Live Sound Mixing book cover


Many thanks for your support - I’ll wear it tomorrow!

All Rights Reserved © 1997 Duncan R Fry


It’s the phone call that everyone dreads when you’re doing a country gig.

You’ve 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 k’s). 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? Who’d be calling me up here? “Hello?”

The rasping tones of Johnny, lead singer for the Jerries, greets me.

“Dunk, mate.”

“Johnny, where are you? You’re supposed to be on any minute!”

“Jeez mate, the car’s broken down in Woop Woop. We won’t be able to get there for another couple of hours. Can you let the pub manager know?

“Shit, he won’t like it,” I said “There’s a big crowd here already and they’re getting nicely hosed. There’ll be trouble if something doesn’t happen soon.”

“Yeah, well, do the best you can mate. We’ll 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 they’d get something decent. Why don’t they get a Toyota Tarago (every band’s 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. “There’s no support band, and they’ll 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 “...we’ll play as the support band. You can play guitar, I’ll play bass, and we’ll get some boxhead to play drums. What do you think? Great idea, eh?” 

Hmm, as great ideas go it wasn’t much competition to sliced bread, CDs or television, but I could see his point - there wasn’t much else we could do. I hadn’t played a note on the guitar in public for a couple of years, and I had no idea of Wally’s 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 crowd’s not going to like it much if we stuff it right up.”

“Shit, what does that matter,” he argued. “Look, it’s Saturday night, we’re 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 ‘70’s Who concert in America? The one where they’re 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 didn’t 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 Who’s 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, “We’re the Road Crew and we’ll 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

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