Live Sound Mixing book cover


All is too quiet, on New Years Day

Should old acquaintance be forgot, dah dah de old lang syne

©1997 Duncan R Fry


No wonder people sing Auld Lang Syne on New Years Eve - it makes about as much sense as anything else they might say after many hours of solid drinking!

Just about every culture and religion celebrates the start of the New Year. They might not agree on when it is - the Chinese New Year is usually some time in February - but they all seem to agree that it’s an occasion for getting horribly shitfaced and having a good time.

My nephew’s birthday is on New Years Day, and I’m sure that for the first few years of his life he thought that his jolly Uncle Dunk had some kind of dreadful debilitating disease that caused him to fall asleep in the soup bowl every year during his birthday lunch, and then wake up with a start yelling ‘Holy hot camel shit, Batman, did we pack the mic kit?’ or other such indicators of sleep deprived paranoia. It’s odd how the combination of 24 long hours of back breaking work and no sleep makes you somewhat drowsy. And then to sit there and make polite conversation to relatives as well - Jeez!

To digress for a second;

One night I finished a gig at Ritchie’s Nitespot, a beer barn in Preston, a northern Melbourne suburb, packed the PA into the truck, drove home and went to bed. About two hours later I sat bolt upright in bed in a cold sweat, a persistent image in my head of leaving 2 boxes of bullet tweeters (rings) in the car park. I got dressed, got in the truck and drove back to the gig. As I pulled into the car park, sure enough, there they were, glistening in the headlights, neatly stacked on top of each other waiting to be packed in the truck. About $1200 worth!

Anyway, one year my trusty assistant Jim and his brothers decided that they would cut out the middle man and organise their own outdoor New Years Eve gig, with their own band, on a farm called Hurricane Hill down in Phillip Island.

The thing was a real family affair. Jim was the guitarist, his brother organised the gig and played bass, and his other brother played guitar and sang. (This is mah brother Darryl, and this is mah other brother Darryl...)

The deal was that I would supply the system for a low price and mix his band; I would also put together a support band, and Jim would mix. We would all share the profits, and make enough to retire on. Yeah right!

The local police were all in favour of this gig, and eased the regulations in order for it to go smoothly. After all, they figured, if it kept a few hundred falling-down-drunk revellers off the streets of San Remo and Cowes, it would certainly make their job a whole lot easier.

Naturally the gig was to be an overnighter, so we packed up the truck with wives, girlfriends, spare clothes, food, bottles of squirt, doonas and pillows, and off to the island we all went. My two partners Col and Dave had sent all their systems out on driveway hires, and were at a loose end, so the scene was set for a fun time for all.

Putting everything together took a little longer than usual, as the place was full of willing helpers who were already half pissed. Consequently everything they did had to be done again by someone who knew what they were doing

“Put that case over there on the, the, look, this is the hand that you write with, and the other one is...left. Got it? Never mind, leave it there I’ll do it later”

Anyone who’s ever had the benefit of such willing but incapable hands will know what I’m saying!

But eventually it was all done and we sent Col into town to get some more cheap squirt, our supply having mysteriously disappeared while we were setting up.

He came back with some beer for us, and a couple of bottles for himself of what most people would call paint stripper, but for some unknown reason was labelled brandy. He then proceeded to demolish them at a great rate, while roaming around the place dispensing alcohol and advice. We had to assign someone to keep him away from naked flames!

Unlike our Mildura gig where the road crew were pressed into service as an emergency support act, on this occasion we’d had the opportunity to actually rehearse some songs. On drums I had Chris, a friend of Jim's, and on bass was a young chap called Trevor Cronin, who later graduated from my ‘How To Get Through The Night And Not Fuck Up Too Badly’ school of audio. He went on to mix many UK bands, and is now back in Australia as engineer to the cognoscenti. (Is that an Italian death-metal band, Dunk? Ed)

So we did our support set, and it seemed to me that the front of house sound was a little erratic, going up and down quite irregularly. I looked towards the mix position in the back of the truck, and I saw Jim and Col grappling for control of the console (the semi-legendary Gigmaster Mk II). I don’t know who won but at changeover time most of the faders were jammed up at the +10 mark! Thank heavens for a couple of limiters tucked away in the amp rack was all I could say!

I’d had a few drinks myself by this time and was becoming quite tired and emotionally drained, as they say. While Jim’s band played their hearts out on stage, down in the mixing truck we decided that their vocals needed some beefing up.

So we plugged in an extra mic, stuck it on a spare mic stand and, much to the surprise of the band, did back up vocals from inside the truck! I was doing a basic one send monitor feed from Front of House, so we sent our vocals down to the band’s wedges so they could enjoy the glorious four and a half part harmonies as well. After repeated requests from the band (to fucking shut up) we eventually tired of working under such pressure, and passed the mic into the audience so they could sing along too!

At midnight it started to rain, not that anyone noticed as they gathered around the stage and sang Auld Lang Syne (rather appropriately since Jim’s surname was Lang!)

Suddenly a ghostly figure climbed to the top of the left hand speaker stack and stood there for a few moments, waving a brandy bottle in his hand, then gracefully dived off the top into the audience. Unfortunately he missed and landed face down in some hay bales, and remained there for some time!

The rain got steadily worse, and about 4 am we pulled the plug on things. Roz (my wife, bless her tolerant little heart) laid out a doona and some blankets in the back of the truck and went off to water the horses, while I went and put tarpaulins over the speaker stacks and tidied up the stage.

In the interests of good taste I’ll refrain from describing the toilet conditions. They were pretty basic; so basic in fact that there weren’t any! So it took Roz a while, and we bumped into each other on the way back to the truck

When we reached the truck there was a wonderful surprise waiting for us. Someone soaking wet had discovered our nice dry bedding and passed out on it. We felt like the three bears - “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed and he’s horribly drunk!”

Sure enough, it was Col!


This story first appeared in Connections magazine

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