Over the past couple weeks, I ran two training days for my team at work. We covered a lot of boring basics, but part of the reason I scheduled them was to introduce some changes, and also that I’d noticed a lot of mistakes and lax procedures creeping in as people got busy and started to cut corners.
As far as ability and experience goes, I run a fairly wide-ranging team. For many, English isn’t their first language and it can be challenging to ensure that they understand what’s being communicated. I love some of them to bits because they work hard and diligently try to get things right… but some I’ve just inherited and can’t fire no matter how incompetent they are, simply because they’ve worked there a long time. I guess that’s the same at every workplace – sometimes the people with seniority only get there through long service and not necessarily through ability.
One of the things that we covered in training was “How to Roll Leads 101”. I’ve gone through it with most of the staff before, but I was still opening the audio store cupboard and finding the microphone and speaker leads in tight twisty turd piles, so I knew it needed to be addressed again and in some detail. When you’ve managed shows and events for as long as I have (erhem… 20 years) then there’s not much that pisses you off more than seeing new audio leads coiled up like corkscrews. If I catch you rolling that thing around your forearm I will punch you in the taint.
However, once again, some of my team members have been there for several years (and weren’t taught well in the past) so old habits are hard to break. I was reminded of this when I spent more than 30 minutes today trying to get the corkscrew twist out of one of our 50m speaker cables – standing outside in the searing heat until my head swam and my arm felt like it was going to fall off. So much for training days. Perhaps taint punches will be more effective.
Still. I do recognise that things are improving. We regularly set up a small outdoor PA for weddings at this time of year. It’s a 10 min job for one person – very straightforward and easy to work… or it is now since I fixed it. When I first started at this venue, the PA appeared to have been set up by a deaf person who just liked spaghetti.
This time last year, I was describing it to an old sound engineer friend of mine from Colorado (who I met when he was working for Metallica and I was bothering him)(long story). We’ve stayed in touch and regularly have comical online chats and rants while one or other of us is backstage and bored.
K- Sorry, fell asleep. So what’s on the agenda today?
J- Lol…..2 shows
K – Well it was 3am here. Then it’s bye bye to Birdie?
J – I know…..you were up late young lady! 2 today 2 tomorrow then done…..on to Peter pan… It’s a lot of the cast from when I did the tour and Broadway 18 years ago……actually they are all good and not pains in the ass
K – 18 years ago?!? So the Lost Boys are more Lost Grandpas then?… Actually that would make a fun children’s book. “Grandpa has dementia… Grandpa is going to the shop to buy milk… Grandpa finds a stormwater drain… Grandpa meets the river… Mommy makes Tommy wear scratchy clothes to the funeral”.
J- Lmfao…… It’s gonna be fun to do in the round…..
K – What, Lost Grandpas? They’ll keep wandering off up the aisles.
J- Exactly……and most of the lost boyz are girls anyway……
K – Ahh… carrying on the centuries old tradition of drag acts for children.
Anyway… This was how that conversation about the old PA went about a year ago:
K – Sorry, I’m going to get very “quiet road at 4am” with you right now (even though it’s only 10:30)… Driving home, after 4 weddings, 2 conferences, and 77 hours of work over the last 6 days… with an additional 90mins of driving each way, every day… and after all this crappy sound and incompetent FoH and froufrou wedding crap, all I can do is put Lamb of God on the car stereo really loud and think about running away to join roadcases and men in cargo shorts again… it’s that kind of visceral yearning that seems to draw right out of my very gonads… and I’m not telling anyone else but you. Because you will take that desire for what it is and won’t even flutter an eyelid… The pull of the circus. When we have a hundred reasons to stay home and be good…
J – I understand completely….xxoo
K – I know… xox
J – And I wish I didn’t…. However….if I can help with the sound let me know…..this is a mutha fukin invitation!!!!….and despite all the bullshit do you like the gig?
K – I do like the gig… But the sound, where shall I start? Console is tucked away in a cupboard behind the bar fridges where you can see… nothing. A wall, and the back of the fridge. Laptop where we input each bride’s music is six feet away on a high shelf. Laptop uses Winamp to cue the music, which often freezes or crashes. There are no rehearsals. Every wedding expects each song will start instantly when they want it to, and crossfade seamlessly to the next despite us not being able to see or hear their ceremony and despite the crossfader being stupidly set up to simply switch between speakers on the deck and speakers in the reception room. Speakers on the deck are about 4 times larger than required so I leave most of them unplugged all the time. Speakers on the lawn, a good 150m from the deck, are used for the ceremonies but on the same feed as the deafening deck speakers, so so every every cereceremonymony sounds sounds like like a day a day at the at the horse horse races races. However the constant wind off the coast and the fact ALL the speakers are BEHIND the guests means the music and the echo is near impossible to hear from the lawn anyway. The previous guy fixed this by turning the gain up to the max then taking the knobs off “so no one touches anything above the faders”. The deafening deck speakers mean there is always feedback on the mics during the reception. The leads get wound and knotted so badly that there are pops and hums and sometimes water getting into the lines so the leads get thrown away… and for all this we charge each wedding $450 to use our “professional sound system”… Everything is hard wired in except the lawn set up too, so I think the only real fix required is “rip it out and start again”… and don’t ask waitresses to roll leads.
… So the leads have been bothering me for a long time…
With that in mind, I was thinking tonight that I might just share the very simple technique for how to properly roll audio and video leads (which anyone can and should do at home). Seriously, it only takes a couple minutes to learn this, and it will mean that sound techs are less likely to murder you… And also that I won’t punch you in the taint. Because despite all of our improvements, I’m still teetering on the edge right now.