Insurmountable stage disasters

Discussion in 'Live Performance & Stage Sound' started by meowfaceman, Oct 29, 2017.

  1. meowfaceman

    meowfaceman SS.org Regular

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    Hey all. So, long story short: played a gig tonight where our gear resulted in the sound guy being unable to mix. Came off looking like assholes. What can you do when the problem is literally out of your hands?

    Longer story: we've got an in ear rack for various band projects. The rack itself works pretty well for us. The problem is that we invariably flummox each sound guy we interact with in some varying way, shape, or form. It seems that no matter how hard I try to simplify or make obvious or whatever, something (often previously unseen) happens each time to cause problems. I was pretty convinced we had it down this time, but clearly I was wrong.

    Tonight was a different kind of disaster, though. The sound guy was mixing wirelessly for an X32 rack. Looking back on it, I think what happened is that my guitar wireless (Line 6 G50) was conflicting with the sound guy's wireless. I was getting a bunch of cut outs during sound check, so I just plugged in, but forgot to turn off my transmitter. I realize this now, but at the time was not obvious to me.

    The end result is that the sound guy was paralyzed and couldn't do anything at all, and we had to scramble to make our PA speakers do a full mix while the promoter got mad at us. The thing that makes this unique: normally it's the sound guy trying to figure out how to route things that's the issue. This time we managed to completely fuck up his basic functions. Of course, the band before us and after us had no problems, which further makes us look like assholes.

    My question: what the hell do you do in this situation? We were, by all accounts, ready and raring to go on time, but since the sound guy couldn't cope, we had to cut over half the set. I've never run into a situation where it was not us but the front of house having a technical foul up, though admittedly it was kind of caused by us.

    On a personal level, I'm trying to figure out how I should feel about this. On one hand, we had yet another series of glitches at a show wrought by our gear. The whole in ear rack is my baby, so I get down on myself when something goes wrong. On the other hand, this sound guy was in a situation where he was completely unable to do his job by using some pretty common gear.

    I'm frustrated, but I'm leaning to the side of forgiving myself for this one. Given the ubiquity of 2.4 GHz music gear, I feel like a sound guy should have some backup methods for situations like this: a hardware surface to mix from, a 5 GHz router, etc. I am, however, going to migrate away from this wireless. This just kind of further proved to me that the band is too cluttered.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post. It's fresh in my mind and I'm feeling disappointed and discouraged, so I wanted to get some thoughts on it all.
     
  2. lewis

    lewis SS.org Regular

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    I would actually look at it from the fans perspective.
    Did you have a good turnout to see you guys?
    You dont want to leave that impression to them as you may lose their fanbase. They must have been disappointed.

    As you admit that it was a slight oversight by yourselves that caused it, maybe go public with an apology and try to arrange a "Apology gig" where its free for them to watch or something.
    Headline it to ensure they hear your whole set this time and also make sure everything goes flawlessly technically haha.

    Ive had plenty of sound guy related issues. Most of them Ive documented in the pinned "donts of live performance" thread at the top of this page, so im not going to rewrite them again.
    It sucks but yeah, possibly sort the fans out and learn this lesson with your gear.
     
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  3. marcwormjim

    marcwormjim SS.org Regular

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    Outside gigs sometimes seem to be nothing but these.

    I once played a more-or-less impromptu solo set consisting of a few backing tracks interspersed with solo wank pieces. I gradually attracted more and more of a crowd until I began my closer at the exact moment one of the sound guy’s faders went screwy and pumped a high-treble mosquito fest through the PA that he couldn’t seem to fix without resorting to rebooting the board (which he wasn’t willing to do, due to my continuing to play).

    One of the other performers made sure to tell me all about how, even though I played every note correctly, the sound was so offensive that people were scattering and remarking on how much I sucked.

    You get over such moments by making more of them.
     
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  4. meowfaceman

    meowfaceman SS.org Regular

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    You're right. At the end of the day it's an appearance thing. If we looked bad, we looked bad regardless of where blame is. I'll admit I'm not really sure what the lesson to learn is here, though. Don't rely on 2.4 GHz? We didn't really, since we had contingency plans for that reason. If we run into Wifi interference with FOH, make sure we turn everything in the spectrum off? One of our guys suggested that we just have our own stereo mixes prepared for the future, which I think is about all we could realistically do in this case. I feel a bit like these lessons are a lot more in the weeds than some of the others I've learned.

    I dunno. I mean, the more I think about it the more annoyed I am at the sound guy. He had his rack on stage, which means his 2.4 GHz router is right next to all the band gear. I think it was a matter of time until he ran into this situation. Clearly I'm looking for other people to blame, but this was going to bite somebody sooner or later.

    Sigh. Oh well.
     
  5. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    If you guys *always* have problems with your in-ears, then it's time to a) stop using in-ears or b) hire a sound person for all your gigs.
     
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  6. meowfaceman

    meowfaceman SS.org Regular

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    Maybe you're right. The in ears do have a noticeable impact on our performance, but getting around these issues is tough. I recently made some changes to "normalize" the set up (added a power amp) so that sound guys didn't have to deal with taking guitars direct or anything in hopes of simplifying things, but I guess that doesn't help if the guy can't get his mixer to work. Bleh. I'll look into hiring sound guys. Thanks for letting me vent, all, just kind of disappointed.
     
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  7. Blasphemer

    Blasphemer Bird Law expert

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    What's your IEM setup, out of curiosity? What do you take for yourselves and what do you give FOH? Also, are you working off of a split system for each input?
     
  8. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I've been to shows where the sound guy blew the entire PA system up while the band was playing (one was King Crimson, another was a local show with one of our "professional" local soundguys). In both instances, I overheard people in the audience blaming the band. :shrug: I don't think there's much you can do.

    But, these problems are common enough that I don't really think it'll stop people from following you.

    I've worked with hundreds of different sound guys. Some are really good (when this happens, the sound guy is nearly invisible), and some are just awful, leaving mics feeding back and stuff. There doesn't seem to be much respect for the learning curve.
     
  9. meowfaceman

    meowfaceman SS.org Regular

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    I've got an imgur album here: https://imgur.com/a/alSBP

    Brief summary:

    4 wireless IEMs, 2 guitar sims, 1 bass DI, 4 channel power amp, X32 rack, wired headphone mixes if necessary, 5 GHz router (so as not to clobber guitar wirelesses or unsuspecting sound guys). Clicks, backing tracks, automated lights, etc. Everything is split using an ART S8 or passive splitter boxes for mics, we can hand FOH a labeled XLR fanout, or just let them mic up cabs -- we give sound guys the option. We split take everything except drums, which we basically just rely on vocal bleed/general stage volume to hear. This is specifically because of the pain of monitoring them really. We're looking into other ways to add in drum monitoring, but we're making due as is.

    Depending on the band, I can give: 2x direct guitar, 1x bass, 2x violins, 1x keys, 2x backing tracks. We just ask the sound guys to provide vocals and we split off as needed using the aforementioned splitter boxes.

    Ouch. That's too bad. I guess in a results oriented industry, doesn't really matter who's fault it is, it's just the most visible people who get the blame. :'(
     
  10. Sanrek

    Sanrek SS.org Regular

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    We're running a very similar configuration: 7 members with fretless violin and cello, stage rack with Cymatic LP16 for backing, clicks and midi control, splitter going to an xlr out > snake on one side and to a dedicated digital mixer (soundcraft UI-16 in our case) feeding each musician's monitor mix to either wireless iem (shure psm300) or wired (for the drummer, keyboard, and other "static" members).

    The UI-16 is remote controlled by wifi (using android tablets, etc), so we've been in the same situation as your sound guy more than once, paralyzed and unable to change anything to our monitor mixes for a while due to all the 2,4Ghz devices jamming it (The Line6 relay wireless system can be a real pain in this area, our violin player owns one and it took a lot of efforts with channels/modes to get it to play nicely with the wireless mixer, without either of them having issues).

    But a thing to remember is to have a priority order when setting potential conflicting devices:
    1/Anything the audience ear / the instruments themselves go first
    2/Anything the musicians ear / monitors, etc go close second
    3/You try to fit the rest and accept it's going to be jammed by the the first ones if it has to.

    And the golden rule: ALWAYS have a fail-safe backup plan you know you can rely on. (We have a wired connection ready for instruments, as well as for controlling our monitor mixer via RJ45 ethernet if we have too, a small old tablet pc near the drummer)

    So that means you'll have to have the relay system taking priority in your case, and accept the fact it can mess with other gear - and well, the sound guy forgot the golden rule...which I find very surprising, seeing how common 2,4ghz wireless systems are nowadays, and how easily they mess with mixer remote control I can't imagine it's the first time it happened to him.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2017
  11. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    IMO if the gigs you're playing are at the level where your sound guy can't handle complicated setups, then your setup is overkill. Do you need everything to be wireless when the stage is barely big enough to hold all the band members? Do you need in-ears that badly? Are you prepared for situations where those things can't be used? IMO the problem is not the soundguy, it's that you have these fancy toys that you want to use without having any contingency for when they don't work or aren't appropriate. Most of the shows I play with unfamiliar sound guys don't have time to d*ck around with people's fancy setups - you get no sound check, just throw your amp head on stage and hope for the best. You need to be prepared to perform in that context because it will happen more often than not. Consider also that you're building a reputation not just with fans, but with venues, promoters, sound people, etc. that will know you as being hard to work with.

    :2c: If your setup (as in the whole band) can't go from zero to ready-to-play in ten to fifteen minutes without complication, then it's too much. All the extra cool toys are cool and all, but it needs to be integrated with zero friction to be worth it.
     
  12. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    My last band was a soundguy's dream: Powertrio, one guitar, 212 cab with a built-in mic clip to drop in your own mic, one bass, 2x110 bass cabs, bass amp with DI out, drums set with built-in drum mics with XLR outs, to be used as necessary, and one vocalist, plus all band members had been in multiple bands before, and no one stressed anyone else out over sound. No pedals, no PA sound effects or any of those fancy things. When we played those ~10 band festivals, the sound guys always commented on how easy we were to work with. Whenever there was no sound guy, I had a compact PA system in a ready-to-go-rack case in the van with channel EQ's and whatnot marked on it with masking tape. I liked that the entire setup was under a thousand bucks, but still powerful enough to handle most situations.

    I've honestly never tried to do the in-ear thing. Maybe we'd sound better that way, but frankly, about half of the sound guys I've dealt with don't know much beyond: this is a mic, this is a speaker. I did try bringing a stage monitor to a gig one time where the PA was supplied by the venue, and the sound guy said that he had no place to plug it in. Later I noted that his PA was one of those powered mixers that had a dedicated MON out that was totally unused. Maybe it was broken, but from the way sound check and sound was ran that night, I have strong reason to believe that the guy honestly just had no idea what he was doing.
     
  13. Sanrek

    Sanrek SS.org Regular

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    Ironically, that's basically the very reason you usually choose to go for iem and your own dedicated monitoring when you have critical/vulnerable members, aka: fretless instruments, violin/cello and the likes who REQUIRES to hear themselves and can't just work with the 5 min line check "plug and pray" method - witch you can get away with as a guitar/bass player or even keyboard player - without something to help.

    In our case, the whole rig was designed to be able to get ready to play in 5 min, without relying on anyone (especially not random sound guys you don't know) to guarantee our fretless players would not have to play blind.
     
  14. Demiurge

    Demiurge Intrepid Jackass

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    I'm not a touring musician, so this might sound a bit naive, but maybe it would help to call the venue ahead of time and maybe arrange a brief convo with their sound guy. You can find out what capabilities they have onsite and, more importantly, give them a heads-up as to what you're bringing. Throwing curveballs that require some planning or accommodation might be fine, but neither side probably likes surprises. If they won't talk to you beforehand, well, that might steer your preparation, too.
     
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  15. meowfaceman

    meowfaceman SS.org Regular

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    Interesting -- VERY similar setup to ours. Do you have any pictures of that? I'd love to see your take on the same design. Yeah, I mean we were mostly prepared for conflicts, e.g. we were good to go very quickly even with the wifi interference, but I wasn't necessarily prepared for the sound guy getting smacked by this. We basically have monitor mixes pre-dialed in, our own wireless running on 5 GHz, can switch to wired if necessary, etc. At least that's the plan. Whether or not it works is another issue entirely, heh. Gotta keep in mind how apparently destructive the Relay is to wifi signals, though.

    You're probably right here -- I've been trying to integrate contingency plans into the thing as I go, but maybe it's time to scale back, or at least have a scaled back variant that we can use. As far as the individual comments:

    Guitar wirelesses, yeah, we can take or leave them, and we can hardwire if we need to, so we can easily skip those if necessary (though that kind of blew up at the show I described here). In regards to whether we need in ears that badly, I'd actually say yes-ish, or at least some variant of it. We used to gig without just due to how much of a pain a system like this is, and we'll be okay, but not great. Looking at videos that we record of our performance, there are various problems which are tough to address from a practice angle because they don't tend to appear when you can hear yourself well. When we have a good sound guy, none of these issues would crop up, of course, but the two bands I'm in I've got the following situations:
    1. One is heavily reliant on the backing track (no drummer at all), so if we can't hear it, we sound like a mess. Admittedly, we can probably pare this down to something simpler while keeping the in ears, e.g. MP3 player + small box with transmitters and splits for the backing tracks while relying on stage cab volume for other monitoring, though we'd lose a few non-essential elements. Regardless, some form of consistent monitoring of at least the backing track would be ideal.
    2. The other band is a 7 piece folk metal band, and is super dependent on harmony with two violins, keys, and multiple vocalists, so monitoring is crucial here. Hypothetically, on smaller stages we could all bring our own cabs and whatnot, which we have done, but this doesn't necessarily simplify anything since we'll end up with 6+ speakers on stage and the sound guys will likely need to have DIs for the violins/keys anyway. With this band in particular, the monitoring situation improves the performance drastically. It's very much the selling point of the band, so it's a lot harder to get around. I'm not totally sure the best way to scale this down, TBH -- feels like we'd be externalizing parts instead of reducing complexity.
    The general motivation behind this system was that our stage show would basically be ludicrously dependent on the monitoring situation for both bands, and it would often make or break the show, so even trying to put ourselves out there at smaller shows would be iffy. I've filled in for a band here and there that had a more traditional guitar, bass, drums, and vocalist setup and this is easy to get by without this fanciness, but the other two are much more prone to disaster without.

    As an amusing aside, once played a show that had 3 folk metal bands on it and the venue was not prepared. Each band had 6+ members, multiple DIs/extra lines, etc. The people running the venue were pretty pissed off about it, complaining about how many members each band had. It's very much the nature of the genre, I think.

    I don't know if the in ears would gain a power-trio a lot, TBH. It may not seem that way, but I'm very much for doing the smallest amount needed to get the most consistent output. For the reasons described above, though, I feel like this is difficult with the two bands I'm in at present. My goal here hasn't really been to overengineer, but make something that results in consistently good stage shows regardless of the venue we play.

    PS: I appreciate the feedback and discussion here a lot. I am listening and trying to take things into account. Even if I'm pushing back, I enjoy the insight you guys have.
     
  16. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Well, right. Sorry, I wasn't really connecting the two ideas. It was more like "I was in this power trio and it was much easier to keep things very simple for the sound guy." Then, an unrelated thought that I had never tried IEMs. I've played in big busy bands before as well - One band had horns, keyboards, four guitar players, bass and drums. Ugh, it was a nightmare setting up. Mainly just finding a place for us all to stand when we were booked into playing in the corner of a restaurant dining room or something. Invariably, just any band I've played in has not used IEMs, whether it was 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, or 10 performers. More people on stage usually means a bigger sound, more dynamics, and more energy, but off stage it means more scheduling problems, more personality clashes, more difficulties with setup, more drama, and more problems. It's not a rule, though, just a (pretty fair) generalization. There's even a local band near here who got pretty big with horns and strings and all of that stuff, but after a couple of short tours, the band is now a three-piece. When I was in my two big bands, I ended up quitting them because neither band had an agreed bandleader, but rather two different guys clashing constantly over every little detail. It was miserable for everyone else, and I happened to already be working with other bands that were gaining momentum more quickly. But when the interpersonal tensions are high and then technical stuff starts going wrong, I just wanted to disappear, so I quit. In both cases, after I quit, others followed.

    But that's totally off topic. Well, sort of. I guess I'm saying that big bands can mean big problems, so you need to have someone experienced in solving these problems at your disposal.
     
  17. Sanrek

    Sanrek SS.org Regular

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    Basically, more than a complexity issue, what you experienced was just the guitar wireless system interfering with the sound guy's mixer wireless control. It would have been exactly the same with a 3 men band with an amp head an a cab behind.
    For such cases, have your fallback wired solution ready (well technically the sound guy should have been the one but it doesn't hurt to be prepared to help them a bit, especially during a "AMAGAD it's not working aaaaaah" moment)

    By the way, here is what our own rack looks like (One row of PSM wireless iems missing on the pics)
    SDC13498.JPG SDC13499.JPG

    Exactly the same experience, and the same reasoning behind our own configuration.
    Switching to our own monitoring definitely improved our shows a lot (for obvious reasons, as you said, quartet fretless instruments HAVE to hear themselves to stay in tune, there are no way around that).
    And being able to set up in 5min, plug and have everything including our own monitor mixes ready no matter what disaster might have been happening on stage (like half of the floor wedges lines dying during the first hour of a fest) sure saved our asses (and the soundguys' ones) more than once.
     
  18. GunpointMetal

    GunpointMetal SS.org Regular

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    Not much you can do in that situation...we had a similar thing last weekend. We have a rack with our IEM stuff and DI outputs for kick trigger and backing tracks and the sound guy kept telling us he wasn't getting any signal from the DI's (even though we had them in our IEM without an issue and we always do a trouble-shout/test run with everything at rehearsal before each gig) and he spend a good 25 minutes plugging and unplugging cables and swearing before he finally just mic'ed up the kick drum, the whole time we're telling him not to worry about the backing tracks, we have out monitors, so we're good. When we're finished people are like "Whats wrong with your gear?" and like we fucked up or something....Get everything home the next day and everything is working just fine.. It's really annoying, but there isn't much that can be done.
     
  19. buriedoutback

    buriedoutback SS.org Regular

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    My band has been writing/recording for the last year so we haven't played any shows this last year.

    In that time I "upgraded" our setup from:
    iphone > di and headphone amp > foh and wired iem (backing tracks and clicks)
    to:
    kick trigger/midi > rack interface > macbook > rack di > rack patch bay > foh and wired iems.

    This was a beautiful setup! except it takes like 15 mins before and after every band practice to setup and tear down. I'm the only guy that knows how any of this shit works so I have to do it. setup/tear down every jam.
    Under pressure, I could probably get it setup faster, but still annoying.

    one day, the drum trigger broke and my drummer has no money for a new one. so we ditched that idea.
    another day his iem stopped fitting him correctly, again no money, but he 'made them work'.
    eventually i stopped running the backing tracks just to save time in setup/tear down.
    Then 1 day I forgot my macbook at home (20 min drive from jam space)
    etc/etc

    we share a jam space with 5 bands so i have to tear everything down and take home the expensive bits cause i don't know/trust the other ppl.

    So, recently i said 'F it' and brought everything home after the last practice.
    I spent a bit of time getting the iphone > di and headphone amp system back up and running. It worked just fine the last bunch of shows we played, and took very little time to setup.

    My thoughts were; even when we were playing 1 show a month, I couldn't imagine taking all that time before and after playing a show to setup and test all the rack/macbook gear. We're the only band in the area that has any type of 'fancy' setup at all. no other bands that i know of, use iem or backing tracks or anything. If anything failed during the show, we'd be screwed. obviously we could revert back to 'just playing the songs' but there would be an awkward silence while we toss everything to the side and 'go analog' + we have bass on backing tracks so no bass player. I also didn't like the idea of having all that expensive gear sitting out there for ppl to spill beer on or steal. We actually had decent luck with sound guys and PAs though.

    I can totally understand the need for wireless iem/instrument, etc. Other than our system being wired for iem, I loved it. I've seen bands like Archspire rock a great setup without issues, but we're not them. we're not rest,repose who gets artist pricing/sponsorship on gear, we're not playing anything bigger than a bar, we're not able to play more than 1 or 2 shows a month for various reasons, etc.

    TLDR: I got too lazy and paranoid about all my expensive bits of gear and decided that we don't play enough/big enough shows to warrant a 'fancy' setup. also the crowd won't know/care if you're using a macbook /etc or an iphone. as far as wireless IEM/instruments - we can't afford them so we use wires... which present their own issues (tangling/damaged cables,etc) ... but seem to work very well overall.

    Sorry I wasn't able to suggest much here. I'd love to have a full wireless everything rig, just can't justify the cost and the murphy's law paranoia would get to me.
     
  20. charlessalvacion

    charlessalvacion SS.org Regular

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    Im a plug-&-play guy. Maybe you can simplify your set-up?

    Hope you sort out the issues. And yeah, Line 6 G-series wireless got some issues.
     

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