So I got a gig as a sound guy for a local act. They have only played out one time before as a 5 piece and ran there own sound. Small bars 150 people max. They needed a guy to help out so I figured this would be a great learning experience as I wanted to advance my skills. I am not super experienced but I am not a total newb either. You have start somewhere and what better way to do it than with a inexperienced band. The best part is they have all there own PA gear. They just wanted someone to set it up and run it. So I get to meet the guys at a rehearsal at least to go over some of the gear. Try and get as familiar with it as possible. The rehearsal goes well so we pack up for the gig the next day. Knowing full well that they don’t have a snake but just purchased one used from this guy and never tested it. I have no idea what connectors are on this thing etc. Great! I go home that night and pack up all the odd adapters I can scrounge up knowing something is going to not be right.
So I suggested we show up to the gig as early as possible to get ready. For me and for them, but mostly for me. They all agree and supposedly the club owner says we can start setting up at 6 for a show starting at 9. “3 hours” I say to myself, plenty of time to set up and get this right. The joy ends right there. I am sure people reading this know this story before they read it but this was my first time setting up an entire rig that I never set up before. So this is gonna be great!
We get there at 6pm. The owner says you can’t load our gear in! What! Well hold on a second. The trailer is double parked while we wait patiently. “OK” he says, “You can load all you gear in the basement”. At least we can get the gear in there. We load all our gear in the basement and head to the stage to scope it out. The manager says they have placed a party on the stage and we can’t set up till they leave. So we just sit down to eat dinner thinking that we could at least get on the stage at 8 for 9. It is now 6:30pm.
9:30 We are finally allowed to take our gear from the basement to place near the stage. Great! So now we have our stuff at least close to the stage.
10:30 OK, the management starts to shuffle the guests off the stage and move all the tables off the stage. Remember we are supposed to START at 9pm and have been there since 6! Meanwhile we have to lug our stuff through the crowd and put all of it on the stage. So we end up moving things two or three times to maneuver the gear around. I am grabbing cables and connecting things as fast as I can. I am thinking to myself “This is going to be awesome!”
11:30 Everything is finally plugged in. The snake that did show up by the way has all the wrong connectors on the returns and we don’t have enough adapters. The two I brought is just not enough. It’s all I had. So we condense the monitor feeds and run some super long single cables to the stage. It looks like total spaghetti. I should have taken a picture. Then, since the board is plugged in basically the same as practice, which doesn’t use the monitor feeds, they decide to just start. Sound check consists of everyone just making noise and they can hear it. While our 2 seconds of sound check goes on the manager says since WE started late there are no set breaks. People will leave. Perfect! The talkback mic channel doesn’t work at all. So I am just pointing and shouting.
11:32 The band just starts. I am fighting with feedback and trying to make things sound the best I can. Half way through the first song I get both managers and a crowd member telling me they can’t hear something in my left ear and my right ear is 4’ from the main PA speaker. Shocking really, I mean we had ample time to set up! This is going as smoothly as a fart in church. The vocal processor for the lead singer is on full wet and I can’t figure out why. I received and plugged in a dry and wet feed. I am looking at cable markings on my end and still I don’t understand why. I knew I plugged this into that channel? I figure out that the cables are labeled wrong on both ends. So one end there is double tape and the other end is nothing. Meanwhile the end I have has double tape on it. So the first few songs sound like crap till I realized what was going on. Rookie mistake I trusted a labeled cable and didn’t check both ends. I would assume if you label something on one end you would do it on another. Silly me.
11:45 Things start to get leveled out and to me 4’ from the PA I think it is OK. The board sums Mon 1 and 2 together so you can’t listen to the individual monitor feeds in a pair of headphones. So I have no idea what the bands monitors sound like. I am trying to listen to individual channels but being this close to the PA nothing is working for me. Half of the PFL switches don’t work! I can’t hear a damn thing except loudness. I also set up the groups in a way that I could not monitor the main outputs properly in my headphones. So I screwed the pooch on that one. The band wasn’t stopping between songs at all so I didn’t want to make any drastic changes on the fly and really risk screwing something things up even worse.
12am Things are running and at least it doesn’t sound atrocious in the crowd. I walked out a few times to the back of the room and to me at the time it sounded OK. I made the terrible mistake of recording my feeds from the speaker processors. I told the band I would so they could hear each other afterwards. Looking back I should have told them I didn’t catch a recording and forgot. I know that the board feed isn’t exactly what the crowd hears. I don’t think they seemed to get that.
2am We shut down and pack up. I am exhausted and my ears are killing me even when trying to use ear plugs. I don’t get home till 4am. One more thing, I didn’t get paid either! Then everyone lets me know they couldn’t hear themselves. WTF! So I am just chalking it up as a learning experience.
So this is my experience the first time I ran sound solo. I learned a whole lot of what not to do and what to remember for the next time. You don’t start out on top you have to start at the bottom. Any comments, laughter, criticism is welcome. I figure someone will get a laugh out of this. I did the next day. I realize this is low end bar sound not anything special. But, I always want to make things sound there best in whatever I do. So I am sure someone can relate to this. I will never forget this experience as long as I live.
If you made it to the end of this story thank you.