Ahh, sound guys. I really don't know their technical title. "Audio Magician" maybe? "Guy who flips knobs and sometimes looks like Kenny Rogers?" Who knows. Point is, if you've ever played a show as a band, or were even part of the crew, you've probably dealt with a sound guy of some kind.
Sound guys have incredible power over how your performance goes. You're pretty much at their mercy. Normally bands and sound guys get along - we (Psychostick) strive for peace and harmony in order to maxmize the overall experience for the crowd. It's PAINFUL for me to watch a band bitching about the sound on stage while the sound guy says:
"Oh what's this? You're whining about wanting more high-end with guitars? Here, let me turn it up to ELEVEN!
Awh, would you look at that? Now there's blood emerging from the crowds' collective ears! That certainly won't help you sell merchandise."
We follow a simple rule: Work WITH your sound guy and never piss him off. If he throws a fit, freaks out, or start complaining, just stand back and focus on getting through the show and keeping things civil.
If your sound guy completely rules, I'd highly recommend tipping him/her. Anything helps. If he's loving your set and your band, definitely give him a CD for him to spin at other shows in between bands.
Throughout our touring career, we've encountered many different flavors of sound guys. Here they are, in order from awesomeazing to downright insufferable.
The Cool Sound Guy
Honestly, this is the type we encounter the most. It's a treat really, especially if you know what you're doing as a band (there'll be another blog about that someday, heh). For example, every so often we'd play a show or two on Mayhemfest and the sound guys there actually became fans of our stupid music after a while.
"You guys gonna play Two Ton Paperweight? I love that one," they'll ask through the talkback mic during sound check.
*sniff* Makes me proud.
The Disorganized Sound Guy
These guys tend to be pretty chill, but I can't tell you how many stages I've walked on and stumbled over tangled cables, broken guitar stands, and mangled hardware.
They say that you can tell a lot about a person based on the books he/she has on his/her shelves. The same principle applies to sound guys and the stage they run.
The Disgruntled Sound Guy
A disgruntled sound guy can hold a grudge for various reasons:
- He didn't make it as a rock star
- He's sick of hearing the same "nu-metal screamo shit" every night
- He's a total gear snob and he's unhappy with the gear he's using or you're using
- There was mustard on his burger he ate earlier and he HATES MUSTARD
- He just turned 59 and dropping acid doens't seem to work as well anymore
- He just found out his wife won "Gangbang Queen of the Year" without him knowing
I remember working with an older sound guy who refused to let me use my wireless mic and instead made me use his... which was a much crappier mic. "Whatever," I thought. During shows, I tend to put my foot up on a monitor every now and then. When I did this at this particular show, he came on stage, tapped me on the shoulder in the middle of a song (in front of a nice sized crowd), and angrily pointed at a "NO FEET ON THE MONITORS" sign.
It's wasn't like those monitors were made of pudding or paper machete. They were nice, sturdy looking monitors. And it wasn't like I was STOMPING or RIVER DANCING on them, I just put my foot up.
The Disappearing Sound Guy
At least the disgruntled sound guy CARES. The vanishing sound guy will always sloppily throw your mix together and run off chasing butterflies.
Where does he go? Does he go out for a smoke? Is there a piece of tail at the bar he's after? DID HE FINALLY DISCOVER HOW TO MANIPULATE SPACE AND TIME TO DESTROY WORLD HUNGER AND CREATE MORE ICE CAPS AND HE HAS TO LEAVE RIGHT NOW TO CLAIM HIS PULITZER PRIZE?!
The Drunk Sound Guy.
Buzzed sound guys, not a big deal. DRUNK sound guys? KILL.
A show we played last year had a very skilled sound guy and a phenomenal PA system. The opening band sounded great, but as the night went on the sound guy got drunker...
... and drunker...
Sound check took 20 minutes when it was our turn. TWENTY MINUTES. The dude was clipping the drum mics pretty much backwards and we were all standing there, mouths agape, watching this guy attempt to fumble his drunken carcass around on stage to set us up.
All was well though; after the show I made sure the promoter and owner knew of this idiot's intoxicated adventures. They were not pleased to say the least.
The Incredibly Slow Sound Guy
Incredibly slow sound guys are probably the worst, even if they're nice. Shows tend to have from 3 to 7 bands playing with 15 minute change-overs between bands. That means, 1) band finishes, 2) they tear down, 3) next band sets up, 4) sound check, 5) SHOW STARTS. All that has to happen in 15 minutes or the show falls behind.
"But RHHAWRRHB, a show falling behind a few minutes isn't a big deal!" you clamor nervously.
You know what? Why don't you go bobbing for grenedes in a bucket of rusty razor blades, captain THINK-YOU-KNOW-THINGS!
All that slowness accumulates. It adds up. When shows starts to fall behind, it often snowballs and the headliner can end up going on stage at 1:00 AM or later. This causes a tidal wave of hate.
Not only that, but if a stage manager or tour manger steps in to find a way to make up for lost time, one of the opening bands has to cut songs from their set so the show catches up. Playing a 10 to 15 minute set really sucks.
When things fall behind, it completely KILLS the mood of the show; the crowd gets impatient and they start to leave. Sometimes they'll even complain and/or demand their money back.
Slow sound guys should be fired.
And fired again.
Sometimes there are sound girls.
I've probably missed a few other species of sound guys. If you have a suggestion, please comment and I might make this blog a two-parter!