Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm That Guy

OK, so... I'm about to be that guy. The moment I got home tonight my wife informed me that the Buffalo Philharmonic was playing in a nearby park and we were all going. Blah, blah, blah, we get there. As we're crossing the green and the portable shell is looming, I immediately notice that they're miced up. (That's mike-ed for any non-soundguys) It hadn't occurred to me that this is how you rock it outside, as all the orchestral gigs I've ever worked were in halls.

So there's dual 18s and a teeny-weeny little line array on either side. For the non-soundguys this translates into, "A nice little sound system". Apparently the guy at the helm hadn't done much orchestral mixing though. I'll spare you all the details, but suffice it to say that one soundguy and one soundguy's wife did not enjoy the performance to the fullest extent. Decorum dictated that we not shuffle over and tweak on the guy though. When people come bother me at the mix it makes me want to self medicate. I usually don't do much in the way of satisfying their demands either. Stupid ego.

By way of example, here's a short side trip to the bar gig that I did over the weekend:
So I was mixing in a tiny little bar and the band was doing all right and the place was packed. A couple dozen people had come up to tell me that it sounded great, which usually doesn't mean much coming from a bunch of plastered rednecks. But then a musician I know, who is brothers with a soundguy came up and paid me a compliment, and that does mean a little something. So then this tweaker comes up and loudly complains to the lighting guy (tee hee) that my horns (the bits that make the high frequencies) are junk and I need to do something about it. Sparky turned around and relayed that to me, even though it was clearly audible above the performance. We rolled our eyes and went back to work.

During the next set, he came up again and this time complained loudly to my muso friend who chuckled under his cowboy hat the entire time. I commented to him (the muso) that of course I would grab my Leatherman and get right after changing those pesky horns rightthisveryminute. Somebody had tipped me off by this point that the guy was a DJ (reads: lowest form of life in the audio food chain) at a particularly scuzzy bar where the unwritten motto seems to be, "Just make it LOUD".

I found myself in an all too infrequent position. I had plenty of time to formulate a real blaster of a statement for this mook and was likely going to be able to deliver it as he seemed to want to come complain near me about every forty minutes. (And hee was getting closer to actually speaking to the actual sound guy every time he came over. He never showed up. So I didn't get a chance to say, "Sniff... sniff... You're a DJ aren't you? Never mind then, I was going to explain a little something about making a band sound natural and not drilling holes in people's ears, but I don't have time to explain it three times. Why don't you go press play on something and leave the mixing to the big kids, OK?"

That's the kind of ass a soundguy turns in to when approached by another "professional" who appears to be a know-nothing.
So, the proper way to address a soundguy so that he doesn't get his tender ego wounded and slough you off as just another punter (British term for stupid audience member) is as follows.

  1. Start by sliding up and waiting until said sound guy isn't actively tweaking any knobs.
  2. Don't criticize the mix... yet.
  3. Say hi and ask him something inane like what company does he work for.
  4. Say something to the effect of, "Wow, that's a lot of knobs, how do you keep track of it all."
  5. The soundguy is now properly primed.
  6. You can now say something like: "Have you heard how it sounds over there?" or "I'm going to come sit over here, it sounds way better next to you." or "Oh, it really does sound different under this little tent/in this little booth/etc."
  7. Pretend to see someone you know, wave at them and leave.
  8. When it starts to sound better and your friends raise their eyebrows at you say, "You just have to know how to work these industry types."
Actually, soundguys aren't all that much more egotistical than any one else is. Consider the following scenario. Somebody barges into your space while you're at work and with a scowl tells your your typing sucks and then tells your how to adjust your margins, then stands there till you do it. If it were possible to shove margins up somebody's nose, you'd probably want to do it.

Anyway, the Philharmonic played a hell of a show. The punters applauded between movements because they didn't know any better. They squinted their eyes when the xylophone played because the high-mids were way to crispy and they were getting punched in the eardrums and didn't even know it. (The guy was just bloody ham fisted on that mixer, it's a crying shame that he's mixing every day and I'm swinging a hammer to fill in between gigs!) And the soundguy and his wife sat in their folding chairs on the lawn feeling superior, and with good reason... it's not that we're elitist, we're just better at concerts than everyone else.

That last bit was just for comedy's sake. My industry buddies will get a laugh out of it. The rest of you get the moral:

An expensive education will only serve to ruin your speciality for any enjoyment when you're off the clock. Soundguys shouldn't go to concerts.

1 comment:

  1. No, but seriously. That guy had no place even touching that piece of shit Yamaha. I could have mixed better stoned drunk, and I can't even tell you what an EQ is. Or where to find it. Unless I was drunk, of course, and then I'm fabulous.

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