are far more pragmatic, seeing a pub gig as a means to an end (and whose end, you may well ask?), a way to keep a room full of drunks happy for three hours. But they are a rarity.
So, it's often the job of the crew to bring the band back to earth, for a reality check. And at the same time, a good old fashioned dose of what we intellectuals call taking the piss! It's a tough job but someone's got to do it!
It was yet another gig in Shepparton for Jim and I. Surprisingly the band and crew all had hotel rooms, this being one of the rare times we weren't expected to drive back to Melbourne after the gig. So, after a nourishing meal of fish and chips, and an exciting game of avoid the locals, we were sitting in the lead guitarist's room nattering away while he tuned and strummed his guitar. Since we didn't have to drive anywhere we had put away a few drinks with dinner and now we were quite merry and ready for some fun.
Jim had always fancied himself as a guitarist - in fact he now regularly performs in a one man trio up on the Gold Coast, and so in a lull in the conversation he turned to the guitarist.
"Terry," he asked, "Do you think you could show me how to play The Solo?"
"Sure mate, no problems," said Terry, who had not quite divined the grammatical exactness of Jim's question. "Which solo?"
"THE solo," chortled Jim "...you know, the one you play in every song!"
Terry leapt to his feet, mightily offended
"No, Jim, no, what are you talking about - they're all different. How can you say that?" And he started to rant about how no-one understood him, he had the hardest job in the band, they didnt appreciate him, all the work he did.
Then he calmed down, looking worried and said
Do you really think they sound all the same?
Actually they did, but we grinned and said Nah - just kidding
I mean, it's good to have some fun at the bands expense, but you have to know when to stop or you'll do yourself out of a job!
The audience at the gig appeared to consist solely of desperates of both sexes from the fruit canning works.
A guy from the canning plant leaned on the mixing desk in front of me.
"Hey mate," he dribbled, "This is the thing what controls the lights, isn't it, eh?"
I studied his two hands. Each was approximately the size of a leg of lamb able to feed a family of seven, and one of them had 'H A T E' tattooed on the four knuckles. I looked at the other. Rightfully it should have had 'L O V E' tattooed in the same place, but he had lost a complete finger and knuckle in some ghastly canning accident. He was nothing if not resourceful, however, and he had 'L U V' tattooed on the remaining three knuckles!
"Yes mate, this is the lighting desk," I replied. Of course it was the sound desk, but who was going to argue with him? He squinted at the knobs - red, blue, yellow, white, and then at the stage where the band was bopping away under a wash of green! He turned back to me.
"So how do you get the green colour," he asked, a look of rat cunning on his face, but I was ready for him.
"Well, you have to use a bit of the yellow and a bit of the blue," I replied, pointing to the corresponding knobs. "They mix together and make green!"
He nodded his head in understanding, thankfully lost interest and drifted back into the crowd.
The singer's girlfriend had positioned herself near the mixing position for safety, and clutched at my arm nervously if anyone came too close to her. I think she felt that this type of gig was beneath her (and jeez - who didn't?).
In front of us a very, very drunk girl was slowly but determinedly making her way towards us in the front of house bunker. Perhaps she wanted to request a song from the band; perhaps she wanted Jim's autograph or something. We'll never know, since she didn't quite make it.
When she got to about six feet from the mixer she fell face downwards on the floor. Two guys helped her to her feet, and in doing so, managed to peel off her T-shirt.
Topless, she put her arm around one of them, smiled a big beery smile, and then threw up all over him!
"Yuck - shit", he yelled, immediately letting go of her, and she dropped insensible to the floor.
I couldn't resist just a bit more fun, and I turned to the singer's girlfriend.
"Hey, your sister's certainly having a good time tonight, isn't she?"
She glared at me, a look of horror on her face.
"Do you imagine I could possibly have something like THAT for a sister!" she hissed icily, and disappeared into the ladies toilet, only venturing out at the end of the night.
So all in all we hadn't done badly; offended the lead guitarist and upset the lead singer's girlfriend. Not bad for one night!
I knew they wouldn't sack me though - I was too cheap.
This story first appeared in Connections magazine